How to Cover an Outdoor Table With a New Tabletop

August 08, 2011

Give outdoor furniture a new look with a wood tabletop.

We had a set of tables on our deck that I wanted to change up:

metal outdoor coffee table

They’re actually ottomans that came with our furniture. They had cushions on top, but those fell apart (hmmmm…mental note that cushions don’t like snow).

Sooo…we had the bases and I thought they made a great coffee table set up. But when I got it all in place, there was just too much metal going on, you know? Metal coffee table, metal chairs with legs, metal side tables…with legs.

You see what I’m saying.

So I wanted to add a different texture and warm it up a bit. My DIY wood trough gave me an idea:

trough with hydrangeas

I took a trip out to the lumber yard to get some more cedar wood.

I got some ten foot boards and a couple eight foot furring strips (which are just unfinished strips that I sometimes use as a base to projects). 

I thought a bit about how I was going to do this and then decided to start with the tables upside down:

The dog must remind you that he’s here every chance he gets. ;)

I realized when I got home that the wood I picked up was pine, not cedar. I know what pine looks like and I know what cedar looks like, so I have no idea what happened. 

Cedar would be my ideal choice for outside, but there’s no way I was driving back. :)

The table doesn’t get any direct sun or rain, so it should hold up just fine. 

I cut the furring strips to make a base around the table:

furring strip

I just screwed them in at the ends to connect them – not into the metal table. I made it tight, but later realized it may have been too tight. I could have given it a little more wiggle room.

When screwing into wood, especially thin wood, and especially soft wood like pine, you always want to use a drill bit to prep for the screw:drill bit

Otherwise you risk splitting the wood. I used outdoor wood screws, and I still used my drill bit. Sometimes you can get away with it, until that time you don’t and it ruins a piece of wood. Ask me how I know.

Once my frame was done, it looked like this:

I knew I wanted a “skirt” around the table, so I used the 1 by 4 pine boards to surround the furring strips:

I installed them the same way – into the ends (like furring strips above) and then into the furring strips as well:

I put boards on top so I could see the thickness I needed to make the top flush, then installed the skirt. Does that make sense?

I did that so I could lay the top boards on and they would be flush with the frame:

Before I even started, I made sure that the pine boards would fit in perfectly, without having to cut down one of the boards. (I don’t have a table saw.)

The area inside the frame was a little over 28 inches, so I knew I could fit seven four inch boards inside, and still have a little breathing room in between.

If it wasn’t going to fit perfectly, I was just going to lay the boards across the top so instead of inside the skirt. I hope that makes sense!!

Then it was onto the fun part. The part where our neighbors were hating us. ;) We grabbed our tools:

distressing tools

And beat it up! Whoo! It’s good fun folks. I wanted it to look rustic and old and these did a pretty good job.

Then I gave it a decent sanding:

sanding block

“Decent” means lightly swipe it over the wood as quickly as possible because I HATE SANDING with a burning passion.

Then I used my favorite stain and applied it with a foam brush:

minwax wood stain

You swipe it on, get it into the wood, then wipe it off. 

I was planning on doing more than one coat but I actually liked the look just after one:


I want it to have a bit of a contrast off the dark metal legs, so I think I’m sticking with one.

Like all of my projects, it’s not perfect! There are spots that don’t meet up perfectly, you can see the screws and the rough edges of the wood are showing:

DIY wood table cover

But this time, it was all on purpose. ;) I didn’t want it perfect – since it’s outside, the more rustic the better. 

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

You can see above how I screwed the top boards into the “skirt” – now it’s all one piece. The long boards across the top lay directly on the table so they don’t move around at all.

I will finish this up with a coat or two of polyurethane to protect it. I had hoped to get that done and style it all pretty for ya, but the clouds opened up and poured on us tonight, so this post is a bit anticlimactic. ;)

I do love love LOVE how it turned out though – just like in my head!:

wooden table cover

It’s going to look SO good with candles and plants and that good stuff. :) And I won’t care if it gets beat up or something falls on it or whatever…it will add to the patina.

