Build an Outdoor Table With Tile Top and Steel Base
Construct a small, round tile top patio table with a tiled plywood and cement board top and hand-bent metal legs.
IntroductionThis tile top patio table is simple to make, but it's engineered to hold up in any weather. All the materials are available at home centers, you don't need any special tools to make it and you'll save lots of money by making it yourself. Plus, these tables make a beautiful addition to any deck or patio.
- 4-in-1 screwdriver
- Adjustable wrench
- Cordless drill
- Framing square
- Grout float
- Paint roller
- Safety glasses
- Tape measure
- Tin snips
You can build this table with simple tools and basic skills. Get your wood and steel at a home center, and look for interesting tile at a local tile supplier. Ask to see a porcelain or stone tile (or a combination) that’ll withstand harsh weather conditions. Our table, with two sizes of stone tile, cost about one-fifth the cost of a store-bought table.
This tabletop is made from a plywood core wrapped in cement board, sealed with a paint-on membrane and then covered with ceramic tile and grout. The leg base is made from sturdy steel bars (from your home center or hardware store) that you bend (with the aid of a template and homemade jig) into pleasing curves. Then you drill and assemble them and finally, screw them to the tabletop.
Don’t worry if you didn’t pay attention during metal shop. We’ll show you a seat-of-the-pants method for bending the steel without the expensive metal shop tools that a pro would use. Figure on spending 10 to 12 hours over the course of a week to complete the project.
To help guide the process, we’ve broken the tasks down into daily steps. It accounts for time spent waiting for glue, mortar and sealer to dry so you can finish the project efficiently. In total, this project will take about 6 days.
Project step-by-step (17)
Build the Bending Jig
- Glue and screw two 2×4 blocks to a 16 x 36-in. sheet of 3/4-in. plywood.
- Screw the plywood to your workbench.
- Let the glue dry overnight before using the jig.
Cut Out the Plywood Base
- Mark two 13-in. radius (26-in. diameter) discs on 1/2-in. CDX plywood using a compass made from a strip of scrap wood.
- Cut out the discs with a jigsaw.
Glue the Plywood Discs
- Spread water-resistant carpenter’s glue onto each disc with a 1/8-in. notched trowel.
- Carefully align the edges of the discs and screw them together with 1-1/4 in. screws spaced every 6 in.
- Let the glue dry, remove the screws and sand the edges of the disc to form a smooth curve.
Bend the Legs Slightly at Each Mark
- Mark the 1/4-in. x 1-1/2 in. x 36-in. steel bar every inch with a permanent marker.
- Align the marks with the center marks on the 2×4 blocks and firmly pull the bar until you feel it bend slightly.
- Move the bar to the next inch mark and proceed with slight bends at each mark.
Check the Curve as You Go
- Check your bent bar with your template.
- Insert the bar into the jig again and either bend or unbend it as needed.
- Cut the steel to a 28-in. overall length with a hacksaw.
- Smooth the rough edges with a metal file.
Mark the Holes
- Clamp the curved legs to the workbench.
- Use a sharp punch to mark the hole centers for the mounting screws and the assembly bolts.
- Drill holes at 1/2 in., 1-1/2 in., 4 in. and 14 in. from the top end.
Drill the Screw and Bolt Holes
- Drill the 3/16-in. diameter holes through the legs, using a few drops of oil to lubricate the bit.
- Pro tip: Make sure to clamp the steel firmly while drilling.
Bend the Struts
- Cut the 8-in. long struts from 1/8-in. x 3/4-in. steel with a hacksaw.
- Place a mark 1-1/2 in. from each end.
- Align the marks with the vise jaws, tighten and then hammer the piece to form crisp 90-degree bends.
- Center and drill bolt holes according to the strut detail in Figure A.
Assemble the Legs and Struts
- Screw the struts to the legs using No. 10 x 3/4-in. bolts and nuts.
- Tighten with a screwdriver.
- Note the position of the mounting holes.
Cut the Cement Board Disc
- Place the disc on a piece of 1/2-in. cement board and trace the circle.
- Cut it out with a jigsaw fitted with an abrasive cutting blade.
Bond the Cement Board and Plywood
- Mix about 1-1/2 qts. of thin-set mortar to a toothpaste consistency.
- Let the mortar stand for 10 minutes, then spread it onto one side of your disc with a 1/4-in. notched trowel.
- Screw the cement board to the plywood with 1-1/4 in. cement board screws.
- Cut 1-3/8 in. strips of galvanized expanded metal lath (stucco lath) 7 ft. long.
- Nail the strips to the edge of the disc.
- Use 1-1/4 in. galvanized roofing nails and space them every 4 in.
Cover the Lath with Mortar
- Set the disc on a plastic sheet and mix about 1 qt. of thin-set mortar.
- Embed the mortar in the lath.
- Let it dry overnight, then smooth off ridges and edges with a rasp.
Apply Waterproofing Membrane
- Roll or brush two coats of waterproofing membrane on both sides and the edges, then let it dry overnight.
- While the membrane is drying (24 hours), lay out your tile design and make sure it works.
- Make a cardboard disc the same size as your coated disc and draw concentric circular guidelines onto it to help with your tile placement.
Set the Edge Tile
- Butter the back of each tile with thin-set mortar
- Push it onto the edge of the table disc and shim the height if necessary.
- Work your way around the disc and cut or adjust the tile spacing to fit the last piece.
- Wait 24 hours before tiling the top.
Follow the Layout Lines
- Draw guidelines on your tabletop with a permanent marker and then trowel mortar onto only one quadrant of the top with a 1/4-in. notched trowel.
- Transfer your tile from your design to the mortared top, paying attention to your guidelines.
- Complete each quadrant, let the mortar set for 24 hours, then grout the top.
Grout and Assemble
- Center the leg assembly onto the underside of the table and screw through the outer mounting holes into the table bottom with No. 10 x 1-1/2 in. screws.
- Scribe and cut the pieces of 1-1/2 in. x 1-1/2 in. pine to fit between two legs.
- Fasten the pine to the table.
- Remove the wood braces to paint them.
- Wipe the steel with mineral spirits and scuff it with steel wool to prepare the surface.
- Prime the steel and then paint it.