outdoor table top - not doing well - help, please!

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Forum topic by Heynow14 posted 07-14-2014 06:50 PM 3380 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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10 posts in 1792 days

07-14-2014 06:50 PM

Topic tags/keywords: outdoor expansion weather cypress cracking

I’ve built a cypress outdoor table that started out looking amazing but it’s clear my technique was more suited for an indoor piece…it’s splitting and expanding and blowing apart badly. Pics links are below – before and after. The base is holding up very well…since it can expand.

My question for you pros is this: I need to remake the top. How should I go about it? Just lengths of board with .25” gaps between? What about the board ends? Cap them in some way or just leave them be? I’d think that they will become uneven and make the table ugly and unsafe to use again. I obviously need to cut the center circle out for the Weber or cooler but I also need it to be able to mount on the existing base so I need support underneath to do this effectively. Thoughts? 1.JPG 2.JPG

15 replies so far

View TiggerWood's profile


271 posts in 1629 days

#1 posted 07-14-2014 07:15 PM

I can’t really offer any help that wouldn’t soon be explained better by someone else here. I’m just curious how long it took for the table to get to this point. A fine table like that usually does get bent out of shape after just 3 to 5 years.

View Kaleb the Swede's profile

Kaleb the Swede

1835 posts in 1992 days

#2 posted 07-14-2014 07:26 PM

First off I think the table is very nice. I think what you did incorrectly was wrapping the wood around the edges. This caused it not to be able to expand or contract, hence the warping. Maybe if you do the top again just don’t put the pieces on the edges.

Gaps are also good because of moisture is able to run through. Think about if every night on your normal kitchen table if you dumped water on it an let it sit. It would be warped also. A quarter inch wood be fine.

Also, how did you attach the top? Did you just screw it to the top? I’m just guessing because I couldn’t see the bottom. But if you can find a way to attach it with screw buttons or figure 8s it will allow the top to float more.

If you know all this already ignore everything I have to say. I just built my own outdoor table so we will see how it holds up.

Don’t quit on it, I think you have a great table there

-- Just trying to build something beautiful

View paxorion's profile


1107 posts in 2068 days

#3 posted 07-14-2014 07:37 PM

Talk about movement…I’m curious how long it took too to get to this point. A few things that come to mind and I wonder about:

  1. What sort of glue did you use? The clean separation across the joint makes me think not a waterproof glue?
  2. Your original pictures showed that you don’t have any sort of clearance for expansion across the long-grain joints. Not sure if that plays a factor or not, but
  3. Cladding the entire table with an edging will probably not work well, unless you allow for expansion in some way. If you wanted to clad the outside, I would imagine that the table shape should be built, with the slats forming the table top being attached with just some sort of fastener (nail or screw), and with clearance to expand/contract. Something like this guy:

-- paxorion

View pintodeluxe's profile


5702 posts in 2836 days

#4 posted 07-14-2014 07:50 PM

Thanks for posting your conundrum, and sorry to hear the table failed. In general you should never wrap a solid wood top with wood edgebanding (indoor or outdoor table). The only exception to this rule is breadboard ends, which are built to allow wood movement. Plywood is frequently wrapped for indoor tables without issue.

Assembling your planks on cleats would be the thing to do. Space the planks 1/4” apart, and secure them to the cleats through slotted holes to allow the wood to move.
At least that will solve the wood movement issues. You will still have other issues to deal with such as the finish and wood deteriorating in the elements.
Good luck with it.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4948 posts in 3983 days

#5 posted 07-14-2014 07:58 PM

Wood with binding, red toenails, heat, exterior location, just ain’t gonna work.
Great idea, but….......


View Heynow14's profile


10 posts in 1792 days

#6 posted 07-14-2014 07:59 PM

To answer some questions: – The top is attached using 4 heavy duty latches so that it’s removable – this thing is very heavy. – I’d say that 90% of this damage happened in the first 3-4 months…it was very quick and heartbreaking. It’s been outside for about a full year now. – As I recall, I used gorilla wood glue which I thought was waterproof, but perhaps not. I biscuited everything as well…expansion clearly won this battle!

Thx for the advice…let’s see who else chimes in!

View AnonymousRequest's profile


861 posts in 1572 days

#7 posted 07-14-2014 08:08 PM

What Bill said. Man that’s a lot of HEAT to be putting in the middle of a table. That alone will make wood do strange things, not to mention glue. Then throw in some weather/rain…Very nice looking table though.

