How to Build an Outdoor Cooler Cabinet to Serve Drinks in Style

This DIY cooler cabinet makes outdoor entertaining a breeze.

Bottles in wooden ice chest in garden
Photo: Adam Albright
Project Overview
  • Working Time: 5 hours
  • Total Time: 2 days
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Create a stylish spot to stash beverages during backyard barbecues and other outdoor gatherings. This DIY wood cabinet, designed by Kasey and Jordana Henke, disguises a basic beverage cooler, adding sleek style to your patio or deck while keeping drinks chilled and ready to serve. When the lid is closed, it offers space to serve refreshments or display potted plants. Follow the directions below to build an outdoor cabinet that fits your own drinks cooler. With painted stripes and hairpin legs, the lidded wood box brings a stylish accent to your outdoor entertaining space. Its attached bottle opener makes the cabinet party-ready, so all you need to do is 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 the size of your cooler.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 1 Table saw
  • 1 Circular saw
  • 1 Straightedge
  • 1 Clamps
  • 1 Carpenter's square
  • 1 Pneumatic brad nailer
  • 1 Hammer
  • 1 Random orbital sander
  • 1 Drill/driver
  • 1 1/8-inch drill bit
  • 1 Painters tape

Materials

  • 1 1x2 pine boards
  • 1 1x6 pine boards
  • 1 1x4 pine boards
  • 1 Outdoor-rated wood glue
  • 1 1 1/4-inch brads
  • 4 4-inch hairpin legs
  • 1 3/4-inch No. 8 wood screws
  • 1 Hinges
  • 1 Beverage cooler
  • 1 1 1/2-inch No. 8 panhead screws
  • 1 Exterior stain
  • 1 Exterior white gloss spray paint
  • 1 Surface-mount bottle opener

Instructions

  1. Make Cuts

    Cuts
    Piece Dimensions Quantity
    Lid Slats (A) - 1x6 boards 27x4-1/8x3/4 inches 4
    Lid Cleats (B) - 1x2 boards 13x1-1/2x3/4 inches 2
    Side Slats (C) - 1x2 boards 15x1-1/2x3/4 inches 2
    Side Slats (D) - 1x4 boards 15x3-1/2x3/4 inches 8
    Front/Back Slats (E) - 1x2 boards 27x1-1/2x3/4 inches 2
    Front/Back Slats (F) - 1x4 boards 27x3-1/2x3/4 8
    Corner Cleats (G) - 1x2 boards 14x1-1/2x3/4 inches 4
    Bottom Boards (H) - 1x4 boards 25-1/2x3-1/2x3/4 inches 3
  2. Build Cabinet Lid

    outdoor cooler cabinet diagram

    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 outfitted with 120-grit sandpaper to smooth all the edges.

  3. Cut Slats and Corner Cleats

    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.

  4. Build Cabinet Sides

    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.

  5. Assemble Cabinet

    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.

  6. Complete the Cabinet

    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.

  7. Attach Legs

    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. Fasten the legs using 3/4-inch No. 8 wood screws.

  8. Secure Cabinet Lid

    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.

  9. Check the Cooler Fit

    Remove the lid from the cooler and use 1 1/2-inch No. 8 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 might need to place a few wood shims beneath the cooler to raise it so there's a tight fit with the top.

  10. Stain and Paint Cabinet

    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.

  11. Attach Bottle Opener

    Outdoor Cooler Cabinet

    Drill pilot holes and use 3/4-inch No. 8 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 beverages, and you're ready for a party! When not in use, the cooler offers extra table space or a spot for potted plants.

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