Patio Tabletop Made From Reclaimed Deck Wood




About: Hard worker, great laugher, loyal friend/brother/uncle/son, amateur woodworker, and retired reality tv show contestant :)

I should first start out by saying that although this is somewhat of a "step-by-step" instructable, I'm not really going into complete detail on all the exact dimensions.  Not because I'm lazy, but because I customized this table top to fit on an existing patio table frame that I currently have (at least for now....I will, one day, create legs out of the same reclaimed wood).  So, if you are looking to create something like this for yourself, use whatever dimensions that work for you.

***I also decided to add a photo that captured my 10 ft bear sculpture in the background....maybe that will get me a few more votes at the end of the day*** :)

So now....on to the story.....

I've had an outdoor patio table with a tile top that I got years ago for cheap at the grocery store.  It was nothing special, but I could at least change out the tiles when I got sick of the look, and wanted to change it up a bit.  The existing tile table top did it's job, but I wanted to test my abilities on making my first  table top made out of 100% reclaimed wood (well, 99%).

I picked up a truck bed full of pressure treated 2x4's, 2x6's, 2x8's, and 4x4's off Craigslist for free that use to be a deck.  From the photos that were posted on the ad, the wood looked great.  However, upon my arrival, I realized the lady just knew how to take good photos!  The wood was in pretty bad shape (tons of nails, some not even salvageable, etc) but I'm a sucker, and still took it off the hands of the sweet old lady who was having her sisters coming in town that weekend.....which was the reason she needed them gone ASAP.  She was so happy that I took the wood, she even snapped a photo of me by my truck with all the wood in the bed. 

When I got back to the house, I picked out a wide variety of pieces, and started to square them up w/ the jointer and plane them down with the planer.  To my surprise, after about an 1/8 of an inch taken off on each side, the wood was looking pretty good.

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Step 1:

This part is pretty basic, but time consuming.  Once all the planks were squared up, and planed down to 1 1/4 inch thickness, I started to glue them up and clamp them together. I didn't glue/clamp the entire table top all at once....only because I was kind of winging the design as I went, and I also knew I didn't have enough big clamps to successfully glue it all up at once.  I glued the first pieces (which will end up being the middle) edge to edge, but then glued the rest of the pieces "end grain" up. 

I also used some extra pieces of cedar I had hanging around from my old 40 year old arbor I took down in my back yard to give it a bit more contrast.  Two of the pieces of cedar were cut with the nails still in them.  I knew that from the get go, and although it's not the best thing for your blade, I thought it would give the table a cool touch, and make sure everyone knew it was reclaimed material.

For the edges, I used some old pine 4x4's I stored away after taking down a deck at a rental I own.  After I cut the 4x4's down to 1 1/4 inch planks, I realized that the grain in these pieces were very unique looking....the grain was very tight, and something you rarely see these days at your normal home improvement store.  The pine was also not pressure treated like the deck wood, so it sanded down much lighter than the rest of the table top.

Step 2:

After I had most it all glued up, I spent a few hours sanding it down.  First with 60 grit, then 80, moved to 100, and finished with 220. After that, I was on to my final steps (so I thought), which was to put a nice coat of sanding sealer on it to make the grain pop, and give it a nice poly coat.  However, after I put the sanding sealer on, I thought it might look better with a stain.

I still go back and forth on if I made the right choice or not, because some of the pieces looked great...but at the end of the day, I thought the pressure treated "green" showed too much, so I decided to use a walnut stain.  I first taped off the cedar pieces, as well as the pine border, (because I wanted to keep these natural looking) and started staining.  After two coats, I was happy with the color, and decided to finish off the pine border.

Step 3:

I ended up not only gluing the pine borders, but also putting in a few screws, and covered them up with some oak wood dowels.  I did this more for the look than anything and I like the contrast between the oak and pine.  I had enough old pine to finish the top of the border.  However, I also wanted to make a lip to hide the remainder of the old tabletop.  Unfortunately, I wasn't going to have enough of the old pine to finish the lower portion, so I went to Home Depot and bought some 1 inch thick pieces of pine (the only purchased material used in the project).  I'm not sure if this is a different type of pine or what, but you can definitely tell that the new pine has a much different grain pattern, and not nearly as tight.  And because the old pine was at least 20-30 years old, the color difference was substantial.

