Deck Bench and Planter

These two easy projects will add flair to your backyard.

What’s the point of creating an outdoor living space unless you look forward to spending time there? Even the most well-built deck can seem stark and uninviting if it lacks accessories that add visual interest and character. Building a matching bench and planter can make a deck seem more coordinated, comfortable and appealing.

This bench and planter (both built as part of our deck rehabilitation project from the March/April 2004 issue, p. 26) can be completed in an afternoon and require only basic woodworking skills. We used dimensional cedar for both projects, but any rot-resistant lumber (such as redwood, mahogany, teak or even pressure-treated pine) would work, and the only tools necessary are a circular saw, a jigsaw and a drill/driver.

Building the bench
To start the bench, first cut the 2x4 legs (A) and 1x4 spacers (B) to length as indicated in the cutting list. Assemble the sides by alternating 2x4 legs and 1x4 spacers. Start with a leg, apply waterproof glue (such as polyurethane glue) to one face, and use three 3-in. exterior-rated screws to fasten it to one of the 1x4 spacers.

For best results when driving screws into cedar, first carefully brace the workpiece so it doesn’t spin as you work. Drill pilot holes for the screws (cedar has a tendency to split), and set the drill clutch so that you won’t drive the screws too deep into the soft wood.

Repeat these steps, alternating legs and spacers, until you’ve attached all of the pieces for each side (photo 1); then clamp the assembled bench sides until the glue cures.


Use 3-in. exterior-rated screws and polyurethane glue to fasten the series of legs and spacers. Use three screws for each leg, and firmly clamp each side assembly as the glue dries.

To build the seat, first cut the slats (C) to length; then use a jigsaw to cut a decorative profile on the ends (photo 2). To keep the board ends symmetrical, use the cutoff from the first decorative end as a pattern, and trace the design on the other board ends.


Use a jigsaw to cut a decorative profile on each end of the seat slats.

Next, apply glue to the pockets created by the alternating legs and spacers of the side panels, and drop the seat slats into place (photo 3). Clamp the assembly and let the glue cure (photo 4). Don’t try to wipe away glue squeezeout; instead, let the excess adhesive cure and then shave it off with a sharp chisel. Finally, use a belt sander equipped with 150-grit paper to sand the sides and top smooth.


Apply glue to the pockets formed by the legs and spacers; then drop the seat slats into the pockets.


Firmly clamp the seat assembly as the glue cures; then sand the entire assembly smooth.

Making the planter
Unlike traditional planters designed to hold soil, this one is made to accommodate large plastic containers. Besides preventing the wood from rotting as a result of constant contact with soil and water, this design makes gardening easier — instead of one large trough of soil, it holds pots that can be lifted out separately.

To build the planter, first cut all of the 2x4 parts to length as indicated in the cutting list, and cut the decorative profiles for the top rails (A) as you did for the bench. Use polyurethane glue and 3-in. exterior-rated screws to fasten the side rails (E) to the legs (C). Use glue and 3-in. screws to face-screw the top rails to the upper side rails. Then from beneath, drive 3-1/2-in. screws to toe-screw through the legs and into the top rails (photo 1).


To assemble the framework for the planter, glue and screw the 2x4 sections together. Use 3-in. screws for all face-screwing applications and 3-1/2-in. screws for toe-screwing applications.

Using 3-1/2-in. screws and glue, toe-screw the bottom rails (B) to the legs; then use 3-in. screws to face-screw the bottom cross-brace (G) between the bottom rails. Cut the 1x12 cedar side inner panels (F) to size, and use 2-in. screws to fasten them in place (photo 2). Cedar boards can split easily, so be sure to drill pilot holes before sinking the screws. Use three screws at the top and bottom of each side panel and six screws each at the top and bottom of the front and back panels (D).


Use 2-in. screws to fasten the interior cedar panels to the inside of the framework. Be sure to drill pilot holes to keep the cedar from splitting.

Cut the cedar lattice panel (H) to size (photo 3), and fasten it to the back of the planter box (photo 4) with glue and 12 2-in. screws (six driven into the bottom rail and six into the top rail). Firmly clamp the lattice in place until the glue cures; then fill the planter with your favorite climbing plants.


With a jigsaw, cut the lattice panel to size. You can modify the silhouette of the panel to suit your taste.


Use 2-in. screws to fasten the lattice to the back of the planter. Drive six screws into the bottom rail and six into the top rail.

This project is part of HANDY's Top 5 Collection: Outdoor Projects.
Click here to check out the other four outdoor projects in this collection.