Looking to build your very own modern adirondack chair? Look no further. In this step-by-step tutorial, we’ll show you how to build your own adirondack chair with a modern design.
Building a DIY adirondack chair is not only a satisfying project but also a fantastic way to enhance your outdoor space. Whether you’re lounging on a sunny deck, enjoying a peaceful evening on the porch, or creating a cozy nook in your backyard, this versatile chair is a perfect addition. Plus, by embracing the power of DIY, you’ll be able to save a ton of money on this modern design.
How to Build a DIY Adirondack Chair
New to DIY? Download our free 5 Steps to Getting Start with DIY guide!
What is the best angle for DIY Adirondack Chairs?
Most DIY adirondack chair plans use a 90-degree angle between the seat and the back because it’s “easiest” to build that way. However, the ideal angle for an adirondack chair is between 100-105-degrees.
In these DIY adirondack chair plans, there is a 100-degree angle between the seat and back for added comfort. And don’t stress about the plans being “more difficult” for it. We spent a lot of time planning to make the added angle no extra work for you!
This adirondack chair has some lean, but it’s still comfortable for hanging out around a fire and toasting s’mores. You know how some adirondack chairs have so much lean that’s it feels like you’re a million miles away from everyone else and it’s a chore to sit up and toast a marshmallow?? Not this one! I’d call it a comfy conversational adirondack.
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- Miter Saw (we use this blade with ours)
- Kreg Jig (not sure which to get? Check out which Kreg Jig to get in 2023)
- Optional: Kreg quick flip drill bit or countersink bit
- Circular Saw (we highly recommend a cutting guide too)
- Measuring Tape (new to DIY? Be sure to check out this post with measuring tips)
- Speed Square
- Safety Equipment
- (1) 1x8x8
- (1) 1x6x8
- (3) 1x4x8
- (1) 1x2x8
- Wood glue (this is our favorite type that also works on outdoor projects)
- Sandpaper (100 and 150 grit)
- 1.25″ softwood outdoor Kreg screws
- #8 1.25” exterior wood screws
- #8 2” exterior wood screws
- Optional: ⅜” wood plugs (any wood type will work. We actually prefer to use a wood type other than what we used on the rest of the project to make the plugs pop more)
What is the best wood to use to make adirondack chairs?
We recommend using cedar for your adirondack chairs (that’s what we used). Why? Because it’s naturally rot-resistant, making it a great candidate for outdoor furniture. Teak and redwood are also great options.
I personally don’t recommend using treated pine on adirondack chairs due to all the chemicals it has. It actually gave me a pretty gnarly reaction one time, so I don’t recommend it for things your skin will come into contact with. Yes, sealer or paint should help, but why risk it?
Is it cheaper to build or buy adirondack chairs?
We built our adirondack chairs in May 2023 using cedar for $166. That includes the screws needed for the project. Can you find a plastic adirondack chair for cheaper? Definitely. But if you value real wood and a modern design, it’s much cheaper to build your own adirondack chairs. In fact, the chairs that we based our design off of sell for nearly $800!
DIY Adirondack Chair Dimensions
These adirondack chair plans were modeled after a few adirondack chair dimensions from various retailers. That said, the seat is not as wide as these super-comfy DIY outdoor chairs we made a few years ago.
If you like an extra roomy seat, you might consider adjusting the plans to use a 1×6 slat in the middle, adding about 2” to the final seat width.
Alright, let’s dive into building these modern adirondack chairs!
Prefer printable plans? Grab them here!
STEP 1: CUT THE BACK LEGS
We’re starting out strong with the most complicated step of the entire project: cutting the legs. Each leg requires 4 separate cuts, but it’ll be worth it when you see the cool, modern design come to life!
Start by cutting the 1×6 at 5-degrees. Measure 3.5” along the angle. This is the section that will be attached to one of the 1×4 bottom stretchers, you don’t want to cut this side any shorter than 3.5” or the bottom stretcher will extend past the front of the legs.
