Want to design and build DIY Backyard Bench Plans for your space? I can help.
Today, I’m sharing details about how I built my L-shaped DIY Backyard Bench for the IG Builders Challenge, Season 3. In the next post, I’ll share my tips for what you need to think about when designing outdoor seating to make or buy for your space. I hope this gives you confidence to design your own DIY Backyard Bench Plans or indoor DIY Wood Bench Plans. You can do it, too.
YEA! Quick announcement first. So honored, amazed, and flattered to have my L-shaped DIY Backyard Bench awarded 1st runner up status in the 3rd season of the IG Builders Challenge. Find out more about it on their Instagram post. About 130 people entered and the competition was amazingly talented. I loved so many of their DIY Wood Bench Plans. I am still amazed to have been awarded 2nd place, guys! Too cool. See the end of this post for some pics from some of the other entries. They’re all so inspiring and beautiful!
The semi-annual contest is hosted by Desert Woodworks, Toolbox Divas, and Custom Growth Charts and More. Each season starts with the surprise announcement of what furniture plan you need to base your build on. Season 3 was judged by the amazing Ana White, HGTV’s Chip Wade, Spax USA, Dap Products, and Osborne Wood Products. The winner was scored on the following criteria: beauty, function, craftsmanship, finish and creativity.
It was a fantastic coincidence when the fabulous hosts of the IG Builders Challenge announced that season 3’s build would be based on one of Ana White’s DIY wood bench plans. I had a new outdoor bench on my to-do list and was ready to start designing and building. Serendipity! The contestants had 3 weeks to complete their builds. I signed up about 5 days after it started. So, I needed to start designing right away.
The rules of the contest were pretty lose. The contestants needed to base their design on Ana White’s Large Porch Bench. Entries ranged from a simple build of her DIY wood bench plans to amazing creations with metalwork or beautiful curving lines. Some people turned their benches into swings or cool storage for outdoor toys. One of the contestants even built the cutest doll-sized version of this bench. Check out some of my favorites at the end of this post.
How I Designed my L-shaped DIY Backyard Bench Plans
I designed this custom bench to fit our space and needs. See my 10 Questions to Make or Buy the Best Outdoor Seating for your Space to see why I decided this size and design would work best for our space. Since this piece is large and really custom to our space, I’m going to focus this DIY on how I built it more than the measurements. This is a large bench (about 8 1/2′ by 5′) and won’t work for most spaces, but you can easily change the scale and make your own with these steps.
Disclaimer: Make sure to always read the directions for any products or tools you use while building. Directions can vary, safety is always the priority. Wear eye and ear protection as needed. And wear those dust masks when cutting or sanding. Especially with boards that have been treated with chemicals or the super fine dust of materials like MDF. Always check for square and double check those measurements too.
Estimated Cost to Build this DIY Backyard Bench = $130
Tools Used for my DIY Backyard Bench
- Circular Saw
- Table Saw
- Brad Nailer
- Kreg R3 Jig & Kreg Screws appropriate for boards
- Clamps of various sizes
- Speed Square
- Tape Measure
Building the DIY Backyard Bench Base
I used mostly 4×4 posts and corral boards for this build. I chose them based on strength, durability, look, and because I thought the scale would work best for the size of this piece. Corral boards are used for building fences and barn stalls. They are a true 1″ x 6″ board. They don’t carry them at our local Lowes or Home Depots. We buy them from a local lumber supply yard. They are a great price too. About $8 for a 16′ board. You would need to figure out how to get these super long boards home. I’m not sure that a local lumberyard would offer board cutting services. We actually use these to build the fences around our yard. So, they charge us a flat $35 fee to deliver a lot at once.
For the bench back 4×4 posts, I chose a 4×4 deck post from Lowes with a geometric design around the top. It adds a bit more style to the piece and works well with the geometric cutouts on the bench back. I needed those 2 tall posts (41 1/2″) on either side of the bench back, 2 arm height posts (22″) , and 3 seat level posts (16″) that would be under the seat boards. For a smaller bench, you probably only need 2 seat level posts. If this bench was only 6′ wide or less, I would only have used 2 seat level posts. Since the back of my bench spans 8 1/2′, I wanted extra support across the back of that bench. If you look at the pictures, you can see where I set that middle post in the back.
To customize these DIY wood bench plans to your space, sketch your base out on paper with all the measurements you’ll need. I started with the back of the bench. I needed to span those 2 windows so that the bench looked like it fit that spot. My bench is 8 1/2′ long, including the posts. The depth of the base between the posts is 22″. If I had made this depth much bigger, it would have been too deep for most people to sit comfortably while leaning against the back of the bench. So, be careful when designing your bench. Using other furniture that you love to base your measurements on is always a good idea. I wanted the long arm of the bench to span the other set of windows, but had to shorten it by a few inches to prevent our kitchen door from hitting the bench. So, that side is about 5′ long. Once the back, side, and depth lengths are set, it just takes a bit of math to determine the length of the 2 front boards. Make sure to include the posts in your calculation.
