Build a Patio Cooler Table with Built-In Ice Boxes

This DIY patio table is the COOLEST, thanks to the built-in ice box drink coolers in the center! Follow the woodworking plans to build this picnic table with cooler and matching benches to make your outdoor dining area the place to be this summer. 

You’ll also want to build this simple DIY modern pergola and indoor-outdoor farmhouse coffee table

patio table with built-in drink coolers, Kruse's Workshop on Remodelaholic

DIY Patio Table with Built-In Ice Boxes
designed by Heidi of Kruse’s Workshop

The very talented Heidi and Brent from Kruse’s Workshop designed and built this DIY outdoor table and benches to turn their patio into a dining area for BBQs and summer parties.

We teamed up with Amy from HerToolbelt to draw up the woodworking plans, so you can build your very own ice chest table and matching easy outdoor benches .

Get the printable patio table plans

Building A Patio Cooler Table

Howdy from South Dakota!  I’m Heidi, and along with my trusty husband, Brent, we’ve been busy remodeling and building everything from picture frames to doll houses in our upcycled garage aptly nicknamed, Kruse’s Workshop.  We are excited to share our detailed plans outlining our process for building an ice chest patio table, which we fondly refer to as “The Patio Party Table.”

finished ice box patio table with benches, Kruse's Workshop on Remodelaholic

Visit Kruse’s Workshop to see Heidi and Brent’s industrial iron pipe photo display and the amazing Barbie house they built!

This post contains affiliate links. See our full disclosure policy here

Dimensions

The finished patio table measures 76 1/8”L x 40 1/2″D x 30”H and features 2 drink coolers with lids.

The finished dining bench measures 64”L x 15”W x 17 1/2″H.

patio table woodworking plan with drink coolers, overall dimensions

 

Materials:

To build the matching bench, you’ll also need (per bench):

  • 2 – 2″ x 6″ x 8′ boards
  • 3 – 2″ x 4″ x 8′ boards
  • 1 – 4″ x 4″ x 8′ boards

For finishing the patio table & benches:

patio table with built-in ice boxes, Kruse's Workshop on Remodelaholic

Tools:

DIY patio table with built-in ice boxes, Kruse's Workshop on Remodelaholic

 

How do you add a drink cooler to a picnic table?

The table design is centered around these specific planter boxes, available in the outdoor/plant department at Home Depot or on their website.  

At 20″ x 10″, they are the perfect size for a drink trough to hold plenty of summer time drinks while clocking in at less than $10 each!  (It wouldn’t be a bad idea to pick up a few spares, in case you need a replacement down the road.)

use planter boxes as patio table ice boxes, Kruse's Workshop on Remodelaholic

If you can’t find these ice boxes or don’t have a Home Depot nearby, you can pick up similar inexpensive planters here or here on Amazon — you’ll just need to plan ahead and adjust the holes and supports to fit the slightly different length and width, so be sure to thoroughly review the sketched woodworking plans before beginning to build.

(And scroll down to see how one clever reader fitted the table to hold chafing dishes for serving food, too!)

Can I add an umbrella to the patio table?

There’s plenty of room in the very center of the table to add a hole to accommodate an umbrella, such as this.

See the reader-built photos here to see how one reader added an umbrella to the patio table with ice boxes. 

How long does it take to build? How much does it cost?

With a few tools and plenty of patience, this project can be completed in a weekend, for as little as $150!

DIY patio table with built-in drink coolers, Kruse's Workshop on Remodelaholic

What is the best wood for an outdoor table?

Depending on the type of wood species used, materials will run anywhere from $150 – $350.  

Cedar, a wonderful choice for outdoor furniture, will cost significantly more than Douglas fir, which is what we’ve chosen for the table you are about to see.  

The Home Depot in our region carries Douglas fir, but only in the 2×8 and 2×6 material, so for the 4×4 legs we used Cedar.

How do you weatherproof a wood table?

