How to Build Patio Furniture


Whether you plan to use your patio to entertain a crowd or to relax by yourself on a warm summer evening, you'll need some furniture. However, patio furniture can be quite expensive -- which is a good reason to consider building it yourself.

In this article, we'll show you how to build patio furniture that is just as sturdy, attractive, and comfortable as the pricey furniture you'll find at a home improvement store. We'll give you easy-to-understand, step-by-step instructions for building a picnic table with benches, patio benches, and an umbrella table. Continue to the next page for a detailed list of the tools and materials you'll need to start your patio-furnishing project.

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How to Build a Picnic Table and Benches

The table legs are 2 × 6's, joined and braced with 2 × 4 cross pieces at each end to form two leg assemblies.

You can build a sturdy and good-looking picnic table for about half the cost of ready-made -- a project well worth your time, in savings and enjoyment. Here's what you'll need.

Tools: measuring rule, pencil, carpenters' square, handsaw or power saw, C-clamps; power drill with 3/8-, 7/32-, 7/64-, and 1/4-inch bits; adjustable wrench, hammer, large screwdriver, block plane, belt sander or sanding block.

Materials: 2 × 6 and 2 × 4 redwood stock; 3/8 × 5 1/2-inch (for table) or 1/4 × 5 1/2-inch (for benches) carriage bolts, flat washers, and locknuts; scrap board, 10-penny common nails, masking tape, 5 1/2-inch #12 × 3 flathead brass wood screws, coarse-, medium-, and fine-grit sanding belts or sandpaper.

Time: about 4 to 6 hours for the table; about 2 hours per bench.

The table. Make the picnic table with redwood 2 × 6 and 2 × 4 stock, cut to a standard size. For the leg assemblies at each end of the table, measure and mark two 2 × 6's to a length of 28 1/2 inches, using a carpenters' square to make sure the ends are even. Cut the 2 × 6's as marked with a handsaw or a power saw. Measure and mark four 2 × 4's to a length of 36 inches; cut them as marked. Repeat to cut two 2 × 6's and four 2 × 4's for the other leg assembly.

To put each leg assembly together, lay two 2 × 4's flat on a flat work surface, parallel to each other and about 15 inches apart. Over these cross pieces, at right angles and placed to lie flush with the 2 × 4 ends, set two 2 × 6's for the two legs at that end of the table, forming a square-topped A shape. Set two more 2 × 4's across the 2 × 6 legs, exactly over the first pair of 2 × 4's, to sandwich the legs between two sets of braces. Using a carpenters' square, adjust and square up the assembly carefully, and clamp it firmly together with C-clamps.

At each joint, drill a diagonal pair of 3/8-inch holes through all three boards. Insert a 3/8 × 5 1/2-inch carriage bolt through each hole, place a washer and a locknut on each bolt, and tighten the bolts with an adjustable wrench. Remove the C-clamps.

Repeat the procedure to build the second leg assembly, making sure the bottom cross braces are positioned at exactly the same height as the bottom braces on the first set of legs.

Next, install a 2 × 6 stretcher between the two leg assemblies. Measure, mark, and cut a piece of 2 × 6 to a length of 68 inches. At each end of the board, mark the lengthwise centerline of the board's width. On each leg assembly, mark the center point of each outside bottom 2 × 4 cross piece.

Prop a leg assembly upright, and position one end of the 2 × 6 over the lower cross pieces, with the end of the 2 × 6 flush with the outside face of the cross piece. Align the centering marks and clamp the assembly together firmly. At each end of the stretcher, drill two 3/8-inch holes through the stretcher and through each of the two cross pieces so that there are four holes in each end of the stretcher. Insert a 3/8 × 5 1/2-inch carriage bolt through each hole to hold the stretcher to the 2 × 4; place a washer and a locknut on the end of each bolt. Tighten the bolts with an adjustable wrench and remove the clamps. Maneuver the second leg assembly into position at the opposite end of the stretcher, and attach the stretcher the same way to the bottom cross pieces.

