Woodworking Projects

Build Your Own Outdoor Loveseat

A Place to Put Your Tuckus in the Summer

(That alternate title makes me sound about 80 years old, but who cares?  I like it!)

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Updated October 4, 2020.

Though we are generally active people, my husband and I do log a fair amount of couch time.  We enjoy watching movies and TV shows, yes, and we also enjoy the seating to use our laptops and read.  Right now we have a lovely view of the river behind our home through the sliding doors, and just outside those doors is the beautiful deck I built with my parents (pre-husband) when we built the house.  I have had such dreams of eating brunch out there on sunny spring, summer and fall mornings; of reading my book out there on summer vacation in the afternoon shade from the neighbor’s tree; of watching the kayakers paddle up and down the river as I lounge on an early fall evening in the warm breeze.  However, those visions are not quite yet a comfortable reality since we do not have much furniture on said deck.

A few plastic patio chairs came with the cottage that was on the property when I bought it, but those are not enough for the deck of my visions.  I’ve browsed the stores and the internet.  Patio and deck furniture, at least the good kind, is expensive and not always to my liking.  I guess I am picky.  I am sure I have expensive taste, but it is just that I prefer quality.  Quality is costly and rightly so.  Someone spent a lot of time making those items really good, and their time is worth it if the items last a long time.  Furniture is not supposed to be disposable.  

The best pieces are the ones with a story, with some life in them.  Nearly all of the pieces in our home have been passed to us from family members, and that is rather special.  Some of the pieces were made by family members, and that is even better.  Not only that, they were well made, which I greatly appreciate and admire.  

Thus, we come to the project of furnishing the deck.  

My husband and I take our time to complete these projects so that we do the best job possible and save money where we can.  During winter and spring of 2018 I spent a good deal of time looking for the materials to make the cushions for a deck couch.  That is a project in which I go into much greater detail on another post.  You can read about the cushions here.

Having completed the cushions last spring, my husband and I moved onto building the couch.  My goal was to spend afternoons last summer out on the deck taking greater advantage of the view and the breeze.  So we started to plan.  

I get anxious to go ahead and start building, but the planning is definitely important to getting the best, and right, materials; which saves money and time in the long run.  My husband is really good with the details (engineers 😊), so after I sketch out my plan he asks me questions as he sorts through the details.  We collaborate to come up with a blueprint and shopping list.  I always did a pretty good job on my own or with my parents’ help, but my husband and I are an excellent team!  (Sorry, not sorry, for the sappiness.)

Once the shopping list was complete we were ready to go to our area hardware store for lumber and supplies.  On these occasions a small truck would be a useful vehicle to have, but it is not entirely necessary.  Either drop the backseat of the car if the boards are narrow and less than ten feet so they can run up the middle of the car, or put a blanket on the roof to keep from scratching the paint and strap the boards on top.  You should easily be able to find these winching straps at the hardware store too.  They are great, and easy enough to use once you are used to them.  I suggest practice by using the winches at home before going to the store.  Sitting in the parking lot trying to figure it out is no fun.

For this project we elected to use mostly 2x4s, with some 4x4s for the corner posts.  Since the corner posts would be the ones touching the ground, we purchase pressure treated 4x4s.  By ground, I mean the deck, but the ends of those posts would be more exposed even though we planned to use an outdoor stain.  We try to be proactive about the prevention of decay.  In fact, the deck is made of composite and the railings are the special PVC/composite type material.  It cost a lot more, but maintenance is power washing.  To me it was well worth it that we will never have to scrape and paint the deck…ever.

During the planning process I had determined that we did not really need the loveseat to be made completely from 2x4s.  1×4 would be strong enough for the seat and the back with the supports of the frame.  I ripped some scrap 2×4 we had at home to check the sturdiness and the board had no give.  Thus, our next job was to cut all the pieces to size, according to our plans; which included ripping a bunch of 2x4s.  Through this process we found out the blade on our table saw was pretty dull and had to return to the store to purchase a new one.  You may want to check your blade before you make your initial trip for supplies.

Why didn’t we just buy 1x4s at the lumber yard?  The 2x4s are the smallest dimensions available above strapping, unless we wanted to spend more money buying the finished pine.  The 2x4s also have the slightly rounded edges, which makes them safer and more comfortable.  Those being already in place, we would have to spend less time routing and sanding to create the same on the finished pine.