No matter what type of wood you choose, several coats of a quality sealer are crucial to protecting the table and matching benches, not only from Mother Nature but also from our children, who are bound to spill dinner and dessert on it.

We chose to stain our table in American Walnut and then finish with several coats of water-based spar urethane in semigloss. (Read below for more details).

Build a patio table with built-in drink coolers from planter boxes - Kruse's Workshop on @Remodelaholic

How to Build an Outdoor Table with Drink Coolers

Get the full instructions and dimensions to build the table and matching benches here in the printable woodworking plan.

build a patio table with built-in drink cooler ice boxes, Kruse's Workshop on Remodelaholic

Tip #1: Cut As You Go

We had seen similar ideas, but we felt we could improve the design to create a more durable, solid product that could withstand our brutal weather cycles.

For this reason, we do not recommend cutting your lumber to length in advance.  We feel it’s best to make the cuts as you work through the plans, which will give you the freedom to make small adjustments as needed, ensuring a durable table.

As with any woodworking plan, be sure to read over all the construction steps in the Cooler Patio Table and Benches Plan before making cuts and beginning to build. 

Tip #2: First Cuts

For each material and step, begin by cutting a half inch off one end of the board.  Always take this first step when cutting a new board, as it will give you a clean, straight end to measure off of.

sanding an outdoor dining table made from inexpensive pine

Tip #3: Sanding

As you build, sand each section of the patio table, smoothing all of the edges, rough corners and sides.  It will be much easier if you sand the individual parts before the table is assembled.  

Most of the sanding can be done with an orbital sander loaded with 120 grit sand paper.  Rough spots may need 80 grit sandpaper.

Tip #4: Staining

After you’ve sanded each section, we recommend staining that section. It’s much easier to stain in portions than after the entire patio table is assembled.

Staining at intermediate assembly intervals (as noted in the woodworking plans) also helps ensure that the stain does its job to protect and waterproof the wood so your table will be durable in the elements.

build patio table top with ice box, clamp to keep boards even when attaching pocket holesTip #5: Clamping

As you build, pay close attention to your pocket holes and screws. Place a clamp like this over your first hole to hold the boards level with one another.  Drive your Kreg screw into place.  

Keep moving your clamp with each screw that you put in to ensure the pieces remain flush with one another. This is especially important when building the table top, to keep pieces flush and even for a smooth and level tabletop.

Want a drink cooler table, but smaller? Build this outdoor coffee table!
 

How to Make Your Own Table Legs from 4×4 Posts

It’s fairly simple to create your own legs using 4×4 posts, a table saw, and wood anchors. Full details are included in the woodworking plans, but we’ve included an overview here because this is a favorite woodworking tip to save money on table legs.

Create the leg, then attach it to the table using a diagonal support and bolts. This system makes it very simple to remove the legs for storage or transport.

make and attach DIY patio table legs

To create the flat surface, angle your table saw blade to 45 degrees.  Make a pencil mark so you know how far to cut.  Set the table saw fence at 2 3/4″.

make and attach patio table legs 02, Kruse's Workshop on Remodelaholic

On the new flat face, measure and mark the locations of the wood anchors. (These should match up with the support brackets built in the next step.) Using a 7/16″ drill bit, drill the holes about 1 1/2″ deep.how to use anchors to make your own wooden table legs for a patio tableInsert wood anchors and tighten with a 3/8 allen wrench.insert wood anchors to make DIY table legs
To attach the legs, build diagonal supports that attach to the skirting, cut from 2×4 with 45-degree angles at each end.

how to make DIY table legs and attach patio table legs 11, Kruse's Workshop on Remodelaholic

In the center of the diagonal piece, mark the same locations as the wood anchors in the legs and drill holes using a 1/2″ drill bit. Attach the support to the skirting using deck screws, then attach the legs to the diagonal support using bolts and washers.