Although I wasn't thrilled with the purchased pine, I was getting ancy to finish this thing, so I decided to go forward and install the lip.  I let it dry over night, and came back with another 100 grit/220 grit finish on the edges, while rounding off the corners of the lip.  I then finished off the table top edges with a router.  I'm certainly not an expert with the router, but over all, it came out pretty good. 

Step 4:

I then put some tung oil on the borders, which really brought the color of the old pine out.  Unfortunately, after the oil was already applied, I decided to stain the lower portion of the lip (the new white pine) the same color as the table top (walnut).  The stain didn't really take much, but it darkened it up enough to not stick out as much as it did when I left it "natural". 

After that, I put on 3 coats of poly and called it a day!  It's not perfect, but overall, I really like how it turned out.

Thanks for reading, and I would greatly appreciate your vote in the Woodworking Contest!!! 

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    24 Discussions


    4 years ago on Step 4

    Beautiful. I am planning to have this made for my patio table .Pray the results are as awesome as yours.

    I'm always working on something around the house, but don't have anything for instructables right now.....I am dying for a good idea let me know if you have any :)

    Hmm...I have lots of ideas...not sure what you like to make or have around though :) I would like to make some type of hanging outdoor chair..not really a hammock..something more creative...this one here is kind of boring - is awesome but too huge ...and probably not manly enough! ;) I'm not sure...don't know much about wood working or building..but I def. LOVE the table you made

    That table is beautiful. I am working on a table from scratch that has a top of tile, and the middle of the table is cut at 45's to accommodate a smaller center tile. The legs are 4x4's that are cut, sanded off the rough edges to make them partially round, decorative molding around the edges to hide the grout and it is around 36-40 inches high. A second shelf is placed below at the half point of the height. I will add photos when I am done. Again, you have inspired me and that is a great looking table. Craigslist has so much free things to build with!!!

    1 reply

    7 years ago on Introduction

    Very nice, but......

    Be careful of cross-grain construction:

    Wood expands and contracts through the seasons. Table tops shrink width-wise during the dry winters due to loss of moisture, and expand during the summer when it reabsorbs moisture. Lengthwise there no expansion or contraction due to the way the wood cells are aligned.

    Attaching a board along the endgrain end, with the wood grain at 90 degrees to the table wood, means the end piece will not expand and contract in unison to the table, and will eventually seperate from the end pieces.

    You also have to be careful of how you attach the table to the base. Again, if you don't allow for the expansion and contraction, cracks will appear in the top.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    The table is interesting and looks good from the pics, but treated wood?? Older treated woods are deadly, but even newer treated wood can be linked to possible ailments. I worked as a bio-chemical researcher and we found the chemicals still present even years later. Even newer treated woods have a dozen warnings, just take a walk through Lowe's or Home Depot and you'll see signs prompting you to wash your hands after touching their treated lumber (and that's the newer/safer stuff). I'm no lambasting, just thinking out loud and considering...what if someone sit down to eat or drink at the table on a breezy afternoon.

    1 reply

    @techway - I see where you are coming from, but think you are digging a bit deep on this one. Just a bit of background, I made sure to pick out the "lighter" pieces of wood when I started this project. As you probably already know, PT wood is substantially heavier than a regular ol 2x4. By doing that, I made sure to use the pieces that had either dried out completely, or weren't pressure treated as well as the others from the start. Although these pieces will most certainly still have traces of the chemicals after 7 years, they wouldn't have nearly as much as the ones you are walking past at Lowe's or Home Depot. The most dangerous part when dealing with pressure treated wood is when you are cutting or sanding the material (unless the wood is still "wet" that is). I did all this outside, with a heavy duty mask on.

    Now for your last comment/ has 2 coats of stain, and 3 heavy coats of poly, so the layer that you are eating/drinking off of isn't even the actual wood. I very much doubt a breeze will kill you :)

    Thanks Hunter! :) I LOVE that quote too!!! And that is how I feel when I am creating things - which some people look at me and think I'm nuts for attempting, I feel I know I can do it...even if it ends up taking me so much more time than I could have imagined....I've then learned something new... Anything is possible! :)


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Beautiful table, and that was a great idea to use the existing frame. Bravo, sir!

    Please be careful with old treated wood.
    It was mostly made with chromated copper arsenate (known as CCA).
    So you have to protect yourself, especially when sanding, as you really do not want to breathe it.
    And if you're using it for a table you'll eat from, you do want to seal it very well. Which you did.
    But the point is, CCA was made to kill things like fungus and rot, so you need to take care of yourself when you're around it.
    Don't take my word for it. Google it.