How to Build a Patio Cooler

Summer is my favorite season of the year and I love projects that spruce up the patio. A fellow DIY’er named Paul Broder from Burleson, Texas sent in a photo of an ice chest and said he’d love to see a tutorial on how to build something similar. So, I got to work and ended up coming up with some easy to follow plans and an awesome new ice chest to have out on the deck! It’s going to be perfect for summer barbecues and great timing to have for my younger brother’s wedding this summer. It’s a fun and practical project that I know you will have fun tackling. Enjoy learning how to build a patio cooler using the video tutorial, post, and plans!

Cedar Ice Chest Tutorial

Click HERE or on the image below for the downloadable Patio Cooler Ice Chest Plans. These plans are 100% free and you have the option to donate at the time of download to help support DIY PETE so he can devote more time in creating FREE video tutorials and plans for you. This is 100% optional of course! If you’d like them for FREE simply enter “0” in the dollar amount 🙂  Cheers! – Pete

DIY-PATIO-COOLER-PLANSTools Needed

Please note that many of the links in this post are affiliate links which means I’ll get a small commission if you purchase any of the tools using them. This is what helps support the website so I can continue making free plans for you. Anything purchased on Amazon using the following link: http://www.DIYPETE.com/AMAZON will help support the site. So thank you for your support!

Miter Saw – I’d recommend a 12 inch miter saw.
Orbital Sander – Ryobi makes a nice one.
Kreg Jig – The K4 is what I have.
Table Saw
Air Nailer – I like the Ryobi Airstrike tools
Drill – I use Ryobi drills.
Tape Measure, Ruler, Pencil
Wrench

Optional:

Clamps – Clamps are helpful for any project. I love to use JackClamps.
Circular Saw
Kreg Jig Face Clamp – Very handy.
Kreg Jig Right Angle Clamp – A must!
Speed Square
Hand Sander
Hole Saw Set

Supplies Needed

Wood Glue – I’d recommend Gorilla brand wood glue.
Box of 2 1/2 inch Kreg Screws
Driil Bits
120/220/400 Grit Sandpaper
Box of 1 1/4 inch nails for air nailer
Teflon Tape
4 inch Riser, 1/2 inch threaded Piping, 1/2 inch coupler, Red knob spigot/valve
2 1/2 inch or 2 inch locking caster wheels
52 Quart Igloo Contour Cooler (I found mine at Target for $29.00)
2 Hinges
3 Handles
Bottle Opener
Optional: Bottle Cap Catcher
Paint Brush
Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane
Rubber gloves
Safety glasses
Ear Protection

Wood:
QTY: 12 – 5/8 thick x 5 1/2 x 6 long cedar fence pickets : $2.59/board
QTY: 8 – 2×4 x 8 cedar boards : $7 / board

Approximate Total Cost: $190

Cedar Wood: $87
Spigot/valve: $6
2 Hinges: $4
Bottle Opener: $5
4 Wheels: $18
1 Qt Sealer: $15
1 box 2 1/2 inch screws: $10
Nails/other screws: $7
Cooler: $29
Glue: $5
Piping: $4
*Approximate Total Cost (Not including tools and supplies you might have like rubber gloves, paint brush, etc.)

You can decrease the cost of this build by using pine 2×4’s instead of cedar to save about $36. Use a cooler you already have or pick one up at a garage sale or on craigslist to save about $29. Ditch the wheels to save an additional $18.

Overall Dimensions:

Please note you will need to adjust the measurements a bit to fit your exact cooler. If you have an old cooler laying around go ahead and use it! Don’t buy a brand new one if you don’t have to.

32 inches wide – 22 inches deep – 36 3/4 inches tall plus 2 1/2 inch wheels 

Step 1:

Start making your cuts for the legs of your cedar ice chest. I’d recommend using a miter saw.

How to make a cedar Ice ChestRemove hardware from the cooler

how-to-make-an-ice-chest-and-coolerStep 2:

Assemble the legs. I used a Kreg Jig to drill 4 pocket holes in one board for each leg. Then connect using wood glue and 2 1/2 inch Kreg screws.

Making a patio coolerStep 3

Assemble the frame for the cooler out of 2×4 boards.  Connect each 2×4 with 2 1/2 inch screws. You can make it as snug as you’d like. I left about a half inch of play on each side to make it easy to remove the cooler if needed. Use the cooler as a template or measure the cooler to determine how long to cut these boards.

Making a Patio CoolerStep 4

Attach the 4 corners to the top frame. Use 2 1/2 inch wood screws and put about 4 for each corner. Drill a pilot hole before putting the screws in so the wood doesn’t split.

