A friend of mine recently asked me to build her a DIY trestle table and bench. This design would work great for an indoor OR outdoor table set. But in this case, I was building it for outdoors.
Now, I’ve built an outdoor table with untreated lumber before and it will last a good while if it’s well maintained. But eventually, it will rot because standard pine construction lumber isn’t meant to be weather resistant. And we are okay with knowing it’ll have a short life span.
However, for this particular outdoor trestle table and bench project, I opted to use treated lumber so that my friend’s table will last a long while without damage from the elements outside. BUT, treated lumber presents it’s own challenges as it’s heavy, it’s wet, it’s green, and it smells a little…weird. I’ll speak more about treated lumber and pocket holes in the video below.
This table design works great for indoor OR outdoor use, so if you’re planning to keep it inside, you can use untreated wood and if you’re planning to use it outside and you want it to last a while, you can use treated wood. Do note that you need to use exterior screws for exterior projects–they have a protective coating that prevents them from rusting or corroding.
And if you do plan to use this as an indoor table, be sure to check out this post for how to build table tops. Outdoor table tops need gaps for water drainage for rain. But inside table tops are built differently and are usually attached as one solid piece. That’s the only difference in building this for outdoor vs. indoor use. Okay, sorry for the long intro. Let’s get to the build.
I’ve got the step by step tutorial below, and the printable building plans for the table and benches here:
For this Build, You Will Need:
- (4) 2x10x8 boards
- (3) 4x4x8 posts
- (8) 2x4x8 boards
- (4) 1x6x8 boards (these are called 5/4x6x8 boards if you’re using treated wood)
- 2 1/2″ pocket hole screws (use exterior kind if you are using this outdoors)
- 2″, 2 1/2″, 3″, and 4″ wood screws (use exterior kind if you are using outdoors)
- Wood Glue
- Pocket Hole Jig
- Miter Saw
Step 1: Attach Trestle Table Ends
So to get started, I cut down my table legs from my 4×4 posts. I knew I wanted these to slant in at a slight angle, but wasn’t sure how much. I started with 5 degrees, but thought it needed a little more and I finally settled at 7 degrees. So all my legs on both the table and the benches are mitered at 7 degrees. I cut these angles using my miter saw.
Once the legs were cut down, I cut two top aprons and two bottom stretchers from 2x4s to go between them.
I used pocket holes to assemble this table. So I drilled pocket holes into the ends of these 2x4s and began assembling between the legs–one at the top and one about 4″ up from the bottom. I used some wood glue on these joints, but I’m 99% certain that was just a waste of glue. Because the treated wood was so wet, it made the glue really runny and it was just squeezing out.
Step 2: Add Decorative Ends to Table Base
Once I had my two sides assembled, I wanted to add a small detail to the ends before attaching the long apron pieces. I wanted the finished table to LOOK like the long apron pieces extended through the legs. There are a million really fancy and really time consuming ways to do this, but I cheated and used 4” wood screws.
I randomly came across four 4” wood screws in my assorted screw collection leftover from when we built our garage apartment. That meant I had one screw per piece for the table. Ideally you’d use two screws per piece, but this is all I had and these pieces were just decorative, so I just used one.
I cut these pieces with a 7 degree miter on one end and clamped this end onto the leg. Then, I predrilled and drove the 4” wood screw to hold it tight.
I did this for all four legs.
Step 3: Finish Table Base Assembly
Now it was time to put everything together. I cut two long apron boards to stretch between the two sides with 7 degree miters on each end. And again, I assembled these with pocket holes and screws.
I installed two stretchers in the top to give me another surface to screw the top boards to later. You can attach these using pocket holes and screws if you want to hide the screw heads, OR if you don’t mind seeing them, you can install these using 2 1/2″ wood screws through the apron.
And then I added a long stretcher between the two short table sides at the bottom. I screwed these in place using 2 1/2″ wood screws. But you could also use pocket holes and screws as well.
Step 4: Add Table Top
I carried the table base out to the yard so I could take some pictures when I got finished with it. And I carried the top boards out there to attach them. Once they were attached, there was NO WAY I could carry that out there by myself. The treated wood was REALLY heavy.
Now, if you are building this as an indoor table and want a really clean, nice looking table top, I suggest checking out this post. However, as an outdoor table, I did things a little differently. I centered the boards on the table and left a very small gap (about 1/8″) between boards for water/rain drainage since it’ll be out in the weather and screwed them in place using 3” wood screws. If you wanted to hide the screw heads, you could attach from the underside instead.
At this point, the table assembly was complete and I moved on to building the benches.
Step 5: Assemble Trestle Table Matching Bench Frame
The bench design was similar to the table, but since the spaces were so tight, I assembled them slightly differently. In hindsight, there were probably easier ways to assemble this, but hindsight is useless once the project is finished, so it is what it is haha.
I cut my bench legs just like the table–from 4×4 posts and with a 7 degree miter…only the bench legs were shorter. Then, I cut and attached the long aprons between the legs first.
Once the two long sides were together, I cut three short blocks to go between them. I screwed the end pieces into the legs, then added another screw through the long apron pieces into the short blocks.
And I added a piece in the middle here to keep the long aprons from bowing out.
Step 6: Attach Bench Tops
Finally, I cut 1x6s—actually with treated lumber, they’re not actual 1x6s—they’re like 5/4 (which is a little thicker than 1″). Anyway, I cut two of these for each bench top and screwed them into the base with 2″ wood screws. I left a small gap between the boards to allow water to drain off since they’ll be outside and exposed to the weather.
Again, if you’re building this for indoors, you wouldn’t need a gap between boards and you can also follow the tutorial here for how to build table tops–just make it smaller since it’s for a bench.
Step 7: Install Bottom Bench Stretcher
Once the bench top was in place, I stepped back and realized the benches were missing something. I debated whether or not to attach small braces at the bottom of the bench legs to match the table. These pieces would be so small, I wasn’t sure it would be worth adding.
BUT, I decided that it would add a nice detail, so I cut and attached 2x4s here by screwing them in at an angle through the bottom so you wouldn’t see the screws. But you could also use pocket holes and screws, too. Again, there are a thousand ways to do this, and in hindsight, I wish I had notched out the legs to set this piece in place. Maybe next time.
Step 8: Finish Trestle Table and Bench Set
At this point, I went ahead and stained the table and benches with an outdoor stain and sealer. Now, the finish went on really splotchy because the wood was already so wet. The wood is supposed to ABSORB the finish…but if it’s already saturated, it can’t absorb it, so it goes on uneven.
If you’re finishing an INDOOR table, check out this post for some tips!
But, since I was making this for a friend, I went ahead and finished it for her…but I’m recommending she come back this fall and apply another coat for better coverage and coloring.
I’m really happy with how this trestle table and bench set turned out, but I think for the foreseeable future, I’ll be sticking to indoor furniture and leaving the treated lumber at the store haha.
For more furniture building projects, check out the projects page!
So I hope you’ve enjoyed this project and check out the plans linked here if you’d like to build one for yourself. Don’t forget to pin this for later and subscribe below so you don’t miss out on what’s coming next!
Until next time, happy building 😊