Build a Simple Outdoor Bench

Submitted by Ana White on Fri, 04/23/2010 - 20:27
| Print this plan

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.

Help Improve This Plan

We apologize if there was an error in this plan. Please help us out and report any errors here.


Steve S (not verified)

Sat, 07/09/2011 - 13:12

I just got about 3/4 of the way through finishing this project, sat on it, and the legs immediately tore off ripping some of the wood to shreds after I shifted my weight on it a little (and I'm not that heavy).
I see in some of the photos people have "doubled up" on the legs, squaring them off on both sides of each corner instead of just one - looks like that's probably the way to go if you don't want this collapsing on you.
I'm hoping mine didn't get tore up so badly that it can't be salvaged, but we'll see.


Sat, 07/09/2011 - 14:11

There are tricks to attaching legs with screws. You need to use regular wood screws to do it, #8 at minimum, #10 or #12 would be ideal. Drywall or deck screws will fail exactly as you described.

You also need to pre-drill and countersink the holes. It is easy with the counter-sinks to be deluded into thinking that the drill bit provided is sufficient for your pre-drilling. That is definitely untrue. The hole you drill for the shaft should be as big around as the shaft of the screw, minus the depth of the threads.

The joint also needs to be extremely tight. There can't be any wiggle room or visible gaps, or it will fail.

These are all lessons learned from hard experience.

Guest (not verified)

Sun, 07/24/2011 - 19:25

one thing I found when I first sat on it was that the slats bowed down while the sides of the bench top did not. I fixed this by screwing the inside and outside boards of the frame (the blue and green boards in the first construction picture above) together.

I did this by cutting eight spacers from 1x3 boards 2 inches wide. I spaced these out evenly, four on each side of the frame, between the two boards and placed four scres (two outside and two inside) of each spacer.

This helped make it so it didn't bow.


Wed, 08/10/2011 - 22:49

I'm planning on making this to go with my simple table, but I am going to adjust it so I can do the legs the same as the table. I think the 2x4 legs will be sturdier for my family... And I'm already familiar with the other plan! Thanks Ana for giving me the courage to experiment!

Sharon L (not verified)

Thu, 09/08/2011 - 17:05

Nope! You screw down into the aprons, and then fill the holes with putty

Steve S (not verified)

Thu, 09/08/2011 - 18:02

I tried this with the matching table I built last fall - recessed screwed and then filled in the holes with wood putty. Didn't do the job - the wood and/or putty expanded or otherwise didn't live through the winter season and by spring it was all either falling out or sticking up over the surface of the table. Swore if I built it again I would use the pocket hole method.


Fri, 09/09/2011 - 05:22

If you predrill and countersink your screws, you can glue a dowel into the hole and then cut it off with a flush-cut saw.

Steve S (not verified)

Fri, 09/09/2011 - 05:48

Yes, after the trouble I had with the putty someone else recommended this and I re-drilled everything so I could glue a bit of 1/4" dowel in there instead. Still doesn't look *perfect*, but it's much better than it looked before. With the dowels I also had trouble with the wood expanding with the weather for a while so I found myself going back to it a couple of times to smooth things out again, and also a 1/4" spade bit (at least in my hands) doesn't cut a perfectly symmetrical 1/4" hole so many of the dowels have tiny gaps between the dowel and the outside wood, but it's not very noticeable. It's probably the best solution to fix the problem I created by countersinking from above instead of using pocket holes from underneath, but if I were starting this project new, I would *definitely* go with pocket holes (BTW Kreg isn't the only brand that makes pocket hole jigs, but does appear to be the only brand that consistently gets good reviews from owners).


Fri, 09/09/2011 - 06:36

A spade bit is a pretty crude instrument, and I try to avoid using them. I have found that because they're made of tool steel, they do make excellent blades for marking knives. A little work with a grinder and my whet stones and I've got a first-rate blade.

I'd recommend picking up brad-point drills, which hold position much better. You can spend a fair bit of money for good ones, or you can buy a cheap Chinese set for not much as all. I bought a cheap Chinese set because it came with a nice metal case, and in time the bits will be replaced with good North American tooling.

You might also consider buying regular countersink drill bits. I found them to be useful.