After a couple hours and $20 in wood, I changed up the look completely – gotta love that! And when winter hits we can take the top off and put it in the garage.

I hope to show you the deck soon – we still have to stain it though. This is the most dreaded project of ALL TIME people. Oh my dear. I’m so loving the space to much though, I can’t wait to show you. I’m determined to get it done soon.

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  1. B-E-A-utiful! I'm kind of on the hunt to stain something, myself... I'm loving the look!

    Glad you didn't melt out in that heat!

  2. I love it. The stained wood, the's so perfect. :)

  3. Oh my goodness you are so clever! Seriously this is brilliant! I don't need a table for my patio, but now I think I do ;)

    I am so pinning this for future use!

  4. You are brilliant. That is all.

  5. Love it! :) Such a fabulous idea to repurpose those ottomans!!

  6. Awesome! It actually gives me a great idea for some outdoor shelving. Love the rustic look.

  7. Sarah, it looks great! What a transformation. I love letting the kids beat the "you know what" out of wood to distress it. We use chains, the sides of screws and hammers. Fun, fun, fun.


  8. Beautiful and creative! Love the stained wood with the metal legs.

  9. The skirt that starts with the furring strips- does compression keep it on? And then the 1x4's do the same until you attach to furring strips?

    I'm sure it makes sense to normal people, but my brain is in "major plumbing disaster mode" from this weekend and I'm just not getting how the skirt stays. ;)

  10. It looks great Sarah. Look at you with the tricky idea. I love those kinds! : ) It's great doing a "man's job" all on your own. I always feel soo cool when I do that. ; )
    Can't wait to see your deck all done. Have a great week!
    ~ Catie

  11. Love how it looks like a totally new table! Not that the old two were bad, but my what some wood can do! Excited to see the whole yard redo! :)

  12. What an awesome makeover! Might have to try something similar with a very old style coffee table I have.


  13. I love your Blog/Web site. You inspire me so much. Keep up the amazing work.

  14. This looks great... and perfect for the outdoors! I love the big space for entertaining and candles!

    Tiffany {Living Savvy}

  15. I really like it! Love the stain also. This weekend ive been busy [between work and all] painting some new pieces of furniture I found over the weekend. I just wish I could get it all done in one day so I could enjoy it, ha!

  16. Okay, now THAT was one of the best DIY projects I have seen in a long time! FANTASTIC! Really.

  17. Love it!!!!! About the deck... aside from the surface prep, get yourself a Wagner power sprayer.. it took our deck staining from a weekend long project to literally a few hours!

  18. And I am totally doing this to our patio table next spring!

  19. I love it! This came out really great! It was a great way to use what you have only make it what you want!

  20. You are a DIY Genius Girl! The table looks awesome and I love that you can take the top off when wintertime finally gets here... none to soon I might add. Humidity.... ARGH!

  21. Wow! LOVE it when it turns out like you saw it in your head! It looks soooo good.

  22. That looks awesome! I never would have thought to do that. It looks like a factory cart from the top. Love! Can't wait to see the rest of the deck.

  23. Just wanted to let you know I love your blog and am your newest follower!

  24. That table looks great & so easy to do. :-) Can't wait to see what you do with the rest of the deck! :-)

  25. I love the way that that turned out! I wouldnt have ever thought to put a new table top on top of a table. What a great idea! Good luck on the wedding, I just got married on the 23rd of July and had a Vintage wedding to dream of!

  26. Jill C., Camarillo, CAAugust 9, 2011 at 8:35 AM

    I was considering tossing out my old patio furniture ottoman (its cushion, like yours, did not survive the weather)--now I know just what to do with it! Thanks, great job!

  27. Seriously impressed! It's so pretty. I'm looking for a rustic coffee table for our sunroom... I haven't found it just yet.

  28. Aren't you a smartie pants to use the existing ottomans as a base for your table?! It is going to look amazing when you are done styling. You make "rustic" look fantastic!

  29. You never cease to amaze me! I want to you to come to my house and teach me these things.

    K thanks :)

    Love the table!

