One of the best parts about the holidays is sitting down for a shared meal with family and friends. The only problem if you’re living in a small space—or if you don’t have a table that seats a dozen people—is extra room. These temporary tables were inspired by just that: a lack of space.

This post includes two different tutorials, so that you can build a temporary table that works in your home. The round table fits in smaller spaces, while the rectangular table is great for larger spaces.

Once you’ve built your table(s), be sure to visit part two of this series—where we show you how to decorate these for the season.

Happy hosting!

Dunn DIY How to Build a Temporary Table for Holiday Hosting

Round Table Tutorial 

I needed more seating in my home, and decided to take a small outdoor bistro table and add a round plywood top to increase its surface area and thus, seating. It’s literally just a circle, which means it’s easy to set up and store.

Round Table Step 1: Choose Your Plywood

A round table is easier to create if you can get an extra set of hands to help with some of the steps, so Todd joined me for this process. We went with a simple birch plywood—not too fancy, but smooth enough it shouldn't snag your beautiful tablecloth.  For both tables, use the diagrams provided. 

Temporary Table for Holiday Hosting Cutting Diagram

Round Table Step 2: Find the Center

To start, measure across the face of the plywood and mark the halfway point. Repeat on the adjacent side so you find the center of the plywood. Keep in mind that the plywood probably isn't a perfect 48" x 48" square—in fact plywood is technically 48 1/2" wide. So the halfway point may be different on the different sides.

Hammer a nail into the center mark, just far enough in so that it’s secure.

measuring for temporary table for Holiday Hosting

Round Table Step 3: Tie the String

Tie a string to the nail at the center of the table top, then stretch it across the plywood. Now tie it to a pencil at the edge of the wood, and cut the string. One side of our plywood was 48 ½” and the other was 48”, so we made sure to line up the string with the shorter side.

It’s easier to use a string that isn’t stretchy. The string we used had too much stretch, so we tried to keep a consistent tension in Step 4.

Temporary Table for Holiday Hosting

nailing temporary holiday table

how to build a makeshift for the holidays

Round Table Step 4: Draw a Circle

Pull the string taut, then carefully draw the pencil around the plywood, keeping a consistent pressure on the string to achieve a steady line. It may take you awhile to get the feel of this step, but don’t worry—you can always retrace your circle if some of the lines end up shaky.

Once you’ve drawn your circle, remove the nail.

How to build a temporary table for a party

Round Table Step 5: Cut

Use clamps or an extra set of hands to hold down the plywood on a workbench or a pair of sawhorses. Cut the plywood slowly and in sections. We took it corner by corner, because you’re essentially cutting out to the very edge of the plywood when you get to the middle of every side.

I was really surprised by how easy this was to do. Because it’s a gentle enough curve, it’s really easy on the jig saw, and you don’t have to put a lot of pressure on it. It’s much easier to follow a consistent curve like that than it is trying to cut out an intricate shape.

The jig saw isn’t the only option for this. If you don’t have a jig saw but you do have a circular saw, you can do a similar concept with an octagon. Or, if you don’t feel comfortable cutting a smooth line, just cut a straight line which is a little bit easier. Stick to power tools, though—hand tools would make this a little tough.

sanding plywood table
cutting plywood tablecutting round table for makeshift holiday table

Round Table Step 6: Sand

When the plywood is cut, take sandpaper or a sanding sponge to the edges to smooth out any splinters.

We used a fine/medium sanding sponge. You can use a sanding sponge or sandpaper in a 150- or 220-grit.

Plywood Table for Holiday Hosting

Now it’s time to expand the eating area of your bistro table by placing the new tabletop on the pre-existing bistro surface.

With the weight of the plywood and the size of the table, you shouldn’t have to secure it, but this will also depend on the size of the original table. 