View Heynow14's profile


10 posts in 1792 days

#8 posted 07-14-2014 09:03 PM

The grill really doesn’t heat up the wood much at all…believe it or not. I’ve got a 1.5” air gap all the way around the grill and the hot coals are in the center. I’ve read the temp at the wood edge and it’s only a few dozen degrees warmer than the outer edges.

View AnonymousRequest's profile


861 posts in 1572 days

#9 posted 07-14-2014 10:07 PM

I’ve never personally seen a grill mounted in the center of a table before. My first thought was heat. If that’s not the case, your finish failed protecting your table from the elements. What finish did you use? The other guys brought up the expansion issues. A lot of excellent advice on that above.

View Greg In Maryland's profile

Greg In Maryland

553 posts in 3021 days

#10 posted 07-14-2014 11:15 PM


It looks like all the glue joints between the various planks have failed. Has there been any cracks along the boards where there are no glue joints? I can’t tell from the picture.

My $0.02, for what is worth, is that you are not going to ever be able to solve the problem. It is not to say that the top (or entire table, for that matter) should be scrapped, but you need to rethink things a bit.

First, I would get rid of the edge banding. It isn’t going to work. Instead figure out some sort of decorative treatment for the exposed edges. Perhaps a routed profile?

Regarding the finish, is what you put on an outdoor finish? If the finish isn’t outdoor compatible it won’t last too long. I think that you are going to have to strip/sand the top and reapply a new finish. Lots of viable alternatives out there.

I do not think that you will get the seams together, so you might run a v-bit across each joint to give it a decorative groove. That should look pretty good.

As others have mentioned, heat might be a problem. You need to know exactly how hot the wood gets, so measure the temperature on top surface and the bottom surface while the grill is cooking your favorite steak. I think if the temperature is too high (what too high is, I do not know), you might need to somehow protect the wood or enlarge the hole.

You did a very nice job on the table and I think that with a little tweaking, you’ll be back in business.


Ps Nice nail polish!

View mahdee's profile


3888 posts in 1790 days

#11 posted 07-14-2014 11:27 PM

I don’t think it look all that bad… Look at what the table is telling you; “need room to breath”. So. listen to it and create some braces underneath to allow it to expand and contract when it needs to.


View diverlloyd's profile


2770 posts in 1880 days

#12 posted 07-14-2014 11:33 PM

Did you seal the end gain and did you glue the banding? I haven’t had much luck with the gorilla glue on wood joints but I did let the glue stay in the garage during winter.

View ColonelTravis's profile


1798 posts in 1917 days

#13 posted 07-14-2014 11:57 PM

My opinion is the grill isn’t the problem, based on 2 things.

Thing 1 – I’ve got a Weber Performer that easily gets to almost 700 degrees. A plastic table surrounds a portion of the kettle and, like this table, is about 1.5 inches away. I’ve carefully put my fingers between that space, wondering about how long the plastic would last. It simply does not get that hot.

Thing 2 – Almost exactly a year ago you said the table began separating well before you ever used the grill.

Did you measure the moisture content of the wood before you put it together? (not that this would help now, but in the future.) I like Greg’s decorative groove idea above.

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2713 days

#14 posted 07-15-2014 12:20 AM

I would make the new top from slats about 2” wide with a 1/4” gap between them (could probably rip the existing top into slats). Then you can skirt the top without it being pried apart. I have built very similar octagonal tables from redwood and reclaimed old growth DF barn wood and not had the “coming apart” issues you had. I have not found a finish that will hold up to our Oklahoma sun.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 2994 days

#15 posted 07-15-2014 01:37 AM

I have found Gorilla Glue to be about the most useless glue like substance ever to disgrace a workshop.
If you used the yellow Gorilla Wood glue, then it is about the same stuff as Tite Bond II (except much more expensive). Moisture resistant, not water proof.

You want water proof / water resistant, use epoxy or Tite Bond III.

A table top like the one you built should not be glued at all.
You might be able to get away with 1/2” lap joints with 3/8” lapped and 1/8” expansion space if you just really do not want to see through the joints.

You would need a couple of cross members to tie it all together and you could put one screw through the center of each board into the cross member where they cross.

A top made like this could be banded but keep about 1/16” gap between the band and the top panel assembly.

I built a cart for my Weber Kettle grill and got by with a 3/4” gap all around. Placed 4 blobs of silicone 90 degrees apart to keep the grill centered in the hole. Silicone will survive 600 degrees and it never sees more than about 200 degrees in this application.

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