  30. Looks great! And here in the South, 80's is cool. We were just excited when it dropped from 111 to 98 :)

  31. Love! I must be getting better with diy stuff because everytime you asked "does this make sense?" I was nodding my head (with my morning coffee). Great job!


  32. It looks great! I love that you can still see all the characteristics of the wood! Well done!

  33. Now this is the place for rustic looking stuff---outside! Great job! Love it! I see these projects and then hubby does them for me. :-) Me and power tools? Ummm well let's just say after a belt sander and me were going at it, the belt sander won! I'm happy to still have 10 fingers! LOL!

  34. Looks great!

    We have been designing, hardscaping and planting our entire yard this year-lots of work, but so rewarding when you step back and say "Hey-we did ALL of this ourselves!"

  35. Our coffee table needs a facelift... We could definitely do this, and my hubby would love it too :)

  36. You are so Fearless!! I love it!!

  37. Your table is GORGEOUS! I can't wait to find something to try this on around our house. haha! Brilliant!

  38. You done a marvelous job. The table is really nice. You should be so proud.

  39. I love the look! When I first saw the finished result I immediately thought of the factory cart coffee tables that are so popular. I love the warm patina of your table. Weathered, rustic chic perfect for the deck.


  40. Oooohhhh... this is incredible!!! I want to do this now... ! First, to finish the deck... I wonder if I could do this to our deck? It's only take 2 years. lol...

    Cass @

  41. I've been reading your blog for a couple of months now and I just have to say that you are so darn clever! I can't even take it! You give me inspiration!

  42. You never cease to amaze and inspire dear lady - I so love this!! You are the queen of re-purpose!! How about you come up with a great craft idea for my dust bunnies? It is a shame to allow something so abundant to go to waste....I swear I would be cleaning them right now if it wasn't for your blog and Pinterest...

  43. You did a great job! I love how you took something you had and made it have an entirely new look. Creative thinker!

  44. I love the things you do with your home! They are so creative and amazing! I was wondering what magazine do you subscribe to that give your inspiration?

  45. Oh God.. you can make every thing at home!! From reading corners to tables... you are too good at DIYs. Great job, again!!

  46. Sarah- you are a superwoman!! Drills, Drill Bits and even Saws???? Wow! And your table looks brilliant!!! Love the patina! Our kitchen table has some Lego 'distressing' on it from my boys - I have never tried to do it myself!! Goodluck with your deck!!! (Its been wicked hot here too, in southern VA. The heat is kickin my butt!)

  47. That coffee table is unreal. Seriously, you did such a great job with it. I love reading your blog because you have the best ideas for home decor items. Do you get these ideas from someone else, or do you come up with them yourself?

  48. You have done an excellent work. You have all reasons to be proud.

  49. hey there! Love the metal & the wood. My hubby in the past few months has been making comments that he likes modern finishes & styles of decor, etc. Wow! I am excited about that..But I have a sofa in my living room its a shade darker than your old sofa. It's like a large curve...kinda annoying. Suggestions? It can come apart in middle underneath, know what I mean?
    Suggestions welcome.
    Oh, any ideas on carpet squares, where to buy for best deal?
    Boerne, TX
    Hill Country...we love it here!

  50. You're too much! You are truly to be commended because you FIGURE OUT whatever you have to, to do what you WANT done. I subscribe via email, so I must admit that I rarely come here to comment, but I wanted to comment to say that I'm always impressed with you because you find a way to get things done. Wish I could be as problem-solving as you are with home projects! Good for you.

  51. Well made. Looks easy to assemble it.

  52. Pinned it!!!!!!
    I love it thx for the inspiration

  53. Aha! Found it! As I said in a comment on a different post a few minutes ago, I have a shiny silver metal coffee table in my living room. The room is feeling too modern and cold, and I'm thinking I need to bring in more warm woods. I was remembering this project of yours yesterday, but couldn't remember who did it until I saw your new post about refurbishing the broken/beat up side table from TJ Maxx. I searched your blog and found this post, ,which is exactly what I was thinking of. I don't think it will work exactly like that for me, since mine will be in my living room rather than outside, but I'm so glad to have found how you did yours, so I can think about whether I can do something similar myself.


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