If you follow me over on Instagram (and if you don’t, you should!), you may have seen photos of this project as part of the Instagram Builders Challenge. This fun contest is all about creativity in woodworking! Everyone starts with the same plan, and we’re given three weeks to make it our own. This year’s plan is Ana White’s porch bench, which I morphed into my own DIY storage bench for the backyard!
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I seem to have a thing for storage benches. This one still resides on my front porch, and is used almost daily for everything from wet umbrellas to play swords.
Our backyard, however, remains a dumping ground for outdoor toys. We have a shed, but it requires a key, so stuff gets left out everywhere. A storage bench would let me relax in the backyard watching impromptu soccer matches, and makes clean up easy. This challenge was the perfect excuse to start building!
Materials Needed for DIY Storage Bench
- 8 – 2 x 4 cedar boards (8 feet long)
- 1 – 2 x 2 cedar board (8 feet long)
- 6 – 5 1/2″ wide cedar fence pickets (6 feet long)
- 4 – 1 x 6 cedar boards (8 feet long)
- 3 – 1 x 2 cedar boards (8 feet long)
- 4 – 2″ stainless steel hinges
- 1/4″ metal mesh hardware cloth (2′ x 5′)
- Titebond III wood glue
- Table saw
- Miter saw
- 1″ brad nails & nail gun
- Kreg jig
- 2 1/2″ Blu-Kote weather-resistant pocket hole screws
- 1 1/4″ pocket hole screws
- Staple gun and staples
Instructions for DIY Storage Bench
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- Box Frame
- 4 – 2 x 4 @ 58 3/8″
- 4 – 2 x 4 @ 23 1/2″
- 3 – 2 x 4 @ 20 1/2″
- 8 – 2 x 4 @ 8″
- Bench Back and Front Legs
- 2 – 2 x 4 @ 57 3/8″
- 2 – 2 x 4 @ 43 1/2″
- 2 – 2 x 4 @ 16 1/2″
- 5 – 2 x 2 @ 16″
- Bench Box
- 6 – 1 x 6 cedar fence pickets @ 57 3/8″
- 6 – 1 x 6 cedar fence pickets @ 23 1/2″
- 5 – 1 x 2 @ 15″
- Bench Lid
- 10 – 1 x 6 @ 29″
- 4 – 1 x 2 @ 25″
- 4 – 1 x 2 @ 20″
I used cedar for this build because the bench will be exposed to the elements year round. If yours will be indoors or under cover, you can use cheaper pine lumber.
Sand all your cut pieces with 80 or 120 grit sandpaper before assembly. That way you can skip right to the finer grits when you’re finished building.
Remember to check for square and use wood glue made for exterior use (I like Titebond III) at every joint.
Build the Box Frame
Start by creating the two frames that make up the box part of the bench. Drill two pocket holes in the ends of all four of the 58 3/8″ long pieces. I have short ceilings in my basement workshop, so I had to drill mine on the floor!
While you’re at it, drill pocket holes into both ends of each of the 23 1/2″ pieces. You won’t be using these holes quite yet, but it’s a lot easier to add them now! You can see in the photo below that I forgot mine, so I used my Kreg Jig R3 to add them. Attach the 58 3/8″ pieces to the 23 1/2″ pieces with 2 1/2″ pocket hole screws, with the extra holes you just drilled facing out.
Drill two pocket holes in both ends of the 20 1/2″ pieces. Attach two of them to the interior of one frame about 18″ apart. Install the remaining 20 1/2″ piece to the middle of the other frame. This photo doesn’t show the second frame correctly because I added the center support later. I was making it up as I went along!
Drill pocket holes into both ends of all the 8″ pieces. Then attach the top and bottom frames together with the 8″ pieces in between. Again, I figured out this part after the fact, so here’s my model of it from my free plans (get them here).
Build the Bench Back
Drill pocket holes in each end of the two 57 3/8″ pieces. Attach one to the 43 1/2″ uprights 1″ down from the top, the other 19 1/2″ from the bottom. There should be 16″ of space between them.
You can attach the decorative pieces now, or save them for later. I stained the entire bench dark brown when I was finished building, then stained these slats separately with Rustoleum’s Vintage Aqua for a pop of color.
Drill pocket holes in the ends of each 16″ 2 x 2 piece, and insert them in the bench back frame 8 3/8″ apart.
Attach Bench Back and Front Legs to Box
Lay your bench back on your worktable with the pocket holes facing down. Place the box on top, 1 1/2″ from the bottom and 1 1/2″ in from the sides.
Here’s where those extra pocket holes you made in the 23 1/2″ pieces of the box come into play. Attach the box to the bench back with 2 1/2″ screws. Repeat for the 16 1/2″ front legs, keeping the top flush with the top edge of the box.
Attach Cladding to Bench Box
With the frame of the box in place, now we’re going to enclose it. I used inexpensive 5 1/2″ wide cedar fence pickets rather than more expensive cedar 1 x 6’s. It gave me an excuse to finally use the new-to-me thickness planer I picked up used on Craigslist! I planed each fence picket until they were 1/2″ thick. It truly transformed them from rough, cheap wood to freshly milled lumber. You could easily skip this step and just sand them down as well.
Then I trimmed off 1/4″ from each side with my table saw, leaving me with 5″ wide planks. If you don’t have a table saw, you could leave them full width, but your box will end up touching the ground. I attached these to the frame between the bench legs with my Ryobi Airstrike brad nailer and 1″ nails. Make sure the top plank is flush with the frame!
The decorative pieces on the front of the box echo the ones on the bench back. They were stained the same Vintage Aqua color and attached with brad nails 8 3/8″ apart.
Attach the Mesh Bottom
I added mesh to the bottom of my DIY storage bench so that water and dirt can pass through instead of pooling up inside. If you prefer, you can attach wood planks here instead.
Flip the entire bench onto its back so you can easily access the bottom. Use tin snips or heavy duty scissors to cut the wire mesh to the width of the bottom. I only needed to cut a few rows off the width and length for a perfect fit. Then use a staple gun to secure the mesh to the bottom of the frame.
Create the Bench Lid
You can create the bench lid two ways. Either plank together cedar 1 x 6 boards with pocket hole screws, or use cedar tongue and groove boards like I did here. After seeing the size of the bench, I decided to break the lid up into two separate ones to make it easier for kids to lift.
I cut the groove off two pieces to create a flat front of the lid, then applied glue before inserting the tongue into the groove. I also attached 1 x 2 pieces to the back of each lid piece for extra stability, since the tongue and groove had too much give by itself.
Drill pocket holes in the ends of the front, middle and back slats, then attach the 1 x 2 end pieces to finish off the edges. I stained these aqua as well, but in retrospect I wish I had kept them the same brown as the rest of the bench to allow the pieces on the back to really pop.
Finally, attach two hinges to each lid. I used 2″ marine grade hinges, so I know they won’t rust shut in a year or two!
When I finally got this beast of a project finished and out into the garden, I immediately started loading it up with all the miscellaneous outdoor toys that had been littering the yard. It’s amazing how much storage space is in this thing!
The vintage aqua color gives a nice pop of color to this dark corner of the garden. Once the flowers fade, I’ll move it back a few feet and prop the legs up on concrete pavers so it won’t sink into the dirt.
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