Projects & Inspiration

How to Stain a Picnic Table

Ashley VanderWall

Ready to give your old (or new!) picnic table a fresh new look? Stain it! Not only does stain update the look of your picnic table, but it extends its life, giving you more years of enjoyment around it.

Staining a picnic table doesn't take professional skill or a large budget - it's a simple project you can do yourself. To demonstrate, we transformed our unfinished 6 ft. wood picnic table into a two-tone finished product. It took us about two hours (not counting dry time) to complete it. We stained the legs, bench supports, and table braces a dark brown, and the tabletop and benches a lighter red-brown. Follow the transformation below.

Want to find out how to stain a picnic table? Check out our step-by-step instructions below!

Step 1: Gather your materials.

To stain your picnic table, you’ll need the following materials:

  • Exterior stain. We used an oil-based exterior stain for our project.
    Wondering how much stain you need for the table? Every table is different, but for an average 6 ft. picnic table, you’ll need enough stain to cover 86 square feet of surface area.
  • Paint brushes. Be sure you grab the right one for the stain you’re working with.
  • Foam brushes. These will come in handy when you are getting in the cracks or around the hardware.
  • Sandpaper.
  • Extra rags.
  • Drop cloth.
  • Painter’s tape.
  • Gloves. These are optional, but you may want to wear gloves and clothes you don't mind getting messy.

Staining a wood picnic table materials you will need

Step 2: Prep your picnic table.

Prior to staining your picnic table, be sure your picnic table is clean and free of any mold, mildew or dirt. (Find out how to clean a picnic table here.) Give time for your picnic table to dry. Then, sand all surfaces you’ll be staining.

With the help of a friend (this is a 2-person job), flip the table upside-down for easier access to the legs and bench supports.

Unfinished Wood Picnic Table getting ready for stain

Unfinished Wood Picnic Table flipped upside-down for staining

Sanding a Wood Picnic Table to Prep for stain

Step 3: Stain the legs, bench supports, and tabletop braces.

Stain the legs, bench supports and tabletop braces. If you want a two-tone finished table like ours, make sure you do not drip any stain on the sides of the benches or table top. We used a small foam brush to stain the harder-to-access spots. Let the stain dry to the touch.

Staining Wood Picnic Table Legs with Dark Brown Stain

Using Foam Brush to apply stain to picnic table let support

Staining wood picnic table legs with dark brown stain

Stained Wood Picnic Table Legs

Step 4: Stain the tabletop and benches.

With the help of a friend, flip the picnic table back over so it’s upright. Paint the tabletop and benches. We used a lighter red-brown stain for these components to contrast the dark brown on the legs. Take care not to drip any stain on the already-painted legs. Use a narrow foam brush to get in the gaps and the umbrella hole.

Wood Picnic Table with Stained Legs

Staining a Wood Picnic Table Tabletop with Oak Brown Exterior Stain

Stained Two-Tone Wood Picnic Table

Step 5: Let dry.

And you're finished! Now, give your picnic table enough time to dry before using it. Check the instructions on the stain for specific drying times.

Looking for a picnic table? Check out our selection!