The Complete Guide to Buying an Outdoor Picnic Table

We all love eating outside, and for the alfresco aficionado, you’ve got plenty of choices. While some will want to take advantage of a more formal dining table, others may prefer a more casual outdoor experience. For those moments, it’s time to break out the homemade lemonade and share sandwiches and snacks around an outdoor picnic table.

The question is, how do you choose the perfect picnic table for you and your family? Below is a complete buyer’s guide on how to choose the right picnic table for any type of outdoor space — while also comparing materials, style, comfort and more!


Step 1 — Choose the Right Material for Your Picnic Table

One of the most important considerations for your picnic table, is what should it be made out of? Hardwoods, softwoods, powder- and plastic-coated metal, HDPE lumber, aluminum, and even concrete are options to examine.

When it comes to choosing the right materials for your picnic tables, you’ll want to take several factors into account:

  • Durability — how well will your picnic table last when it’s left outside?
  • Maintenance — how easy will your picnic table be to look after?
  • Appearance — how will your picnic table look over time?
  • Surfaces — how well will the surfaces resist food and drink?
  • Comfort — how comfortable and luxurious will your picnic table be?
  • Weight — how easy is it to move the picnic table around, and how resilient is it to weather?
  • Price — how much value for money will you get from the picnic table?

Pine and Other Softwoods as a Material for Picnic Tables

A popular choice for building picnic tables is pine or other softwoods. Softwoods are abundant and inexpensive, but they’re not great choices for an outdoor picnic table — they don’t tend to weather very well and don’t resist spills.

Softwoods — Points to Consider

  • Softwood isn’t very resilient or durable, it is easily scratched or dented, which can impact the appearance of your picnic table
  • Softwood must be varnished and protected if it is going to stay outside — even then, the elements can quickly impact how good the picnic table looks. It can look grubby pretty quickly
  • Hot plates and cups, and food and drink spills can all impact the surface of the wood
  • A softwood picnic table will typically need to be restained or revarnished on a semi-regular basis
  • Softwood is an inexpensive choice when it comes to outdoor furniture


Oak and Other Hardwoods as a Material for Picnic Tables

Hardwoods are a better choice that softwoods for a well-crafted, lasting picnic table, but they are not without issues. Like softwoods, they need to be regularly maintained to look their best.

Hardwoods — Points to Consider

  • Hardwoods are quite resilient and durable, and it is difficult to scratch, dent, or damage them
  • Hardwood must be varnished and protected if it is going to stay outside
  • Hot plates and cups, and food and drink spills can all impact the surface of the wood
  • Hardwood picnic tables will typically need to be restained or revarnished on a semi-regular basis
  • Hardwood picnic tables are more resilient to the elements and gusts of wind
  • Hardwood picnic tables are going to be heavier and quite difficult to move around
  • Hardwood is a moderately expensive choice as a material for picnic tables

Teak as a Material for Picnic Tables

Teak is a popular choice for outdoor furniture, and picnic tables are no exception. It is better than other woods like pine, oak, bamboo, or wicker.

Teak — Points to Consider

  • Teak is durable and resilient, as it produces its own oil — it’s a hardwood, so isn’t easy to dent or scratch
  • It’s completely resistant to wind, water, and rust and can stay outside all year-round
  • Hot plates and cups, and food and drink spills can all impact the surface of the wood
  • It’s only available in one “color,” teak
  • It is difficult to maintain and needs to be regularly rubbed down and treated to avoid “silver patina”
  • Teak is one of the pricier options when it comes to outside furniture

Aluminum as a Material for Picnic Tables

A popular choice, picnic tables are sometimes available in aluminum. It’s a lightweight, durable metal.

Aluminum — Points to Consider

  • Aluminum is tough, resilient, and easy to maintain
  • Your picnic table can be left outside all year-round, with no ill effects
  • The surface of an aluminum picnic table is resistant to food and drink stains
  • It is highly durable and completely resistant to water and rust
  • Lightweight construction means it can be vulnerable to gusts of wind

Plastic-and Powder-Coated Metal as a Material for Picnic Tables

Another popular option for picnic tables is metal that’s coated in either a plastic layer or with powder that’s fused into paint. These types of tables are available in a variety of colors.