 

 

How to Finish and Weatherproof an Outdoor Dining Table

Once everything is assembled, sand once more with 120 grit sandpaper.
finishing patio table with build-in ice boxes 01, Kruse's Workshop on Remodelaholic

Since we were using Douglas fir, which is a softer wood, we chose to use a wood conditioner so that our stain coat would come out more evenly.

finishing patio table with build-in ice boxes 02, Kruse's Workshop on Remodelaholic

About 15 minutes after I applied the wood conditioner and wiped off any excess, I applied a coat of basic interior oil based wood stain with a foam brush.

finishing patio table with build-in ice boxes 03, Kruse's Workshop on Remodelaholic
 
 

After the stain was dry, I applied three coats of this water based spar urethane, sanding VERY LIGHTLY with a fine sanding sponge in between coats.

finishing patio table with build-in ice boxes 04, Kruse's Workshop on Remodelaholic

And the finished patio cooler table looks like this:

finished patio table iwth built-in drink coolers and benches, Kruse's Workshop on Remodelaholic
patio table witih built-in drink coolers, Kruse's Workshop on Remodelaholic
patio table with ice boxes, Kruse's Workshop on Remodelaholic
 
 

 

Reader Photos and Alterations

We love seeing what you’ve built using Remodelaholic plans! Tag us @remodelaholic or #imaremodelaholic or submit a brag post here to show off your work.

Michael’s outdoor table with ice chests in the center

Michael writes: “This was my first-ever wood working project. I started with the benches and then moved on to the table. The benches worked great. I’m glad you mentioned not cutting everything for the table ahead of time. There were a lot of pieces that needed specific measuring towards the end (ice box lids).Finished product of my first woodworking project - outdoor table with ice chests in the center. Friday, July 17, 2015. (© 2015 Michael Connor / Connor Studios)

Finished product of my first woodworking project - outdoor table with ice chests in the center. Friday, July 17, 2015. (© 2015 Michael Connor / Connor Studios)“I used pressure treated pine. It made the table insanely heavy but will hopefully be good for a long time. Because of the weight of the table, I added heavy-duty locking casters to the bottom. This allows me to move it without getting the neighbors.

Finished product of my first woodworking project - outdoor table with ice chests in the center. Friday, July 17, 2015. (© 2015 Michael Connor / Connor Studios)
Finished product of my first woodworking project – outdoor table with ice chests in the center. Friday, July 17, 2015. (© 2015 Michael Connor / Connor Studios)

 

“I had a little bending in the long boards on the top. I added pocket screws going from the ice box frames across to the outside skirting and it pulled everything into alignment. Also, with the weight, I figured adding some screws would help over time.”

Doug’s Patio Table with Serving Dishes

Doug writes: “I was looking for a project I could build to donate to an auction being held by the PTO of my daughter’s elementary school. I decided on this table, but instead of using the planter boxes as ice chests, I made the holes in the table the same size as the opening for steam table trays. The trays come in about 24 different sizes, and they come in stainless steel as well as two types of plastic. They also come with lids and tons of accessories. Beware though, the trays can get expensive if you’re not careful.

“In addition to the rectangular trays, they have adapters so you can drop in different sizes of round buckets. The buckets are great for soups, sauces, chili, and the like, but they are also good for filling with ice and holding a few bottles of wine or a 12-pack of beer.

Patio table with built in stream trays featured on @Remodelaholic

“I’m currently in the process of using some parts from an old gas bbq grill to create a small fire pit for the table. I am using one of the full size trays and putting the burner tube inside, covered with either broken glass or lava rocks. a small propane bottle will screw into the bottom of the tray and hang securely from the try while in use. I’m not sure how that is going to work out yet, but I think it will be really neat. The kids could roast hot dogs and marshmallows right in the center of the table.”

Patio table with built in fire pit featured on @Remodelaholic

So very cool! What a great project, and to donate, nonetheless! A great project for a great cause. Thanks, Doug!

Allan’s Cedar Patio Table with Drink Coolers

Patio Table with Built-In ice boxes from @Remodelaholic tutorial

Allan says: “Everything was according to the plans, except I made my table from cedar. The flower boxes I used were slightly more narrow and longer than the ones in the plans, so my table ended up being about a foot longer, all told. It’s the envy of our neighbourhood and a welcome place to sit down after a long day at work.”

