The Complete Guide to Buying an Outdoor Picnic Table

Originally Published on March 28, 2018. Last Updated on May 9, 2023.

Not all outdoor meals need to be formal affairs. Casual gatherings around a picnic table set with pasta salad, a pitcher of fresh lemonade, and a basket laden with sandwiches can be just as memorable (and often less stressful).

So how do you choose a picnic table that fits your family’s lifestyle? Start right here with our buying guide. It’s filled with useful information and advice to help you pick the perfect piece for your backyard.

Jump To Section
Step 1: Is a Picnic Table Right for You?
Step 2: Determine How Much Room You Have
Step 3: Choose the Right Materials
Step 4: Choose the Right Shape, Size, and Configuration
Step 5: Choose the Right Color for Your Set
Step 6: Accessorize Your Dining Set

Step 1: Is a Picnic Table Right for You?

Picnic tables are best for anyone who wants to seat a large number of people in a laid-back setting. Kids’ birthday parties, weekend barbecues with extended family, and other festive gatherings benefit from picnic tables.

Points to Consider 

Picnic tables are available in various designs, sizes, and materials. Ask yourself the following questions, and use the answers to help streamline your shopping experience.

Durability: How well will the material last when it’s left outside?
Maintenance: How easy is it to keep clean?
Appearance: How will the material look over time?
Design: Does it work well with your outdoor aesthetic?
Comfort: Are the bench seats supportive, and is there enough legroom beneath the table?
Weight: Is moving the furniture easy, and can it withstand strong wind gusts?
Price: How much value (i.e., frequency and years of use) will you get from a picnic table?
Number of seats: Can a picnic table comfortably accommodate your family and friends?

Step 2: Determine How Much Room You Have

How much space do I need around a picnic table?

Picnic tables can take up a fair amount of square footage. Most have built-in benches that cannot be slid under the table. You’ll also need enough space to get into and out of the seats and move around them comfortably.

  • Before buying a picnic table, measure your outdoor space to ensure you have enough room for it.
  • At least 36 inches of free space is recommended around the perimeter of a picnic table.
  • If a standard style doesn’t fit your space, consider other shapes and configurations that meet your space and seating requirements.

Step 3: Choose the Right Materials

Choosing a durable, well-built picnic table is important, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all material option out there. The right selection for you depends on your lifestyle, local climate, and other factors. Look through this list of common picnic table materials and their defining traits to see what’s best suited to your needs.


Picnic tables built from softwoods like Douglas fir and cedar are popular because they’re inexpensive and readily available. 

  • Regular refinishing is needed to protect wood against fading, rot, insects, and moisture retention.
  • Softwoods are often less durable than hardwoods and can be easily dented or scratched.
  • Softwoods aren’t as heavy as hardwoods but can still withstand strong winds.
  • Wood stays at a comfortable temperature in hot and cold weather.


Hardwoods like teak, oak, and mahogany typically offer higher strength and durability than softwoods, making them ideal for outdoor tables.

  • Hardwoods are more resistant to fading, rot, moisture, and insects than softwoods but still need regular refinishing for complete protection. 
  • Hardwood picnic tables are heavy—it takes a couple of adults to move one.
  • The strength of hardwood makes it resistant to scratches and dents.
  • Since hardwood trees grow slowly, these materials are more expensive and less readily available than fast-growing softwoods. 


A popular picnic table choice, aluminum is a low-maintenance and inexpensive metal option.

  • Aluminum is tough, resilient, and easy to maintain.
  • It’s highly resistant to fading, pests, and rust.
  • The lightweight construction means it can be vulnerable to gusts of wind.
  • Aluminum requires regular treatment to stave off corrosion and stains.
  • It can become uncomfortable if left under direct sunlight. 

Coated Metal

Another popular option for picnic tables is metal coated in plastic, either as a veneer or powder that’s fused to the metal’s surface. 

  • Coated metal is durable and resistant to dents and scratches.
  • Sun exposure can cause fading over time.
  • Coated metals have a higher resistance to rust and corrosion. 
  • Extreme temperatures and grainy substances like dirt or salt can lead to chips and cracks.

High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) 

HDPE is a type of plastic known for its durability, making it ideal for outdoor picnic tables.

  • HDPE is weather-, rust-, and corrosion-proof.
  • HDPE lumber is sturdy and resistant to wind, fading, and stains.
  • It requires minimal cleaning and upkeep.
  • Furniture made from HDPE can be more expensive than other materials.
  • If you want a sustainable option, look for HDPE picnic tables made using recycled plastics.

Step 4: Choose the Right Shape, Size, and Configuration

POLYWOOD Park 72" Picnic Table in Teak
Featured: Park 72″ Picnic Table in Teak

Rectangular picnic tables with built-in bench seating are what come to mind when you picture this style, but that’s only one of many available options. Plenty of other types exist, such as tables with detached benches, octagonal eight-seaters, and more. 

Use these tips to take the guesswork out of picnic table shopping.

  • Match the table size with the number of people you want to serve. (We even recommend going a couple of place settings bigger to account for extra guests.)
  • If you have a multi-purpose space, opt for tables with detached seating that you can move when you need extra room.
  • Look for slightly lower tables or miniature sets for kids so they can get in and out of their seats and easily reach food.
  • Square, round, and octagonal picnic tables fit best in wide spaces. If you have a narrower setting, consider a long rectangular table style.
  • If you want the option for shade, look for one with a central hole in the tabletop where you can position an umbrella.

Take a peek at POLYWOOD’s picnic table selection. We’re sure you’ll find a style that fits your space.

Park 53″ Octagon Table: Our largest picnic table comfortably seats eight.

Park 72″ Picnic Table: A traditional design with six feet of space on each side for easy dining and lounging.

Park 36″ Round Picnic Table: A slightly smaller size that’s ideal for tighter quarters.

Park 33″ x 70″ Picnic Table: This standalone table lets you mix and match your preferred dining seats.

Park 48″ Square Table: Another solo table that lets you choose the seating that fits best.

Kids Outdoor Picnic Table: Our smallest (and cutest) table, perfect for kids and available in all our lumber color options.

POLYWOOD Park 53" Octagon Table POLYWOOD Park 72" Picnic Table POLYWOOD Park 36" Round Picnic Table
POLYWOOD Park 33" x 70" Picnic Table POLYWOOD Park 48" Square Table POLYWOOD Kids Outdoor Picnic Table

Step 5: Choose the Right Color

The easiest way to pick your new picnic table color is to look at your backyard setup. Since it will likely act as your space’s focal point, shop for something that fits the existing color scheme. 

Beige, green, and brown tones blend nicely with the landscaping in gardens and wooded areas. For suburban decks and patios, neutral hues like white, grey, or black are excellent choices.

Classic Finish — Traditional Colors
Classic Finish — Vibrant Colors


Step 6: Accessorize Your Picnic Area

Once you’ve chosen the perfect picnic table for your home, you may decide to accessorize it with a patio umbrella. You’ll want one that can handle the elements, so look for options made with all-weather performance fabric and durable bases. Plus, an umbrella with a colorful canopy is an easy way to add extra shade (of both kinds).

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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