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.

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sketching the planter bench
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.

using a stop block to ensure planter bench component size
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.

notching 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.

assembling the planter bench end frames
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.

drilling a clearance hole in the planter bench end frames
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.

adding 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.

explaining planter bench seat stringers and ledgers
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.

securing the planter bench seat
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.

driving screws into 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.

spraying the 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.


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