Introduction: Build a Chaise Frame From Scratch

Picture of Build a Chaise Frame From Scratch

Disclaimer: This is the first sofa that I have ever built and have attempted to upholster. I am not a professional. I have done a lot of research and have built what I believe to be a quality piece of furniture. I hope this instructable inspires you to attempt your own build.

*** Update 01/02/2011 : I added some more upholstery pics. The springs are now tied and covered with burlap and foam. Tomorrow I will finish upholstering the chaise hopefully, except for sewing the cushions.

*** Update 12/20/2010 : I began to upholster the arm of the chaise today. I will update this instructable with the upholstery section when I am complete. Until then please see the pictures below. Remember this is my first time trying to upholster so be kind. 

One of the hardest parts of searching for furniture is finding exactly what you want. You may find the design that you like, but it has the wrong fabric. Or you find the right fabric but the wrong design.

If you do find what you want, it is completely out of your price range. The solution is for you to build it yourself. I have built a sectional from scratch. I consists of two end Chaise Lounges and a middle sofa with no arms.

These are the instructions to build the chaise that will attach to the sectional. I will post the sofa section later.

I will soon post my upholstery instructable for this sectional soon.

Dimensions: 3 ft. (L) X 5 ft. (W)

Total Cost: about $100 - this cost can be reduced dramatically if you use lower quality material such as construction plywood or MDF and pine wood stock. I chose to use better material so that this furniture will last against my children.

     36 linear feet of 1" X 2 1/2" wood stock (I used Poplar)
     18 linear feet of 1" X 1 1/2" wood stock (Poplar again)
     1 - 4' X 8' sheets of 3/4" plywood (I usedcabinet grade Birch Plywood)
     Wood Glue
     Pocket Screws

     Tablesaw - ( I have a craftsman 10" )
     Jigsaw - (Only if you are going to make curved arms)
     Orbital sander - (Only if you are going to make curved arms)
     Miter Saw (Chop saw)
     Measuring tape
     Clamps (Really helps when you are working by yourself)
     Pocket Hole Jig ( or your own preferred joinery)
     Rafter Sqaure (triangle)
     Coping Saw

Cut List:

Part Name     |     Quantity     |     Stock Size     |     Stock Length
C -1                           4                        1" X 2 1/2"             23 1/4"
C -2                           1                        1" X 2 1/2"             47 1/2"
C -3                           4                        1" X 2 1/2"             34 1/2"
C -4                           2                        1" X 2 1/2"             29 1/2"
C -5                           1                        1" X 2 1/2"             27"
C -6                           1                        1" X 2 1/2"             22
C -7                           6                        1" X 1 1/2"             34 1/2"
C -8                           1                        1" X 2 1/2"             21 1/4"
C -9                           1                        1" X 2 1/2"             10"

Plywood cutlist 3/4" - 4' X 8' sheet
Part Name     |     Quantity     |     Stock Dimension (W)     |     Stock Dimension (H)
C -a                            1                                  30"                                            9"                      
C -b                            1                                  23 1/4"                                     9"
C -c                            1                                  59 1/4"                                      9"
C -d                            2                                  27"                                            12"
C -e                            1                                  18"                                            12"
C -f                              1                                  28 1/2"                                      5"


Step 1: Design

The first thing that I need to do was look for the right design. I looked thoughout the internet and at stores to determine what I wanted. Once I got the right design, I determined the overall dimensions of the sofa. The wall that it will go on is 12' wide. I wanted it to stretch the whole length of the wall to provide the most seating possible.

I drew out the design and checked with the wife for feedback. She approved....LOL.

I drew out each section of the sofa and the individual pieces to get a better look at what I will be building.

Step 2: Build Chaise Arm

Picture of Build Chaise Arm

Parts needed:
Part Name     |     Quantity     |     Purpose
C - 3                            4                         Pieces of poplar for the arm rails
C - 7                            6                         Pieces of poplar for the arm rails
C - d                            2                         Arm Face

I pocketed holed all the ends of the rails.

