Things You'll Need
Paint, stain, or sealant
An electric belt sander will make the job of sanding the table much faster. It’s important to finish your table with some sort of paint or wood sealant to protect the table from the elements and add life to your restoration work.
This can be a messy job especially if you clean with bleach. Make sure to wear old clothes you don’t mind getting dirty or spotted with bleach.
Wooden picnic tables exposed to the elements of the outdoors can take a real beating over time resulting in an ugly appearance and a less than inviting seating area. Instead of trashing an old picnic table, try restoring it. You'll save money, a new raw picnic table costs over $150, and you'll save the hassle of removal and delivery (see References 1). With a little time and work you can have your old picnic table looking fresh again and ready for any backyard gathering.
Restore Picnic Table
Clean the picnic table thoroughly. Use a hose to wash off any loose debris. Use a brush and a mixture of water and bleach to really scrub all surfaces of the table clean. Rinse clean and then allow the table to dry.
Check the integrity of the structure of the table. Look carefully for any loose or damaged boards or exposed nails. Fill in any small rotted sections of wood with carpenters' wood putty. Hammer down any exposed nails and add nails to any loose boards.
Sand the table. If your table is in really rough shape then you'll want to start with a coarse sand paper and then finish with a finer grit paper. Make sure to thoroughly sand any surfaces that will come in contact with people including the seats of the table and the table surface including sides. Brush off any and all loose materials and dust.
Finish the table with paint, wood stain, or sealant. Use an outdoor grade paint in the color or your choice to add personality to your table or to match it to other outdoor items. Use a wood stain for a more natural look of finished wood. If you want to maintain the raw look of the bare wood then finish your table with a clear wood sealant.
Follow the directions on your paint, stain, or sealer for drying times and make sure to allow the finish on your table adequate time to set before you use the table.
Tate Higgins is a writer, teacher and outdoor guide. He lives in South Carolina and works on rivers around the country. He graduated from Clemson University and Colorado State University. His work has recently appeared in literary magazines including Phoebe and The Southeast Review.