How to Choose the Right Type of Picnic Table

How to Choose the Right Type of Picnic Table

| May 4, 2022

When designing your outdoor facility, an important site amenity is the type of seating you offer. Picnic tables are an essential component of outdoor enjoyment, allowing groups to converse, dine and play together conveniently. 

With so many different types of picnic tables available to choose from, you may be wondering which is right for you. Our guide to how to choose a picnic table will cover the different picnic table styles, materials, finishes and installation types to choose from. We’ll also help you consider the needs of your facility so you can pick the perfect picnic table style for your guests to use.

Table of Contents

Types of Benches

When choosing a picnic table, one of the first decisions to look at is the type of bench you want it to have. Benches are categorized based on their function and features, including whether you want the bench to be attached or separate or for the table and benches to be perforated or not. 

Attached Benches

Picnic tables with attached benches are increasingly more popular today because of their convenience. An attached bench means that the entire table is constructed as one unit, reducing the risk of theft or damage if the benches were detached. Having fewer parts to worry about possibly losing during a windstorm is also a bonus of attached benches.

Though attached benches offer more streamlined seating and dining, they’re less customizable than detached benches. Not having the ability to adjust how far away the bench is from the table is a potential downside for some people. 

Detached Benches

Detached benches provide you with custom positioning of your benches. Visitors can move benches exactly where they need to so they can accommodate any party. The ability to move the benches around freely means guests can reposition the benches elsewhere where they can serve an alternative seating function, even creating a new seating arrangement away from the table.

Picnic tables with detached benches are suitable on private properties with low traffic and only a slight risk of theft or damage. However, detached benches may not be suitable in highly public spaces where people may reposition the benches too far away from the table, opening them up to misplacement or misuse.

Perforated Picnic Tables

Perforated picnic tables, also known as mesh tables, have an even pattern of holes in the table as well as the benches. With perforated tables and benches, rainwater falls right through the surfaces rather than collecting, making the tables more enjoyable to use while it’s raining or after it’s just rained.

Perforated picnic tables and benches are becoming highly popular options in public spaces. Many city parks and recreation departments prefer perforated picnic tables because of their convenience both in precipitous climates and in keeping them cleaner under high use. Food and drink spills fall to the ground below, making them easier to clean.

Picnic Table Materials

Picnic tables today come in a wide variety of materials. From your classic wood table to lightweight composites to units made from recycled plastic, you have plenty of options to choose from to suit your preferred style and desired functionality.

The top picnic table materials to choose from include:

Wooden Picnic Tables

Wooden picnic tables offer a traditional, family-oriented style that’s perfect for blending in with a natural setting. Today, wooden picnic tables are treated with sealant products that prevent some of the problems that wooden picnic tables are associated with due to exposure to the elements, including wind, rain and sun.

Sealing wooden tables and benches stops moisture from collecting in the wood, which can otherwise lead to rotting, splitting, peeling and warping. Likewise, the metal frame and hardware that hold the wooden planks together to form the table and benches are also treated with a coating that prevents rusting and corrosion. 

Metal Picnic Tables

Metal is a heavy, durable and long-lasting picnic table material, perfect for high-traffic areas. If you expect your picnic tables to undergo substantial use by adults, metal is a great option. The material can hold heavy loads without the risk of collapsing over time. Being easy to wipe down and keep clean, metal picnic tables are a convenient option in public spaces.

Note that metal can heat up when exposed to the sun, making it uncomfortable to sit on. Treating metal tables with a protective coating reduces the thermal reactivity of the metal, keeping it cool for people to sit on. You can also keep them under shade structures.

Recycled Plastic Picnic Tables

Recycled plastic picnic tables are made from high-density polyethylene plastic, which is derived from recycled containers, like milk jugs. This eco-friendly option is also highly durable and long-lasting. The manufacturing technology used to produce recycled plastic ensures it won’t crack under pressure. Manufacturers are also able to produce plastic picnic tables in a variety of finishes to make them resemble other materials, such as wood.

Recycled plastic picnic tables get coated with a protective sealant that helps them remain resistant to premature wear. Being a lighter weight material than metal, it’s also easier to reposition if you need to.

Concrete Picnic Tables

Providing high durability and longevity, concrete picnic tables are a heavy-duty option that ensures reliable sturdiness and stability. They’re resistant to the elements and won’t corrode or rot. Given the weight of a concrete picnic table, you can rest assured it will remain put permanently.

Concrete also creates an industrial style, which works well in certain settings, such as outdoor common areas for workplaces. Because of its weight, however, a concrete picnic table, as well as the benches, will not be practical to reposition if necessary. You will need to use a forklift if you decide to move them to another location.

Aluminum Picnic Tables

Aluminum is a lightweight metal that’s also durable. You can easily pick up aluminum tables and benches and reposition them wherever you need. Aluminum also doesn’t warp or splinter, so you can rest assured it will withstand repeated use. 