To put the table together, connect the  a 2 × 6 stretcher;  boards from end to end.

Square up the leg assemblies and align them properly with one another; to keep them in position temporarily, nail a piece of scrap board across each side with 10-penny common nails, close to the top of the leg assemblies. Leave the nails sticking out a little so they'll be easy to remove.

To make the tabletop, cut seven pieces of 2 × 6 to a length of 72 inches. Set the 2 × 6's across the leg assemblies, overhanging the legs by 2 inches at each end of the table, with the ends of the boards exactly flush on both ends. On each end of each board, mark the points where the board lies over the centerlines of the two top cross pieces, so you'll know where to drill holes for the assembly screws. Then remove the 2 × 6's for individual attachment.

Set the first 2 × 6 across the leg assemblies, overhanging the legs at each end about 2 inches and with its long edge extending about 1/2 inch past the outside of the leg assembly. Align the board carefully, straight across the leg assemblies, and clamp it into place or hold it firmly. At each marked line where the end of the board lies above a cross piece, drill two 7/64-inch holes through the plank into the cross pieces below it, to a depth of about 2 1/2 inches; wrap a scrap of masking tape around the drill bit to mark the proper depth point. Change to a 7/32-inch bit and redrill the holes to a depth of 1 1/2 inches. Each end of the plank should have four holes in it, two through each cross piece. To secure the 2 × 6 in place, drive a 5 1/2-inch #12 × 3 flathead brass wood screw into each of the eight predrilled holes, setting the screws until the heads are just flush with the surface.

To complete the table, set the remaining six planks across the leg assemblies and adjust them for uniform spacing between planks, with the ends exactly flush and the last board overhanging the leg assembly about 1/2 inch. Drill and screw down each plank successively.

If desired, use a block plane to slightly bevel all the exposed corners and edges of the table; slightly round all exposed edges with a belt sander and coarse-, medium-, and fine-grit belts. Retighten all the bolts a bit. Sand off any rough spots with a belt sander, using first a coarse-grit belt and then medium- and fine-grit belts; or sand by hand with a block. Leave the table unfinished to weather naturally.

The benches. For each bench, measure and cut four pieces of 2 × 4 to a length of 17 1/2 inches, to make the bench legs. For the cross braces, measure and cut eight pieces of 2 × 4 to a length of 10 1/2 inches. Use a carpenters' square to make sure your cuts are even. Put the leg assemblies together the same way the picnic table is assembled; clamp the parts together, drill the holes through the legs and the braces, and bolt the braces to the legs. Use 1/4 × 5 1/2-inch carriage bolts, flat washers, and locknuts; tighten the nuts with an adjustable wrench. Then remove the clamps.

Measure and cut a piece of 2 × 4 to a 48-inch length for the bench stretcher. Mark the center of the board's width at each end, and mark the center point of the outside bottom cross piece on each leg assembly. Prop the 2 × 4 stretcher flat across the lower cross pieces of the leg assemblies, with the stretcher ends flush with the outside faces of the cross pieces, and clamp it in place. Drill two 1/4-inch holes through the stretcher and each of the two cross pieces at each end, so that each end of the stretcher has four holes in it. Bolt the stretcher into place with 1/4 × 5 1/2-inch carriage bolts, flat washers, and locknuts; tighten the bolts with an adjustable wrench and then remove the clamps.

Straighten, square, and align the leg assemblies, and nail a scrap piece of wood between them if necessary to hold them in position. Measure and cut two 2 × 6's to a 72-inch length; set them across the leg assemblies and align them, with a 1/2-inch gap between the two boards. Clamp the boards to the leg assemblies.

At each end of each 2 × 6, drill four 7/64-inch holes to a depth of about 3 inches, through the 2 × 6 and down into the upper cross pieces of the leg assemblies. Redrill the holes to a depth of 1 1/2 inches with a 7/32-inch drill. Drive a 5 1/2-inch #12 × 3 flathead brass wood screw into each predrilled hole to secure the bench-top planks; set the screws so the heads are just flush with the surface.