How to make a drain on a coolerStep 5

Add the apron. Rip fence boards on a table saw and then glue and nail them to the top as shown in the photo. This will create about a half inch overhang on each side. I cut the apron to 3 1/2 inches wide.
cedar-ice-chest-directions

Step 6

Create the cooler support out of 2×4’s.

Kreg Jig ProjectsStep 7

Place the frame upside down on a flat surface and slide the cooler in place. Next, put the support at the base of the cooler and attach to the legs using screws and pocket holes. If you don’t have a kreg jig, you could pre-drill and then run screws in at an angle.

Cooler SupportThis is what the support will look like from the bottom side.

underside-of-cedar-ice-chestStep 8

Add fence pickets around all sides to hide the cooler. I started by attaching a board in the middle of the sections and then moved to the left and right. Use as many full width fence boards as you can. Rip the outer boards on a table saw to get a perfect fit. I’d recommend spacing the boards roughly 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch from each other.

DIY Fence Picket ProjectsStep 9

Add trim horizontally on each side. Rip fence boards into 2 inch strips and then glue and nail the trim in place.

DIY Cedar ProjectsStep 10

Place the cooler in the frame and then mark where the hole will go through the side of the wood surround. Then drill a small hole through the wood from the inside. Next, use a larger bit or hole saw from the outside to finish the full sized hole. This is where the piping will go through.

Cooler-for-cedar-ice-chestHere is a look at the piping. You may need to get various lengths due to the cooler used, but head to the pvc pipe / sprinkler section to get the supplies. I used the plastic hardware that came with the cooler (white pieces and gasket below) to attach to the threaded 1/2 inch threaded nipple to the right in the photo. The 1/2 inch coupling secured the other side of the cooler. I then used a 4 inch long 1/2 inch riser to go from the coupling to the spigot/shutoff valve.

cedar-ice-chest-how-toStep 10

I cut a scrap piece of picket to 3 1/2 inches by 3 1/2 inches to give the spigot a little extra support. Use 1 inch screws to attach the valve.

Cedar-ice-chest-with-fixtureStep 11

Determine the height and width of your cooler lid. Mine was a little less than 2 inches high and so I ripped a couple 2×4 boards to make them 2 inches tall. Then place the boards around the perimeter and cut to size. The lid should be snug with the wood.

cooler-for-a-cedar-ice-chestStep 12

Attach the plastic cooler lid to the wood using 2 inch screws. Pre-drill and then put in the screw. Make sure the outer part of the lid is flush with the wood. The inner part will protrude from the wood because it is what will allow the cooler to stay in place when the lid goes down. The inner portion will seal the cooler.

cedar-ice-chest-lidStep 13

Cut 4 fence boards down to size and rip them each to the same width on the table saw. Leave about an 1/8 of an inch between each. Use glue and an air nailer to keep them in place. 
Fence-picket-ice-chest

Step 14

With the lid in place, attach hinges to the back of the lid. Use the screws provided.

hinges-on-ice-chestStep 15

I decided to add a lower shelf as an after thought which is why the legs have finish on them in this photo. Cut a 2×4 down to 1 1/2 by 1 1/2 inches on a table saw ( or use a 2×2 board ) and then make the cuts to create the lower shelf supports. Glue and then screw them in place.

ice-chest-with-shelfAttach fence pickets to create the lower shelf. I did not have to rip these boards but do so if you need to.

shelf-for-coolerStep 16

Apply finish to the wood. I love the natural look of cedar and so I used Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane. If you are using pine I’d recommend either painting the project or applying quite a few coats of sealer. I’d recommend removing any hardware you already installed to make the sealing process go faster.

diy-pete-minwax-cedar-ice-chestLet the sealer dry overnight and then lightly sand with a sanding block and 400 grit paper to remove any rough spots on areas where the cooler will be touched. Then wipe up the dust and apply 1 or 2 more thin coats of sealer using a clean rag.

sanding-outdoor-patio-furnitureStep 17

Attach the hardware. I picked up 3 handles from Home Depot that are 5 1/2 inches wide. I also found the bottle opener and spigot/valve at Home Depot as well. Attach wheels to each leg by pre-drilling and then using 2 inch screws. Adding wheels is optional and they are about $4 / wheel at the hardware store. I used 2 1/2 inch locking caster wheels.

ice-chest-with-bottle-opener

Ice ChestEnjoy!

Job well done! Put that new Patio Cooler to good use:) This is going to be great for your summer barbecues, events, and parties.

diy-pete-salmon-fly-montanaGood luck with your project and most importantly have fun with the build. Please post photos of your finished Ice Chest below on on the DIY PETE Facebook Page. Cheers from Bozeman, Montana!

diy-pete-signoff

  • John Crippen
    • DIYPETE

      It turned out great John! What an awesome wedding present!

