Outdoor Picnic Table Maintenance Tips

Outdoor Picnic Table Maintenance Tips

| Apr 17, 2023

The park’s design is complete, you’ve implemented the project and the space is open for people to use. Now you need to maintain the picnic tables to keep them functional for people to use.

Material, climate and construction all play a part in how much maintenance your tables will need. High-quality picnic tables are built for durability and can last for years, but they do need a little assistance. 

Common Picnic Table Wear and Tear Issues to Address

Picnic tables face some common causes of wear and tear in addition to normal day-to-day activities. Luckily, being aware of these issues typically lets you prevent or minimize their impact. Here are some scenarios and suggestions for your park picnic table maintenance.

Moving Picnic Tables

Many picnic tables are portable, giving you the option to store them during harsh weather or when they’re not in use. However, you need to take care during relocation to prevent damage from the moving process: 

  • Loosened frames: It’s crucial to pick up outdoor picnic tables to move them instead of pushing them. Pushing the tables creates resistance on the framework’s brackets and bolts. That resistance causes friction that can loosen or damage those parts, weakening the frame. 
  • Corrosion: Picnic table frames are usually made of aluminum or steel, often with an outer coating to block moisture. Pushing a picnic table over gravel, concrete or tarmac can damage the protective layers on the frame and expose the metal to moisture. That exposure can cause the metal to rust, damaging the frame more and more over time. 

The Environment Around Picnic Tables

The environment around the table can have much impact as people do and picnic tables can sustain damage without anyone touching or interacting with them. Here are some things to be aware of when deciding where to place your picnic tables:

  • Broken branches: Be mindful of branches that can fall onto your outdoor furniture during stormy or windy weather. 
  • Grills and barbecues: Outdoor grills and barbecue areas give off intense heat that might cause some materials to warp and deform. Picnic tables close to high heat sources may develop more damage over time.

How to Maintain Outdoor Picnic Tables

Commercial outdoor picnic tables face frequent use and lengthy exposure to outdoor climates. They also need to be able to hold a range of weights and be versatile for a broad range of audiences. Let’s look at some tips for outdoor picnic table maintenance.

1. Lower the Maintenance Requirements at the Start

You can take steps in the beginning that will help lower maintenance requirements in the long run: 

  • High-quality picnic tables: A higher-quality picnic table will result in fewer breaks, longer durability and better protection against wear and tear. While high-quality tables still require maintenance, they don’t need as much or as often. 
  • Protective coatings: A top coat is a barrier between the table’s material and harsh environmental elements. Adding a protective coating will help prevent damage from moisture, abrasions or rust. The better the coating, the more durable the material becomes.
  • Mesh tables and benches: Check with your supplier if they offer mesh or perforated tables and seat tops. Perforation allows the water from rain and snow to drip without pooling, decreasing the drying time and the chances of water damage.

2. Clean Outdoor Picnic Tables Thoroughly

Picnic tables get dirty over time, whether from rain splatter, food messes, dirt or general grime build-up. Regularly cleaning your outdoor tables helps extend their life span and enhance their appeal. 

Whatever your picnic table’s material, the following steps are a good starting point:

  1. Powerwash or rinse: Start by giving the table a good rinse or gentle powerwash to get most of the dirt and debris off.
  2. Scrub and brush: Outdoor picnic tables typically have protective coatings you’ll want to keep intact. Gently clean off any stubborn dirt and grime with a soft brush and a mild clearer to avoid damaging these layers. Since the tables are in a public outdoor space, choosing eco- and child-friendly cleaners is crucial. 
  3. Rinse again: Once you’ve gently scrubbed the tables clean, rinse them again to remove any remaining residue.
  4. Repair and replace: Inspect the table for damage to the coating or worn spots in the material itself. Be especially mindful of any areas with screws or bolts, the underside of the table and where the framework meets the ground. Replace any damaged parts, then sand and seal those areas and anywhere with a damaged coating. 

3. Inspect and Maintain Tables According to Their Material

Each type of material has its own inspection and maintenance needs. Here is a guide for maintaining the most common types of outdoor picnic table material:

  • Wood: Wood’s weakness is water, so be sure to remove any excess water that has pooled on the surface after rain. A sealant, stain or varnish will also create a moisture barrier that allows wooden tables to endure for many years. Do a visual inspection to ensure that the protective layer is still intact. If you see signs of cracks or peeling, sand the table down and reseal it. 
  • Metal: Metal is also vulnerable to moisture, which can lead to rust or corrosion. Ensure the protective coating on aluminum and steel tables is solid to help them last. Use wax in susceptible areas like the legs and the undersides of the table and seat to create an additional barrier. You can do visual inspections to check for damage. Sand and recoat any damaged sections to prevent further exposure. If you catch the damage and repair the area early, you can often avoid replacing parts.
  • Recycled plastic: Plastic is resistant to moisture, rust and rot, though prolonged freezing temperatures can damage it. Clean recycled plastic tables frequently and use a little wax to make them shine. Store or cover these tables to prevent damage if you anticipate several days of freezing temperatures.

4. Store Portable Tables During Harsh Weather

You can move and store many picnic tables during the harsher seasons. An onsite dry shed or storage unit facilities are good storage options. 

Ensure you can move them back out immediately by following these tips before storing them:

  • Be careful when lifting so as to not damage the bottom of the framework. 
  • Do visual inspections to ensure the picnic tables are dry and in good condition. 
  • Sand and seal any areas with damaged protective layers and tighten all bolts and screws. 

Storing picnic tables in good condition will help prevent damage during storage and let you replace the tables as soon as the weather allows it. 

5. Cover Permanent Tables During Harsh Weather

If you can’t store your picnic tables during winter, you can cover them instead. Covering will block rain and snow and protect the tables from accumulating leaves or debris. 

You can place a waterproof cover or tarp over the table and use ties to secure it. Be sure that it’s secure from all angles, so the wind doesn’t lift it up. Check the tarp for any damage between seasons and ensure it’s dry and in good condition before storing it. A durable, high-quality tarp can last many seasons with proper care.

Common Questions About Picnic Table Maintenance

Here are some frequently asked questions about outdoor picnic table maintenance. If you have any questions or concerns, check with your supplier, who will be able to assist.

Do Different Plastics Require Different Maintenance?

Several different types of plastic serve various purposes in picnic tables. Here are some common ones you might hear about:

  • Plastisol: Plastisol is a solid form of polyvinyl chloride that forms a rubber coating to cover the harder plastic core. Plastisol acts as a durable finish and protects the picnic table from wear and tear.
  • Thermoplastic: This plastic is another thick finishing layer that protects picnic table tops and seats from harsh weather conditions. It also allows makes plastic easily cleanable and dirt-resistant.
  • PolyTurf: PolyTurf is a type of high-density polyethylene lumber that’s textured to look like wood. It’s made from recycled materials and forms the seating and tabletop areas of the picnic table. 

Plastic finishes and materials are a good choice for outdoor picnic tables as they resist most issues. You can maintain them with frequent cleaning and a little wax. Check with your supplier on which cleaning products and waxes to use to keep the recycled plastic clean and shiny. 

How Do I Protect Against Pests?

While there’s little you can do to keep birds from doing their business on your picnic tables, you can protect them from other pests like termites and other burrowing bugs. 

Burrowing insects and termites can only live in your picnic table if they can get into it. Keeping your table covered in protective layers such as powder coats, varnish, stains or sealants prevents them from making themselves at home.

Do regular visual inspections and sand and reseal if you spot any damage. Use a layer of repellant sealers such as linseed oil for extra protection on wooden surfaces.

How Do I Clean Spray-Paint and Graffiti?

Some materials, such as metal and recycled plastics, will be easier to clean spray paint off than others. First, use soap, water and a soft brush to clean the graffiti off the outdoor picnic table, working in gentle circular motions. 

Dry your picnic table before tackling the more challenging parts. Soak a clean cloth in rubbing alcohol or acetone and rub the areas. Leave a thin layer on to penetrate and disintegrate the spray paint for a few minutes. Then, use a clean rag or cloth to rub off as much spray paint as possible. 

You can use stronger solvents like paint thinners if the graffiti is really stubborn. However, bear in mind that strong liquids might damage your picnic table’s protective coatings. Be sure to follow up with a visual inspection and repair any damaged areas. 

You can consult your picnic table supplier or an expert at a hardware store for a list of products you can use. 

What Else Should I Have on My Maintenance Checklist?

Your outdoor picnic table maintenance checklist will change from season to season depending on the weather and use. Here are some other ideas to ensure your tables stay fresh, clean and usable:

  • Fix loose seats.
  • Lubricate parts such as bolts and screws if needed.
  • Repair cracks and chips.
  • Keep the furniture clean after the grass is cut.
  • Remove damaged furniture.
  • Create a schedule for maintenance inspections.
  • Check for vandalism.

Tips for Finding the Right Outdoor Picnic Table

Outdoor picnic tables come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. You’ll need to find a supplier with tables that match your design and American Disability Act (ADA) compliant options for seating for everyone. 

You’ll have several important factors to consider when picking the right outdoor picnic table for your space, including the following:

  • How big is your area?
  • What is the area’s intended use?
  • Will it be a permanent or a temporary setup?
  • What material are you looking for?
  • What type of climate will the picnic table be subjected to?

Ask your picnic table supplier about the dimensions of their picnic tables and which will suit your design intentions best. Different shapes offer different options for seating and aesthetics. For example, circular tables suggest intimacy and conversation and circular and square designs both provide appealing visual symmetry. 

Available space will also factor into your decision. Rounder shapes like oval or circular tables are often better for smaller spaces, while rectangular and square tables tend to suit larger areas better.

It’s also crucial to consider if you need other accessories for the space. For example, you may want to add umbrellas if the area has no shade. You’ll want to add waste bins nearby if you plan on people eating in the space. You can also consider adding children’s picnic areas if there’s a playground nearby.

Explore Wabash Valley Furnishings Outdoor Picnic Tables

Wabash Valley Furnishings has over 30 years of experience creating outdoor space solutions. We have a wide range of products in different shapes, colors, finishes and materials to fit your requirements. 

If you need inspiration, check out our online project gallery or go to our outdoor picnic products page. Visit our Resources page to download CAD drawings and brochures and find the specifications for the tables that catch your interest.