Building A DIY Bench
Old wood dining or kitchen chairs are frequent finds at used-furniture stores, flea markets, even your own home—all ripe for a DIY reinvention. Here is a how-to tutorial and video below, on how to make a high-arm sustainable outdoor bench with a back, from 2 old dinning chairs. There’s also instructions for making a seat cushion and a couple oversized pillows for the backrest, I mean like who wants to sit on a hard surface? Not my idea of relaxing. With a few basic tools and know how, you can create a high-end looking piece of outside furniture from a pair of old wood chairs. It’s a fantastic upcycle project!
What Style Of Dining Chairs?
The chairs I used were some older wood chairs from Target that I kept out outside to sit on. These worked ok, but I wanted some nicer looking and especially more comfortable seating.
Tips if you’re looking for a pair of chairs—
- Don’t settle for something that isn’t pleasing from a side angle, looks in good shape, free of dents and deep dings.
- If possible, it’s best to use chairs that have slightly curved backs. This adds a more appealing shape than other straight back chairs.
- The backs must be one piece from top to bottom, including the back legs. I do share a workaround for this, if you need it.
- Remember to pay attention to the height of the chair legs, and whether they have a supporting crossbar between the chairs back legs, where wood for a new bench seat can easily be attached. Plus a crossbar under the seat adds more stability that’s lost from the removal of the chairs’ front legs.
Video Tutorial How-To
Follow along in this video tutorial or through the rest of this How-To post.
Sustainable Outdoor Bench Project details
This repurposed DIY lounger comes together seamlessly. Using 2’x4’s and a 2’x4′ plywood sheet to build the bench seat frame. The back portion of the wood chairs’ become high profile armrests and a couple fence boards make up the back. After a few of coats of paint, plus outdoor upholstery fabric, and you’ll have a porch-ready perch worthy of your leisure time.
Novice carpentry skills for making basic cuts, and drilling holes. As well as some basic sewing and upholstering.
Project cost will depend on what you need to buy and what you might already have.
Plus some extra time for paint to dry between coats.
Project Supply List
How to Build a DIY Sustainable Outdoor Bench from Chairs
- Jig saw or Hand Saw
- Power Drill or Screwdriver
- Tape measure
- Sewing Machine or Needle and Thread
- Plastic Snap Buttons and Applicator
- 1.3 yards or 48 inches of 2 or 3 inch thick cushion foam
- 24-inch pillow inserts for the back cushions
- 6 yards total of Outdoor Upholstery Fabric (fabric shower curtains are an affordable alternative!)
- 2 Matching Wood Dining Chairs (matching or not is your choice)
- Paint & Primer, in color and sheen of choice (I decided on Behr paint in “Blue Dahlia” and a satin enamel)
- Paint Roller
- Paint tray
- Drop Cloth or Plastic
- 2’x4′, foot plywood sheet
- 5 total 2×4 lumber
- 2 fence boards about 5 foot each
- Wood Screws 1 & 1 ½ inch
- sandpaper or sanding sponge
Building the Bench
Disassemble the Dining Chairs
- Flip the chairs over to locate the hardware used to hold the chairs frame, and it’s seat together.
- Using a power drill or screwdriver, unscrew the fasteners to remove each seat base, front legs and any cross-supports.
- Leaving only the chair’s backrest and rear legs as a single piece. If you are not able to do this by removing the chairs’ hardware. You could alternatively use a saw to carefully cut the seat base, cross-supports and front legs off each chair.
- Set the chairs aside for a moment.
Cut The Lumber
- Cut the 5 pieces of 2×4 lumber.
- 2 pieces to a length of 48 inches
- 3 pieces to a length of 21 inches each.
Drill Countersink Pilot Holes
- On 2 of the 21-inch pieces, drill and countersink two or three pilot holes.
These will be the right and left side pieces for attaching to the seat frame, to the dining chairs back where the chair seat was previously attached 1 ½ -inch using wood screws.
Since there isn’t much cutting you could have all the wood cut at the hardware store like Home Depot or Lowes. Which if you don’t have a saw will save you some costs.
Construct The New Seat Frame
- Lay the two 48” inch length lumber pieces parallel to each other, with the three 21” inch length pieces in between the 2 longer pieces. Be sure the 2 pieces with the pilot holes are on the right and left side ends with the counter sunk side facing inwards and that the one with no holes drilled is in the center.
- Drill and countersink two pilot holes on all 4 corner ends and the 2 center ends.
- Use 1 to 1 ½ inch wood screws to fasten and hold the frame together.
Attach The New Seat Frame
- Using 1 ½ inch or longer wood screws and the pilot holes you just made. Attach the right and left sides of the newly built seat frame to the inside of the chair backs, one on each side. Where the chairs seat was previously attached.
I actually was able to reuse the original hardware from these particular chairs for this step instead of using wood screws. Though either option will work fine.
- Place the 2’ foot by 4’ foot plywood sheet on top of the new bench seat frame.
- Fasten the sheet in place around the edges and down the center with 1-inch wood screws.
Adding the Bench Back
- Measure and cut the two fencing boards to fit the length between each chair backs side edges.
- Attach both boards with 1 inch wood screws to the right and left side edges of the chairs. Making this the bench backrest and the old dining chair backrests the tall arm sides of the new bench.