As you can see, I assembled this bench in it’s final location. The size and weight would have been too difficult and awkward to move from my garage. I used my Kreg Jig to put 2 pocket holes in each corral board where it would meet a 4×4 post. If you don’t have a Kreg Jig, you could also use metal corner brackets or other methods to join the wood. Before screwing the board and post together, I applied wood glue. If you look at the pictures, you can see that I set the board back about 1″ from the outside end of the 4×4. This just kicks up the style a bit. To easily make that setback, use a scrap piece of the 1″ thick corral board to rest the board on while screwing the pieces together.
Adding Extra Support to the Base of the DIY Backyard Bench
After the outside of the bench frame is complete, it’s time to add more supports for those seat boards. Adding cross supports will keep those long seat boards from bending with weight. I think I read that best practice is to place the cross supports every 18 to 24″. Lean towards 18″ with 3/4″ seat boards and 24″ for 1″ or 2″ thick boards. I used my Kreg Jig here too. Use 2 pocket holes at the end of each board again. I haven’t mentioned yet, but make sure to base your screw length off of the thickness of your actual materials. Use Kreg’s charts to select the right size.
I went with a stepped or herringbone look at the corner of my bench. Another corral board is cut to size to support the boards in that corner. I created a simple shelf for that board with small blocks on either end. I used 1 1/2″ deck screws to attach those blocks. It’s important to get the top of that corner corral board flush with the rest of the base of the bench so that it can properly support the seat.
At this point, I recommend sanding, painting, and applying poly to the base before attaching the seat slats. This just makes everything easier, especially if you use stain on the seat and paint on the frame. Taping off anything just takes more time. I sanded with 80 then 120 to get a smooth finish. Then dusted off my boards. I painted with Behr’s Polished Pearl and Benjamin Moore’s Hale Navy to accent near the detail on the back posts. Then sealed with Minwax’s Polycrylic. It’s water-based, which makes it easy to clean up. And it doesn’t yellow like some polyurethanes. Now your frame is done.
Adding the Seat Boards for my DIY Backyard Bench Plans
Now you can dry fit those seat boards. Pick boards that are fairly straight for the seat. You want to avoid uneven gaps as much as possible. I even milled a 1/8″ off a few boards with my table saw to get a straight edge. Start by figuring out how many rows you’ll need. Measure from the back of the back posts to the front of the front posts. That was 29″ for me. I figured out that I could use 5 full 6″ wide boards with just an extra 1″ overhang (1″ past the 4×4) on the front boards. This worked well for me. But I could have easily cut 1″ off the back board of both sides to prevent that extra 1″ overhang. The back of the bench is so close to the seat that it would have hidden the size difference in the boards. So, no one would notice it. I like everything to look visually balanced.
Let’s start cutting. Start with the back on the long side for your measurements. You’ll need to use your jigsaw to notch out around the posts. Leave each board in place as you finish to get the exact measurement for the next piece. You might want to use clamps to hold the back board on either side in place. This will make the dry fitting easier. After doing the back board on the longer side, do the back board on the shorter side. Alternate sides until you have all of boards on either side cut and fitted to their spot. Make sure to snuggly secure the last board in place before measuring for the next.
Once everything is cut perfectly, you can take your boards off to sand and stain. Sand the whole board with a coarse grit, like 40 or 60 to remove any blue coloring, marks, and stamps made during manufacturing. Then sand with 120 to smooth the board. Dust off the boards and prep with wood conditioner. Be sure to follow the directions on the container. I used Minwax’s Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner. After letting that set for 10 minutes, I applied this beautiful stain. Let that dry per the instructions before applying a second coat, if needed. Once that dries, apply Minwax’s Polycrylic. I went with 2 coats on the seats, since they will take the most abuse from my boys. 😉
I glued and nailed the seat boards in place with my beloved Ryobi Brad Nailer. That thing just makes life easier. Be sure to glue and nail at the outside of the frame and the cross supports.
Adding the Arms to the DIY Backyard Bench
Start by marking the spot 22″ from the ground on the back posts. This is where the bottom of your arm needs to be to make it even with the 22″ high front arm posts. I went with the 6″ corral boards for the arms too. The scale just seemed right with the rest of the bench and this makes plenty of room for setting drinks, books, toys, etc. I decided to have the board overhang on the outside of the bench, wrapping the front and side of the back posts. I also went for an extra 1/2″ overhang on the front. Both of these decisions were made to give it a style boost. Plus, the arm and seat design was in keeping with Ana White’s design.
