Outdoor table tennis tables are growing in popularity across the globe. It's something to do while barbecuing, while your family is sharing drinks or celebrating a birthday or to simply enjoy the sunshine on a summer day. It's also a fantastic and fun way to get some exercise if you're not a fan of treadmills or weights.
Table tennis is typically played indoors to facilitate balanced competition, as indoor play ensures the most stable environment, and there is no interference from adverse weather. Outdoor table tennis, however, is a social activity that is becoming more and more popular as table tennis boards are becoming better able to handle the elements.
We've put together a short guide to help you make the best choice in the outdoor table tennis table.
What are the most important features of an outdoor table tennis table?
The first and most important consideration when purchasing a board should be the material it is made of and how well the material scores when it comes to the following factors: the bounce and weatherproofing.
Bounce determines your gameplay. Put simply, "bounce" refers to how easily the average table tennis ball bounces off your playing surface. Certain materials - like steel or porous wood - can dampen the bounce of a ball, by absorbing too much of the energy given to the ball by your paddle.
The same thing happens in older boards, which develop dead spots due to warping or exposure. This greatly slows gameplay and takes the fun out of the game. After all, what is table tennis without a ball?
Ideally, you want a table with a bounce of around 23 cm, which is considered the international standard. Most outdoor tables fail to achieve this standard due to material choice since more emphasis is put on strength and durability than on the quality of play. When outdoor boards do happen to meet the international standard for the bounce, they tend to last shorter periods of time, since materials are of a finer quality.
Of course, the term "weatherproof" can leave a lot of room for interpretation, depending on the manufacturer. What you're looking for here is solid wood, finished with resin or a solid covering of weatherproof paint. Be sure that your "weatherproof" table isn't simply particleboard finished with weatherproof paint. These boards are useful in the short term, but ultimately don't last very much longer than their indoor cousins. Particleboard is simply too flimsy.
What material should my table tennis table be made of?
You should pay particular attention to the materials that your board is made of. Most indoor table tennis tables would not last more than a few minutes outdoors before being warped. Leaving an indoor table tennis table in the sun - even for a very short period of time- is a good way to ruin your board permanently. Your choice in the material will determine how your board needs to be maintained, how well it stands up to the elements and your quality of play.
Outdoor table tennis tables can be made from a variety of materials, including particleboard, plastic, and steel. The very best outdoor table tennis tables, however, will have a galvanized steel undercarriage. Let's look at different materials and see which one you should choose.
- Particleboard - Particleboard is a wood product that is created by compressing woodchips that have been bound together with resin. Particle board is commonly used in indoor table tennis tables because of their bounce. They fare poorly in outdoor use, however, since particle board does not stand up well to extremes of temperature, humidity, and temperature change.
- Plastic - Plastic boards are becoming less common in table tennis tables, especially in outdoor use. Plastic boards tend to have decent bounce but are second to genuine wooden surfaces in playability. Plastic boards do a little better than particle boards when used outdoors, however, they can quickly be warped by an extremely hot day or prolonged exposure to direct sunlight.
- Galvanised steel - Galvanized steel boards that are foldable and wheeled can be your best bet for a middle ground between longevity and mobility. The major drawback of these boards, besides their weight, is typically their lack of "bounce". Steel playing surfaces simply absorb too much of the energy of your ball.
- Concrete - If your focus is exclusively on longevity and you don't plan on moving your board a lot, you can consider having a permanent board constructed out of a material like concrete. These boards are pretty much impervious to all weather conditions and you only need to be concerned about redoing your surface around once a year and maybe the occasional net change.
Compreg Table Tennis tops create a fantastic middle-ground for people seeking a good play experience and longevity in an outdoor table. To give a quick explanation, Compreg is wood that has been infused with resin and compressed. This process increases the wood's density and reduces its ability to expand and contract, making it effectively weatherproof.
Compreg's ability to withstand the weather while preserving gameplay makes it arguably the best playing surface material for your outdoor table tennis table.
How much space will I need for my outdoor table tennis table?
Being outdoors doesn't mean that you can neglect measuring your space.
It might seem counterintuitive, but unless you have an incredibly broad surface to use your outdoor table tennis table, you should probably invest some time into measuring an appropriate space. Table tennis can be quite a dynamic game, requiring quick movements and a lot of skill.
You'll need to ensure that players have extra space to move around, especially the newer ones. A good rule of thumb to use when measuring your space is to have three feet of clearance on each side of the tennis table, and 5 feet of clearance at each end where players are located.
This rule of thumb applies best to a full-size table - 9 feet long and 5 ft wide - so if you purchase a smaller, more casual table, feel free to adjust it accordingly. If you think that 5 ft of clearance at each end is a lot - you're probably somewhat justified.
You should consider, however, the fact that intermediate and more experienced players tend to move backward and forward more often than new players, to facilitate defensive or offensive play.
That 5 feet can go a long way to keeping everyone safe and injury-free since you'll be providing a healthy amount of space to accommodate all types of play.
A Quick Recap
Here's a quick look back at what we've covered in this article:
Galvanized Steel is the best material for your undercarriage
If you don't have enough space for a permanent board, ensure your board is foldable and comes with wheels
Compreg playing surfaces are the best middle ground for longevity and quality of play
Make sure you measure your space - even when outdoors