Cover with a tablecloth, and no one will be the wiser! 

diy round table

Rectangular Table Tutorial  

Note from Kirsten: The rectangular table was inspired by an outdoor dinner party Todd and his wife hosted for the Dunn DIY cast and crew. They have a small outdoor table but wanted more seating, so they came up with a simple design that breaks down easily for storage, and can be fitted with a standard tablecloth. Take it away, Todd!

As Kirsten mentioned, my wife and I needed more seating space for a DIY dinner party. We found ourselves with a guest list of 10 and a space large enough to accommodate them, but our table only sat four—uh oh! We came up with a relatively inexpensive way to solve the problem, which I’m sharing with you today. 

tools and materials for temporary dining table

Rectangular Table Step 1: Choose Plywood Grade and Size

Plywood comes in many grades, and therefore, in varying prices. We chose a construction-grade plywood that had one smooth side, so there weren’t any dips in the table top. You can choose something less expensive as long as you know there could be some voids on the surface of your table. If you need help finding a choice that’s right for your needs, ask a Dunn Lumber sales representative.

Full sheets of plywood are generally 48”x96”. You can leave yours that size or cut it down to fit the dimensions you need. We knew we’d be using a 54”x108” tablecloth (this is a common size), so we figured in a 6” drape on each side. This meant the 96” length was perfect. For the width, we had Dunn Lumber cut the full sheet down to 42”.

Plywood also comes in different thicknesses. We chose ¾” thickness for our table, but you may be able to go with something thinner, like ⅝”.

temporary dining table plan

Rectangular Table Step 2: Build the Legs

We built two simple leg units out of construction-grade two-by-four lumber. Each “leg” is a rectangle made up of four pieces: the top, bottom, and two sides. For this design, these side pieces will determine the height of your table. A standard table is 30” high.

Our plywood was ¾” thick, so our sides were 29 ¼” high.

Cut the two-by-fours to length. Screw together the two square legs with 3” screws, making sure to keep the top and bottom pieces within the sides—so the longest lengths of the rectangle are your side pieces when you’re done.

diy table legs

measuring makeshift table legs

temp table legs

Rectangular Table Step 3: Join the Legs Together

We joined the two rectangular legs together with two 72” two-by-fours at the top, and one at the bottom.

The two horizontal top boards mount to the outside of the square legs with 3” screws and offer more width to support the plywood. The bottom horizontal support mounts down the centerline of the table and screws on top of the bottom leg of the squares.

We laid our plywood on top (without screws) and let gravity keep it in place, but if you think someone might lean heavily on your table or give it a big bump, you can fasten the plywood to the framework below. To do this, screw upward through the table legs into the plywood with 2” screws (use this shorter length so you don’t have the screw come up through the top of the table).

joining table legs for temporary holiday table

building plywood table

diy dining table

Rectangular Table Step 4: Mark for Reuse

To make your table easier to reassemble after storage, mark each spot where the long two-by-fours meet the rectangular legs. This will help you put it back together more quickly.

preparing plywood table for hosting

diy table legs for holiday table

Rectangular Table Step 5: Add Floor Protector Pads

To protect floors from scratches, attach floor protector pads to the bottom of each leg.

diy floor protector pads

Rectangular Table Step 6: Add a Tablecloth

A tablecloth is optional, but can quickly dress up your makeshift table. Paper tablecloths are relatively inexpensive (we found them for less than $10 in the 54” x 108” size we used). Another creative solution would be to purchase a canvas cloth and decorate it with acrylic paint and stencils. Next week we'll be featuring a post on how to host for the holidays—including some great decorating tips. 

temporary dining table

The round DIY table is optimize the furniture you already have, which means you don’t have to buy another table you’re only going to use a few times a year—while both tables break down easily, making storage simple!

Supply your own chairs, and you’re ready to seat a much larger crowd! Our rectangular table seated 10 adults easily, and we could have squeezed in more if we’d needed to.  

The holidays are a great time to gather family and friends around the dinner table. By following the steps for one of these projects, you'll expand the seating for your next memorable meal. Enjoy the season!