Introduction: Picnic Table Drink Trough

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Make your next picnic table party amazing with a picnic table that can be transformed to accommodate a drink trough. Unlike other party tables this one is completely reversible, allowing your the full functionality of a picnic table with an easy transformation to include a build in drink trough.

The plastic liners that serve as the ice well are removable and easily stored under the picnic table seats when not in use. The best part about this project is that at a glance it looks like your picnic table was never modified.

Ready to have a picnic table party?

Step 1: Supplies

I found that plastic planter boxes are perfect for this application over metal gutters as they are monolithic and require no caulking to seal. Also, they are removable so you can store them and convert your table after use.


  • circular saw
  • hand saw
  • power drill
  • sandpaper
  • hammer
  • chisel
  • pry bar


  • vinyl tube
  • plastic window planter boxes
  • plumbing valve
  • scrap wood

Step 2: Remove Diagonal Braces

Some picnic tables have diagonal leg braces that are attached to the underside of the table top, they connect the legs to the center of the table and provide stability. Tip the table over, then unscrew and remove the diagonal leg braces and set aside. We'll replace the diagonal leg braces after the trough is installed.

Step 3: Remove Center Plank

Most table top planks are nailed to cleats on the underside, these cleats stop the tabletop planks from moving around. The center plank can be removed by prying one end of board from one cleat. Then, using the free end as leverage, pry the board from the cleats.

After removal, set the center plank aside.

Step 4: Cut Center Table Top Cleats

To make room for the drink trough the table top cleats will need to be trimmed. The center cleats were removed, leaving the end cleats nearest to the end so the table didn't collapse.

After cutting the cleat edges were sanded to remove any burrs and splinters.

Step 5: Install New End Cleat

A new cleat is installed on the underside of the table at the table ends, this cleat will support the newly cut center plank. I used a scrap piece of wood that was roughly 6" x 20" that was 1/2" thick. This cleat should extend to the planks of eaither side of the opening, and not extend past the end of the table.

Step 6: Trim Cleats/planter Box (if Needed)

The plastic window planter boxes I used were almost the right length, but were slightly too long. I decided to chop away part of the cleats at the table ends to accommodate the length of the boxes. I also trimmed the lip on the ends of the planter boxes to reduce the length without sacrificing the integrity of the structure.

Place window planters in cavity. The planter boxes I used were a perfect fit in width, and after trimming were the right length, too.

Next I measured from the end of the planter boxes to the end of the table, this length will be chopped from either end of the center plank. The cut ends will then be reattached.

Step 7: Cut Center Plank

With the trough dimension measured on the center plank we can chop off the ends. Using a saw the ends were cleanly cut from the center plank.

The ends pieces were then reattached to the table on the new end cleats.

Step 8: Finger Hole for Center Plank

To allow the center plank to be removed easily a large hole was drilled. I used a 1-1/4" Forsner bit, but any hole saw is fine.

Step 9: Lower Shelf

The center plank will be used as the shelf that the trough will rest on. To make the shelf two scraps of wood were installed on the legs below the table top. Ensure the dimension of the wood for the lower shelf matches the under-table cleats, that way center plank will fit perfectly.

Place the planter box trough into the opening, accounting for the thickness of the center plank, install the shelf wood.

when the center plank is removed it will be placed below and act as the shelf for the trough.

Step 10: Mark Underside of Center Plank for Feet

Place the center plank back onto the table top in its original position. Mark on the underside of the table where the cleat meets the center board; we'll offset this mark by about an inch to allow the center board to rest on the cleat. Repeat this step on the other end of the board.

Step 11: Feet for Center Plank

After the center plank is cut we can install the feet that will hold it in place when on the lower shelf. using the pen mark made previously.

We can install a small block of wood. These blocks will prevent the shelf from travelling off the lower shelf. Since the bottom shelf bracket and the under-table cleat are the same dimension these feet will fit into the table perfectly when not in use.

Step 12: Reattach Diagonal Braces

With the modifications complete the diagonal leg braces can be reattached. Since we're using the center plank where the diagonals were installed previously they'll need to be relocated one plank over.

Using a screwdriver the braces were lined up offset from the center plank and screwed into place.

Step 13: Trough Drainage

To make cleanup easy after the party is over, I added a drainage valve to my troughs. Since you're party is going to be outside this drain includes a hose so you can water your garden with the melted ice.

I used a angle shut off valve from the plumbing section of the hardware store, and a length of nylon tubing. A small opening was drilled into the side of the trough near the bottom, then the valve was threaded into the opening. The nylon tube was pushed over the barbed end and the excess tubing coiled up out of the way. Make sure the valve is shut off before filling with ice so it doesn't start leaking all over your party guest's legs.

Step 14: Trough Storage Under Bench

As an added bonus I located my troughs under one of the benches, hidden out of the way, when not in use.

I used short angle brackets found at my hardware store, they joined together with short bolts to form a channel which the troughs could be slipped into.

Step 15: Trough Stowage

The trough slide into the channel clips and are held in place between the clips and the underside of the bench, out of the way until you are ready to convert your table and place the drink troughs in the center spot.

Step 16: Convert Table

You're all set to convert your table. Pop out the center plank, drop it to the shelf below and then insert the planter boxes. Your table is now ready to chill all the drinks for your next party!

Step 17: Throw a Party

Fill your trough with ice and stuff with beverages. You can party at the table, and keep your drinks chilled, all without getting up!

Step 18: Drain Trough When Done

After the party is over you can easily drain out the water from the drink trough by opening the valve and pointing the hose towards your garden.