Today I’m sharing my cedar planter bench plans. I made this convertible planter bench for the builders challenge last year and I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out and how it’s held up!
The design uses french cleats on the planters and the benches that allow for easy removal and installation of the benches. They just set in place so there is no need to physically attach anything which is awesome.
Cedar planter benches with removable benches
The planter boxes and the benches for this build are made out of cedar fencing material. Specifically, 4×4 fence posts that were ripped down to multiple smaller boards and cedar fence pickets.
While it isn’t a complicated project, there are a lot of cuts required on a table saw to create multiple smaller boards out of the 4×4 fence posts. Using cedar fencing material really kept the cost down. Even with the inflated lumber prices that we’re dealing with right now, it’s less than $200 in wood.
Also, note that the plans were created around a 4×4 fence post that had actual dimensions of 3.5″ x 3.5″. I bought the 4×4 posts from Lowes for this project. For my cedar plant stand that I shared plans for a few months ago, I purchased 4×4 fence posts from Home Depot and those were 3.75″ x 3.75″. Just make sure to measure yours and adjust as needed.
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How to Make Cedar Planter Boxes with Removable Benches
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(4) 4×4 x 96″ Cedar posts (actual dimension = 3.5″x3.5″)
(12) 5.5″ x 5/8″ x 6′ Cedar Fence Pickets
(174) 2.25″ outdoor wood screws
Titebond III wood glue (for exterior use)
I’ve included some profile views of the 4×4 cuts. I accounted for a 1/8″ blade thickness for all of the cuts.
Step 1 – Cut french cleats using a table saw
Rotate your table saw blade to 45 degrees and then cut the (16) 14″ x 3.5″ x 1 11/16″ boards in half as shown below to create (32) cleats.
Step 2 – Add pocket holes to most of the cleats
Drill pocket holes into each end of (28) of the 32 cleats. Four of the 32 cleats will not need pocket holes as they will be secured to the benches using standard wood screws.
Step 3 – Build the shorter planter
Start by attaching two cleats to two legs per the dimensions below.
Step 4 – Frame for smaller planter
Complete the frame build by attaching more cleats and legs as shown below.
I found it easiest to build two sides and then attach them to two cleats.
Then I flipped the part over and added the last two cleats. Clamps come in very handy if you don’t have a helper in your shop.
Step 5 – Build the planter box
Cut a 45 degree angle on both ends of all (28) 14″ cedar picket pieces using a miter saw as shown below.
Step 6 – Build the planter box
Build the box for the first of the two smaller planters by stacking two of the 14″ pickets on all four sides and attach them together using wood glue. Position a 9.5″ tall corner brace in each of the corners and attach the braces to the walls using wood glue and 2.25″ wood screws. Stagger the screw locations as shown below to avoid hitting screws on the adjacent side of the corner brace.
Step 7 – Attach the planter box to the frame
Slide the box into the planter frame. It will probably be a tight fit so use a rubber mallet to work into place. Align the top of the box with the top of the legs and then screw the box into the cleats using 2.25″ screws.
Make sure that you predrill your holes since they are so close to the end of the board.
Step 8 – Attach the bottom boards
Flip the planter over and drop the three bottom pieces into place as shown below. Use wood glue and 2.25″ screws to attach the two end pieces to the corner braces.
I forgot to take a picture of the bottom after I added the screws but this is what it looked like when I rested the pieces in place.
Step 9 – Attach the bottom boards together
To attach the bottom boards together I used two 11.5″ braces and attached them to the boards using wood glue and 2.25″ screws.
Step 10 – Add the top trim
Use a miter saw to cut a 45 degree angle on each end of all twelve 2 5/16″ x 17 3/8″ picket pieces as shown below.
Attach 4 of the boards to the top using wood glue and brad nails. The edge of the trim piece should be flush with the edge of the legs.
Repeat steps 3 through 10 to make a 2nd smaller planter.
Step 11 – Assemble the taller planter
To make the taller planter you’ll need to attach 3 cleats to each side as shown below. Use wood glue and pocket screws.
Step 12 – Assemble the taller planter frame
Attach the remaining cleats and legs using wood glue and pocket screws.
Step 13 – Construct the box for the taller planter
Stack three 14″ picket pieces high for each side of the box and attach them together using 14.5″ tall corner braces, wood glue and 2.25″ screws.
Step 14 – Attach box to frame
Slide the box into the frame and attach it to the cleats using wood glue and 2.25″ screws.
Step 15 – Add the bottom boards
Flip the planter upside down and drop in the three bottom board pieces. Attach the two end boards to the corner braces using wood glue and 2.25″ screws.
Step 16 – Join the bottom boards together
Use two 11.5″ bottom braces to join the three bottom boards together with wood glue and 2.25″ screws.
Step 17 – Add top trim
Attach the 4 top trim pieces using wood glue and brad nails.
Step 18 – Construct the benches
Drill pocket holes into both ends of all eight 14″ bench braces
Also, drill pocket holes into both ends of all ten of the thinner bench braces as shown below.
Step 19 – Assemble the bench frame
Assemble the frame of the bench using wood glue and pocket screws as shown below. Note that the thinner (yellow) supports should be raised 5/8″ from the edge of the frame as detailed in the lower image below.
Step 20 – Add the bench slats
Space 4 bench slats evenly (with 5/8″ spacing). Attach them to the five yellow supports using wood glue and 1.5″ screws. I screwed from the bottom of the bench into the top so that you wouldn’t see the screws on the top of the bench.
Step 21 – Add french cleats to the bench
The bench is designed to use french cleats that will drop into the french cleats on the planters and keep the bench in place without the need for a mechanical attachment. This allows the bench to be easily added or removed.
Center a cleat on each end of the bench and then use wood glue and 2.5″ screws to attach the cleats to the bench.
Note that I found it much easier to sand and finish the benches before I attached the legs in step 22.
Step 22 – Build the bench leg
Using cedar pickets didn’t allow the bench enough structural integrity to hold an adult so I added a center leg for extra support.
To build the leg, attach two of the 14″ leg braces to the two legs as shown below. Again, use wood glue and pocket screws for this.
Step 23 – Attach the leg to the bench
Center the leg on the bottom of the bench and then use wood glue and 2.5″ screws to attach the leg to the bench.
Repeat steps 18-23 to make the 2nd bench!
How I finished my DIY planter benches
I sanded all of the cedar pieces with 120 grit followed by 240 grit prior to applying any finish. After sanding I cleaned all of the dust off of the parts to prepare for the oil.
I applied two coats of teak oil to the planters and benches. It really brought out the color of the wood. Below you can see what the first coat looked like on the planter and bench to the left of the image below.
To keep the soil from falling through the small cracks in the planter boxes I stapled landscape fabric to the inside of the planter boxes.
Finished planter bench photos
The first few photos are from last year before I completed my deck restoration project.
This is what it looks like with the benches removed. I love how little space it takes up.
After I refinished my deck I moved it up there.
The benches are designed to fit standard sizes of patio cushions. The blue ones that I purchased are from Lowes. They no longer carry them though. Maybe they’ll be back in stock next year!
Other outdoor projects
You may be interested in some of my other outdoor woodworking projects!
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