DIY Cooler: How to Update a Cooler for Outdoor Entertaining

Mitch Couch
by Mitch Couch
6 Materials
1 Hour

Summer is just around the corner and that means it's time to get your cooler out and ready for all those backyard barbecues with family and friends.

But what if your old cooler has seen better days? Don't worry, with a little DIY effort, you can transform it into a beautiful and rustic outdoor cooler that will be the envy of all your guests.

This post was transcribed by a member of the Hometalk editorial team from the original HometalkTV episode.

This is a fun DIY woodworking project to tackle and it's perfect for keeping drinks cold during those hot summer days. In this step-by-step guide, we'll show you how to build your very own outdoor cooler box using cedar and a few other materials.

So, let's get started!

Remove the hinges from the back of the cooler

1. Remove the lid of a cooler box

Pull out that old box cooler that has been sitting in your storage for ages and remove the hinges from the back by unscrewing them. If the hinges cannot be unscrewed, you can cut them off.

Take the lid off and set it aside.


Cedar fence picket ready to be cut

2. Cut the wood boards

Now grab your fence pickets. I am using six-foot cedar. We are going to use the handle of the cooler to determine the height we need our legs to be. 

Using a piece of scrap wood as a guide, hold the first fence picket vertically against the cooler handle

So, place a piece of scrap wood on the handle of the cooler, and place your first fence picket up against the handle vertically. 

Mark the height the legs should be on the fence picket underneath the scrap wood

Use a pencil to mark the height where the legs should be on the fence picket underneath the scrap wood. This will ensure that the legs are even and at the correct height.

Eight pieces of cedar planks, cut to the proper length for the legs of the rustic outdoor cooler

Cut eight pieces of cedar fence pickets to create four legs (two pieces are used for each leg).

Assemble the legs

3. Build and assemble the legs of the cedar cooler stand

The secret to this whole project is glue. Lots of wood glue. That's what's going to hold it together while we staple it in place. 

Take two of your fence pickets, add a generous amount of wood glue down the length of one piece, and line the second one on top of that.

DIY woodworking projects

We're going to go ahead and staple, nail, or screw these in place. If you have a nailer, it works perfectly. 

Placing two pairs of legs on the cooler's short end, ensuring there's space for the handle

4. Assemble the legs

Once you have all four pairs, grab two and place them on the short end of the cooler. Don't forget to make room for the handle. 

Measuring a scrap piece of wood for the leg joints, ensuring it's marked correctly for cutting

Next, grab another scrap piece of wood and mark it out for the leg joints.

Cut the scrap pieces of wood

You can cut two at a time with any type of saw that you have. 

Rustic outdoor cooler

Apply lots of wood glue on the legs for maximum strength and ensure they're lined.

Remember, glue is the key to success here. 

Securing the pairs of legs with tiny nails or staples, ensuring they're held together until the glue dries

Secure them with tiny nails or staples, to hold them together until the glue dries. Once dry, the structure will be rock solid.

Ensure the cooler sits perfectly between the legs before adding the next join

Now, before adding another join between the legs, make sure it fits the cooler. 

Place a second board between the legs

If the board fits snugly between the legs, it's time to add another one to make your structure sturdier.

Place a board toward the bottom of the stand for extra strength

Also, add extra support for your stand by placing a board at the bottom to make it strong.

Put two boards on the long side

The next step is to work on the long side of the stand. Measure two boards on the outside, cut them to fit, and attach them.

Add boards to the underside of the stand

5. Build the bottom

It's time to build the bottom.

After turning the cooler over, I flipped the cedar stand over it.

Screw boards to the underside of the DIY cooler

I added two boards to the bottom and screwed them into place. There will be a little bit of weight in the cooler, so we need to make the stand super strong. 

Place the cooler box into the DIY cooler stand

Flip your cedar cooler stand back over and drop that cooler box right into it.

Take some time to admire your progress!

Adding trim to neaten the DIY cooler

6. Add trim

We're almost done!

Let's add some sides with a little bit of trim board to make it look really sharp. I used leftover scrap pieces. Cut your boards to size, and use glue and staples to put them together.

The wooden lid should be the same height as the cooler box lid

7. Build the lid

Let's move on to making the lid.

We want to make sure that the wood for the lid is the same height as the cooler box lid, so it fits nicely. 

Glue the top edge

Add glue along the top edge.

How to make a DIY cooler box

Fortunately, I had some old pallet wood that I could use alongside the cedar to give this DIY cooler box lid a nice mixed look. Place them down on the glue.

Secure the lid with nails along the edges

Then nail the boards along the edges to make sure the lid is extra sturdy.

Attach the lids together with some short wood screws

Now we need to attach the cooler lid to the new wooden lid. To do this, first, remove both lids. Then take the wooden one and place it upside down and put the cooler lid upside down inside it.

Use some regular wood screws that are not too long to attach them together. Once attached, put the lid back in place on the stand. 

Add hinges to the wooden lid

It's time to add the hinges. You'll only need two small door hinges or cabinet hinges, and they're a breeze to install. You won't even need a pilot hole - just drill them on and you're good to go.

Add a handle to the lid

8. Finishing touches

I don't want to go for a boring old handle. Let’s make a rustic handle out of some scrap wood. It's super easy, we just need some glue and nails.

Screw on a bottle opener

Don’t forget, our DIY cooler needs a bottle opener. Go ahead and put one of those on.

Make a lid catcher

I also added a little lid catcher using scrap wood.

Wooden outdoor cooler box

Now it's time to drop the cooler in, and this DIY backyard project is finished.

DIY backyard project - cedar cooler stand

Get some ice and your favorite beverages and enjoy summer in style.

More DIY Summer Projects

For more summer fun, check out this outdoor games hacks tutorial.

DIY cooler box

DIY cooler tutorial

This rustic wood cooler box stand is a great addition to your outdoor gatherings and it's perfect for keeping drinks cold during those hot summer days. Not only is it functional, but it also adds a touch of style to your backyard entertaining space.

So why not give it a try and make your own cooler box stand? Don't forget to share your creations and comments with us!

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