Build a Simple Outdoor Bench

Submitted by Ana White on Fri, 04/23/2010 - 20:27
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A touch of contemporary to your outdoor space. This easy to build bench features a slatted top. Use indoors and out, as dining seating or just a bench to rest on outdoors.

Somebody's gonna say it.  Somebody's gonna whisper, she's forgotten where she's from.  She thinks she lives in Hollywood now.  And they are so right.  Despite plans for ice fishing this weekend, I'm designing plans for eating grilled fish on in the California sun.  I am so loving outdoor furniture right now, I could very possibly have forgotten I live in Alaska.

You've got the table, and now it's time for the matching bench.  Like the table, I found much inspiration from West Elm's Wood Slat Long Bench, loving the modern simplicity of this style.  I especially love simple clean lines outdoors because you are contrasting against the natural organic shapes of the outdoors.

If you are intimidated by the size of the table, starting with the bench is a good idea.  Not only will you have an opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them, the investment (time and moneywise) is considerably less.  Also, the bench could serve a variety of other purposes besides as a dining area seating surface.  Think holding planters, elevating plants for sunshine, or just a simple reading spot.


Shopping List

Shopping List

4 – 1×3 Boards
4 – 1×4 Boards
2″ Screws
1 1/4″ Screws
Wood Glue
Wood Filler or Paintable Silicone Sealant


Measuring Tape

Common Materials
120 grit sandpaper
wood conditioner
paint brush
Cut List

Cut List

2 – 1×3 @ 49 1/4″ (Seat Supports)
2 – 1×3 @ 13″ (End Aprons)
2 – 1×3 @ 50 3/4″ (Side Aprons)
14 – 1×4 @ 11″ (Seat Slats)
2 – 1×4 @ 52 1/4″ (Seat Sides)
4 – 1×4 @ 17 1/4″ (Legs)

Tape Measure
Speed Square
Safety Glasses
Hearing Protection
General Instructions

General Instructions. It is a good idea to sand and finish your boards (paint or stain) before constructing to seal all edges. Work on a clean levels surface. Mark out your joints before fastening joints. Predrill and countersink your screws before attaching. Use glue unless otherwise specified. Check for square after each step. And please work safe and smart, using proper safety equipment.


Step 1

Build the Frame. Begin by fastening the blue supports to the yellow ends using 2″ screws and glue. Then fasten the green aprons to the yellow aprons as shown above, using 2″ screws and glue. Square up your frame by taking a diagonal measurement, and adjusting the square until both measurements are equal.

Step 2

Bench Slats. Mark the slat boards 1″ from the ends on both ends. Also mark two of the boards 3/4″ in on the outer edge. These are your outer boards. Line these boards up on the ends, overhang of 3/4″ as shown above and screw to side aprons and supports. Fasten the remaining slats to the top, as shown above, leaving a 1/4″ gap between the boards. Use the 1″ marks to line up with the outer edge of the support underneath. It may help you to use the board from step 3 as a guide when lining up your slats.

Step 3

Sides of Bench Top. Mark the bench top boards as shown above, 1 3/4″ in from the sides, 3/4″ from the ends. Use 2″ screws to fasten to the side and end aprons.

Step 4

Legs. Use the 1 1/4″ screws to fasten the legs to the aprons, as shown above. Then fasten from the seat sides top into the tops of the legs with 2″ screws and glue.

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mollymadd (not verified)

Sun, 05/09/2010 - 16:57

Hey Ana! I am about 70% done ... I just wanted to say 1 - you are a genius for creating this simple modern design knock off and 2 - I laugh that I am such a novice- seriously - I never used a saw or a drill until today... but I kept making mistakes on the drilling - especially on the ends. I would start to countersink where it looks like the drills should go and then realize my drill is not moving because there were already screws from my last fasten ... I probably made that mistake 5 times before I finally paid more attention. Both end slats have like 10 holes because I kept hitting screws and or I kept missing the wood that it was to attach to. I feel like a dummy...and my husband laughed when he saw the warped wood that I brought home the first time from lowes... anyhow, I should be finished tomorrow and I am super excited to post the pics. I just wanted to mention those comments for the super green novices like myself... thanks again for your big brain and the easy laid out plans!!

Lukesf (not verified)

Tue, 02/14/2012 - 10:32

Hello mollymadd,

It's great that you are trying! Trying and fouling it up is the only way to learn. Keep in mind that everyone is an "dummy" when doing something for the first time. Keep at it and you will get better. Meanwhile, if your husband keeps laughing at you, make him sleep on the couch. Meanwhile, always wear your safety glasses. Eyes are hard to fix, and even harder to replace!

Sandy H (not verified)

Sat, 05/22/2010 - 02:49

This is my first completed project. I just made one bench to sit on my pool deck, so it is out of pressure treated lumber. It came out great!! The plans were super easy to follow - all thanks to Ana! I had the same problem as mollymadd that I put screws and the wood wasn't there. I will have to do a better job of measuring. I also think a chalk line would help to keep the screws straight. I'm using solid stain on this, so it won't matter that much for me. Thanks again Ana!!

Ellen (not verified)

Tue, 05/25/2010 - 15:52

I cannot believe I've never seen your site until now. Amazingly well done.

One question about this particular plan: what length boards are the 1x3 and 1x4's? You specify 4 of them, but not their length. Have I missed that somewhere? Thanks!

fhmaughan (not verified)

Fri, 05/28/2010 - 03:05


I would be almost sure they are 8' long boards - that is pretty much the standard length for buying boards of this width.

Iceberg (not verified)

Sun, 05/30/2010 - 06:53

I have a question: How well does the junction between the seat slats and the side pieces hold up? Where the ends of the slats butt up against the sides, I can't see that they are actually attached to each other, just sort of floating next to each other. How does that hold up to warping, expansion/contraction, etc? Is this a potential splinter place? Should I get some small screws and pocket screw the slats to the side pieces? I expect it's pretty stiff since they meet midway between the two lower skirt pieces, but is that enough?

Drama Queens (not verified)

Wed, 06/30/2010 - 11:56

Just finished building this!! Great project! I love it out on my front porch--just need to sew a few pillows to go at the back of it! Thanks for a great pattern! The only trouble I had was attaching the seat slats in the right spot--the directions were a little confusing because it said to mark 1" on the main directions but on the bigger diagram it said 1 3/4"--but i could have been reading it completely wrong--I don't know!