How to Build a Bench with Planters

Video Transcript

Video Transcript

RON HAZELTON:
Now bringing the sun indoors like we did with the tubular skylight is a great idea.  But our next  project is designed to let you enjoy the sun outdoors on your deck or patio.  Now since my patio is under a foot of snow right now, I'm heading to warmer parts.

Monterey, California to be exact.  Here I'll help a friend build a bench that offers a lot more than just seating. So what were you thinking about for this project?
DONNA:
We were thinking about a bench with planters -you know we need a little bit more seating. We only have a table and chairs here.  So we thought maybe a planter bench so that people can sit and still have their plants on either side.

I think that would look nice.
RON HAZELTON:
Okay.  Okay. All right, listen, I want to go make up a little sketch.
DONNA:
Okay.
RON HAZELTON:
And let's - or we'll make it up together actually.  And then let's look at it and see if that's gonna fit your needs here.
DONNA:
Sounds great.
RON HAZELTON:
Okay.  I'll get some stuff set up over here.
DONNA:
Okay.
RON HAZELTON:
So I'm thinking - and then we'll put a brace probably right down here.
DONNA:
Okay.
RON HAZELTON:
Planter benches can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. But I drew up a plan that I thought would work nicely for Donna.  So this is the bench right here and then over here -this is a top, you're looking down onto this. The bench is in the center.

And then on each end, we've added the planter boxes here.
DONNA:
Great.
RON HAZELTON:
You can tell that because I've planted some flowers in here.
DONNA:
Very artistic, thank you.
RON HAZELTON:
You're welcome. The bench itself is flanked by two end panels that are joined together by boards called stringers or stretchers.  There will be two stringers on top and one on the bottom. Seat slats will be nailed to the top stringers.  We'll also construct two planter boxes and attach them to the end panels. We're using redwood for the bench and planters.  And there's a lot of cutting to do. So I've made a  cut list to keep track of it all

I've set up an adjustable stop block on the saw. Since we're cutting as many as 16 pieces of lumber to the same length, the stop block will insure consistently accurate cuts. After a quick lesson on the power miter saw, Donna's comfortable cutting all the lumber.

We cut all these pieces to length. These are all done here now. Now what we have to do is to cut the - this notch right here in the end - at each end of these.

This notch joint has several advantages.  It provides more glue surface than a simple butt joint.  Makes assembly easier, allowing one piece to nest into the other. And uses more common 3 and a half inch screws rather than 5 or 6 inch long fasteners.  So I've made up a little jig here, a template.  And it's just a block that I've put on here which means we can push this all the way in till it touches.

And then with a pencil, just trace the outline right here.  And we know that that's gonna be the same on every one. And then we're gonna cut this out. Donna uses a jigsaw to cut the notch out.  And now we're ready to assemble the end frames.

What we're gonna do is attach these with both glue and screws.  For outdoor furniture it's always a good idea to use water resistant glue.  I like to put the glue in a small container and brush it onto the surface.  Now drop this in.

After applying the glue to both pieces of wood, Donna places the two pieces together.  I checked them for square.  And then we clamp them down.  Now we're gonna put the screws in.
DONNA:
Okay.
RON HAZELTON:
First I want to drill a counter sink hole or a clearance hole. This is gonna allow the head of the screw to be flush with the surface of the wood.  I drill the counter sink holes and Donna follows behind with the screw gun.

There you go, that's it. Very nice. All right. Now that the frames for the end pieces are complete, we're going to fill in the centers with wooden slats we'll lay in place temporarily.  We're going to attach the slats to this small wooden piece called a keeper.

After applying glue, Donna lays the keeper no top of the slats, and using a bread nailer, attaches the keeper to the frame.  Now she turns the frame over, applies some glue to the ends of each slat and lays them on top of the keeper.  She uses the spacers to distribute the slats evenly.   And then secures them with brads.  There. Now these are the two end panels that we just made up.

I've sort of used some clamps here to allow them to stand up on their own.  It will just make it easier for us to assemble.  And I've also clamped on here a temporary ledger that's gonna help us hold this in place. This - this stretcher or stringer that's gonna connect these two end panels.

So if you can take that end right there and just drop it right in on top of the panel.

Again we drill clearance holes with a counter sink so that the rust resistant screws are flush with the wood.  With the third stringer in place, the bench is atarting to take shape. Our seat  slAts have rounded edges to make them more comfortable.  They're spaced evenly and we counter sink the screw holes well below the surface.  Okay Donna so -

We've constructed the  sides of the planter boxes the same way as the end pieces for the bench. All we haVE to do now is attach them together.