Finally, if desired, bevel the exposed edges of the bench slightly with a block plane, as above. Round all exposed edges slightly with a belt sander, using successively finer-grit sanding belts; or sand by hand with a block. Leave the benches unfinished.

On the next page, learn how to build a maintenance-free patio bench that can be disassembled for easy storage over the winter.

For more information on patios and patio furniture, try the following links:

How to Build a Patio Bench

The legs of the bench are 4 × 4's, joined at each end by angle-cut 2 × 4 braces;  The bench top is formed by 2 × 4's  board ends on each side covered by a 2 × 4 cap.

This patio bench is just right for comfortable outdoor seating. The redwood is solid and maintenance-free; the bench can be disassembled for winter storage. Here's what you'll need.

Tools: measuring rule, pencil, carpenters' square, handsaw or power saw, 30/60-degree triangle or protractor, C-clamps, power drill with 3/8-inch bit and bit extension, adjustable wrench, hammer, nail set, block plane, belt sander or sanding block.

Materials: 4 × 4 and 2 × 4 redwood stock; 3/8 × 7-inch and 3/8 × 5-inch carriage bolts, flat washers, and locknuts; 6-penny and 16-penny brass or galvanized finishing nails; coarse-, medium-, and fine-grit sanding belts or sandpaper.

Time: about 4 hours.

Buy redwood stock and fastening hardware as specified above. To make the legs of the bench, measure and mark four pieces of 4 × 4 redwood to a length of 12 1/2 inches; use a carpenters' square to keep the ends even. Cut the legs as measured with a handsaw or a power saw. Measure, mark, and cut eight 2 × 4's for the leg cross braces. With a 30/60-degree triangle or a protractor, mark the ends of the braces to slant outward at a 30-degree angle, with the slanted edge on each end 30 degrees off-vertical at the top edge to form a trapezoid. Carefully cut the ends of the braces at the marked slant; keep the cuts as uniform as possible.

To assemble the legs, set a pair of braces on edge on a flat surface, long sides down. Set a 4 × 4 leg piece between the braces at each end, with the outside face of the 4 × 4 flush with the top corner of the slanted brace; the bottom corner of the brace should extend beyond the leg. Clamp the assembly together with C-clamps.

Drill a diagonal pair of 3/8-inch holes through each leg and brace joint, completely through the braces and the leg; use a power drill with a bit extension. Insert a 3/8 × 7-inch carriage bolt through each hole, outside to in, and thread a washer and a locknut onto each bolt; tighten the nuts with an adjustable wrench and remove the clamps. When all the bottom bolts are in place, turn the assembly upside down and repeat the procedure to fasten a second set of cross braces at the top of the legs, with the ends of the braces slanting in from the top toward the center of each leg. Assemble the second pair of legs the same way.

To brace the bench the long way, measure, mark, and cut a 2 × 4 to a length of 47 inches. In each end of this stretcher, drill a diagonal pair of 3/8-inch holes, centered 3/4 inch back from the end and 1 inch in from the sides. Set the leg assemblies opposite one another, in position to support the bench top. Lay the stretcher across the bottom leg braces, centered between the legs, its ends resting on the inside bottom leg braces.

At each end of the bench, the stretcher rests on the bottom inside brace of the leg  Carriage bolts, used to hold the stretcher to the braces.

Carefully adjust the position of the leg assemblies and mark holes in the top edges of the inside braces to correspond to the holes in the stretcher; drill 3/8-inch holes completely through the inside bottom braces at the marked points. Set the stretcher into place across the braces and insert a 3/8 × 5-inch carriage bolt into each drilled hole, through the face of the stretcher and completely through the brace below it. Thread a flat washer and a locknut onto each bolt and tighten the bolts with an adjustable wrench.