Ripped and cut seat and back pieces
Ripped and cut side pieces

We try to cut all of our pieces to the correct length ahead of time in order to stain all of the sides at once.  It takes a little more planning.  However, the time saved setting up and cleaning up the stain or paint and related supplies adds up later.  What can I say?  We are planners and try to anticipate hurdles we may come up against ahead of time.  It’s the teacher in me.  Though I like to jump in and get started, I do prefer to have a plan.  Plans can always be changed, but having a plan to begin with is generally my preference.

Next we stained allllll the pieces:

Twice!  The first coat looked a little too transparent and unprotected to the elements, so we went at it again.  We used a gray, outdoor stain we already had from re-staining the dock.

You can still see the wood grain after two coats, which I like.  Most of the time I find it a shame to paint wood.  2x4s are not really anything too special to look at, but the combination of them and the stain had a nice effect for our outdoor loveseat.  

Following our plan, some 2x4s were not ripped and were used for the seat frame.  We notched out a corner on each of the four posts of 4x4s for the seat frame to sit inside so the connection would not be a shear one, and so there would be some support under the seat frame.  Just having the seat frame screwed into the corner posts would not have been nearly as sturdy.  You can see one of the notches in a corner post in the photo below.  My husband cut them out with a saber saw and cleaned them up with a chisel.  Our neighbor let us use his drill press with the square chiseling bit (Such a cool tool!) for the same task on our bed headboard and footboard project.  That had made the job so much easier, but he was still away from the winter and we wanted to press onward, so we made due. 

Once all of the pieces had dried thoroughly we dry fit them together and checked the sizing with the couch cushions I had already made.  If you have skipped ahead, you can read about sewing the cushions in an earlier post

Everything fit nicely.  The spacing of the slats was good.  We were ready to assemble.

Once a nice day came around we brought all of our tools and materials out onto the deck and constructed our loveseat out there.  That was the right move since carrying the finished product up the stairs and maneuvering it through the house would have been a pain.  The final piece is also pretty heavy, so we didn’t need to make work harder on ourselves.

Among the materials were the 3” deck screws we purchased for assembly. 

Among the tools were a tape measure, screw guns with the appropriate square bit for the deck screws, and the speed square.  Remember to check your frame for square, so it doesn’t end up crooked with all of your carefully measured and cut pieces not fitting properly.  If you don’t have some sort of square, you can measure the diagonals with your tape measure to see if they match.  It wouldn’t hurt to do that anyway, just to be thorough.  We did.  😉

You might also note the box of sheetrock screws.  By the time we finished putting the frame together we had run out of the deck screws.  I guess I did not calculate that well.  Oops!  My parents happened to be visiting and my dad suggested using sheetrock screws to finish attaching the seat, back, and side slats, if we had any on hand.  They didn’t need to be as strong as the frame; so that’s what we did.  For longevity we would have preferred the deck screws, but on these pieces the screws will be easier to replace if need be.

Also pictured is a bolt.  We used those as spacers for the slats.

A couple of final cuts and late staining were unavoidable.  The last seat slat needed some notches taken out to fit properly.

To cover the ends of the seat slats we finished by nailing a fascia piece of ripped 2×4 with the finish nailer to each end.  We also calculated for the front seat slat to overlap by a margin so we could nail a fascia piece there too, to hide the deck screws and dress it up a bit.

Pictured below are the supports for the back and side slats screwed into the frame with deck screws.

Below is the finished product.  I suppose we could have angled the back to recline a little, but I am quite pleased with how it turned out.  A couple of throw pillows will do the same trick.  Find out about those in another post!  

We plan to putty the screw holes on the arms, but the loveseat is ready for use.  We finished the project for the summer last year, as I had hoped, and I was eager to get some use out of it.  I was able to get in some time, but unfortunately a regional EEE threat limited our shady outdoor hours, and with our little one on the way I had to be extra careful.  

Next up, find an umbrella so we can get even more use out of the space!  Our son loves it out there.  

Might you take on a similar project?  Let me know if you have any questions.  

Until the next project,
– Jen