Our new house has a large, covered front porch, and we wanted to make the space both beautiful and functional. We came up with the idea of building a pair of benches with a large plant stand attached to each. We already had a pair of plant stands (one built by my sister-is-law; the other built to match by me), so the basic aesthetic had already been decided.
Switching things up slightly from the plant stands, the side panels of the box are a stack of 2x8s laid horizontally rather than a single vertical plank. This design change saved me a little money (using 2x8s vs a ripped-down 2×10 dropped the budget about $5), simplified the build (no rip cuts, and no lugging a 2×10 around the shop), and increased the quality of the materials. The big box stores around here only sell ground contact pressure treated 2x10s, which have a ton more chemicals and also tend to be soaking wet, meaning the risk of warping and splitting with time is very high.
The plant stands, in case you were wondering and if you can’t tell from the picture, use 1x lumber, which is much easier to work with and doesn’t have the ground contact treatment of the larger 2x lumber.
Here’s the design I came up with for the benches. Click to activate rotation.
The first step of the build was to make the stacked panels for the sides of the boxes. Breaking down the 2x6s was relatively quick.
I sanded each piece to 80 grit to get rid of the bulk of the surface imperfections before assembly, and after a long week up glue ups (I’m a bit short on longer clamps.) and a marathon sanding session, all eight panels were ready to go.
With the hard part done, I cut and sanded 4x4s for the corners and then put the boxes together with a combination of pocket hole screws and Loctite PL Premium construction adhesive—a great, if messy, glue that holds up outside and works really well with pressure treated wood.
I used the same glue on the panels, and after they dried, the bonds were so strong I could put one of the panels across two shop benches and stand on it with my full weight. No bad for an edge glue-up with no additional joinery.
Then it was time to start on the benches. I used 2x4s for aprons connected to a pair of 4×4 legs. I added a crosspiece to keep the whole thing rigid and then attached a second crosspiece to the side of each box to act as a ledge to hold up the edge of the bench top. The bench tops are held together with pocket hole screws and even more of that wonderful Loctite PL Premium.
The last step of the build was to put together the rims for the plant stand boxes. I cut 2x4s to size, mitering the ends at 45 degrees, and then glued them together using a set of shop-made corner clamps.
We wanted to be able to have the rim of a pot sit underneath and be hidden by the rim of the stand, so I didn’t attach the rims directly to the boxes. Instead, I glued four pegs to the bottom of each rim so that they fit snugly down inside each box. Even though the opening in each rim only allows for an 8 inch pot, the removable rim allows for a 10 inch pot to fit down inside each box. You can see the pegs if you look closely at the pictures of the finished benches below.
After a final session with the sander, I took the benches out to the front porch to see how they looked in their future home.
Build (Part 2)
After seeing the benches on our front porch, we decided we wanted them a bit longer so that they filled the space better. The original benches were about 3 feet long. I designed the new benches to be 4 feet long. Here’s the 3D model of the updated design. Click to activate rotation.
And here’s what they looked like assembled.
I stained the benches using Olympic Elite deck stain, semi-solid wenge color. We really love this dark brown, which roughly matches the floors on the first floor of our house. We used the same color for our back deck, and we plan to use it for a mailbox post and a fence to screen off our air conditioner units in the near future.
After the stain dried, I sealed the visible faces of each with three coats of spar urethane. After the top coat cured, it was time for the big reveal. I’m really happy with how the benches turned out. They look great with the brightly-colored mums in the gallery below. I stained and sealed the smaller plant stands to match the benches, which you can also see in the gallery.
We love these benches. They make the front of our house look complete. If you’d like a set for your front porch, contact me!