DIY: Outdoor Wooden Benches

Now that it’s sit outside weather (minus these pesky cicadas along the East Coast!), it’s the perfect time to build your outdoor oasis! Moving to a new home with a backyard opened our eyes to how expensive durable outdoor furniture can be, so Andy took it upon himself to build us some wooden benches for outdoor entertaining and relaxing. 

Interested in making some of your own? Here’s his steps for building our benches that you can replicate in your own backyard. 

  1. Start with your measurements. Determine how big your space is, how many benches you want and how you want them laid out. We went with one long and one short to maximize our space and materials. We had space for two benches to take up about 8 feet and 4 feet respectively in length. We also knew that we didn’t want to make custom cushions, so we based the width off of a standard cushion size we found online. The ones we liked came in 4 foot sections and the wood comes in 8 foot sections. Perfect!
  1. Position + cut wood to measurements. The seating area of the longer bench measured at eight feet using four pieces of wood for the seat and two for the back with no cutting. For the smaller bench, we cut the wood in half, using two pieces for the seat and one for the back. We used pressure treated 2×6’s for the seat and 2×10’s for the back. This gave us a seat depth of 18 inches to match the cushions and just under 20 inches for the back. For the back, test out some different angles on seats you have around your house, ours had about a 2” of tilt from the top of the back to the bottom.
  1. Build your armrests. For the sides, we used 4×6’s and long lag bolts to secure them together, turning the top on to the side to create an armrest. These are all 24 inches long, meaning that we could cut a 10 foot long one into 5 pieces to create each side with no waste. Put one 4×6 cut piece flat on the ground then another on its side above that. Use a drill bit to create two holes about half way through the 4×6 wide enough to drop the screw in. With a smaller drill bit than the bolt, drill a hole through the rest of the hole and slightly into the piece below it to make your screw go in easier. Then screw in your lag screw to join the two (we used these 6” exterior grade heavy duty screws). Now add the next piece sideways on top of it. Repeat the hole drilling process in slightly different spots front or back so that the next lag bolt doesn’t go into the hole meant for the other ones below. Repeat for the last piece and again for the other side piece. 
  1. Secure the armrests. Lay the built sides on the ground. Use two brackets for each piece of wood and, using exterior rated screws, secure them to the sides and make sure the ones for the seat are the same height down from the top of the arm rest. Now, using the same approach, secure four brackets for the back rest pieces making sure the other side mirrors. We also added a stack of 4×6’s 2 high  in the middle of the bench to reduce any sagging, we used 12 foot long 4×6’s instead of 10 foot so that there would be 2 2 foot sections leftover for this. If you choose to make a middle support, make sure it’s the same height from the underside of the 2×6 seats to the ground as is on the side supports.
  1. Assemble. Stand up your two sides (and set the middle support if you need one) and lay your first seat part across. A second hand will be useful for this part if you have a partner or a friend. With the top on laying on the brackets, go from underneath and use one inch screws to screw up through the bracket into the 2×6 seat. Any screw one and a half inches or longer will poke through the wood. You’ll want to leave a small gap between the seat pieces and back pieces to allow water to drain through.  Find a small piece of scrap or small tool to use as the spacer, I used a large screw driver for roughly ⅜” gap. Once all the pieces are secured, give it a go! If need be, you can always adjust and rescrew the brackets to make it more to your liking, depth, angle of the back, etc.
  1. Sand + Paint. An orbital sander will quickly clean up rough edges or round down the armrests. We used a deck paint on the benches so that it would stand up to elements and require minimal maintenance. Use a large paint brush, roller, or sprayer if you have it, for two or three coats.

Now throw on those cushions, crack open a beer, and enjoy your new favorite lounging spot!

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