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How To Build An Outdoor Bench (L-Shaped)

by - Monday, August 04, 2008

Sean and I have been dreaming of renovating the back deck all summer. Maybe it was romantic visions of making french toast topped with strawberries in our new kitchen and enjoying it out on our deck that got us eager to jump on this one. 

But with the kitchen renovation dragging on, and the days of summer dwindling, I never really thought we'd get started on the deck anytime soon. But soon enough, we were working on our first piece of DIY furniture: a DIY outdoor L-shaped bench seat with storage.

how to make an outdoor bench seat, bench with storage, outdoor l-shaped bench

How To Build An L Shaped Bench

Are you looking for a simple weekend project that will transform your outdoor living space? Building an L-shaped outdoor bench is a great way to do just that! 

Not only is it relatively easy, but it can be completed with basic tools and a few supplies from your local home improvement store. DIY-ers looking to create a custom piece for their outdoor space need look no further. 

Adding an l shape bench is a great way to maximize seating as well as personalize your space. This guide will provide step-by-step instructions on how to build an l-shaped outdoor bench from scratch, so you can have the perfect spot for al fresco dining and lounging in no time.

Building your own bench seat is a great way to add functional and attractive seating to your outdoor living space. In addition to providing a comfortable place to sit, a L-shaped outdoor bench can also add style and character to your deck or patio.

While we built this bench for use outdoors on our covered patio, you can certainly use these instructions to build an l-shaped bench for indoor use too. L-shaped benches or banquette benches with storage are great to have in kitchens, a basement or games room, or any space where you need a combined area for sitting and storage.

1. Determine Your Bench Shape

To build a bench seat, you'll need some basic woodworking skills and tools, as well as the right materials. Depending on your skill level, you can choose to create a simple, straightforward design or get creative with more complex shapes and patterns. 

Before you begin building, consider the size and shape of your bench seat. 
  • Will it be a straight bench or an L-shaped design? 
  • What type of wood will you use? 
  • Do you want to add cushions or pillows for extra comfort?
  • Will you have accessible storage inside the bench?
For our back deck, we had a few requirements for our outdoor bench:
  • it would provide seating for 3-4 people
  • it would not take up too much room on our small deck
  • it could be used for dining, or for outoor naps and lounging
  • it had built-in storage and would be a place to store our bench cushion and outdoor pillows during the winter
An l-shaped bench tucked into one corner of our deck would be perfect for our needs. Once you have a plan in place, it's time to start building. Start by cutting the wood to the desired size and shape, and then assemble the frame using screws or nails. Add legs to the bench for stability, and then sand and finish the wood to your desired look.

2. Gather The Materials You'll Need

Building an outdoor bench requires just a few materials and supplies. We would be using:

3. Determine The Bench Dimensions

A few quick measurements and a rough drawing later, we had the dimensions to build an L-shaped bench  seat:
  • It would be 24 inches deep, 16 inches high (without the cushions), with one side 8 feet long, and the other 40 inches. 
  • We'd put a piano hinge or continuous hinge on the top so we could use the benches for storage
Wouldn't you know it, Home Depot was open late so we made the trip and came home with a truckload of wood. On a side note, did you know that Home Depot has a free Pick Up In Store service? You can order what you need online, no need to manoeuvre a cumbersome cart around, and pick up at your convenience.

Tips for Saving Costs on DIY Projects

We wanted to build this outdoor bench on a budget so we needed to maximize our materials. I'll admit - figuring out how many sheets of plywood or planks or 2x4s was totally HandyMan's domain. A few of his handy tips:
  • Make the longest bench at most 8' in length so you can use 2x4x8 studs for framing
  • Make the bench 16" high so you can face it in plywood (which conveniently is 4'x8' and can be cut into 16" strips). 
Generally, sizing any sort of DIY project to fit dimensional lumber will save you on cost and wastage. 

how to make an outdoor bench seat, bench with storage, outdoor l-shaped bench

how to make an outdoor bench seat, bench with storage, outdoor l-shaped bench

how to make an outdoor bench seat, bench with storage, outdoor l-shaped bench

how to make an outdoor bench seat, bench with storage, outdoor l-shaped bench

4. Cut And Assemble The L-Shaped Bench Frame

This DIY outdoor L-shaped bench would be easily constructed by building two rectangular box frames. Each frame would be constructed the same way, and then the boxes would be attached to create an L-shape.

Here's the steps on how to build an outdoor bench seat with storage for your deck:
  1. Construct the rough framing for the boxes out of 2x4's
  2. Affix 1/4" plywood to the face of the boxes
  3. Optional: Apply 4" wide wood strips (made from a 1"x4" x 8' long board cut to size) around the perimeter of the front and visible side faces. This will give your bench a more finished look. We did this to our bench to tie in the look of the benches with the shaker cabinets in the adjacent kitchen. 
  4. Make the seat tops out of two 1x12x8 pine boards, hinges, and construction glue. Be sure to include an overhang of about 1" in your calculations, so that you are able to grip and open the bench storage lid. Sean also thought of the smaller details, like leaving room beneath the overhang for decorative trim, and rounding all the edges with a sander. 
  5. A final step will be to paint everything. Since our patio is covered and the bench is not exposed much to rain or snow, we will be using leftover interior paint. If your bench is more exposed to the elements, consider using an exterior paint for more durability.
After constructing the bench, it turned out we needed to brace the top more than we thought (see the three support beams). While we can still use the bench for storage, it is a little awkward getting long cushions inside. Were we to do this project again, we might have done the top as shown in this video, with a drop-in structure instead of a hinged top.

Nonetheless, eight hours later, we have the sweet beginnings of our outdoor deck bench seating.

how to make an outdoor bench seat, bench with storage, outdoor l-shaped bench

how to make an outdoor bench seat, bench with storage, outdoor l-shaped bench

I'm thrilled with how this project turned out. It makes a great use of the limited deck space and provides a great view of our backyard garden.

Building your own DIY l-shaped bench is a rewarding project that can add beauty and function to your outdoor living space. If you are looking for a quick summer weekend project, this is one to try!

how to make an outdoor bench seat, bench with storage, outdoor l-shaped bench

Now we just have to figure what to do with the rest of the deck. These plastic chairs and planter on a scrap piece of carpet are not cutting it! 

We still have to do the major demolition (removing the existing slats and latticework) and rework (straightening and fattening the posts, changing the railing, installing beadboard ceiling, painting the floors, railings, ceiling, and benches), but it's a start. 

Not bad for our first piece of DIY furniture ever. Hopefully, we'll get it all done before the summer end :o)


Interested in more outdoor and DIY build projects? Check out:

A Back Porch Makeover

Build A Walkway With Pavers

Build & Customize Storage Shed

Plywood Imagination Station

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