I needed my short arm to be 29 1/2″, with a notched out spot for the back post. The long arm needed to be 61 1/4″ with a notched out spot. I used my jigsaw to make the notches and my Kreg jig to put 2 pocket holes on the back post end of the arms. I didn’t want any visual supports messing up the style on my DIY backyard bench plans. Before attaching, sand, paint, and poly your arms. Then attach the arms. I used glue and a nail gun for the front posts.
Designing the Back of the DIY Backyard Bench
I wanted a solid back for extra comfort, but wanted to incorporate the X’s from Ana’s original design. I could have made a nice back with my miter saw in a simple pattern like my Farmhouse-style coffee table remodel. Or gone a bit more complex, maybe something with an Aztec feel. But I didn’t love that idea for the bench. With cutouts, I could incorporate elements of Ana’s X design, while trying something new and giving me another spot to add a pop of color. Yea!
To create the design I laid out 7 – 8′ long boards varying in size (2- 1×2’s, 3 1×3’s, and 2 1×4’s). These were a mix of Select Pine and Whiteboard. The 2 stained boards are whiteboard. They tend to stain prettier than Select Pine. The key to the pattern is to only work from 1 side. That side will be kept and attached to it’s post. The other side will have to be cut back down to 8′ to fit the opening. If that sounds confusing, hopefully I can clear that up a bit.
For the top and bottom board, I measured 18″ from right and marked. Then I measure 18″ from left and marked. I made opposite 45-degree miter cuts on either end of the top board, then flipped that for the bottom board. Then I just put about an inch of space between those gaps.
For the 2nd board from the top and bottom, I simply made 1 miter cut about 36″ from left on the top and 36″ from right on the bottom. Then flipped one side of the board to make the large triangles.
For the 3rd board from the top and bottom, I made 2 45-degree miter cuts in opposite directions 26″ from each end of the board. Then I flipped the middle piece of each board to make the 2 small triangles.
For the center board, I marked 31″ in from either in. This is the middle of my X-shaped cutouts. I used my speed square to mark a straight line across this 1×3. Then I marked the very center of that line. I set up a right 45-degree miter cut to hit right on that center. Then I switched to the left 45-degree miter cut to hit that center again. This left me with 2 small triangle cutouts. I did the same thing for the other side of the board. Then I pulled those spots about an inch apart to create the open X design. Now for the fun part. 😉 Adding tons of pocket holes with the Kreg Jig.
Finishing the Back of the DIY Backyard Bench
You can see from the picture of the backside of the bench back, that I spaced my holes about 8 ” apart. I didn’t want to risk warping as the bench ages, so played it safe. I only put holes in every other board too. Those holes were enough to connect all 7 boards together. I cut the extra lengths off the left side of the bench back after it had been assembled. This was the easiest way to ensure a perfectly straight line on each end of the bench back.
Before screwing them together, paint or stain the pieces. You can touch up after they’re joined. Once everything has completely dried, you can assemble. I used lots of clamps to keep everything straight and level while screwing. I also added 2 cross braces along the back. With 8′ long boards, even screwed together they are going to have a bit of movement in the middle. The cross braces reduced most of that. After all boards are screwed together and braced, measure the left side, mark a straight line from top to bottom, then make your cut with a circular saw.
I screwed supports into the back posts, then attached the back of the bench to those supports with Elmer’s Wood Glue and 2 deck screws on each end. The screw holes were then filled with wood filler and painted. I had one more piece to add to finish this bench.
I added a full corral board shelf, painted in Hale Navy, along the top of the bench. This was designed to hold drinks and to hide the view of the back of the bench. But it served as another support to keep the bounce out of that long back. I created a rabbet in that shelf. I made it 1/2″ high and 3/4″ deep to accommodate the 3/4″ thick boards of the bench back. Now the shelf and the bench back actually prevent each other from dipping.
Now that the full bench is assembled, I painted the whole back of the bench in Hale Navy since it’s slightly visible from inside, due to my low windows. After the back was painted that shade of dark blue, you don’t even notice it anymore. It just fades into the shadows behind the bench. Next I had to poly the back and that shelf with 2 coats of the Minwax Polycrilic.
Now give yourself a pat on the back. That was a lot of hard work, but the DIY backyard bench is done! And yes, I am giving myself a pat on the back too!
Looking for more rustic DIY Wood Bench Plans? I designed a Gravel Play Area with a super simple rustic bench. My kids get to play on and beat this bench with toys, but it still looks great thanks to it’s rustic design and distressed paint job.
Now check out some of the amazing DIY wood bench plans from the competition I had in the IG Builders Challenge, season 3.
Travel Build Create made the cutest matching set. A full sized bench and a little one for dolls.
Feeling inspired? Get out there and design your own DIY Backyard Bench Plans or Indoor DIY Wood Bench Plans. Follow the links above to get the things you’ll need. Have fun and let me know if you have questions. Or post pictures of your work and tag Abbotts At Home on FB, I’d love to see it!