*** Note : Use glue where ever wood touches wood. You will be thankfull you did, trust me.


I first drew the arm face design on a 27"(H) X 12"(W) piece of plywood. I then cut out the piece with a jigsaw. When cutting out the design, cut about an 1/8" away from the line of the design. You will refine this line with the orbital sander. I used 80 grit sandpaper and I sanded it to the line to get the exact shape that I was looking for.

I then placed the finished arm face on the other plywood to get an identical arm for the rear facing arm face.

Step 3: Build Deck of Chaise

Picture of Build Deck of Chaise

Parts needed:
Part Name     |     Quantity     |     Purpose
C - b                            1                        Outside side deck panel that attaches to outside profile
                                                               of arm
C - a                            1                        Front deck panel that attaches to Outside deck 
                                                               and Inside deck panel
C - c                            1                        Inside deck panel that attaches to Front deck panel and
                                                               rear horizontal lower support
C - f                             1                        Deck center support brace
C - 1                            2                        One attaches to Outside deck panel and the other is
                                                               the rear horizontal lower support
C - 5                            1                        Attaches to the Front deck panel
C - 2                            1                        Attaches to the Inside Deck panel
C - 9                            1                       

Once the arm is built, you can begin to build the deck of the Chaise.

First attach the Side Chaise rail to the front of the arm face. Then attach the stinger board to the inside of the Side Chaise rail. Anywhere that wood touches wood there is glue.

Attach the front Chaise rail face to the sides and attach the side Chaise rail to the front. You are basically just building a box.

Attached the rear rail ( Part C - 1 - 1" X 2 1/2" X 23 1/4") to the Side Chaise rail and the rear face of the chaise arm.

Step 4: Build Back Support

Picture of Build Back Support

Parts needed:
Part Name     |     Quantity     |     Purpose
C - e                             1                      Inner back support panel
C - 1                             2                      Lower back support rail and rear deck support rail 
C - 4                             2                      Rear horizontal upper support rail and Rear Top
                                                              support rail
C - 6                             1                      Back support vertical rail
Extra Piece cut out from the arm panel that I mentioned earlier

Back support is 18" high and 12" wide. The top edge is 2 1/2" wide and is diagonally cut to the bottom edge of the plywood piece to get the right angle. Attach to rear of the chaise side rail.

Attach the bottom rail of back support (C-1) to the Inner back support panel (C-e) not the Inner deck panel. Attach the other side to the arm. This is where the back fabric will attach to. Also it sits partially on top of C - 2.

Attach the Rear deck support rail (C-1) to the Inside deck panel 6" from rear and the top of the stock is 7" above the bottom. This is where the deck fabric will attach to.

I used a clamp on the outside of the arm and the Back support panel to maintain the the 36" distance. I then placed the Rear Horizontal Upper support rail (C-4) on the inside of the back support panel 3/4" down and pressed it against back of arm. I traced the curve of the arm to get a snug fit. I cut this out with a jigsaw.

I also added a vertical support rail against the back support panel (Piece not shown). It is 21 1/4" out of 1" X 2 1/2" stock.

I installed the Top Support Rail (C-4) to the Back support panel, the rear horizontal upper support rail and the arm. Dont worry that this doesnt connect to the arm, we want a gap so that the foam and fabric will fit in between the arm and the back support.

Place part C - 6 against the back support horizontal rails and the Top support rail. Use a rafter square to transfer the angle to the board. Use the miter saw to cut. Mine was about 28 degrees.

You will need to back cut the top of Part C-6 about an 1" inorder for it to fit snug. Install bottom of part about an 1 1/2" away from arm. You may want to add more space depending on the thickness of foam that you plan on using.

Take the extra piece left over from cutting out the arm and with a coping saw back cut the inside curve of the piece. You may want to remove a little bit more off the top length depending on the thickness of the foam you use. I used 2" foam and it was an extremely tight fit.

All done... you are ready for upholstery.