  • ColTex Customs

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d8ae1c66499e511329909ca234b9f272906e37b4091856aee5fc7528826dcd19.jpg Knocked one out today! Thanks for your site. Great inspiration for projects.

    • DIYPETE

      Looks Awesome! I like the mason jar cap catcher. Glad that you were able to build it! Cheers!

  • John Soley
  • Alan

    I am in the process of making this cooler project and just wanted to make sure when putting the cooler support boards under the cooler, do you have the lid on or off when screwing the support on. Thanks

  • Jon Inaba

    Hey Pete! Thanks for the plans for this cooler build! I had a great time building it. There were some hiccups along the way as there usually are with my projects but overall it turned out as planned. I will probably end up adding a lower shelf. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/1d79b048a1628d85c819f5e5729a50bb1e77b89165ed57ce189f888024a22a2d.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/711505c9e7eef66a88df9818ce4295a06099ab7b97a0b9b9cd699f2c4fa69767.jpg

    • DIYPETE

      That looks great Jon! I really like the stains that you used!

  • Joe

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/2cdbea8c95767cfa3273627d960fd7f9f6b4b89777323cddb34fa5b772ea7052.jpg DIY Pete, your directions were awesome. Just finished my first Cooler. Plan to make more

    • DIYPETE

      That looks awesome Joe!

      • Joe

        Thanks for the inspiration and of course the directions. Looking to tackle more of your DIY ideas

  • Rodney Rienfeld

    Pete, I am enjoying wp orking on the cooler project. I am on step 12. I have a process question: It seems the easiest way to insure the cooler lid fits properly is to place the cooler in the frame, place the lid securely on the cooler body, place the wood frame around the lid and then drill the pilot holes and then the screws. This way I won’t have to keep the lid even with the wood frame edge, just place on the cooler around the lid and set it with the screws. What do you think? GBR

    • Hey Rodney, I think that is a great idea and would go for it. GBR!

  • Jerry Davis

    I love the ideas. This is my creation I made for my son’s 48th birthday. The handle is his 40+ year old Tball bat. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9885e14d55da3d81547e7652ed9020f9521c13c87fe52e64e30668b0aa83f2f1.jpg

  • Matthew Semeraro

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c46f7ac592ea543615357d443569cf7927cd01559890939597ea7e6d94c7f03e.jpg I ended up using a sprinkler riser with the original gasket, cheap and worked perfectly. Couldn’t use the original nut, instead used a fitting from the pvc aisle that fit the threads:

  • Doc Mcstuffins
  • Alan Pierce
  • Drew Champagne
    • DIYPETE

      Hey Drew! You did a great job with the patio cooler, I love it! Nice work and thanks for sharing man! Keep up the good work and cheers from Montana. – Pete

  • Ralph M. Datelle
    • DIYPETE

      Hey Ralph! It turned out amazing! Nice work, your son is going to love it!

      • Ralph M. Datelle

        Thanks Pete. Great pattern to work with. I was a little scared about trying to make this but I gave it a try.

        • DIYPETE

          I’d say you did an incredible job!

  • Kenzie Webster
    • DIYPETE

      Congrats Kenzie! Looks great! Sorry for the delay, my comments weren’t showing up the last 4 months and just got everything fixed. I love the patio cooler!!

  • easterlake
    • DIYPETE

      haha! sure you don’t 🙂 — Big games coming up!!

    • Annette Braet

      Love this! are The Cubs log and “W” decals, or did you paint them?

      • easterlake

        i found the Cubs logo on Amazon. The W is made out of paint stirrers from Home Depot. Thanks you. I’ve made around 10 of these in different themes. Fun to make, but they take much longer than the cedar ones. Happy new year!

  • Brian Paul

    made mine with a Coke theme and a 150qt behemoth of a cooler. Thanks DIY PETE!

    • DIYPETE

      That is SO AWESOME Brian!!! I love it it!

  • Lito

    Hi Pete. Thanks for the plans! Very easy to follow and a very nice looking cooler stand. Still have to sand/stain mine but here’s what I have so far. Added a ambient light/motion sensing led bar purchased from Amazon for $11 and works really well for the late night functions. As soon as it gets dark and someone opens the lid, the light comes on.

    • DIYPETE

      Hi Lito! I love it. The shelves look great, and that LED modification sounds awesome!! Cheers

      • Ralph M. Datelle

        Hi Lito , I love the light idea. Can you tell me the name and modle number if possible. I can’t seem to find the one that you have. Thanks, Ralph.

