How to Build a Built-in Bench (Part I)

Step right up and sit on down!

I’ve got some more exciting office progress to share today! After completing the open shelving and framing the windows we literally could not stop ourselves. We’re just so excited to finally see progress in this house again! This time, we constructed a built-in bench!!!

Want to know how we did it?

First step…copy your friends who just built one in their house.

Duh.

A few months ago, our friends Tanner and Brielle built pretty much the exact built-in bench for their dining area that we wanted to build in the corner of our office. They have a friend who is talented in the carpentry department help them, so we asked if we could head over and rip off their design. They kindly allowed us to do just that. Work smarter, not harder, friends. Here's what their sweet bench area looks like:

Isn't it gorgeous? I really like how the bench integrates into the mini mudroom-like storage area next to their door. We really wanted to build our bench in an L-shape like T & B did (not because that’s how they did it, an L-bench really was our original intention), but we felt that our corner would be too cramped. Instead, we opted for a straight bench on the back wall and plan to put two free standing chairs on the other side of a pedestal table (you know, after I refurbish the pedestal table base that I rescued from the side of the road).

This bench and table combo will be in the back of the office which is opposite the desk area.

I'm happy to report that we no longer have a pile of crap in this corner because it is thoughtfully stored in the new cabinets. We also have plans to cover that hole in the wall which I'm so excited about! The hole...is from the bathroom light switches that were formerly located outside the bathroom. I'm not a believer in switches located outside their respective room, too much temptation to prank someone if you ask me. So The Engineer flipped them so they are now located on the opposite side of the wall...which is actually in the bathroom :) In case you don’t remember the back corner of the office, here’s what it used to look like.

Basically, a clutter mess of stuff that had no home. Oh yea, and before that, there was this:

Yiiikes.

When we moved in, there was an plain white built in cabinet, which we pulled out, sold, and replaced with an armoire we had moved from the dry bar area. Then we gave that armiore away and replaced it with another one we had…along with a ton of other stuff that had no home. Finally, we built the cabinets for the office and had appropriate storage for all this stuff. We sold the final armoire, and were left with nothing. But nothing was a perfect starting point for our bench :) 

After investigating the bench at T & B's house, we sat at a coffee shop for an hour and drew up our plans before heading to the store. Front view:

Front Bench Rendering.png

Side view:

Bench Rendering Side View

We planned to build a frame faced with plywood and trim and to use beadboard for the seat backing. Further, we would install beadboard on the wall (which covers that hole in the wall). The beadboard will extend to the top of the door located to the left end of the bench and will have a small display shelf at the top. Eventually, when we build our entertainment center in the family room, we will upgrade to a larger tv out there and put the tv we have now above the bench and below the shelf in the office. 

Here’s our material list:

  • 2” x 4” x 8’ (4) - framing
  • 2” x 2” x 6’ (2) - framing
  • 4’ x 8’ x ½” (1) - sheet birch plywood
  • 4’ x 8’ (1) - sheet beadboard
  • 5 ½” x 32’ - baseboard (only 7’ were for the bench)
  • 32’ - quarter round (again, only 7’ were for the bench)
  • 1 ½” x 7’ - crown molding
  • Nail gun (and nails)
  • Self-tapping screws
  • Drill
  • Table saw (and our trusty guide board)
  • Miter saw
  • Saw horses
  • Hearing and eye protection, gloves

To start (that is after we ripped off our friend’s design), we removed the 2" baseboards. The office is an addition to the original house, which has 6” baseboards throughout. While we couldn’t find an exact match to the original baseboards, we figured that a tall baseboard would flow better and this was the perfect opportunity to begin the replacement process since the baseboard was going to wrap around the base of the bench.

To anchor the bench, we built a 2 x 2” guide frame. The wall behind the bench (total distance between the wall and the door frame) was 51 ½”. 

From that length, we did some back calculating to determine the actual width of the frame. We needed to account for the thickness of molding that would wrap around the side of the bench, ½” plywood siding, and 2 x 4” framing. We subtracted these items out and cut an identical front and back piece for the frame at 49”. The back piece was secured to studs in the wall.

Since it wasn’t going to be visible, we semi-annihilated the wall when removing the baseboard. Oops. We cut three 17" cross pieces and secured them to the back frame piece (and studs on the right wall). The front piece of the frame was secured to these cross members.

It was important for this base frame to be solid because the rest of the bench was going to be mounted to it. After securing the frame into the wall studs along the back and right side, the only spot that had a little play was the very front corner. So we screwed it directly into the floor.

It’s called a built-in for a reason right? Hopefully we don’t sell the house to new owners someday who want to rip this out because I suspect they won’t be too happy with a hole in the floor!

Above the frame, we mounted a horizontal 2 x 4” to studs at half and another horizontal 2 x 2" at full height of the planned bench back. 

We used three vertical 2 x 4”s as the framing for the back of the bench. To facilitate a sloped back, we cut the top half of these 2 x 4”s at an angle, and secured them to the floor frame and the two horizontal wall supports. We rigged up a pretty sweet template guide to cut these with our circular saw. Sadly without a third arm, I failed to document that. Safety first...better to have all 10 fingers than 10 new pictures...right??

In front of the vertical supports, “ribbing” if you will, we mounted another 2 x 4” which would become the support for the seat. While we checked the level and plumb of each piece along the way, we made sure this one was super level…no one wants to slide off a sloped bench!

On the outside of the floor frame we mounted four 17” long 2 x 4” legs that the front and side seat frame would connect to.

We mounted a 2 x 4" to the outside these legs as the front and left seat supports. The right side support was mounted to studs in the wall and the front of the frame was secured to that side support.

The Engineer took some time to contemplate our progress and concluded that the bench was, in fact, suitable for seating. 

From what we observed, our friend’s bench doesn’t appear to have additional support for the beadboard we both used for the seat back. Perhaps their ribbing pieces are closer together than ours. Regardless, we cut beadboard for the backing of the bench and gave it a little pressure test. It buckled a little too much for our liking, so we installed additional 2 x 4”s between the ribs in the middle and at the bottom of the back to prevent the backing from flexing when you lean against it.

Once we were satisfied with the support for the beadboard, we cut two pieces of beadboard to fit the length of the back. The 48” wide sheet was about three inches two short to make it in one span, of course. We strategically located the seam in the middle of the bench along the center rib so we could easily easily nail both pieces to it. We also intentionally cut our pieces so the original outside edges of the beadboard met in the middle. Sheets of beadboard are designed to align if you were butting two full sheets together so we took advantage of that for a seamless look. 

The bench was then faced with ½” birch plywood. This was a simple measure and cut to fit step for the top and left side...

And the front…

On the side we cut an {almost} triangle to face the gap behind the backing.

We definitely has something resembling a bench!

We did feel that the beadboard backing needed one final support, and cut a wedge to fit along the top of the backing.

This got us to the point where we had the bare frame and facing of the bench constructed. In Part II I'll show you all of the detail work and the finished product!

And a big thanks to Tanner and Brielle for the design assistance!