Anita’s Recycled Wood Patio Table with Coolers

Anita says:”Saw the table and had to have one, but built it in my usual style, from recycled wood. You can make old look good again.”

patio-table-with-built-in-ice-boxes-from-tutorial-on-remodelaholic

Marielle’s COOL Table

Inspired by this patio table and our patio coffee table with drink trough, Marielle shared with us her “cool” table, as she called it. 🙂 She writes that they used one large board for the table top and cut out a perfectly-sized section to fit the serving tray so that it hangs by the 4 edges. And see the unique legs? Brilliant! Thank you for the photo!

Patio Table With Built In Ice Boxes By Marielle, @Remodelaholic

If you’ve built anything following our plans or inspired by something we’ve posted, we’d love to see!  Submit a brag post here.

Get the printable drink cooler patio table plans here.

 

More outdoor patio furniture builds:

plus don’t miss the viral DIY fire pit pergola

 

How To Build A Patio Dining Set With Drink Coolers, Table And Benches, Remodelaholic

First published 04.24.14 // Last updated 02.07/20

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147 Comments

  1. How does the Douglas Fir hold up to the weather outside? Does anyone have any experience with this or other outside projects they’ve done in Fir and how they’ve held up over a few seasons? I just picked up all of the materials fir this table, but am a bit concerned that pressure treated would have been a better choice.

    Lastly, anyone know if an oil like tung oil would be a better finish (I’ve never used the stuff) or should I stick with the spar urethane?

      1. Jamie, I just noticed that your post doesn’t include a link back to our plans as inspiration — would you mind adding that? Thanks! <3

  2. Anyone been able to insulate the planter boxes so ice doesn’t melt so fast and drop all over the deck from condensation?

    TIA

  3. Has anyone extended this plan to 8′? Love the plans but want to have seating for 8-10. Any tips on extending it and making sure the span is strong enough?

    1. I expanded mine out to seat 12 by adding another ring to the outside. The table itself is immense and heavy, a little too big. The structure is holding without sag after 3 years, but I don’t think it’s ideal. If I had it to do over I’d do 1 of 2 things.

      1. Stick with the heavy 2x lumber, extend the length and keep the width the same as the original design. I would shift the legs in about 8 inches from the short ends, put a horizontal cross beam between them and then do angled support braces from the cross beam up to the center of the table.

      2. Build the top with a frame of 2x, but redesign the top to make use of 2x1s to lessen the load. This is my preferred design, but I haven’t taken the time to sketch it out into a working option yet.

      Justin

  4. I see a lot of comments about the kreg jig screws. The 2 1/2 screws for holding the frame to the table are definitely the proper screws and will not come through the top of the table if the jig is set up properly. 2 1/2 inch crews for 1 1/2 inch material.
    Mike

  5. How about cutting a hole in each of the two planters and fit in a plug so that it’s easier to dispose of the melted ice at the end of the evening?!

    1. P.s. The empty planters may hold all the necessary stuff for BBQs etc such as disposable plates, cups, cutlery and napkins too.

  6. Hi was wondering about the wood anchors….I’ve found some on Amazon but with different lengths…15mm and 25mm which should I use?

  7. Are there plans for making the benches that go with this as well? I can’t seem to find those? Thanks!

    1. Hi Dave,
      The patio table is 76 1/8”L as built in the plans. I’ve added the dimensions to the post as well, so thanks for asking!

  8. I’m not certain what I’m doing wrong but my 2-1/2 pocket hole screws will not bite and pull the cooler box support frame tightly together. I’ve tested with 1-3/8 setting on my jig (not a Kreg but another highly rated one I got on Amazon) and also backed off the drilling depth as well and nothing seems to work. I’m using pine boards and coarse thread screws as well. Please help me understand what I’m doing wrong as I’ve already replaced my 2×4’s twice and really don’t want to have to do that again. Thanks!!