Step 5: Upholstering the Arm

Picture of Upholstering the Arm

Full upholstery steps Coming soon....


tinadesigns (author)2014-02-10

What size springs did you end up using?

duo8144 (author)tinadesigns2016-09-23

The springs had a 4" diameter and were about 18" long, uncompressed

OkimaB (author)duo81442017-10-01

Where did you purchase the springs?

jsmithblue (author)2011-01-02

just my $.02....the pieces of poplar at the top of the arm should be turned 90 degress so that is someone puts a lot of pressure there, it will be more supportive. I have seen several built like this that snap because someone used the arm to push themselves up.

duo8144 (author)jsmithblue2016-09-23

I agree, but to date, after 5 1/2 years it is still solid. My 4 kids actually sit and jump off those arms all the time, even though I yell at them not to. So far it is still solid. My next couch will definitely have an additional piece set at 90 degrees below that horizontal piece to add support.

duo8144 (author)jsmithblue2011-01-02

Thanks for the info... Maybe on the Chaise that I havent upholster yet I can put a vertical piece under the horizontal piece for the added support.

BornBaker (author)duo81442011-03-29

Hello. Do you plan to add pictures of the finished, upholstered product? I hope you do, so far, it looks great.

tjdux (author)2015-09-23

hey great ible. I really could have used this when I started on my diy couch two summers ago.

I knew someone would have a great instrucable for a couch but I couldn't find it lol. im working on an ible for my couch as well. its a very different design that is based on a telescopic idea to create the seating area of a sectional but only need the floor space of a traditional couch.

if I ever get my ible wrote I will send you a link on here. also get to hit tje I made it button lol. keep up the good work.

duo8144 (author)tjdux2016-09-23

I would definitely like to see how your couch came out.

mrcaderly (author)2016-06-10

Great instructable!! How has it held up against your kids over the years?

duo8144 (author)mrcaderly2016-09-23

It has held up to 4 kids and still going strong. Aside from wear and tear on the fabric, it is been a solid design to date, after 5 1/2 years.

bajide77 (author)2016-03-29

Nice craft! would seriously follow instructions to my advantage. thanks

PixinitiS (author)2015-08-30

nice job!

annasoults (author)2015-08-02

Where is the rest of this I would love to see the completed works and the rest of the instruction to complete it. The frame is just perfect.

buck2217 (author)2015-06-24

That is nice, excellent work

hawaj (author)2014-11-21

Wow! Big respect, I want to do my sofa too.

lionsden (author)2014-05-06

Great project! My wife took it upon herself to re-do an old "hide-a-bed" we have had for years (it has sentimental value to our oldest son. Probably go with him when he moves out - eventually!). Wish we had seen your work and the advice others have given you! This may inspire another rebuild (with a few modifications!).

Peg162 (author)2013-10-02

Love it. Good job!

mommawolf (author)2013-07-25

I would LOVE to see the final pictures of this. It's AWESOME!!

kdiane (author)2013-06-06

this is amazing, thanks for posting. I am designing a couch virtually for a college class. This is inspiring me to make a real one at some point down the road.

DemolisionWolf (author)2012-12-13

like a boss, nice work!

AnimattersInc (author)2012-02-24

I want to build an l-shaped bench for our kitchen (like a restaurant booth) but can't find a spring supplier. Where did you get your springs from?

dimtick (author)2011-10-28

really nice job!!!!!!!!!!
I like the fact that you did your research and didn't take any shortcuts. your doing it the old school way and that's cool.
I have a leather couch that I need to reapolster but i'm terrified. I've done a lot of woodwork and furniture work but not upholstering.
my plan is to start small and work my way up. I've got a salvaged piano bench that will have an upholstered seat that i'm working on now. following that will be a couple chairs. then i think i'll be ready for the couch....just got to get the kids to stop jumping on it so that it'll stay together until i can get to it.....

DonaldMMC (author)2011-07-13

Thank you soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much, I looked on youtube, I looked at the library, I looked at the upholstery store but no one would teach me how to make my own good quality sofa.

