Build a deck table with Ikea legs

I love reusing and transforming old stuff. No. 1, I’m cheap, and No. 2 (or 1a) I hate the idea of throwing away good things.

I had an old Ikea desk I bought for my daughter, dirt-cheap but semi-stylish, like most Ikea designs. By the way, why did it take the Swedes to show us that cheap furniture can still be designed well? It’s the same with kitchen cabinets–we just keep on cranking out the same tired looks and styles. I’ll leave that rant for another day.

Anyhoo, I dragged that beat-up desk across the country with us to Portland, mostly because the legs were so simple to take off. But when we needed a small deck table, I got to thinking. I could layer two pieces of plywood to make a thick top, brush a polyurethane finish on them to resist the drizzle, and screw on those Ikea legs. The plywood cost under $40, bringing my total to just over $50, for a table that fits my space just right.

I’m guessing you don’t have an old set of Ikea table legs, but here’s the cool thing: they sell tons of screw-on legs separately! The ones I used here cost just $4 each! That’s nuts! So you can screw them onto any old slab or tabletop you have and make something cool!

I was lucky enough to find a patio umbrella with a white pole, which looks good with the legs. By the way, if you live somewhere that freezes in the winter, I’d take the table in for the snow season. You might also use spar varnish on the tabletop, not polyurethane as I did. I may come to rue that decision, but some sanding and refinishing will set it right.

One more tip: Take your time choosing the plywood, to find at least one piece with a nice look to it.

I bought two 4×4 pieces of plywood, which is easy to transport home. I played one layer on some foam insulation so I could drill through it safely. I drilled in a grid pattern, with a drill bit that also has a countersink on it.
Then I used a paint roller to spread some yellow glue all over the other layer. That pencil line is where I am going to trim the table, so no glue or screws are needed there.
Then I put the other layer back on and screwed through it with 1-1/4-in. drywall screws. This is actually the bottom layer of the table. The screws act as clamps while the glue dries.
Last I used my saw guide to trim all the edges even, and trim off that big section. Check out my blog on that saw guide. It’s an awesome gizmo!
I used a small roundover bit to round the upper and lower edges, then hit everything with sandpaper. See how the edges are all flush now from the trimming step? I like the thick look of the doubled-up plywood.
I put on four coats of satin, oil-based polyurethane….
…sanding with fine paper between each coat, which is an inconvenient truth about finishing.
I wanted to put an umbrella through this table, so I used my tape measure to connect diagonal lines and find the center.
I measured the umbrella post and bought a hole saw just bigger than that. The hole saw is the perfect tool for big, deep holes in soft woods. Take a look below before drilling, and remove the screw if there is one in the way!
Here is that old Ikea desk that I sacrificed. The legs come off easily.
I spaced the legs evenly in from the edges of my new tabletop, and traced their outline.
I drilled pilot holes, just smaller than the screws, so they would hold firmly.
Zip, zip.
And now the deck transformation…
First a cheap umbrella base, that fills with water….
…then the snazzy new table…
…then the umbrella…
Then some cheap outdoor chairs to match. We hate the brown color of the house, so we are doing whatever we can to funkify it. By the way, this table would also work indoors,  without the umbrella (unless your roof leaks a lot).





Fire pit, start to finish

Whether you have a patio or just a nice piece of lawn, you can build a sweet fire pit with concrete blocks. I used the Rumblestone system, manufactured by Pavestone and sold at Home Depot, among other places, but any blocks will work. It matches my patio, and I bought all the stones for both at the same time.

The two main keys are locking the blocks together with construction adhesive (it comes in tubes like caulk) and installing a steel insert of some kind. You can use galvanized steel panels or almost anything. I used the insert sold by Pavestone to fit the design I built.

Unlike real stone, concrete can crack in very high heat. A loose-fitting steel liner shields the concrete and provide an insulating air barrier. Old-school technology that works.

Check out the pics for the step-by-step, and build your own. Then stare into the flames and discover the mysteries of life. Or just drink good beer and talk about dumb bullcrap.

aplans has easy plans you can print out.
Construction adhesive comes in a tube, like caulk. Put it under and between each block.
Push the blocks down and wiggle them a bit.
By the way, I built most of this design dry first, to be sure it would work, before applying glue for real.
The dry run let me know I could space everything right as I went along.
The top layer goes on like the others: glue under and between every block.
I was a little worried about the top blocks tipping if someone sat on the edge, so I used some clamps to pull them together as the glue dried. I also weighed down one section with a cinder block.
I dropped in some extra pavers to raise the fire to just the right height.
Then I bolted together the insert and dropped it in.
I had an old fire grate, which turned out to be awesome for getting air under the fire.
A thing of beauty. I like the way it ties into the patio, which I built with the same block system.

Patio, the final chapter

With the pavers laid down and the edging installed, there was only one more step: brushing sand into the cracks to stabilize the stones. It’s easy. You buy paver sand–the same stuff that went under the pavers as the final base layer–and spread it around with a big, stiff push-broom.

Then you spray the hose everywhere to get the sand to work its way down into the cracks, and repeat the process…more sand, more water, until there are no gaps after you spray. That really locks in the pavers so you don’t hear them crunching against each other much as you walk around.

But I went a step further. The Rumblestone paver system can also be used to build fire pits, retaining walls and more. I don’t need any more walls, but we love the heck out of a campfire. There is something about staring into the flames that feels primal and fuels great conversations (lubricated with fine ales).

The stones simply stack with construction adhesive between, and Pavestone (the manufacturer) offers a variety of plans for fire pits, each one detailing which stones you need and how they go together.

Call me crazy, but I think I might mount a pull-down movie screen on the wall to make the party zone complete. Fire and a flick. C’mon over.

You sweep paver sand over the patio, and it sinks into the cracks, stabilizing the stones.
Then you spray the whole thing with a hose, getting the sand to drop down farther into the cracks. Do the sand/water tango a couple more times and you’re done.
Just me, the dog, and the cat, waiting for my wife to come home and see.


The fire pit was easy to build, following a plan from Pavestone. Construction adhesive goes between the stones. Let it dry for a couple days, and the whole thing is rock solid.

Pavestone also sells a steel insert, which is important. Unlike real stone, concrete pavers will crack in high heat, and the insert shields them well. I also dropped a few extra pavers into the bottom of the pit, to raise the fire for a better view.
It’s a thing of beauty. I dropped in an old fire grate for good air circulation.
Stare into the flames like your ancestors did. Also, roast marshmallows.