While aluminum doesn’t rust, it can corrode over time. Using an aluminum oxide coating makes it resistant to corrosion and protects it from damage. Aluminum picnic tables are easy to wipe down and keep clean, maintaining a great appearance for public use.

Picnic Table Shapes

Picnic tables come in various shapes, including your standard rectangular table, as well as round or square tables. When choosing a picnic table shape, consider the overall shape of your space as well as how the table will typically be used and by whom. You’ll also want to look at how much space you have for your table or tables, as some shapes take up more room than others.

Below is a comparison between the different picnic table shapes.

Round Picnic Tables

Round picnic tables are the most space-saving type of table, allowing you to potentially install more tables and make more seating available. Round tables give off the perception of more intimate dining and foster better conversation.

Design-wise, the eye is also naturally drawn to the perfect symmetry of a circle, making round picnic tables aesthetically pleasing. Since there are no sharp edges or corners, round tables also make a space look bigger.

Square Picnic Tables

With square picnic tables, everyone is equal distance from each other, and each gets their own seat or bench. Square tables can often only accommodate four people at a time, which is often sufficient. However, if you plan to welcome larger families or groups, this limited capacity may be a concern.

When it comes to aesthetics, square picnic tables also provide symmetry, like round tables. Positioning multiple square tables in rows and columns also creates a clean and tidy appearance for your outdoor leisure area. 

Rectangular Picnic Tables

Rectangular picnic tables are a classic design, meant to accommodate up to eight people, depending on the dimensions. With rectangular tables, an equal number of people can each sit on either side of the table, dining across from each other. This also provides more room for food, tableware, games and other items, making the seating experience more comfortable.

Because of the larger dimensions, rectangular tables take up more space than square or round ones. Though this limits the number of units you can have installed in the same area, it may not be a concern if the tables will mostly be enjoyed by larger groups who may prefer the roominess of the rectangle shape.

Special Feature Picnic Tables

There are plenty of additional options to consider when designing your outdoor seating arrangements. Consider factors like the weather and outdoor comfort, as well as the ages and abilities of those who will be the primary users of the tables.

Here are some of the optional features to consider when choosing your perfect picnic table.

Umbrella Picnic Tables

From pouring rain to blazing heat, outdoor dining comes with the potential for weather disruptions. Picnic table umbrellas are added features that can keep your guests dry and comfortable. In locations where there isn’t a lot of natural shelter or shade, umbrella picnic tables are a welcome amenity.

These picnic tabletops are designed with a hole in the center to secure the umbrella. You can add or remove the umbrella according to the weather, or leave it in year-round. You can also choose a variety of different umbrella types, including ones that guests can adjust themselves or stationary ones that remain fixed.

Children’s Picnic Tables

Children’s picnic tables are designed with the size and abilities of children in mind, including safety concerns. Picnic tables designed for adults are too tall for young children to sit on by themselves. If your facility caters to children, then having shorter picnic tables designed for children can be an important benefit.

These picnic table options are also more colorful and unique, coming in various shapes and designs that are fun for children. Children’s picnic tables are typically made from plastic, which is more comfortable and convenient to clean after use.

ADA-Accessible Picnic Tables

When learning how to choose a picnic table, it’s important not to overlook some particular needs of certain guests you may be hosting. One important accommodation you can make with your outdoor seating is to have your picnic tables align with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

ADA-accessible picnic tables are those that can accommodate people in wheelchairs. Typically, this means that one end of the table will be lengthened past where the seating would normally be. Different picnic table styles can be made into ADA-accessible ones, including rectangular, square or round picnic tables.

If you plan to install multiple picnic tables, having a few of them reserved for guests in wheelchairs can help create an inclusive environment for your facility. 

Types of Finishes

Choosing the right finish for your picnic table can enhance your entire outdoor seating experience for your guests. The type of finish on a picnic table affects the comfort level and the amount of wear the material can endure. The right finish can help minimize your maintenance costs and help extend the service life of your tables and benches.

The different types of finishes you can choose from when selecting your facility’s types of picnic tables include:

Powder Coat

Metal picnic tables are often finished with a powder coating that’s used to either protect the metal material or add a final decorative touch. Depending on the way the table is manufactured, a powder coating can accomplish both of these functions. Powder coatings are often a preferred finish option because it leaves the product looking smooth and even, so it’s easy to keep clean over time.

Powder coatings get applied to metal picnic tables using an electrostatic application technology, which increases the density of the material, strengthening it and making it more resistant to wear or breakage. Powder coatings also prevent blemishes like scratching, chipping, corroding, fading and other issues that damage the table’s appearance.


Another durable finish option for your metal picnic tables is polyethylene thermoplastic. To apply a thermoplastic finish, the steel frame of the picnic table is dipped into a polyethylene mix where it’s then left to cure, leaving behind a thick, protective coating over the metal.

