The Complete Guide to Buying an Outdoor Picnic Table

We all love eating outside, and for the alfresco aficionado, you have 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 the material it should 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 

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. 
  • 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 patio furniture.

Oak and Other Hardwoods

Hardwoods are a better choice than 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 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.


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.
  • Aluminum can get very hot when left out in direct sun so it needs to be kept in the shade or topped with a cushion.

Plastic- and Powder-Coated Metal

Another popular option for picnic tables is metal that’s coated in either a plastic layer or with powder that’s fused into the 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 long.
  • 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) 

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 mild dish soap.
  • Medium weight, HDPE lumber is sturdy and resistant to wind. Picnic tables built from this material can stay outside 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 ocean-bound and landfill-bound plastics.
  • HDPE lumber is 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.

POLYWOOD Lumber Color Swatches

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.

POLYWOOD Park 72" Picnic Table
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 so you can 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.

POLYWOOD Park 53" Octagon Table
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 a 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 an umbrella, look for a picnic table with a central hole in the tabletop.

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.

POLYWOOD Picnic Table Comparison Chart

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.

POLYWOOD Kid's Picnic Table
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 all-weather performance fabric which is manufactured to stay outside year-round.

Featured: 9′ Tilt Market Umbrella & Base

Outdoor 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 still have questions, we have answers; feel free to call us (855) 935-5550 or email us at and one of our experts will be delighted to help you out!

Blog Post Updated April 21, 2021

3 thoughts on “The Complete Guide to Buying an Outdoor Picnic Table

  1. Hey, the article on Benches is up to date, which definitely helps a novice like me. Right Material for Your Picnic Table was really new to me and possibly for some other people as well.

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