How To Finish A Picnic Table

Picnic tables are a great addition to any backyard or outdoor gathering space. They provide a comfortable place for people to gather, eat, and socialize.

However, if left untreated, the wood on picnic tables can easily become damaged by the elements. Finishing your picnic table is an important step in protecting it from weathering and ensuring that it lasts for years to come.

In this article, we will guide you through the process of finishing your picnic table. We will cover everything from preparing the surface to choosing the right stain and sealing the table.

By following these steps, you can ensure that your picnic table remains in top condition and is ready for all of your outdoor gatherings.

Prepare the Surface

The initial step in the process involves preparing the surface of the wooden material to ensure that it is smooth, free from debris and any rough patches that may hinder its functionality.

Sanding techniques are used to eliminate any imperfections present on the surface of the wood. The sandpaper grit used should be determined by how rough or smooth the surface is. A coarse grit sandpaper is used for rough surfaces while a fine-grit sandpaper is used for smoother surfaces.

After sanding, it’s important to clean the surface using appropriate cleaning methods such as wiping with a damp cloth or using a vacuum cleaner to remove sawdust and other debris. This ensures that no dirt particles will interfere with finishing agents being applied later on in the process.

Choose the Right Stain

Choosing the right stain for finishing a picnic table can be a daunting task. It is important to consider the type of stain and its compatibility with the wood type.

There are different types of stains available, including oil-based, water-based, and gel stains, each having their own characteristics.

Types of Stains

Familiarizing oneself with the various types of stains available for outdoor furniture can aid in the preservation and enhancement of their aesthetic appeal.

Stain colors are an important consideration when selecting a stain, as they can affect the overall appearance of the picnic table.

There are several stain colors to choose from, ranging from natural wood tones to more vibrant hues such as reds and greens.

Additionally, stain finishes play a critical role in determining the final look of the picnic table.

Satin finishes provide a smooth and subtle shine, while semi-gloss finishes offer a bit more sheen.

High gloss finishes produce a highly reflective surface that can add depth to the overall appearance of the piece.

With so many options available, it is essential to consider both stain color and finish when selecting a product for finishing your picnic table.

Matching Stain to Wood Type

Matching the appropriate stain to the type of wood used in outdoor furniture can significantly impact the final result and enhance its natural beauty. Different woods have varying textures, colors, and grains that require specific woodworking techniques to achieve a desirable finish.

For example, pine is a softwood with visible knots and lines that may not hold up well against harsh weather conditions. To protect it from wear and tear, a darker stain with a sealant can be applied to give it a more durable finish.

On the other hand, redwood has natural oils that make it resistant to decay and rotting. Using a clear or light-colored stain would highlight its unique grain patterns while preserving its natural characteristics.

It’s essential to match the right stain color and finish to each wood type so that it complements outdoor furniture design while offering protection from environmental elements that could cause damage over time.

Apply the Stain

When applying stain to a picnic table, two methods are commonly used: using a brush or rag.

Using a brush allows for more even coverage and can be useful for hard-to-reach areas, while using a rag can create a unique texture and allows for greater control over the application.

It is important to note that multiple coats may be necessary to achieve the desired color and protection, with sufficient drying time between each coat.

Using a Brush or Rag

Applying a coat of sealant with a brush or rag can provide an even layer and protect the surface from weather and wear.

Both methods have their pros and cons, with brushes providing more control over application and rags being easier to use for intricate details.

When staining different types of wood, it is important to consider the density and porosity of the wood.

For denser woods like oak or maple, using a brush may be more effective in ensuring that the stain penetrates evenly into the grain.

However, for porous woods like cedar or pine, using a rag may be better to prevent over-saturation and blotchiness.

Ultimately, choosing between a brush or rag comes down to personal preference and experience with staining techniques.

Applying Multiple Coats

Moving on from the previous subtopic of using a brush or rag to apply finish to a picnic table, another important step is applying multiple coats.

Before doing so, it is recommended to wet sand the surface with progressively finer sandpaper grits, starting with 220 and going up to 400. This will help create a smooth surface and remove any imperfections in the wood grain.

After each coat is applied, it is important to wait for the drying time and curing process before applying another one. Each coat builds upon the previous one, creating a stronger and more durable finish.

It is recommended to apply at least three coats for optimal protection against weathering and wear-and-tear.

Seal the Table

Protecting the surface from weather damage and wear-and-tear is crucial to ensure the longevity of the outdoor furniture.

A great way to do this is by sealing your picnic table.

The benefits of sealing include providing a barrier against moisture, UV rays, and other environmental factors that can cause the wood to warp or rot over time.

It also helps prevent stains from food, drinks, and other substances that can be spilled on the table during use.

Additionally, it gives a polished look to your picnic table while enhancing its natural beauty.

The best time to seal is after applying multiple coats of paint or stain as it will help lock in those layers and create a durable finish.

It’s important to choose a sealant that is designed for exterior use and follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully for best results.

Maintenance Tips

To maintain the longevity and beauty of your outdoor furniture, it is important to follow proper maintenance tips.

Seasonal care is essential in ensuring that your picnic table stays in top condition.

During winter months, it is recommended to store your furniture indoors if possible or cover it with a waterproof cover to prevent damage from snow and ice.

In the summer, regular cleaning and maintenance are necessary to keep your table looking its best.

Avoid using harsh chemicals as they can strip away protective coatings and cause discoloration.

Instead, use a mild soap solution and warm water to clean the surface of the table.

Additionally, preventing damage by placing coasters under glasses and not allowing heavy objects to be placed on the surface will help prolong the life of your picnic table.

Following these simple maintenance tips will ensure that you can enjoy your outdoor furniture for years to come.


In conclusion, finishing a picnic table is a task that requires attention to detail and patience. Before beginning the process, it is important to prepare the surface by thoroughly cleaning and sanding it.

Choosing the right stain is also crucial as it can affect the appearance and durability of the table. Once the stain has been applied, sealing the table is necessary to protect it from weather elements such as rain and sunlight.

It is important to regularly maintain and clean the table to ensure its longevity. By following these steps, anyone can finish a picnic table with a professional-looking result that will provide enjoyment for years to come.

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