To make the bench top, measure and cut seven 2 × 4's to a length of 6 feet, and mark each one 6 inches in from each end. Set one 2 × 4 on edge across the two leg assemblies, with its outside face flush with the top corner of the brace's slanted edge on each end of the bench. Adjust the 2 × 4 lengthwise so that each end extends 6 inches past the leg assemblies; use the marks you made to get it into the correct position. Nail the 2 × 4 on edge to the leg assemblies with four 6-penny brass or galvanized finishing nails to secure it to the cross braces; toenail the 2 × 4 to the brace with two nails on one side and then two on the other. Hold the 2 × 4 firmly as you nail it down so that its long edge stays flush with the ends of the cross braces. Set the heads of the nails below the surface with a nail set.

To complete the bench, nail 2 × 4's on edge across the leg assemblies, evenly spaced, the outside boards flush with the corners of the top braces. Close the ends of the bench with 2 x 4 caps over the edge-set 2 x 4's.

Set the other six 2 × 4's into position across the top braces, on edge, with the long outside face of the last board flush with the top corners of the braces. Adjust the 2 × 4's to space them evenly across the top of the bench, with about 1 inch between boards. Position each successive board, nail it into place, and set the nail heads. Work across the bench to secure all seven 2 × 4's to the bench frame.

Finally, cap the bench ends. Measure the exact distance across the ends of the bench top, and measure and cut two pieces of 2 × 4 to this length; use a carpenters' square to keep the cuts even. Place the flat side of one 2 × 4 cap piece flat against the cut boards at one end of the bench top, with all surfaces flush. Using 16-penny brass or galvanized finishing nails, drive two nails through the face of the cap piece into the end of each bench-top 2 × 4; set the nail heads. Follow the procedure to cap the other end of the bench.

If desired, bevel the exposed edges of the bench slightly with a block plane. Round all exposed edges slightly with a belt sander and coarse-, medium-, and then fine-grit sanding belts; or sand by hand with a block. Leave the bench unfinished to weather naturally.

Next, get the step-by-step directions for another patio project -- a redwood umbrella table.

For more information on patios and patio furniture, try the following links:

How to Build an Umbrella Table

The tabletop frame is 1 × 4 lumber; the legs, base, and stretcher are 2 × 4's. The pieces are secured with wood screws.

For sunny-day gatherings all summer, build this sturdy, four-person redwood umbrella table.

Tools: measuring rule, pencil, carpenters' square, handsaw or power saw, electric drill with hole saw attachment, screwdriver, wood chisel, fine-toothed flat file; if desired, paintbrush.

Materials: 1 × 4 clear grade redwood and 2 × 4 construction heart-grade redwood stock; 2-inch 1 1/2-inch, and 2 1/2-inch #8 flathead brass wood screws; sandpaper; if desired, redwood oil or stain; patio umbrella with 1 1/2-inch shaft.

Time: about 4 to 6 hours.

To build the table, use 1 × 4 clear-grade redwood and 2 × 4 construction heart-grade redwood. First, construct the tabletop frame. Cut two 44-inch pieces of 1 × 4 redwood. Drill two 11/64-inch holes in each end of each piece, 3/8 inch back from the ends and 1 inch in from the edges. Cut two 42 1/2-inch pieces of 1 × 4.

Stand the four frame pieces on edge in a rectangle, with the shorter pieces butted between the longer ones and the corner joints aligned. Fasten the pieces together with two 2-inch #8 flathead brass wood screws at each joint, driven through the drilled holes. Because redwood is soft, it usually isn't necessary to drill pilot holes or countersink screws; set the screw heads flush with the wood surface.

To make the table legs, cut four 26 3/4-inch pieces of 2 × 4. Drill five 11/64-inch holes through the tabletop frame at each corner, as illustrated in the assembly diagram. Position a 2 × 4 leg at each inside corner of the tabletop frame. Secure each leg with three 1 1/2-inch #8 flathead brass wood screws driven through the holes and into the face of the leg, and two 2-inch #8 flathead brass wood screws driven through the holes and into the edges of the 1 × 4's.

Bore a 1 5/8-inch hole in the short stretcher  the long piece. holes as shown.