Prep and Paint
- Prep the entire bench for painting by sanding with a sanding block or sanding sponge. When finished remember to wipe clean with a rag to remove dust.
- Prepare and apply your paint & primer, in color and sheen of choice to the entire bench.
- I decided on Behr premium plus paint and primer in one, in the color “Blue Dahlia” and a satin enamel sheen.
Depending on the original finish and color of the chairs, you may need to apply multiple coats of paint. Just be sure to allow each coat enough time to dry before applying the next.
Cut The Foam
- For the seat cushion cut a piece of 3 inch thick foam to 48 inches in length and 24 inch width. The foam I used I got from Joann fabrics and was sold already in a width of 24 inches.
To cut foam most people say that you have to use an electric carving knife or at least a serrated knife. However, I’ve used both of those, and honestly for straight simple cuts I prefer just a long non serrated freshly sharpened knife, which works just as well costs less than an electric knife and makes less to no mess compared to a serrated knife.
Set the cut foam piece aside while you make its cover.
Cutout Seat Cushion Cover
- Cut out-
- 2 back panels 49×4 inches these will be the back buttoning or Velcro closures.
- 1 front panel also 49×4 inches.
- 2 side panels 25×4 inches these are for the right and left side.
- 2 panels for the top and bottom of the cushion at 49×25 inches.
Sew The Cover
- Take your two back button closure panels and on each piece fold over one inch along one long edge, press in place and sew down the hem, you could also double fold the hem at ½ an inch if you prefer.
- Then lay one back panel hemmed edge down over the other hemmed edge, leaving the raw edges outwards.
- The two overlapping pieces now make a single back panel that should measure 4 inches at the short edges, the same as the front, right and left side pieces.
- Attach the back flap panels short ends to the right and left side panels short ends.
- Next attach the other short ends of the right and left side panels to right and left short ends of the front panel.
- Sew all four corner short ends you just pinned with about ¼ to ½ inch seam allowance.
- You should end up having a continuous fabric piece or loop made up from the front, back, right, and left side panels.
Make sure you place the fabrics right or front face sides together and sew each short edge together with about a half inch seam allowance. You may need to adjust your seam allowance depending on how you want the cover is fit.
- Pin or clip the long and short edges of the continuous side piece to the bottom panel, again making sure that the right sides of the fabric is together.
- Sew all the way around with about a half inch seam allowance.
- Repeat the above step number 6 for the top panel as well.
Back Flap Closures
- Next turn the full sewn seat cover right side out and insert the cut foam piece of foam.
- Use a handheld button press to apply snap buttons about 2 inches apart to the back flap closure panels. This is so that the cover can easily be removed and washed.
Velcro could be used too, however it would likely be easier to sew it on before inserting the foam.
- The final step for the bench seat cushion is to close up the back panels button snaps.
Pillows For The Back
If for the bench seat back if you’re using a single cushion similar to the one for the seat and not pillows, follow the steps for the seat cushion cover adjusting the size as needed.
Measure And Cut Envelope Pillow Covers
- To figure out how much fabric to cut for envelope pillow covers is simple. For the width it is the pillow width plus one, and for the length it’s the pillow length plus one times two plus eight inches.
- For example my pillows are each 24″x24″—so for the width—24”+1=25” inches—for the length is—24″+1 x 2 +8″=58″—this allows for 1 inch seams and ½ inch double rolled hems.
- A square pillows cut fabric should look like a long rectangle where you will make two folds indicated by the red lines.
- However, since I had a fabric with a pattern and wanted the pattern to run a certain way I had to actually cut two pieces of fabric instead of one long piece that you fold in two places, mine was cut were that right side fold is.
If you need to do this as well, for 24 inch square pillows you’ll need to cut, 1 piece to 25 x 25 inches and 1 piece to 25×34 inches, I added an extra inch in length since the bottom needs to be sewn.
Sew The Pillow Covers
- If using two fabric pieces, place the right or front side of fabric together and sew along the bottom end. If you have only a single long piece, then skip this part about sewing the bottom.
- Now hem both shorter ends for either a single piece of fabric or two pieces—by folding over the edge about a half inch and again, then pin or clip hem in place and sew. I used a zigzag stitch for a more secure hold and a nice finished look.
After hemming the ends-
- For a single long piece of fabric make sure the right face or front face of the fabric is up and fold down the left short side about 6 inches. Then fold in the right short side a couple inches over the left side you just folded, so it is overlapping it at least 3 inches or more.
- For two pieces that have been sewn at the bottom, lay the two sewn pieces flat with the longer piece on the bottom and fold over the longer piece down under the shorter piece by about 3 or more inches, leaving the shorter piece on top.
- Check to make sure that the folded covers over all length is the pillow height and adjusting if needed. Now pin everything in place and sew down both the right and left sides.
- Turn the pillow cover right side out make sure corners are pushed out and insert the pillows.
- Place the seat cushion and pillows on the bench that is now complete, kick your feet up and relax!
I’m really so happy how this turned out. Even though this DIY project was a tad more time-consuming and a bit more work than I originally anticipated, the end results made up for it.
Since I love to get outside and work on my laptop instead of confining myself inside all the time, I really enjoy having this comfy sustainable outdoor bench to perch on, instead of just one of the chairs it’s made from.
What do you think?
Have you tried this DIY project or one similar? And what other things have you repurposed old dining chairs for? Let me know.
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