Spacing between boards for table top - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 12 Old 04-06-2018, 12:17 AM Thread Starter
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Spacing between boards for table top

Hi. I'm brand new to woodworking, and my first project is an outdoor patio table.

I'm following a plan, and instructions say if the table will be used outdoors, to space the boards 1/4" apart to allow for drainage. I'm assuming that's good advice, but I've seen many plans that don't follow this advice.

I'm building it out of cedar, live in NJ (rough winters) and plan to stain and seal it (open to recommendations).

Thoughts on spacing the boards? Thanks.
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post #2 of 12 Old 04-06-2018, 12:28 AM
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1/4" is plenty for melt and for rain run-off. You need the spacing to sweep the crumbs into.
If you've got no winter use for it, stand it on end in a shelter and fling a tarp over it until spring comes again.

The other thing that I did was to make half a dozen unfinished tables about 4' x 4' out of freight pallets with extra sticks in between.
I can assemble several of those in a modular fashion for any purpose (picnic, stone carving, etc).
Fresh new pallets are built just down the road so we never have a shortage!
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post #3 of 12 Old 04-06-2018, 06:20 AM
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I didn't treat my cedar table at all and it was outdoors for over ten Minnesota winters and did fine.
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post #4 of 12 Old 04-06-2018, 08:18 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robson Valley View Post
1/4" is plenty for melt and for rain run-off. You need the spacing to sweep the crumbs into.
If you've got no winter use for it, stand it on end in a shelter and fling a tarp over it until spring comes again.

The other thing that I did was to make half a dozen unfinished tables about 4' x 4' out of freight pallets with extra sticks in between.
I can assemble several of those in a modular fashion for any purpose (picnic, stone carving, etc).
Fresh new pallets are built just down the road so we never have a shortage!
Thanks I'll be sure sure to keep the spacing. Was wondering if I could get away with having the boards touch but I guess not which is fine.

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Originally Posted by ducbsa View Post
I didn't treat my cedar table at all and it was outdoors for over ten Minnesota winters and did fine.
Sheesh. At least that justifies the $300 in wood I paid.

Thanks for the feedback.
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post #5 of 12 Old 04-06-2018, 10:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Ravic5 View Post
Thanks I'll be sure sure to keep the spacing. Was wondering if I could get away with having the boards touch but I guess not which is fine.
Depending on how dry the wood is that you use, it is conceivable that you could put the top boards on, touching their "neighbors" and as the wood drys, a slight crack between any two boards would naturally reveal. Deck builders know this, I would think it would follow to an outdoor table in this case.

Back in the day, deck builders would temporarily place the nails as spacers between two boards, nail them down and then pull the "spacer" nails out, leaving a uniform spacing. If I was making an outdoor table I would do something to allow for a slight gap between the top boards, FWIW.
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post #6 of 12 Old 04-06-2018, 10:59 AM
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Also remember to attach the top boards to the frame such that they are free to grow and shrink with weather. For an outdoor table if you can accept it as a design element, a single stainless carriage bolt through the center of each board works well. Otherwise, choose a method that allows the wood to shrink and expand.
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post #7 of 12 Old 04-06-2018, 11:37 AM
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My seasonal temperature swing in the past 12 months (shade only) was +47C down to -35C.
You can do the math.
Double the number, subtract 10% then add 32 to see the temp in Frankenheit.

That isn't enough to cause any movement in any outdoor furniture or wood carvings at my house.
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post #8 of 12 Old 04-06-2018, 03:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robson Valley View Post
My seasonal temperature swing in the past 12 months (shade only) was +47C down to -35C.
You can do the math.
Double the number, subtract 10% then add 32 to see the temp in Frankenheit.

That isn't enough to cause any movement in any outdoor furniture or wood carvings at my house.
I would think that humidity would be much more of a factor than ambient temps. FWIW.
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post #9 of 12 Old 04-06-2018, 08:15 PM
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Some times, those SPF pallet tables get hosed with a couple of inches of cold mountain rain.
Then the tables get fried in the morning sun! Other than weathering, I've never noticed any climate induced changes.
Mind you, birch planks out in the open warp, cup and twist like bananas.

Anywhere that the rain/sprinkler/wash water can stand is trouble. Between a support and a deck flat, for example.
I run a wood pellet stove for heat, average 10,000lbs per winter so I get 5 fresh, new, clean freight pallets with that.
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post #10 of 12 Old 04-07-2018, 08:03 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks all. My plan was to lay out the boards good side down. Put two 2x4s down and using deck screws screw through the 2x4 into each board.

So if I have 7 boards, we're taking 7 screws into the left 2x4 straight into the boards. And 7 more screws into the right 2x4 into the right board.

I would cutting and leaving
a ~3.5" inch gap in the center of each 2x4 so that the table top can rest across the crossbeam of the frame.

Also the 2x4s would be resting on the top of either end of the frame.

Does that make sense ? Not sure if this would allow for the expansion that was mentioned.

Last edited by Ravic5; 04-07-2018 at 08:11 AM.
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post #11 of 12 Old 04-07-2018, 09:16 AM
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If you leave a generous gap between each board, you donít have to do anything else to accommodate for wood movement.


In woodworking there is always more then one way to accomplish something.
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post #12 of 12 Old 04-08-2018, 06:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ravic5 View Post
Thanks all. My plan was to lay out the boards good side down. Put two 2x4s down and using deck screws screw through the 2x4 into each board.

So if I have 7 boards, we're taking 7 screws into the left 2x4 straight into the boards. And 7 more screws into the right 2x4 into the right board.

I would cutting and leaving
a ~3.5" inch gap in the center of each 2x4 so that the table top can rest across the crossbeam of the frame.

Also the 2x4s would be resting on the top of either end of the frame.

Does that make sense ? Not sure if this would allow for the expansion that was mentioned.
I also screwed my top together from below, but used 2x6's.
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