And I went ahead and predrilled some holes here, clearance holes. We're just gonna screw these down the same way we've been doing. Well you've got a lot of different sized pots there huh.
DONNA:
Yes.  I do.
RON HAZELTON:
You know I'm really glad then that we designed the bottom of this planter the way that we did. Because it will accommodate all different sizes. 
DONNA:
Oh yeah?
RON HAZELTON:
And the way it works is that - have these blocks of wood here, two by sixes and two by fours and they just set right in here on the bottom of the deck.
DONNA:
Okay.
RON HAZELTON:
And then on top of that, just lay in the planks like this.  Okay.
DONNA:
Like giving it a false bottom or something.
RON HAZELTON:
Yeah.  Okay there's one last thing I want to -

To keep the bench looking good and extend its life, we'll apply a sealer. A garden sealer or a spray bottle is quickest.  I'd let this sit on here about 15 minutes and then just take a rag or a cloth like this and redistribute the sealer.  Okay. We're surrounded by beauty. Flowers on both sides of us.
DONNA:
Yeah.

Learn how to build an outdoor planter bench; includes step-by-step instructions along with tips, materials, and tools lists.

For this project I visit the charming California coastal town of Carmel where Donna Enneking is fortunate enough to have a back yard deck that looks out over the breathtaking Carmel Valley. Donna has asked me to help her build a piece of deck furniture that will be both functional and an attractive addition to her outdoor setting.  I came up with a design for a slatted  bench, flanked by two planters.  It's really quite simple to build using commonly sized lumber.  While, in this case, the bench was intended for the deck, it could work equally well in a garden or a backyard.

Sketch Your Planter Bench Plan and Make a Cut List
Step 1

Sketch Your Planter Bench Plan and Make a Cut List

Plan the design and dimensions of your planter bench. Sketch it from a side and top elevation to facilitate making a cut list of the components, particularly those which require multiple pieces of the same dimension.

Cut the Planter Bench Components with a Power Miter Saw
Step 2

Cut the Planter Bench Components with a Power Miter Saw

Set up a work table with a power miter saw. Add an adjustable stop block to the saw to ensure you make consistently accurate cuts when cutting multiples of the same components. Cut the planter bench components to length.

Make Notches for the Planter Bench End Frames
Step 3

Make Notches for the Planter Bench End Frames

Make a template to mark the notched joints for the planter bench end frames. Cut the notches with a jigsaw. The notched joints offer more glue surface, assemble more easily, and enable use of a more common screw/nail size.

Assemble the Planter Bench End Frames with Glue
Step 4

Assemble the Planter Bench End Frames with Glue

Use waterproof glue intended for outdoor projects to assemble the planter bench end frames. First coat the notches and end pieces with glue. Check to ensure they are square and then clamp the joints together while the glue dries.

Reinforce the Planter Bench End Frames with Screws
Step 5

Reinforce the Planter Bench End Frames with Screws

Countersink screw holes in the planter bench end frames to allow screw heads to sit flush on the surface of the wood. Secure the end frames with screws to reinforce them.

Add Slats and Keepers to the Planter Bench End frames
Step 6

Add Slats and Keepers to the Planter Bench End frames

Lay wooden slats temporarily in the planter bench end frames. Glue and nail keepers at both ends of the slats. Flip the frames, apply glue to the slat ends, and position them with spacers. Secure them with brads.

Use Temporary Ledgers to Hold the Planter Bench Stringers
Step 7

Use Temporary Ledgers to Hold the Planter Bench Stringers

Stand the two end frames up and position a temporary ledger on each to hold the planter bench seat stringers in position. Countersink screw holes in planter bench end frames and drive screws into each stringer.

Secure Planter Bench Slats with Countersunk Screws
Step 8

Secure Planter Bench Slats with Countersunk Screws

Round the upper edges of the planter bench seat slats for comfort and space them evenly across the length of the stringers. Countersink holes in the slats and secure them to the stringers with screws.

Secure Three Additional Sides to Make the Planter Bench Box
Step 9

Secure Three Additional Sides to Make the Planter Bench Box

Pre-drill holes to assemble the boxes after constructing the three sides of each in the same way as the planter bench end frames. The existing end frame will make the fourth side of the planter box.

Coat the Redwood Planter Bench with Sealer
Step 10

Coat the Redwood Planter Bench with Sealer

Apply sealer to the planter bench with a garden sprayer to prolong the redwood's life and appearance despite exposure to light and weather. Let the sealer stand for 15 minutes and then redistribute the excess with a clean lint-free cloth.