Is Pressure Treated Wood Safe For Picnic Tables? | Our True Verdict

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The building process of a home-made picnic table is great as it encourages family members to work together. Believe it or not, the wood selection takes more time than the actual project duration. Everybody is concerned about the durability of their hard-built product. Treated or non-treated, you should use the kind of wood that suits your needs. 

If you want something very durable, which will last for decades, go for treated wood without any second thought. Non-treated wood won’t be very durable as it will get rot & insect damage real soon. However, you may have already heard about the health risk issue with PT wood. In this article, you’ll know whether pressure treated wood is safe for picnic tables or not. 

Is Pressure Treated Wood Safe For Picnic Tables
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What Is Pressure Treated Wood?

The wood that has gone through many chemical preservatives to make it resistant to rot and insects is called pressure-treated wood. To make non-treated wood treated, a depressurized tank is used for replacing the air with preservatives. Unlike ordinary wood, pressure-treated wood is labeled “Ground Contact” & “Above Ground Use.” Make sure you’re abiding by these labels correctly. Still, PT wood is not stronger than its own non-treated version. 

The difference between PT wood & ordinary wood is the resistance toward rotting & insect caused damages. However, most of the chemicals used for treating wood are highly toxic & you won’t want them on your plate. You may ask – a picnic table is also an outdoor structure; Is pressure-treated wood safe for picnic tables? Stay tuned as I’ll be answering that in this article. 

What Chemicals Are Used On Pressure Treated Wood?

Over the years, manufacturers have used Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA) chemicals to treat lumber. This chemical is highly toxic & isn’t suitable for storing or serving food on it. Because of the toxicity of age-old CCA chemicals, they’re no longer used for treating residential wood. 

The other widely used chemical (almost safe) is Alkaline Copper Quaternary (ACQ). This chemical bears less toxicity than CCA & thus, EPA allowed it to be used for benches, picnic tables & other outdoor structures. Though everybody knows about these two chemicals, let me show some other chemicals approved by EPA. 

  • Borates 
  • Copper Azole
  • Copper Naphthenate 
  • Copper-HDO
  • Polymeric Betaine 

These chemicals can be used for treating wood, but not all of them are allowed to use on the structure used for food storing or serving. You should also know that three chemicals were flagged as risky chemicals (toward health & environment) by EPA in 2008. 

These are:

  • Chromated Arsenicals 
  • PCP – Pentachlorophenol 
  • Creosote

What Do You Do With Pressure Treated Wood?

You can build numerous outdoor structures with pressure-treated wood. PT wood is great, especially for outdoor usage – thanks to the chemical reactions. This kind of wood lasts for a long time (up to 20 years) without catching rotting or any other insect damage. From fences to decks, you can build every outdoor application with pressure-treated wood. 

Please note that pressure-treated wood isn’t any stronger than ordinary wood. The only reason you’re using pressure-treated wood is the longevity it offers. A well-made pressure treated wooden structure can survive almost two decades without any question. As most people will use PT wood for building tables, that’s why a complete measurement of a 6 feet picnic table may help. Here it is:

  • 4 Pcs of 2 by 6 wood – 36 inches long LEGS
  • 3 Pcs of 2 by 4 wood – 28 ½ inches long SUPPORTS
  • 2 pcs of 2 by 6 wood – 60 inches SUPPORTS
  • 5 Pcs of 2 by 6 wood – 72 inches TABLETOP
  • 4 Pcs of 2 by 6 wood – 72 inches TABLETOP
  • 2 Pcs of 2 by 4 wood – 34 ½ inches BRACES

Using the measurement above, you can easily build a 6 feet picnic table for you & your family. In case you’re wondering – is pressure treated wood safe for picnic tables, then the next segment is for you.  

Is Pressure Treated Wood Safe For Picnic Tables?

Yes, pressure-treated wood is safe for picnic tables if the treating chemical is ACQ – Alkaline Copper Quaternary. Other than that isn’t safe for picnic tables as you’ll be cutting & chopping vegetables on the table knowingly or unknowingly. Though ACQ chemical is marked as ‘comparatively’ safer, I recommend using non-treated wood as a chopping & cutting board. 