  • easterlake

    My latest cooler stand was made from a pile of cedar that i found on craigslist, that was headed to the landfill.
    The former trellis is now on my deck.

    • DIYPETE

      Way to salvage that old cedar! The finished cooler is absolutely beautiful!

  • joe

    thanks pete also have some green streaks in cedar boards, tried sanding them wondering if you can recommend anything or should I go darker on stain or paint?

  • Jordan Berryman

    Hi Pete, I was wondering what your alternative option as a joining technique instead of the Kreg Jig. Also, do you know of any finishes that would give off the same colour as cedar with the gloss on it?
    Thanks

  • joe

    how thick are the 1 1/4 nails my lid keeps popping up

    • DIYPETE

      They are 16 gauge. Add some glue if you didn’t in the beginning. (feel free to use longer nails as well. Thanks

  • Tim Sliwinski

    First attempt. Can you dig it?

    • heck yeah that looks awesome!! I love the side shelves too!

    • Wayne Upham

      Hi Tim, your cooler is my favorite! Can you provide a picture of how you added the extensions?
      Thanks – Wayne

      • Tim Sliwinski

        Attached shows it when it was in progress. Added additional boards off sides (didn’t extend the front and back boards). Added a brace in the middle. Used kreg holes for everything, but regretted that as some were hard to get my drill to fit were it needed to go to screw it in. Ended up doing it by hand.

        Sorry for late response.
        -Tim

        https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/99691d635a63b98ebf1291dc595993307b2657d3a8edfc03070905e5c9fb56df.jpg

        • DIYPETE

          Hey Tim! Thanks so much for sharing. Looking awesome!

        • Wayne Upham

          Thanks Tim. I get it know. Looks great. I am just finishing up my first attempt. Decided on nominal 1×4 poplar which I am painting. Next one will be natural clear coat. What kind of wood did you use?

    • Joe

      What kind of cooler did you use?

  • svpike

    I love your site! thank you so much for the plans and ideas. I also used your bar stool plans and just made some changes to fit what I was looking for. It saved me so much money and it was fun!

    • DIYPETE

      Love it!!! Nice job 🙂

  • Victor Ortiz

    Thanks for the plans this is the first one I make I went with redwood as is very durable and looks very nice; just need to add the bottle opener and its ready. I cut out a wood logo of my favorite team and it turned out pretty good!

    • DIYPETE

      I love the wood logo, and the ice chest turned out beautiful. Thanks for sharing Victor!

  • Mark McConnell

    I made one of these this weekend, very cool, great plans to work from…very easy. Thanks Pete! I know I will be making more of them. I’ll be putting on a finish in the coming weeks once it drys out.

    • DIYPETE

      Great job Mark!

  • Kevin U’Sellis

    By far the best and easiest outdoor cooler plans. I’ve made 5 so far and I prefer to paint them rather than stain them.

    • DIYPETE

      Hey Kevin! Thanks so much for the kind words. Your ice chests have turned out awesome, and the paint makes them look sharp! Thanks for sharing and cheers from Montana!

  • easterlake

    I’ve made a dozen of these. One thing I did was embed a 1 inch rare earth magnet about 8 inches under the bottle opener. It catches the caps as they fall.
    I simply drill a hole with a forstner bit through the back of one of the legs before assembly. Magnets are only a couple dollars and people really like it.
    Thanks again for the plans.

    • DIYPETE

      I love it! You did a fantastic job, and great idea with the magnet! Cheers

  • Daniel A

    Thanks for the plan, this was my second project. I like how it turned out. It will fit great on the deck.

  • David Anderson
    • DIYPETE

      Looks amazing David, thanks for sharing!

  • Jim Murray

    The shims around the top of the cooler – do you attach those or do they just sit in place to keep the cooler from moving around?

    • DIYPETE

      For my cooler it worked to simply wedge them in.

  • Daniel Boyd

    Mr. DIYPETE!, I recently found your website and it inspired me to try woodworking. I built the cooler and I enjoyed it so much I am addicted! My problem is I’m Southern California I can not find any cedar 2×4’s only the cedar fence post. I am on a tight budget and all we have is redwood (expensive!). Douglas fir and SPF wood. Can you help with advise on what to use.

    • diypete

      Hi Daniel, great to hear from ya! Douglas fir, spruce, pine, or other firs will certainly work — and bring the cost down considerably. You will want to seal or stain/seal for sure. If you stay on top of maintenance over the years you’ll be just fine. And instead of pickets — you could use 1×6 / 1×4 boards. Although pickets will be cheaper if you can find some. Let me know if that helps.

