Recently, we packed up the family and drove to Birmingham, AL to visit some good friends for a long weekend. One of the families that we stayed with had been wanting an outdoor sectional for their back porch, and it was a great opportunity for me to get to build something that would get a lot of use (they also have 4 kids)
I looked at existing plans online, but I wanted to make sure that this one was custom to their space. Also, most of the plans I’d found were actually individual seats, connected to make a couch, but since my friends Kelly and Hesston had no need for each seat to be able to stand alone, we went with more of a corner couch. Another request that they had was for the back to be reclined a bit, which was a nice design challenge, but ultimately pretty easy to pull off. Also, I wanted to use as few power tools as possible (they had to travel with us) so I didn’t want to have to make any long rips on a table saw. I only used a miter saw, jigsaw and drill to build this whole thing.
One of the coolest things about this couch is the cost savings. They’d priced similarly sized couches and they were in the $2000 range, but this one cost $150 in lumber and $250 in cushions (but there’s a huge price range of cushions, so that really depends on taste/style). $2000 vs $400. Not bad, if I do say so myself
Here’s the list of pressure treated lumber that I had them get, it includes a couple of “just in case” boards, which they were able to return and cut the price down even more!
- 16 – 8′ 1″x4″
- 14 – 8′ 2″x4″
- 3 – 10′ 2″x4″
- Box of 2 1/2″ decking screws
There were a couple of things that dictated parts of the design and construction, namely, the cushions and the reclining back. The cushions that we used were 25″ x 25″ x 5″ with an attached back that was 25″ x 20″. Using this width, I designed the back upright supports to sit in between the cushions. Based on the uprights being 25″ apart, the crossing seat support sat right next to the uprights, and the legs sat right next to the seat support. That’s a really confusing sentence, but essentially, the cushion width was the cause for the placement of everything else. So, if you pick a different width cushion, you’ll need to adjust the plans accordingly.
I started out by laying out the main frame and screwing it all together. As I said before, I used the cushion width to find where the cross seat supports went (25″ on center). The corner seat was a little different, as it needed to allow for the depth of the back cushion on two sides. They bought an extra cushion and just used the back of it to fill in the gap, as you’ll see later on.
Next I cut all of the legs, except for the very ends, which would need to be higher to hold an arm rest. We decided that the legs should be about 18″, to match some of their other furniture. With the 5″ tall cushions, this made the seating level a little high for my taste, but it could easily be changed by shortening the height of the legs (and even changed later by trimming down the legs). We leaned the frame up on it’s side, which made screwing in the legs much easier. Regardless of whether you flip it over, or lean it up, be sure to not but a lot of stress on the legs when setting it back down. They’re not designed to take sideways pressure, just support weight vertically. The pictures below don’t show the final number of screws for attaching the legs. It ended up with 3 in from each side, and 1 in from the back to manage the stress from any direction.
UPDATE: Some extremely helpful Redditors have pointed out that as the wood dries, it will probably weaken, and at the very least, there should be some metal braces connecting the uprights to the back frame rail, seen below. You could also just move the cut out toward the back of the upright, leaving a sturdier overhang on the front. I love Reddit.. there’s some really awesome, helpful people over there!!
I expected the reclining back to be troublesome, and possibly not very strong, but it worked out to be easy. We took some angle measurements from other chairs that they had, and decided on a 12° angle. This angle worked out well, but again, it’s preference, so find a chair that you find comfortable, and measure it’s angle.
Using my speed square, I drew a line at the 12° angle, then used a scrap 2×4 to trace on the section that would need to be cut out. The idea was that each of these uprights would slide down onto the back of the frame, and be fastened to it. The 12° angle was also used on the top of the upright, so that it was level (as it would eventually hold a railing/drink holder). These cut outs were made with a jig saw. Unfortunately, jig saws aren’t terribly precise, and pressure treated wood is wet, and doesn’t always cut cleanly. You’ll probably want to clean these cuts up with a sander. On the other hand, there’s on the back/bottom of the couch, covered by pillows. Each upright was attached with 2 screws from the front, and one from the back.
The corner was a little strange, but moving the uprights away from the corner joint an equal distance (~3″) worked out fine. Using the an 8′ and 10′ 2×4, I added the top railing to the uprights. These were joined in the corner with pocket holes underneath, so there was a nice strong, hidden joint. Gotta love that Kreg jig!!
Here’s a place were my initial thoughts didn’t work quite right because of the cushions, and we had to rework it a little bit. Initially, I added a 2×4 across each seat back as support, but I placed them flush with the BACK of the couch, thinking that the cushions would sink in a bit. The problem ended up being that when the cushion sank it, it’s top did too, which made it fall underneath the top rail of the seat back. You ended up with your neck leaning on a 2×4, which was not comfortable at all. The photos below are the WRONG WAY TO DO IT, and I forgot to take photos once I fixed it. Just be sure to make these cross supports flush with the FRONT of the upright. I also moved the support up The cushion will sit better, trust me. The plans have been updated to reflect this change.
These pieces were screwed in through the surrounded uprights if possible, but most of them had pocket holes in the backs. This allowed them to all be in a straight horizontal line.
I added the armrests, which were very simple. We sat down, on the cushions, and just played with different heights for the armrests until it was comfortable. This will be preference for you, and partially based on the leg and cushion heights.
After screwing the legs in, on the outside of the frame, I measured from the back of the couch, to the front of the front leg, plus 1 1/2″ overhang. Using that length, I cut the arm rest from 1×4. I forgot to bring a router, but it would be idea to round off the edge of the armrest to make it nice and comfortable.
Adding the Seat:
Using 1×4, I laid out 7 pieces and spaced them 1/2″ (I used my carpenters pencil as a spacer). The piece in the back had to be notched to fit around the uprights, so I just set it in place, and traced out the uprights, and cut them out with the jig saw.
Following the same steps, I did the other side, screwing everything down with 2 screws where the 1×4 overlapped a 2×4.
That’s it! Add your favorite cushions and you’re all set to enjoy your new couch!
You can download the plans here, and please post a picture of it, if you build your own! I’d love to have ideas for improvement to it (since I now want to build my own), so let me know in the comments.
Check out this time lapse of the building process! Only took about 8 1/2 hours!