  • Coated metal is durable and resilient, it isn’t easy to dent or scratch
  • It’s completely resistant to wind, water, and rust and can stay outside all year-round
  • Food and drink won’t easily damage the surface of a coated metal table
  • The seats and tabletop will be made of different material, so you will need to take that into account


High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) Lumber as a Material for Picnic Tables

HDPE is a synthetic resin for building solid, high-quality, durable outdoor furniture. Its cost is offset by the luxury, comfort, and resilience it provides. It’s a perfect material for a stylish outdoor picnic table.

HDPE Lumber — Points to Consider

  • It is easy to maintain, needing just a cloth with a simple solution of water and a mild dish soap
  • Medium weight, HDPE is sturdy and resistant to wind. Your picnic table can stay outside all year-round
  • HDPE is highly durable and completely resistant to wind, water, and rust
  • Your picnic table will be comfortable, stylish, and luxurious with a high-quality, strong, and sturdy construction
  • The surface of HDPE lumber is resistant to heat and spills
  • HDPE is infinitely recyclable and is often made from recycled milk jugs
  • Available in a wide variety of colors
  • HDPE lumber is manufactured to last a lifetime and its price does reflect that

Our favorite material is the HDPE lumber — it’s manufactured to last a lifetime, stays looking great, is completely weather resistant and durable, takes just moments to maintain, and comes in a wide variety of colors.


Step 2 — Work Out How Much Room You Have for Your Picnic Table

Picnic tables can take up a fair amount of room. Most of them have integrated, attached seating, so you will need enough space to comfortably move around the table and get into and out of the seats. Work out where you are going to situate your table — on your deck or patio, on the lawn, etc.

Park 72″ Picnic Table
  • Carefully measure your outdoor space and use tape or some other way to mark the size of the table before you buy it.
  • Take into account extra space around the outside of the table to allow people to move around easily.
  • Consider various shapes and dimensions of picnic tables to choose one that can perfectly meet your space and seating requirements.

Step 3 — Decide on the Right Shape, Size, and Configuration for Your Picnic Table

Think about the type of picnic experience you want to create and how many people you will want to seat. Although the traditional, rectangular picnic table with bench seating is most popular, there are plenty of other options including round, octagonal, and tables with curved corners.

You will need to match the size of your dining table with the number of people you will want to serve. It’s sometimes a good idea to overestimate slightly. If you’re going to be entertaining a lot, your picnic table will be a focal point for informal meals and gatherings.

Park 53″ Octagon Table

In other words, go a couple of place settings bigger than you normally would — even if you don’t fill the table every time, the extra space will make moving around, sitting, and relaxing that little bit easier.

Picnic Table Form and Function — Points to Consider

  • Decide if you want the seating integrated and attached to the table, as is traditional, or if you want separate seating
  • Think about how the table will work in your outside space, and how it will integrate with the environment
  • If you’ve got young kids you might want a slightly lower table so they can get in and out of chairs and reach their food more easily (a Kids Picnic Table is great for little ones to have their very own space!)
  • If you want to install a patio umbrella, look for a picnic table with a central hole

Step 4 — Choose the Right Style of Picnic Table

Picnic tables are available in a variety of beautiful styles for any backyard, patio, or deck. Here at POLYWOOD, we’ve taken the traditional design and refined it into exciting new configurations, to create styles suitable for any outside space.


Step 5 — Choose the Right Color Picnic Table

All our picnic tables are available in a wide variety of earth tones including gray, browns, sand, etc. You can even stick with a modern look by choosing black or white.

While our adult-size picnic tables are available in traditional lumber colors, our Kids Picnic table is available in both traditional and vibrant lumber colors.

Kids Picnic Table

Step 6 — Accessorize Your Picnic Table

Once you’ve chosen the perfect picnic table for your outdoor space you may decide you want to accessorize it with a patio umbrella. Our umbrellas are made with Sunbrella® fabric with is manufactured to stay outside all year-round.

Park 53″ Octagon Table

Sunbrella umbrellas are weather and fade resistant so they’ll stay looking great season after season. They also shed water quickly, so they dry out fast after a passing rainstorm. Add in a huge variety of colorways and patterns, and you’re sure to find the perfect umbrella for your picnic table.


The Bottom Line

When it comes to choosing the perfect picnic table, there’s plenty to consider. We hope this buyer’s guide has given you all the information you need to make an informed choice. If you’ve still got questions, we have answers; feel free to call us (855) 935-5550 or email us at hello@polywoodoutdoor.com and one of our experts will be delighted to help you out!

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