  • daniel app

    Thanks for the plans. Made one for my father in-law’s 60th birthday. He absolutely loved it. I was fun making as well. On to the next project.

  • Woodman

    I’ve made a few similar. My first one I made for our local fire department, the next for my daughter, one for my wife’s beautician’s new shop and another for another daughter with a Route 66 theme. I route all the details into the front and top and finish it with clear exterior grade poly but leave the wood rough cut.

    • DIYPETE

      Hey Woodman! wow, you do a great job! I love the detail you put into them 🙂 Keep up the good work!

    • at least now everyone in Pahrump knows who youare

  • Marlene G

    I decided I wanted to make something for my husband for Christmas. Came across your plans and the kids and I finished it for him in 24 hours. He absolutely loves it and never thought that is what we were making in the garage. Now I have to make 2 more for my sisters.

    • Hi Marlene! Wow, you and the kids knocked out the project quick. Great job!! So glad the project went well 🙂 Good luck making a couple more for the sisters!

  • Allan Hurd

    Here are some pics.

    • DIYPETE

      Looks awesome, you did an amazing job! Cheers

  • Allan Hurd

    Great project Pete! I did 3 of them for Christmas gifts. Modified a little bit so I could use some cedar I had on hand. Used Alaskan Yellow Cedar, Western Red Cedar, Port Orford Cedar. A little bit of Poplar and redwood for the signs on the front of each. Thanks of the videos & plans!

    • DIYPETE

      That’s awesome, Allan! I bet those turned out great, thanks for sharing. Cheers!

  • easterlake

    Finished mine today, minus plumbing and stain. Cedar seemed a bit moist so I’m going to let it dry out for a few weeks before staining. Plans and video were very helpful. Thanks
    Newer models of the igloo contour cooler does not have a drain plug. Purchased a 48 quart with drain instead.
    Will post pic when finished

    • DIYPETE

      Congrats on your awesome new build and project! That’s a great idea to let the wood dry before moving forward with this, great thinking! Looking forward to the finished photos! Cheers

  • Sweet Creations NOLA

    Thank you for this tutorial. I have been eyeing these at a local retailer and knew it was something I wanted to create. Your easy to follow instructions made it a breeze to construct and assemble. This was made for my daughters sweet sixteen along with a set of cornhole boards. Here are the finished products.

    • DIYPETE

      Wow, you’ve done a truly amazing job with these. Thanks for reaching out and sharing the final results with us, always love seeing this. Keep up the great work. Cheers!

  • David Evans

    Great idea! I changed a bit to have the extended top. I’ll be making more of these.

  • Beth

    How do the caster plates fit on the 2 x 4 legs? The caster plates I can find are almost 2″ wide? Thanks.

  • Mike Smith

    48 hours

    • Nice job Mike, and I really like the dark stain!

  • Mike Smith

    Thanks. The video is very easy to follow. Cost was less than $100. Decides to use leftover stain…

    • DIYPETE

      Great job!

  • Tanner McManus

    Thank you so much for your plans and details! Finished this in under 24 hours! We put an engraved logo on the top as a remembrance for family. We will be doing several more of your projects! Next up: Cornhole boards!

    • DIYPETE

      Tanner, this looks amazing! Great job and in under 24 hours, nice! Really like how yours turned out. Keep it up. Share the corn hole boards final photos with me too. Cheers!

    • Belia Krouse

      if you don’t know how to make it yourself , just go to woodprix website. There you’ll find your answers.

    • Brian Wolfe

      Ive been looking for an engraver. Do you mind sharing what you are using?

      • Tanner McManus

        I found someone through a brief Google search that lived near me. Are you located in Colorado?

  • Andrew

    Thank you Pete for the great Idea. I made one according to your plans but a bit bigger. Unfortunately 2×4 cedar is a special order item here in Palm Springs Ca. I used dry 2×4 pine with cedar fence boards for my first attempt and so far I like what I see. I have a few orders from friends that would love one of these. Thank you again!

    • Hey Andrew! Nice work! I think the cedar and pine will tie together just fine:) I like your design. Keep up the great work and good luck with the rest of the orders for friends! – Pete

  • Bradley

    how long are the legs?

  • Anna_Cornelia

    Thank you so much for the awesome plans! I never built anything before, but your instructions were so good, I was able to pull this off as a Father’s Day gift to my husband.

    • Hi Anna! Congrats on the build, that looks awesome!! I’m sure your husband loves it, nice work and I can’t wait to see what you build next! – Pete

  • Maira Arechiga

    I want to mAke one for this patio cooler but i want to put some speakers but dont know how

  • dheerajmehta_3

    Thanks for the great artical – Jobs EYE