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.
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 .
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.”
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- Printable Woodworking Plan (includes both cooler table and benches)
- 5 – 2×8 8′ length (table top)
- 2 – 2×6 8′ length (ice box lids)
- 5 – 2×4 8′ length (framing/skirting)
- 2 – 4×4 8′ length (table legs)
- 3 – 1×4 8′ length (ice box supports)
- 2 – 10″x20″ plastic planter boxes – see photo below
- 2 1/2″ Kreg pocket screws
- 1 1/2″ Kreg pocket screws
- 1 3/4″ Deck screws
- 8 – 5/16″ x 3″ bolts
- 8 – 5/16″ washers
- 8 – 5/16″ wood anchors
- 120 grit sandpaper
- 80 grit sandpaper
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:
- Miter saw or circular saw
- Table saw (optional but very helpful)
- Measuring tape
- Orbital sander
- Kreg Jig pocket hole jig
- 2 1/8″ hole saw
- 1/2 inch drill bit
- T square or L square (optional but helpful)
- face clamps like these
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.
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.
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!
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).
How to Build an Outdoor Table with Drink Coolers
Get the full instructions and dimensions to build the table and matching benches in the printable woodworking plan.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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″.
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.Insert wood anchors and tighten with a 3/8 allen wrench.
To attach the legs, build diagonal supports that attach to the skirting, cut from 2×4 with 45-degree angles at each end.
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
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.
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.
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.
And the finished patio cooler table looks like this:
Reader Photos and Alterations
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).
“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.
“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.
“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.”
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
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.”
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!
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.
More outdoor patio furniture builds:
- outdoor coffee table with bucket base
- outdoor baby gate
- vegetable garden arbor and trellis (with raised garden beds)
First published 04.24.14 // Last updated 02.07/20