If you’re looking to buy a pool table but don’t have a big enough room for it, or you already own a table but you’re tired of putting dents in the walls of your cramped game room, or you simply need to free up some space inside, you may be thinking that the back yard looks like a fine place for a pool table. Well, you wouldn’t be the first. One of the questions we often get asked is, “Can you put a pool table outside?”
You can put a pool table outside, but its not typically recommended. Exposure to the elements can dramatically shorten a pool tables lifespan and affect the way it plays. You should only put a pool table outside under the right conditions, unless you’re using a table made specifically for outdoor use.
Different Types of Pool Tables for Outdoor Use
When it comes to putting a pool table outside, your first consideration should be the type of table you have (or want to buy), as some will be able to endure the elements much better than others. So before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s briefly compare the different pool table types.
Outdoor Pool Tables
Naturally, the type of pool table that will hold up the best outdoors is the one that’s made for outdoor use. Outdoor pool tables usually feature a frame of rust-proof aluminum or stainless steel, waterproof and UV-resistant billiard cloth, and a playing surface of Pearl board (a heavy-duty plastic composite), manufactured wood, or slate rock.
One common complaint with outdoor pool tables is that the weatherproof cloth can make balls behave a little differently than they would on an indoor table. But this is not typically an issue on the more expensive, high-end tables.
MDF Pool Tables
MDF tables are the least suitable for outdoor use. For the uninitiated, MDF means that the playing surface is made of medium-density fiberboard – a material that is highly prone to swelling and warping when exposed to moisture. After only one or two years out in the elements, the playing surface can become virtually unplayable. I wouldn’t recommend putting one of these tables outside, even in a fairly dry and temperate climate.
Slate Bed Tables
The vast majority of pool tables are slate bed tables – that is, they have a playing surface made of slate rock. Slate is essentially impervious to humidity, which means it can potentially remain smooth and true through decades of outdoor use. However, the rails, legs, and frames of most slate bed tables are made of wood – which, of course, is not impervious to humidity. The felt and cushions on slate tables are also somewhat vulnerable, as we’ll discuss in more detail below.
If you have a very expensive, high-end slate table with aesthetic value that you’re not willing to let suffer a little wear and tear, you’d be better off keeping it in a climate-controlled environment.
What’s Your Climate Like?
The next thing you’ll want to consider before you put a pool table outside is the climate of your region. Not only will this greatly affect how well your table holds up over time, but it will also affect how well you hold up while you’re playing outdoors.
If you live somewhere with a moderate climate that has pleasant temperatures year-round, you’re more likely to play a lot of pool outside. In more extreme climates, you might only be able to play comfortably for 2 or 3 months and let the table collect dust the rest of the year, which is obviously not ideal – some players might even say it’s a small crime!
Of course, it’s up to you how often you play – and if you want to sweat it out in the summer or get bundled up in the winter to shoot some pool in the great outdoors. But other factors can affect your comfort and enjoyment when playing outside – humidity and sweat can make your bridge hand stick to your cue; a strong wind could reposition your object ball, insects may fly into your space and distract you, etc. Most of these minor issues have simple solutions, but it’s a good idea to consider them before committing.
Now let’s look at the major ways climate can affect a pool table’s lifespan, as well as the way it plays.
Frequent temperature fluctuations, intense heat, and extreme cold can cause the rubber cushions or bumpers on a pool table to become brittle and lose their characteristic bounce as the rubber expands and contracts over time. The “dead” cushions can completely change the dynamics of the table, so you’ll either have to adjust your game to compensate or have the cushions replaced every few years – the cost of which can add up.
Unfortunately, pool tables and humidity just don’t get along. For one thing, moisture tends to make wood swell, split, and warp. This is particularly a problem for MDF tables, but it can also affect the frames, legs, and rails of traditional slate bed tables. Even wood or composite playing surfaces treated with moisture-resistant chemicals will eventually succumb to humidity.
