DIY Wood Bench


"This simple garden bench is the perfect DIY project to ring in the spring sun!"

Todd Dermody

The sun has finally made its spring debut here in Seattle—which means it’s almost time for backyard gatherings with friends and family (socially distanced, of course). Having ample outdoor seating can be tricky—it’s nice to be able to offer everyone a place to sit, but plastic chairs can take up storage space and aren’t always aesthetically pleasing. Today’s DIY wood bench solves for seating with style and durability. Our design uses layers of two-by-four to give you a sturdy, long-lasting seating solution—and by placing the vertical legs flush with the edges of the seat, the bench takes on a more modern silhouette. The finished product is the perfect place to sit outside and enjoy the sun, or a great spot to display your plants. Let’s start building!

Step 1: Cut wood to size

For a bench 31” long, 13” deep, and 18 1/2” tall, cut:
  • (A) 6 spruce two-by-fours 31” long
  • (C) 8 spruce two-by-fours 15” long
  • (B) 4 spruce two-by-fours 15 3/16” long
  • (D) 10 whitewood one-by-fours 18 1/2” long
For this project, it’s important to cut your lengths as precisely as possible since the pieces stack. The four 15 3/16” pieces will become the outside vertical corners of the bench and are a hair longer to provide a longer length corner leg. Sand any rough edges or cuts. Note: These dimensions make a one-person bench. You can lengthen the bench by cutting the 31”  pieces mentioned above longer—say, 52” for two people, or up to 80” for three people. There’s an option for insetting the legs of the bench mentioned in step three below, which would be a good idea for an 80” bench as it lessens the span of the seat boards.

Step 2: Pre-stain wood if desired

We built this bench out of basic construction lumber to keep the cost down and left it bare; however, if you’re going to apply a finish to your bench, it’s best to do this before assembly since it will be hard to apply the stain in the gaps between boards once assembled. For a simple-to-apply, one-time finish, we recommend Lifetime Wood Treatment—it gives your wood an evenly weathered look that is permanent.

Step 3: Lay out the front tier of your bench

For this step, select two 15 3/16” and one 31” spruce two-by-four. On a flat surface, lay the two shorter pieces perpendicular to the longer piece at the ends of the 31” side. Your “U” shape will be 31” long and 18 1/2” tall. It’s important these pieces are flush where they join and at right angles. A speed square will help you set things square and flush. Note: If you want some overhang on your seat, inset the shorter pieces by a given amount. We kept the vertical legs to the bench flush with the ends of the seat for a modern look.

Step 4: Add the second tier

Now place two 18 1/2” whitewood one-by-fours directly on top of the shorter spruce two-by-fours. Align the boards so they are flush at the top with the 31” two-by-four and perpendicular to it just like the two-by-four below. Note: The one-by-four is slightly shorter than the layer below it, and the gap should be at the bottom with the board flush at the top. Screw in place with 1 1/2” screws using two screws into the 31” piece and three in the 15 3/16” piece on each side. We used finish head screws for this project because the small heads will show less on the last layer, and on the in-between layers we’re less likely to hit the screw head of a lower layer.

Step 5: Add the third tier

This tier is almost identical to the first tier. The only difference is it uses two 15” spruce two-by-fours (the remaining two slightly longer pieces are reserved for the last tier). Place one 31” and two 15” spruce two-by-fours on top of the second tier. Square them up paying attention to a flush top and sides and screw into place with five 3” long screws avoiding the screw heads in the tier below. Tip: Develop a pattern from tier-to-tier that alternates the position of the screws so that you avoid hitting the screw heads in the tier below.

Step 6: Repeat

Now that you’ve done tiers using both the one-by-fours and the two-by-fours, keep adding layers. Just repeat steps four and five checking your alignment of each layer before you screw the boards into place. We used 3” screws from here on out because they add much more strength to the bench. Remember to leave your two 15 3/16” spruce two-by-fours for the last layer. These four slightly longer pieces make the four “legs” of the bench.

Step 7: Sand your bench

Even with attention to detail, some boards may stand proud of their neighboring boards. If you want to minimize that variance, sand the high spots down. A power sander will be easiest and you can run it all over the bench for good measure. Now you have a basic bench with a modern look. Attach felt feet to the bottom and use indoors, or keep it outdoors for a spare seat at an outdoor gathering, or plant stand when not used as a bench! For more outdoor DIY inspiration, check out our outdoor cedar planter box how-to and our simple stainless steel garden trellis.