Build an Outdoor Cooler Cabinet
Make your backyard the envy of the neighborhood with this DIY cooler cabinet project that's guaranteed to bring the party.
Follow the directions below to build a stylish cabinet to house your own drinks cooler. With painted-on stripes and hairpin legs, the lidded wood box brings sporty style to your alfresco gathering space. Its attached bottle opener makes the cabinet party-ready —just add ice.
Note: The overall dimensions for this project are dependent on the size of the cooler. Our cooler measures 22 inches long by 13 inches wide by 11 inches tall. We sized the inside of the cabinet to be slightly larger so it's easy to remove the cooler for cleaning or draining. Adjust the dimensions to accommodate your cooler.
- 1x2 pine (14 linear feet)
- 1x6 pine (9 linear feet)
- 1x4 pine (35 linear feet)
- Table saw (optional)
- Circular saw
- Straightedge (36 inches minimum) with clamps
- Carpenters square
- Outdoor-rated wood glue
- Pneumatic brad nailer (optional)
- 1 1/4-inch brads
- Random orbit sander outfitted with 120-grit sandpaper
- 4-inch hairpin legs (4)
- 1/8-inch-diameter drill bit
- #8 × 3/4-inch wood screws
- #8 × 1 1/2-inch panhead screws
- Painters tape
- White spray paint
- Surface-mount bottle opener
Start by building the cabinet's lid. As shown in the cutting list (above), cut four lid slats (A) and two cleats (B). (Use stock 1x6 boards for the lid slats and rip them to width using either a table saw or a clamped straightedge and a circular saw.) Lay the slats on a flat surface so that their ends are aligned. Apply glue to one face of each cleat and then position them so that each is 3 inches from the ends of the lid and centered front to back. Press down firmly and drive 1 1/4-inch brads through the cleats and into the slats. (If you have a pneumatic brad nailer it will make assembly faster; otherwise, use a hammer.) Drive at least four brads in each board; then clean up any wood glue with a damp towel. Once the glue has dried, use an orbital sander out fitted with 120-grit sandpaper to smooth all the edges.
Cut the cabinet parts to size. Cut the two 1x2 side slats (C) and the eight 1x4 side slats (D) to length as shown in the cutting list. For the front and back, cut two 1x2 slats (E) and eight 1x4 slats (F) to length. Cut the four 1x2 corner cleats (G) to length.
To build the sides, lay out the side slats on a flat surface. Make sure to arrange the slats for each side in the correct order from bottom to top: three 1x4 slats (D), followed by one 1x2 slat (C) and ending with another 1x4 slat. Apply wood glue to one face of each of the corner cleats. Position them so that the cleats are flush with the outer edges of the side slats and 3/4 inch up from the bottom of each side assembly; use brads to permanently attach the cleats to the sides. Drive four brads for each side slat.
To build the cabinet shell, start by standing one of the sides on end. Apply glue to the edge of the side assembly and to the front face of its corner cleat, then use 1 1/4-inch brads to attach each front slat (E, F) to the side assembly, making sure to position the slats flush and square with the outer face of the side. Follow the same board pattern as you did for the sides. Repeat the process for the back slats, gluing and nailing them to the side assembly. Use glue and brads to attach the opposite side to the cabinet assembly in the same fashion.
Cut the three 1x4 bottom boards (H) to length as shown in the cutting list (above). Apply wood glue to the ends of each board and insert them into the bottom of the completed box, leaving a small drainage gap between each board. Once positioned, drive brads through all four sides of the cabinet and into the bottom boards to secure them.
Attach the hairpin legs to each corner of the bottom of the box. Use a 1/8-inch-diameter drill bit to make a pilot hole for each screw and then fasten the legs using #8 x 3/4-inch wood screws.
Place the lid on top of the cabinet, making sure that it's properly aligned. Position the two hinges for the top about 6 inches in from the sides of the cabinet; drill pilot holes and screw the hinges to the cabinet and the lid using the same size screws as you did for the legs.
Remove the lid from the cooler and use #8 × 1 1/2-inch panhead screws to attach it to the cleats on the underside of the cabinet. Place the cooler in the cabinet and check to see how the lid fits -- you may need to place a few wood shims beneath the cooler to raise it so there's a tight fit with the top.
Use 120-grit sandpaper to lightly sand the cabinet. Apply stain following the product manufacturer's directions and let dry overnight. Use painters tape to lay out decorative stripes in a pattern that you like and add kraft paper to protect the rest of the cabinet from overspray. Apply two or three coats of white spray paint to create the stripes. Let dry between coats and then remove the tape.
Drill pilot holes and use #8 x 3/4-inch wood screws to fasten the bottle opener to the top corner of one of the cabinet's sides. Load the cooler with ice and your favorite beverage, and you're ready for a party! When not in use, the cooler offers extra table space or a spot for potted plants.