Next measure 19.5” over from the short side of the angle. Now measure and mark 5.25” up from this point. Now go back and connect the mark you just made with the 3.5” mark along the angle. This will be your second cut.
Next measure 33.25” from the short side of the 5-degree angle. Grab your speed square and mark a 70-degree angle that extends 4 7/16” from the bottom of the board.
Now connect the point that is 5.25” high with this mark. This is your third cut. The final cut is that 4 7/16” cut to create the bottom of the leg.
Once you have the first leg cut, trace the outline on your other 1×6 board and cut it out.
Now give yourself a pat on the back because that’s definitely the most complicated and confusing part of this entire project!!
STEP 2: MAKE YOUR CUTS
Make your cuts according to the cut list in the printable plans.
STEP 3: ADD POCKET HOLES
Using the ¾” settings, drill pocket holes into the following boards:
- (2) on either end of the bottom stretchers
- (2) on either end of the back support, positioning the pocket holes so that they are closer to one side of the board
- (2) on either end of the back rest
- (2) on either end of the back rest support
- (2) on one of the longer sides of the front leg boards, positioning the pocket holes so that they are closer to one side of the board
Pocket holes are the foundation of most DIY furniture. Become a pocket hole pro in less than an hour in Pocket Holes: Explained.
STEP 4: SAND
I like to knock out the majority of my sanding before assembly, especially with wood like cedar where one side is a little rougher. I sanded everything with 100 grit sandpaper and then again with 150 grit sandpaper to get a smooth finish. Since this is an outdoor project, I stop at 150 rather than the 220 grit I use for indoor projects.
Check out this post for sanding tips and common mistakes to avoid.
STEP 5: ASSEMBLE LEG BASE
When properly applied, wood glue is stronger than the wood itself. We will be using just wood glue to assemble the leg base, but you’re welcome to add nails or screws in addition if you prefer.
Note: we decided to add pocket holes to the legs later on in the project, so you will not see them in our photos.
Line up a front leg piece with a front leg detail piece so that the angles line up. The mitered piece will be placed on top of the beveled piece.
I would recommend holding the pieces together and titling them up to see if they lay flat on the ground. If so, you have them positioned correctly.
Once you’re confident in the orientation of the pieces, add glue and clamp them together so that the long edge of the two pieces are flush. Let the glue dry for at least 30 minutes before moving onto Step 8. You can complete steps 6 and 7 in the meantime.
STEP 6: ASSEMBLE ARM REST
Use glue and 1.25” Kreg screws to secure the back rest between the two armrest pieces. The back of them should all be flush.
Please note: the back rest only needs (2) pocket holes on either side. I accidentally mixed up the back rest piece with another board and offset the pocket holes originally.
Next, assemble the support frame using glue and 1.25” Kreg screws. Instead of the pieces being flat like the armrests, assemble so that the thinner side of the 1x2s is flat on the ground. Make sure the bevel angle on the arm rest support boards are facing the same direction.
Once assembled, mark 2 ⅛” from the back of the back rest. I like to use my multi-mark tool to quickly mark across the board.
Line the back of the support frame up with the 2 ⅛” mark, making sure that the shorter side of the arm rest frame pieces are touching the armrest.
Pre-drill and then use 2” screws to secure the support frame to the arm rest. We used 3 screws along the back rest and 3 screws on each arm rest. The inside of the sides of the support frame should be flush with the inside of the arm rest.
STEP 7: ATTACH BACK LEGS TO ONE ANOTHER
Grab the back legs you cut in step 1 and (2) of the bottom stretchers. We’ll install the 3rd stretcher a little bit later.
Using glue and 1.25” Kreg screws, secure the first stretcher so that it’s flush with the front of the legs. The pocket holes should be facing towards the back of the legs so that they aren’t visible once everything is assembled.
Then mark 9” from the front of the legs and install the second stretcher, making sure it’s flush with the top of the legs.
STEP 8: ATTACH LEG BASE TO ARM REST
Grab the leg bases that you assembled in step 5 and secure them to the arm rest using glue and 1.25” Kreg scews. The leg base should be flush with the bevel cut support frame pieces.
