How to Make a Drink Trough for a Picnic Table

Adding a drink trough to your picnic table is a great way to keep drinks cold and easily available for outdoor entertaining.

Here’s how to go about it.

  1. Turn the picnic table over and remove any diagonal braces under the table that attach to the center board of the picnic table top.
  2. Cut the center cross cleat under the table 1½” back from the center board on each side.
  3. Attach 2×4 cleats across the bottom of the table at each end with 2½” screws.
  4. Attach 2x2s lengthwise to the bottom of the boards adjoining the center board with 2½” screws.
  5. Turn the picnic table upright, then remove the center board from the top.
  6. Measure the distance between the cleats and add 2” to it.
  7. Cut the center board into three pieces, with the long middle piece the length measured above.
  8. Attach the two short pieces of the top to each end of the table using nails or screws.
  9. Drill a 3/4″ finger hole in one end of the center board to allow for easy removal.
  10. Cut a piece of 5” rain gutter to length, and install end caps on each end with caulk.
  11. Insert the gutter into the table so it’s below the bottom of the top, and screw the gutter to the 2x2s with sheet metal screws.
  12. Drill drain holes in the bottom of the gutter.
  13. Reinstall the diagonal braces under the table.
  14. Fill the gutter with drinks and ice.

Watch this video to find out more.

Further Information

Adding a drink trough to a picnic table is an easy project that can be done in an hour or two. Begin by removing any diagonal braces from the underside that attach to the center of the table. Then, mark the center cleat an inch-and-a-half back from the center board on either side. With the saw blade set at an inch-and-a-half, cut the cleat at both points and remove the center piece.

Just inside the legs on each end of the table, add a two by four cleat. Attach it with two-and-a-half-inch screws, but not into the center board of the top, since it will be removed. Now you can add two by twos along the length of the table, on either side of the center board. Attach them with two-and-a-half-inch screws.

With the table turned right side up, pry the center board loose. Measure the distance between the two new cleats that are exposed and add one-inch on either end. Cut a piece from the center board you’ve removed to this length, it will be the removable trough cover. Cut the remaining piece in half to create the two fixed pieces on each end. They can be nailed or screwed back in place on the table.

A piece of five-inch rain gutter, cut to the right length with end caps caulked into each end, forms the trough. It should fit snugly into the space left by removing the two by six center top board.

With small sheet metal screws attach the gutter to the two by twos along each side. The gutter should sit just beneath the top boards on each side so the removable center board can be put back in place when the drink trough is not in use. Drill a three-quarter-inch finger hole in this piece to make it easier to remove.

Finally, drill a drain hole in the bottom of the gutter, and you’re ready to fill it with drinks and ice for entertaining.


  1. What happens to the diagonal supports? Do they get put back on at some point or does the 2×2 running the length of the table provide the structural integrity for the table?

    • Hi Jen,
      The diagonal picnic table supports were reattached to the bottom of the top and leg cleats on each side of the drink trough.

  2. One way I could think to insulate it is use a second piece of gutter outside the first one. Just leave an inch gap and fill it with spray foam. If you call a seamless gutter place and ask them they usually have different size dies that they use to form gutter.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here