You may be wondering, what’s the potential health risk of using a CCA treated pressure treated wood for picnic tables. Well, here’s the answer – CCA chemical is linked with different types of cancer. As PT Wood leaches chemicals sometimes, your food & drinks can get exposed via this harmful chemical. For this reason, U.S manufacturers discontinued the arsenic & chromium (CCA or Chromated Copper Arsenate) treatment for residential applications back on December 31, 2003. 

How Long Will It Last?

Pressure-treated wood lasts up to 20 years, depending on the environmental & weather condition. That means you can safeguard your outdoor projects for two decades, just using treated wood instead of non-treated ordinary wood. 

However, you shouldn’t use PT wooden application as something you’ll be preparing food on. If you’re not sure whether you should use PT wood or not, use non-treated wood instead. Follow the next segment to know some of the best alternatives for pressure-treated wood. 

Alternatives Of Pressure Treated Wood In Picnic Tables

As you know, most pressure-treated wood comes with health risks; why not use non-treated wood for your picnic table? Southern Yellow Pine performs best in treated wood form. But there is much non-treated wood available in the market that is as strong as pressure-treated wood. Here are some of the alternatives of pressure-treated wood in picnic tables: 

  • Redwood
  • Western Cedar 
  • Cypress
  • White Oak 

Use any of this lumber; I bet – you won’t regret your picnic table built for ages. If you’re highly focused on longevity, there’s no alternative to treated & pressurized wood. 

Pro Tips: Go for ACQ pressure-treated wood if you really need decades of longevity with a picnic table. Other than that, non-treated wood is the safest option for a picnic table. 

Frequently Asked Questions – FAQ

Why Can’t You Use PT Wood Inside?

Pressure Treated Wood is highly flammable due to the chemicals it is treated with. You’ll be risking your entire house if you’re using PT wood for indoor applications. On top of that, indoor applications are easily reachable to children. You don’t want your children to come in contact with toxic chemical exposure, do you? That’s the overall reason why you shouldn’t use PT wood inside. 

When Did They Stop Putting Arsenic In Pressure Treated Wood

U.S manufacturers stopped putting arsenic in residential pressure treated wood back on 31 December 2003. Due to the negative publicity and health concern around CCA (Chromated Copper Arsenate), the EPA declared arsenic & chromium a health threat to the general mass. That’s why manufacturers too stopped using CCA treatment in residential applications such as Picnic Tables, Outdoor Deck & so on. 

How Much Does It Cost To Build A Wooden Picnic Table?

It depends on the kind of wood you’re willing to use. As you’ll be building your own picnic table, there are additional expenses, such as carriage bolt hardware, decking screws, and glue. Depending on the accessories & lumber price, you may have to spend around $80 to $120. You can even buy a ready-made wooden picnic table at a low price from Amazon. 

Can You Get Sick From Pressure Treated Wood?

No, unless you’re exposing yourself to the toxic chemical of the pressure-treated wood. You won’t get sick if you’re well aware that chemicals used to treat & pressurize wood are hazardous for health. Don’t prepare (chopping & cutting) your food on pressure-treated wood & you will be safe from the toxicity. 

How Long Does Chemical Stay In Pressure Treated Wood?

Chemical plays a major role in any PT wood. As long as the chemical is there, pressure-treated wood is safe from rotting & other environmental damages. Most of the pressure-treated wood lasts for 20+ years & thus, holds the chemical for that duration. 


I hope this article has cleared your queries regarding pressure treated wood & PT wooden picnic tables. If you want to use pressure-treated wood in any of your outdoor applications, make sure it’s treated with Alkaline Copper Quaternary (ACQ), not Chromated Copper Arsenate(CCA).

If you’re still in doubt whether you should build a picnic table out of pressure-treated wood or not, you can use non-treated wood instead. There’re many pressure-treated wood alternatives available in the current market & I’ve discussed some of them in this article. Stay with Wood Mixers to know more about it.

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