Billiard cloth or felt also tends to absorb moisture from the air, which causes it to wear out faster than normal. Moisture-laden felt also creates more resistance for the balls, so they won’t roll as quickly or as smoothly as they should.
Another danger posed by moisture is mold growth on the frame or felt – but this is usually only in very humid climates.
Finding the Right Spot for Your Pool Table
Once you’ve decided to put your pool table outside, you need to decide on a good spot for it. As difficult as it is to move a pool table, it’s best to get it done right the first time.
First, you want to make sure you have plenty of room to play comfortably. Spatial limitations are the number one reason people like to put their pool table outside – moving outside won’t do any good if you’ll be just as cramped. Luckily, once you know your table size and cue length, it’s very easy to find out how much space you need.
Shelter and Shade
Ideally, you’ll want to give your table as much protection from the elements as possible. If you can’t put it in the garage, then a screen-enclosed porch, a covered patio, or a deck with an awning should do the trick. The main thing is to keep it sheltered from rain, snow, leaves, falling branches, and anything else that might fall from the sky. Ever park your car under a tree and come back to find it covered in bird dung? You definitely don’t want that for your pool table.
You also want to keep it out of the sun as best you can. Sunlight will cause both the felt and the wood to wear out faster and fade over time, which isn’t a good look. The table can also get very hot from sitting in the sun all day, even under a pool table cover (more on those later).
You may be hard-pressed to find a solid and level surface to put your pool table on anywhere outdoors. A patio made of brick or a concrete slab would be ideal, but even these are usually constructed with a slight grade to prevent water from pooling around the house. A wooden deck may work, but you’ll need to check with a contractor to make sure it will support the weight of your table – some slate bed tables can weigh as much as 1,000 lbs.
If you have to put your table on dirt or grass, it’s a good idea to place large flagstones or bricks under each leg to keep it from sinking into the ground. Even with this measure in place, you’ll likely need to re-level the table regularly as natural shifting and settling occur.
No matter what surface you decide on, leveling your table may be a bit more challenging than it would be indoors. Many tables have built-in leg levelers, which can make the task a little easier, but with some tables, you may need to use shims or another method. You can learn all about the best leveling methods here and here.
One thing most people overlook when putting a pool table outside is the lighting. The last thing you need while you’re lining up a shot is to see a bunch of hard, angular shadows crisscrossing the table. You want to be sure you’ll have adequate lighting no matter what time of day or night you play.
Or, if you need to install a billiard lamp above the table, make sure your chosen spot has the support, vertical clearance, and electrical fixtures you need to make it happen. In a pinch, string lights and an extension cord are a good, budget-friendly option.
Taking Care of Your Pool Table
Once you’ve got your pool table set up outside, you just need to maintain and protect it. Here’s a list of a few key rules and practices for keeping your pool table in good shape outdoors:
- Don’t put anything on it but cue sticks and billiard balls. The moment you start using it as a workbench or storage space is the moment its condition and its lifespan start going downhill fast.
- Put a pool table cover over it whenever it’s not in use. A quality, durable pool table cover is crucial for protecting a table outside. Ideally, it should be waterproof, UV-resistant, and go all the way down to the ground. This GEMITTO Snooker/Pool Table Cover is a great example.
- Keep it clean and brushed. It’s good practice to brush your pool table after each use, or at least once a week. This is especially important outdoors, with all the pollen, dust, debris, and even bugs that can wind up on your table after just one session. Fortunately, a decent brush kit is incredibly inexpensive.
- Bring your cues inside when you’re done playing. As I’ve mentioned, humidity can wreak havoc on wood. If you want your cues to stay straight, be sure and store them indoors.
Putting a pool table outside can be a great way to enjoy the game and get some fresh air all at once – so long as your playing time and comfort are not limited by the seasons or the extremes of your climate. Of course, outdoor pool tables are the best bet in terms of longevity and durability. But in a moderate climate and with the proper care, a traditional slate bed table can retain its playability and its overall condition for years.