Cut two 42 1/2-inch pieces of 2 × 4 for the table base. Drill two 11/64-inch holes in each end of each base piece, spaced 3/8 inch in from the end and 1 inch in from the edges. Turn the table upside down, and lay the two base pieces across the two pairs of legs. Align the joints, and secure the base pieces with two 2 1/2-inch #8 flathead brass wood screws driven through the holes at each joint.

Cut one 42 1/2-inch piece and one 35 1/2-inch piece of 2 × 4 for the stretcher assembly. Find the centerpoint of each of these pieces; draw a line across the 2 × 4 face at the halfway point, then measure to find the middle of the line. With an electric drill and a hole saw attachment, bore a 1 5/8-inch hole through the 42 1/2-inch piece, centered on the centerpoint. Drill just until the bit in the hole saw penetrates to the back of the 2 × 4; then turn the 2 × 4 over and complete the hole from the opposite side to prevent splintering the wood.

Bore a 1 5/8-inch hole in the 35 1/2-inch piece of 2 × 4, but only to a depth of approximately 1 1/8 inches. Do not bore all the way through the wood. Break splinters out of the hole with a small wood chisel.

In the 42 1/2-inch piece of the stretcher assembly, drill a series of 11/64-inch holes, as illustrated in the assembly diagram. Set the 42 1/2-inch piece on top of the 35 1/2-inch piece, with the long edges flush and the large center holes perfectly aligned. Fasten the pieces together with 2 1/2-inch # 8 flathead brass wood screws driven through the series of 11/64-inch holes.

At the top of the table, drill five 11/64-inch holes to secure the leg at each corner of the frame.

With the table right side up, mark the midpoint -- halfway between the legs -- of the base pieces. Place the stretcher assembly between the two base pieces, centered on the marks; the shorter piece fits between the base pieces. Fasten the stretcher assembly to the base pieces with two 2½-inch #8 flathead brass wood screws driven through the drilled holes at each end.

Mark the centerline of the table frame on two opposite sides of the frame's top edge by measuring in 22 inches from each end of a side piece. Cut a 46 1/4 inch piece of 1 × 4 redwood for the center board of the tabletop. Find the centerpoint of this piece, and bore a 1 5/8-inch hole completely through it, centered on the center point. At each end of the piece, drill two 11/64-inch holes, 1 1/4 inches back from the end and 1 inch in from the sides. Position the piece at the center of the tabletop frame, centering it on the centerline marks, and adjust it so that it overhangs the frame by 1 1/8 inches on each end. Secure the board to the frame with two 1 1/4-inch #8 flathead brass wood screws at each end, driven through the drilled holes and into the frame edges.

To complete the table, cut 12 more 46 1/4-inch pieces of 1 × 4 redwood. For the ten inside boards of the tabletop, drill two holes in each end of each board, as above. For the two boards that will lie at the outside on each side of the table, drill screw holes the same way on the inside edge, but space the holes toward the outside edge 1 1/2 inches in and 2 1/4 inches back from the ends. Starting at the center board, set each interior 1 × 4 into position successively, aligned with the center board and spaced 1/16 inch apart. Secure each board with 1 1/4-inch #8 flathead brass wood screws, driven through the drilled holes. Finish the top of the table with the two specially drilled outside pieces, laid with their odd holes to the outside. The 1/16-inch spacing specified is based on a uniform board width of 3 1/2 inches. If your boards are slightly wider or narrower, reposition them to maintain even spacing across the tabletop.

To complete the table, round the upper edges and corners of all tabletop boards and smooth off the cut ends and any rough spots, using a fine-toothed flat file and sandpaper. If desired, apply redwood oil or stain to preserve the redwood's color. To use the table, slide the shaft of your patio umbrella down through the hole in the center of the tabletop and into the hole in the stretcher assembly.

Furnishing your patio doesn't have to cost you an arm and a leg. Use the directions in this article to build handmade patio furniture you can be proud of.

For more information on patios and patio furniture, try the following links: