Reply by JBrow

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Posted on Material Choice for Kid's Picnic Table

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1366 posts in 1160 days

#1 posted 05-09-2016 12:50 AM


I agree with devann, at least for applying finish to the top where food contact is likely and perhaps the benches where less likely but food contact is also possible. Letting the top and perhaps the benches naturally gray is the safest approach. Other areas could be sealed. I have used Sikkens Cetol 1 RE on an outdoor oak fence. It requires periodic re-application since in my application, I am protecting a hardwood.

Barns and outbuildings sheathed with exposed hard wood planks have withstood the elements for years and years. The only problem areas in these structures is where the hardwood sheathing meets the ground, where rot often occurs. Using that free pile of ash will probably last a long time, even in the weather except where the legs contact the ground. The ash will get wet, but will also dry out and the dried out wood will resist rot. The legs at the ground will probably never dry out and therefore rot.

The wood, no matter the species used (including above-ground treated lumber), will rot where the legs make ground contact and faster than one might think. The end grain will wick water deep into the wood and remain for prolonged periods of time, allowing rot to set in. There are several approaches to preserve the legs of the table.

The picnic table could be built using the lumber of your choice except the legs. The legs could be from lumber treated for ground contact or a wood with a high natural resistance to rot.

Alternatively short ground contact treated (or wood with a high natural resistance to rot) leg extensions could be added to the picnic table legs. This option would consist of cutting half lap or scarf joints into the legs and a short section of ground contact treated lumber. The ends of the half laps could be angled to shed water. Fastening the picnic table legs to the leg extensions with lags screws using stainless steel washes as spacers would keep the table legs off the ground. The spaces between the leg extensions and the picnic table legs would help prevent the transfer of moisture to the legs of the picnic table. If the treated leg extensions ever rot, they can be replaced. If treated lumber is under the table near the ground, it should pose little if any hazards.

However the secondary wood used on the legs may not look very good next to the lumber used in building the table.

If these options are rejected, perhaps filling the end grain where the legs meet the ground with a product like water-proof epoxy could reduce the wicking affect that will lead to rot. Alternatively a ground contact pad could be attached to the legs leaving an air gap between the leg and the pad so that the long grain of the wooden pad makes contact with the ground thereby prolonging the longevity of the legs. With these last two options, ash legs would last longer but probably not very long.

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