How to Build an Outdoor Bench

The profile of a rustic wood bench next to a tree.
What You'll Need
Deck screws
Wood glue
Hand saw/miter saw

Installing additional outdoor seating is a great way to spruce up your patio or deck. Luckily, building your own outdoor bench is an easy project that won’t break your budget—and it’s something you can enjoy for years to come. Here are six easy steps to build an outdoor bench for just about any yard.

Step 1 - Planning

The dimensions of the outdoor bench can vary, but a good starting point is 4 feet long, 18 inches high, and 15 inches wide. You’ll know exactly how much lumber you need to get once you set the dimensions. The bench features a square frame, top boards that run the length of the the piece, and 4 corner 2 x 3 posts. You can build this project with new lumber or recycled wood. If you cannot find 2 x 3 posts in the recycle bin, gluing two pieces of wood together will also do the trick.

Step 2 - Construct the Frame

The square frame is the first thing you need to build. Start by cutting the lumber based on your plans. You will need two pieces for the long sides of the square frame and three pieces for the short sides. Use wood glue and screws to connect the pieces. Corner clamps are great for keeping the pieces square while you screw them together. Save the short center piece for last. If it's too snug to fit, try gently tapping it into place with a hammer. If you do not want the screws visible, consider using pocket holes for the joints.

Step 3 - Sand

Sanding wood.

This is a good point to stop and sand the frame and the rest of the boards to prep for the paint or stain. Start with a lower grit paper and work your way up to a finer grit, depending on the condition of the wood. You can wait to sand until the bench is completely constructed, but doing it now is easier and will save you time in the long run. You can also paint or stain the wood at this point, though you will need to wait for it to fully dry before assembling.

Step 4 - Build the Top

With the frame in place, attach the top boards with screws on both ends and in the middle brace. You should leave around half an inch overhand on all sides of the frame except for the back end. The back board should line up with the frame so it can rest flush against a wall. Use a scrap piece of lumber as a spacer to make everything equal. Countersink each hole before you drive in the screws for a completely flat surface. For an alternative look, you can cut shorter boards and run them back-to-front, though this requires more cutting and drilling.

Step 5 - Attach the Posts

Screws in wood.

Once the top is finished, flip over the frame and start attaching the posts. The posts should be the exact same length and fit snuggly on the inside corners of the frame. Like the top, countersink each hole before you drive in the screws. This will help prevent splitting in the frame and post. Repeat the process for all four of the posts. You can add a layer of glue to help keep everything secure for the long run.

Step 6 - Paint/Stain

With the bench fully constructed, you can start the finishing process. If you did not sand before this step, now is the time to do so. Since the bench will primarily be outdoors, you will want to use a weatherproof paint or stain to guard against the elements (namely moisture). You can also paint or stain the pieces before you assemble and fill in hole with silicone and touch-up paint. Follow the instructions for dry times before setting outside.