We spent over 20 hours researching many different styles of picnic tables and found that stability, comfort, and visual appeal were the most important things consumers looked for. The Lifetime 22119 Folding Picnic Table scored high marks above the other picnic tables we looked at and is our overall top pick. This easy-to-clean, polyethylene picnic table can seat as many as 8 people and has a weight capacity of 500 pounds. This great picnic table folds flat for easy storage and comes with a two year limited warranty.
Picnic Table Buying Guide
One of the first things you should consider BEFORE purchasing a picnic table is what your specific needs are. There are several things that you want to ask yourself before you start shopping. The answers to the questions below will help you determine exactly what you are looking for and needing in a picnic table.
- Is the table for adults or kids?
- Where will you be putting the picnic table?
- How much space do you have for a picnic table?
- Do you like a heavy duty plastic, wood, or coated metal?
- What are the weather conditions in your region?
- Do you have a specific budget?
- What shape do you prefer? Round? Square? Octagon? Rectangular?
- How often will you be using the picnic table?
The questions above will help you zero in on what you want and need for your yard. This will prevent you from purchasing a picnic table that doesn’t work for your needs and leaves you with having to return it (not always easy for larger items) and purchase another one.
What is the Picnic Table Material?
One of the first things to consider when looking for the right picnic table is the material that it is made of. They can be made from a variety of things including metal, hardwood, softwood, HDPE, aluminum and some permanent picnic tables have even been made out of concrete although this is not a typical choice for a residential picnic table.
You want your table to be durable, easy to maintain, be comfortable, stain resistant, and to look good. Value for the money is also a consideration. Below we have listed out many of the common materials used in picnic table manufacturing along with some points about each type of material. This will enable you to see the differences between the different types and see which ones fit your goals better.
Softwoods – One of the most common softwoods used for picnic tables is pine. The benefit to softwoods is that they are usually inexpensive and easy to find. They are not necessarily a good choice for a picnic table that is going to be outdoors because they can absorb spills and don’t handle exposure to the elements very well. A softwood picnic table is great for a screened in back deck or somewhere it is protected from rain and snow. When considering a picnic table made of softwoods be aware of the following points:
- It is not very durable and can be dented or scratched easily.
- If you want a softwood picnic table to stay outside you will need to ensure that the wood is varnished and protected from the elements. The downside is even with protection; a softwood picnic table will show weathering fairly quickly and will look pretty rough fairly quickly.
- Varnishing will need to be redone on a regular basis which is time consuming.
- The surface of a softwood table can be stained by hot plates and cups and spills unless it is protected sufficiently.
Hardwoods – Hardwoods like Oak are a much better choice for a picnic table that is going to be strong, durable and long lasting. Despite being a better choice for outdoor use, a hardwood picnic table will still have its share of regular maintenance that will be required to keep it looking good. Hardwood is much more difficult to damage, dent, or scratch but it will still need to be varnished if it is going to be used outside. A hardwood picnic table will also be quite heavy and will not be super easy to move around if you need to. Regular re-staining or re-finishing will need to be done to keep up the appearance of a hardwood picnic table. You will also find that hardwood picnic tables can be really expensive.
Teak – A popular choice for outdoor picnic tables is Teak. It is more popular than other woods like wicker, bamboo, pine, or oak. Teak is a very resilient wood that produces its own oil which protects it from the elements. A Teak picnic table can be outside all year round and is resistant to water, wind, and rust too. One of the drawbacks to Teak is that it only comes in one color and that is the Teak color. It is usually expensive and needs to be maintained by being rubbed down, on a regular basis to avoid getting “silver patina” from extended exposure without the proper maintenance.
Plastic or Powder – Coated Metal – Some metal picnic tables are plastic-coated or coated with a powder-coating to protect it from rusting when outdoors. Some of the popular aspects of this type of picnic table are the variety of colors it can come in. This is a great choice if you are looking for something to fit a particular color scheme or design. Coated metal is not easy to scratch or dent and it can stay outside all year round since the powder coating protects it from water, rusting, and wind damage. Spills are not usually a problem for a powder-coated picnic table all you need to do is wipe it down. The seat tops and tabletop will typically be made from a different type of material so be aware that those parts of the table may need special care depending on what they are.
Aluminum – Aluminum is another popular choice for picnic tables due to its resiliency. It is durable, lightweight, and easy to maintain. An aluminum picnic table can be left outdoors all year round without worry of it getting ruined. It is resistant to water and rust and will last a long time when cared for properly. One thing to consider about an aluminum picnic table is that because it is lightweight, if you live in an area that gets high wind gusts, the table can be moved so care should be taken to ensure they are secured properly in the event of a storm with high winds.
HDPE Lumber – (polyethylene) – This synthetic resin produces durable, high quality picnic tables that can withstand the elements easily. It is comfortable, luxurious, and very resilient. It is a very popular material for picnic tables and other outdoor furniture. HDPE lumber is super easy to maintain; a damp cloth with water and mild soap is all you need. Your HDPE picnic table can stay outside all year round and is fully resistant to rust, wind, and water. If you are looking for something that is durable, long lasting, stylish, and comfortable, this is an excellent choice to consider. It comes in a large variety of great colors too.
Things to Consider when Shopping for a Picnic Table
There are several things you want to look at when you start the shopping process for your picnic table. These points will help you find a quality table that will meet your needs and preferences.