Flip this structure over and add (2) 1.25” wood screws through the arm rest and into each of the leg detail pieces. Try to line these screws up with one another for a cleaner look.
You can either leave the screws exposed (very common practice for outdoor furniture) or you can decide to drill a countersink hole before adding the wood screw. Then add a dab of glue to a wood plug and use it to fill the countersink hole.
STEP 9: INSTALL BACK LEGS
First mark 11.25” from the bottom of the leg on the front side. On the back of the leg, mark 9.75” and then connect the lines. This marks where the bottom of the back leg will fall.
The bottom of the back leg should extend ~15/16” beyond the front of the front legs. The top of the back leg should extend ~9/16 beyond the front.
If you want to double-check that those dimensions will work with your particular leg, grab a long scrap piece of wood and line it up with the bottom of the legs. If the board is flush with the bottom of both the front and back legs, your placement is correct.
Secure the back leg to the front leg with (3-4) 1.25” wood screws.
Repeat on the other side with the other back leg.
STEP 10: ASSEMBLE BACK
Place the back slats so that the good side is facing down towards the ground. Space out the (2) 1×8 slats so that they measure 19.5” from the outside of one to the outside edge of the other.
Position the 1×4 board in the middle. There should be a ¾” gap between the 1×4 and the 1x8s.
Measure 12 ⅛” from the bottom of the slats. This is where the top of the 1×2 back support board will be placed. Secure it to the back slats with (2) 1.25” wood screws in each board.
Pro tip: use a scrap piece of wood to press the bottom of the boards up against to ensure they are in line with one another.
Next we’ll install the back support (lower). The board should be placed ¾” from either side of the back slats. In terms of height, position it so that there’s enough room to use screws to attach to the back slats, but low enough that the pocket holes are still visible. The pocket holes should be facing down towards the ground.
Once you’re happy with the position, secure to the back with (3) 1.25” wood screws.
STEP 11: INSTALL BACK
First clamp the 1×8 bottom slats to the front of the chair. We don’t want to install them yet, but we want to make sure that the back is placed far enough back that it doesn’t push the bottom slats to extend past the front of the bottom.
To install the back, slide it between the armrests. It should hopefully be a tight fit!
Slide it until the bottom of the back slats are sitting on top of the leg and then push it down until the back slats are touching the backrest.
Secure the lower back support to the legs with 1.25” Kreg screws. Yes, it’s an awkward angle trying to screw them in underneath the chair.
Next secure the back slats to the back rest using 1.25” wood screws. We placed (2) screws in the 1x8s and (1) screws in the 1×4. We countersunk our screws and then added wood plugs to hide the screws heads.
As you’re screwing them in, keep your line nice and straight. It looks much more intentional if you have a straight line of screws or plugs than a wavy line!
Lastly, secure the back through the armrest support frame. We added two 1.25” screws to either side of the back. Again, you can just use screws or you can countersink and add wood plugs. We drilled onto into the back slats and one into the 1×2 support that is secured to the back slats.
STEP 12: INSTALL BOTTOM SLATS
Before adding the bottom slats, we’ll install the final bottom stretcher. This bottom stretcher should be placed in front of the back slats and flush with the top of the leg.
There should be a slight gap between this bottom slat board and the bottom board that’s attached to the back. This gap will allow for drainage.
Install with 1.25” Kreg screws.
Position the bottom slats so that they are flush with the front of the chair bottom and in line with the back slats that have already been installed.
Secure with (2) 1.25” screws in the back of each slat and (2) 1.25” screws in the front of each slat. You can leave the screws exposed or use a countersink bit below installing and cover with a wood plug.
STEP 13: PAINT OR STAIN AND SEAL
We sealed our adirondack chairs with Thompson’s Waterseal. It’s super easy to apply and is great for outdoor furniture as it makes it waterproof.
You could also use an exterior paint, stain, or other sealer. Just make sure to use something rated for exterior use so that your adirondack chair will last for years to come!
There you have it! Now you know how to build a modern adirondack chair. Now to build a matching footrest to go with it.