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DIY Outdoor Bench – Only 1 Tool Required!

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My mission is to teach you to confidently build magazine-worthy DIYs. I used to be terrified of power tools, which is why I'm a firm believer that ANYONE can DIY.

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by
May 16, 2024
Zoe Hunt

Looking for a simple outdoor bench that doesn’t take forever to make? From the first cut to the final clamp up, it took me 57 minutes to build. And in that time, I was filming videos, taking pictures, and planning the project, so it might take you even less to actually build!

With sanding and staining too, this bench took a little less than 3 active hours to create. You will need to plan longer than 3 hours to allow for dry times of the glue and the stain though! 

If you’re just getting started with DIY, this bench may also be a great project because it’s held together primarily with GLUE. No screws are required, which means you don’t need a drill or a pocket hole jig to build this bench either. All you need power tool wise is a miter saw or circular saw to cut your boards.

DIY Outdoor Bench text overlay on image of simple DIY bench in grass

Alright, let’s dive in and start DIYing! 

How to Build an Outdoor Bench

Recommended Tools:

Shopping List: 

A quick note about wood choice: we used regular, untreated pine for this project. Cedar would be a better choice for longevity, but pine was a better fit for our budget. Be sure to read this post before using pine on an outdoor project. You can also consider treated pine, but because of the abundance of chemicals used in it, we avoid treated pine whenever possible. It actually makes me break out in hives! 

If it’s in your budget, rough sawn cedar (on the left in the picture below) would look AMAZING. You can just hit it super quickly with some 120 grit sandpaper to remove the splinters but leave the texture.

Rough sawn cedar (we got ours at Lowe’s) is also more squared off than pine 4x4s, so you won’t have prominent grooves between each of your boards. That may or may not be a pro for you based on the design you’re going for!

Dimensions

This DIY bench is 67” long x 14” deep x 18” tall. If you need something a little different, this is an easy plan to modify! In fact, this is basically the same structure as this DIY walking pad desk we built! 

STEP 1: CUT YOUR BOARDS TO SIZE 

As I mentioned, this plan is very easy to modify. I will first give you the cut list that we used to build the bench and then I’ll give you the “formulas” to create your own custom dimensions. 

To create our bench, you’ll make the following cuts out of the 4x4s: 

  • Top: (2) at 60”
  • Top: (2) at 53”
  • Legs: (4) at 14.5”
  • Legs: (4) at 18”

We recommend cutting the pieces that are going to go together out of the same board just in case there are any slight variations in the thickness of the 4x4s. For this project, you’ll cut (1) 60” and (2) 14.5” pieces from the same board. Then you’ll cut your 53” and (2) 18” pieces from the same board.

Want to DIY buy don\'t know where to start? Click here to grab your free guide!

If you would like to make it a custom size, you can use the following formulas. H = desired final height, L = desired final length. 

  • (4) at H”
  • (4) at H – 3.5”
  • (2) at L – 7”
  • (2) at L

If you would like to change the depth, you can change it by adding or subtracting the number of 4x4s that you glue together. For every 4×4 you add, you’ll add 3.5” to the final depth. That will also impact the number of cuts you need above though.

Before you move onto the next few steps, let me just say that you’ll want to work as quickly as possible between each of the steps. If you let your glue fully dry on your side pieces and top pieces before trying to get everything together, the final assembly might be a lot tougher. 

If the glue is still drying and you are able to make slight adjustments to your boards as you do the final assembly, your project will likely end up looking nicer in the end. So read step 2-4 and make a game plan before opening up your glue bottle! 

STEP 2: GLUE YOUR SIDES TOGETHER 

Grab 2 long leg pieces and 2 short leg pieces. Sandwich the short pieces between the long pieces, making sure the legs are all flush on the bottom. If they aren’t flush on the bottom, you’ll wind up with a wobbly bench! 

As I was laying out my boards, I positioned them so that the roughest sides of the 4x4s were butted up against another board rather than being visible. This would make my life easier for sanding later on. 

Once you’re happy with the layout, apply a layer of glue to each of the legs and then clamp them together. Be generous with the glue. This is what’s holding everything together! Wipe up any excess glue that is seeping from the seams with a wet paper towel. 

clamping sides of DIY bench together

Repeat with the second set of legs. 

STEP 3: GLUE YOUR TOP PIECES TOGETHER 

The process for gluing together the top is very similar to the bottom, but the longer pieces will instead be sandwiched between the two shorter pieces. 

We used some scrap wood that we had leftover from cutting the bench pieces as spacers to mark where the shorter pieces should be positioned. You could also use the legs themselves if you have clamped the boards together tightly enough that they don’t move when you lift them. 

clamping top of bench together

Glue your top boards together and clamp. Wipe off any excess glue – because remember, wood glue does NOT stain! I like to poke a screw through a wet paper towel to get into any of the cracks. 

STEP 4: ASSEMBLE THE BENCH 

Now that you have your three pieces clamped together, it’s time to attach the legs to the top. Add glue to all the areas of the legs that will be in contact with the top. 

When I assembled mine, I slid the legs onto the top, which was resting on the table. Then I decided to flip it over to ensure everything was flat and not wobbly. The benefit of this way is that you don’t want to perfectly position the distance between the legs to start. 

That said, then you do need an extra person to help you flip it over and you’ll likely still have to readjust as it’ll want to fall apart as you flip since the glue isn’t dry. You can instead slide the top onto the legs, which might be a bit easier. 

You may need a rubber mallet to hit the top into place if it’s a snug fit (as it should be).

Once you have the top positioned on the legs, check to see if it’s square. If not, make adjustments to the position of the legs until it’s square. 

view of bench assembled with clamps holding it together

Ensure that there’s not any glue dripping down the bench or pooling at the legs. You don’t want to accidentally glue your bench to your work table or the floor! If you’re concerned about this, you can put a piece of saran wrap underneath the legs of the bench as the glue dries. 

Free download wood sizing cheatsheet

STEP 5: FINISHING THE BENCH

After letting the glue really cure for 24 hours, you can now remove the clamps, sand, and finish the bench. We sanded with 60, 80, and 120 grit sandpaper. 

Since this is an outdoor bench for us, we stopped at 120 grit. You actually don’t want to over-sand for outdoor projects or your stain won’t be able to penetrate as deeply, meaning your bench won’t be as protected from the elements.

If you wanted to use this bench indoors, you can sand with 180 and 220 grit as well for an extra smooth finish. 

After sanding, we finished ours with one coat of Cabot Heat-Reducing Solid Color Stain + Sealer in Cashmere Brown. Feel free to use a different exterior finish instead! The beauty of using a solid stain on pine is that it gives you an even color, even though pine is notorious for staining splotchy. 

There you have it! Now you know how to build a simple outdoor bench. An optional addition is to add some leveling feet to the bottom as well. This is a nice addition since outdoor terrain usually isn’t as flat or level as indoors.

DIY Simple Bench graphic with two images of completed bench in garage
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