1. Price – Depending on how you want to design your outdoor living space, a picnic table could be one of the most expensive items you get. Costs will vary depending on the material of the picnic table, the size, longevity, and even the brand name. You should set a budget that you want to stick to before you start looking around. Ideally, you want to choose the best picnic table you can get for the budget you have set. If you look for the cheapest picnic table you can find you are likely to end up disappointed because cheap picnic tables are usually made cheaply and will not last very long at all.
2. Materials – As we mentioned above, picnic tables come in a variety of materials. Think about the amount of maintenance you want to do when deciding what material you want your picnic table to be made of. Wood varieties will require yearly or every other year refinishing to keep its good looks and integrity. The popular powder coated varieties and HDPE lumber styles look great, last a long time, and require very little in the way of maintenance. If you are looking for a table that doesn’t need a lot of upkeep, those are two great choices to consider.
3. Table Shape – Picnic tables come in a variety of shapes including square, round, octagonal, hexagonal, oval, and rectangular. Decide what shapes appeal to you and look at the selections offered in that shape. The standard shape for a picnic table is rectangular but you are not limited to that one shape if you prefer others.
4. Mounting Options – There are three different mounting options that are usually offered with picnic tables. These are:
Surface mount – A surface mount table has legs that are anchored onto a flat surface. It is very popular because it adds stability to the table while not requiring a permanent location.
- Portable – Portable is just that; you can move the picnic table around wherever you choose and can even take it with you on camping trips or other excursions if desired. Many portable picnic tables offer the ability to fold flat for easy transport.
- In ground – An in-ground mounted picnic table is permanently in the spot you mount it. The legs of the picnic table are submerged in concrete or another solid foundation of some kind. In ground mounts are great for people that have very definite ideas for their outdoor living spaces. If you want an in-ground mount, be very sure about where you place your table as it will be staying there permanently.
5. Durability – Most people want to purchase a picnic table that is going to last so durability is a very important point to consider. Look for tables that offer warranties and make sure you understand what the warranty covers. The durability and longevity of your picnic table will depend on the materials used in construction, any coatings that are applied, and how hard you are on the table. The most durable selections will be powder or plastic coated metal, HDPE lumber, and aluminum.
6. Seating Capacity – The size of your picnic table will determine its capacity. Think about the space you want to put your table and how many are in your immediate family. There is no picnic table that will accommodate all your family and friends too but you do want to make sure that the immediate family is accommodated so you can dine together as a family without someone having to sit elsewhere. Most picnic tables will seat anywhere from 4 to 8 people. There are super large picnic tables available that can seat as many as 10- 12 but they will be a lot more expensive and will take up a substantial amount of room in your outdoor living space. Only you know how much space you want to dedicate to your picnic table. If you entertain a lot, choose a picnic table that can hold as many people as the space allows. The table will more than likely become a focal point of the area and you will find that your family and friends will congregate there, especially if it is comfortable.
7. Picnic Table Space – How much room do you have for your picnic table? If you living in a home with a small yard or deck you do not want to get an 8-10 foot picnic table or that is ALL that will be on your deck. You want to ensure that you have enough space to accommodate, not only the table, but the attached or detached benches as well. Make sure everyone can comfortable and safely walk all the way around the table and that they can get in and out of the seats easily without bumping into other things. Make sure that the table you choose fits the space you have so it is a place of enjoyment rather than irritation at meal time.
8. Picnic Table Function – A few other things to think about during the shopping and research period is to decide if you want the seats attached to the table or if you want them separate. There are advantages to each so it is largely personal preference in terms of which you choose. If you have young children you may want to ensure that the seats are low enough for them to reach OR you could choose to get them their own special kid’s picnic table. Many kids love having their own space yet having a table that matches the “big people table”. If you want additional protection from the sun, look for a table that has a hole in the center for an umbrella.
9. Color – Many picnic tables come in a variety of colors if they are made from HDPE lumber or have a powder coating over metal. Some people like to choose earth tone colors that blend with the outdoors and others like vibrant colors that can be used as contrast for other more neutral colors they may have in their outdoor living space. Wooden tables are more limited on color choices but there is a wide variety of stain colors to choose from that can look terrific in an outdoor space that has other wood elements.
10. Accessories – Once you have chosen your picnic table there may be some accessories available that you could choose such as comfortable cushions for the benches and table coverings. You don’t have to be stuck with a plain table or uncomfortable seats if you use a little bit of imagination.
There are a lot of things to consider when choosing the perfect picnic table for your outdoor space. With all of the options available, it can quickly become overwhelming to figure out exactly what you want. That is why we suggest that you ask yourself those questions we provided at the beginning of the buying guide.
When you know exactly what you are looking for it makes the research and shopping process much easier because you won’t waste time looking at picnic tables that don’t meet those criteria. With all of the great choices available on the market you have a lot of opportunity to find exactly what you are wanting for your own space.
The three top rated picnic tables that we have featured above are all excellent examples of high quality picnic tables that will stand the test of time and provide a great space for your friends and family to sit and dine outside. They are affordable, stylish, durable, and will add a lot of style to your outdoor dining space.
If the three top rated choices are not quite what you were looking for, don’t worry, there are plenty more suggestions in the summary. Using the information you have gotten from this buying guide will help you understand the different materials and which work better for certain regions and weather, as well as the types of mounting you can consider as well.
This knowledge will help you sort through the different choices easily and make a confident decision on the right picnic table for your outdoor space and family’s needs.