Thermoplastics are known to be highly resistant to ongoing wear from repeated use as well as exposure to harsh elements. They’re also a natural repellant of dirt, liquids and films. Studies have also found that thermoplastics have good antimicrobial properties, making them ideal in high-traffic settings where there will be lots of surface contact from the public.

Picnic Table Installation

When determining how to choose a picnic table, you should also consider your preferred method of installation. Picnic tables can either be installed as a permanent fixture where they’re secured into the ground, or they can be left free-floating and mobile so they can be rearranged and repositioned.

Below is a comparison between the two types of picnic table installations.

Portable Installation

The easiest method of picnic table installation is portable installation. You can choose to set up your picnic table without any kind of restraint device securing it in place. Depending on the picnic table material, guests can move the tables around and position them accordingly. 

In-Ground Installation

To permanently position and secure your picnic tables and benches, opt for an in-ground installation. With an in-ground installation, technicians dig holes in the ground where the table legs will be placed and then covered over. Alternatively, a concrete slab will be poured across the table legs, forming them into the ground.

In-ground installation prevents theft and damage from people continuously moving and repositioning the tables. It’s also a safer installation method because there’s no risk of the table or bench moving or sliding. However, the trade-off is that once it’s installed, it’s unlikely it will ever be moved until demolition happens.

How to Choose the Right Picnic Table for Your Needs

Now that you’re familiar with the different types of picnic tables, as well as the various materials, features and installation methods to choose from, the next step is to decide which of these is right for you. Your needs will vary based on the purpose of your tables, the environment and your climate, as well as the type of guests you cater to.

Consider the following factors when choosing the right picnic table for your needs.

How to Choose the Right Benches

When deciding between attached versus detached picnic table benches, there are a few factors to keep in mind. Your choice in bench type should primarily be based on functionality and the purpose your table serves.

Consider these questions when choosing the right type of picnic bench:

  • What’s the largest group size you expect?
  • Is it important to be able to move the benches to customize a seating arrangement?
  • Is theft a concern?
  • Are the benches heavy enough to not be blown away in a windstorm?

Your answers to the above question will help you decide whether you need the larger seating capacity and greater mobility of detached benches or the security and convenience of attached ones.

How to Choose the Right Material

Your choice in picnic table material will largely be based on aesthetics and the style you prefer. However, materials also have a climate consideration. When comparing picnic table materials, consider the following needs:

  • Do you prefer a more traditional or contemporary style?
  • Is having an eco-friendly material a priority?
  • Will you need a lightweight picnic table for mobility?

In terms of style, wood offers a classic and natural look, while metal and concrete typically look more modern. Recycled plastic can be made to suit any design style because it can be formed into various colors or textures. Wood and recycled plastic are also eco-friendly material options that prioritize sustainability, while plastic and aluminum are lightweight materials that allow for easy repositioning.

How to Choose the Right Shape

Like material type, your choice in shape largely depends on your personal style preference. Consider the general layout of your facility and whether a round, square or rectangular table will complement the dimensions of the area. 

Another consideration is whether you have any space constraints and how to maximize the number of tables you’d like to have. Square tables have a smaller footprint, allowing you to fit more of them into a tighter space. However, round and rectangular tables often accommodate larger groups of people, which is appropriate for campgrounds, parks and playgrounds.

How to Choose the Right Finish

When choosing the right finish for your picnic table, factor in the level of wear and tear you expect your tables to undergo. For high-traffic areas where tables will get a lot of use from the general public, you may prefer to have a finish that will keep your tables looking pristine with minimal cleaning needs. Thermoplastic coatings are ideal for protecting against nicks and scrapes that start to make the tables look worn down.

Alternatively, if you live in a climate with harsh winter weather patterns, a powder coating can help increase the material’s durability, making the tables less susceptible to splitting, warping or cracking under exposure to freezing conditions.

How to Choose the Right Installation

Which type of installation is right for you depends on whether your facility is public or private. In facilities that are open to the general public and are not under 24/7 security, in-ground installations are essential to protecting your tables and keeping them secure. 

Portable installation is a less secure option, so it’s more suitable for private areas where theft is not a concern. If you’re considering installing picnic tables in a private garden, workplace or residence, a portable installation is a nice feature that allows for mobility without the high security risk.

Choose the Right Type of Picnic Table for You With Wabash Valley

Choosing the best outdoor picnic table can dramatically increase the appearance, functionality and sense of community within your facility. Selecting high-quality, durable and long-lasting picnic tables that are also aesthetically pleasing is possible with the right partner. 

For all your commercial picnic table needs, choose Wabash Valley. Browse our selection of picnic tables today, including dining sets and specialty outdoor furnishings. Our commercial picnic tables are ideal for civic centers, parks and recreation areas, as well as restaurants, shopping malls and office buildings.

Contact us today to learn more about the different types of picnic tables as well as the size and mount options for them.