Peg162 (author)2011-01-28


gix0r (author)2010-12-27

Wow, this is awesome! I've been fantasizing about building my own sectional for awhile now. This may give me that last motivation to try it. I'd go for a more modern aesthetic, which would probably be easier, but more props to you. Where did you get the springs? That has been one of my big questions, as I assume springs would be much more comfortable than foam cushions on top of a plywood base...

duo8144 (author)gix0r2011-01-02

I got the springs from a local upholstery supplyer in Monrovia, CA. Diaz Upholstery Supply. They gave me some great deals and offered alot of advice on what materials I would need. There are 2 types of springs, coils (which I used) and Serpentine Springs. Coil Springs are supposed to be tremedously better, when installed correctly, but are hard to do and takes a lot of time and practice tying them right. I just finished 8-way tying them today. Total time to install and tie the springs was about 10 hours. I will probable take a couple of hours off that on my next install. It is still undetermined if I did them correctly, but they look like they came out right. Serpentine Springs are extremely easy to install and take no time at all, but tend to sag over time. Hope this info helps.

gix0r (author)duo81442011-01-09

Wow, sounds like a lot of work, but worth it! Thanks very much for the info. Looking forward to seeing your continued progress :)

pacificfurn (author)2011-01-02

Well done! I own a 52 year old custom furniture factory and I must say that you nailed it. There are a few missing techniques that would make your life easier, but your basics are right on. We have considered selling kits for DIY'ers but didn't think anyone would have the patience to make their own. Maybe we were wrong. You certainly have the patience, skill and "craftsman" ability to do amazing work. If you ever move to Phoenix, maybe we could use you!

Mark Erwin
Steward, Husband, Father, Grandfather

duo8144 (author)pacificfurn2011-01-02

Thank you for the praise.... it makes me feel great that someone with experience building furniture approves of my design. I would be interested in hearing what could be done better. I never shy away from advice.

When I was building this I also that about making kits. If you really think about it, it is exactly the type of thing you would get from IKEA. I think that it is a great idea and you should look into it. Especially if you have a CNC machine, you can really reduce the scrap material and get the most for your money on supplies.

pacificfurn (author)duo81442011-01-03

You're welcome.
Minor things really. Adding corner blocks improves frame stability and slots for pulling the upholstery through would be a couple. Nothing major. We do have CNC capabilities for frame, fabric and leather. The question of commercial viability falls to value. Would you have paid nearly as much to DIY as a Chinese manufactured IKEA sofa? It there enough value in having exactly what you want and the satisfaction of making it yourself to justify the effort? You have inspired some additional thinking...

whyexactly (author)pacificfurn2011-01-04

Personally I would love to be able to order a kit to make something like this, I frequently wish I could get products that are user assembled made in higher-quality materials. My family purchased a DIY pool table recently and we loved putting it together, it turned out great and the components are of much higher quality than a preassembled table of similar cost.

pacificfurn (author)whyexactly2011-01-05

Thanks for the feedback. When we are ready to offer DIY upholstered furniture, we will be sure to post it on Instructables.

stebious (author)2011-01-03

Just curious, about how much roughly did this run you to make? I have considered custom chairs and what not for my home but not sure if itd be worth it for me.. Thanks! You did an awesome job!!

duo8144 (author)stebious2011-01-04

Alot of the materials that I listed are enough for all 3 pieces of furniture that I am building so there is some duplicate cost that wont be neccessary if you are making more than one chair.

duo8144 (author)stebious2011-01-04

So far the entire cost of the entire sectional: wood, fabric, foam, jute, twine, etc... is costing me just over $900. I am using premium materials, so this can be dramatically reduced. The wood frame cost me about $240 (2 Chaise and 1 armless sofa). I got the Faux Leather at the garment district in Downtown LA and for $10/yard with 22 yards of it for $220. The foam is probably the most expensive part.

The cost of the Chaise, is hard to determine. If you buy all the wood for this it will be about $100. If you already have the tools (webbing strecher, staple gun, needles, etc) all you would have to worry about is the upholstery material. The fabric (about 6 1/2 yards @ $10/yard - $65), burlap (about 3 yards - $3), webbing (about 20 yards - $ 10), twine (1 - 1lbs roll - $10) and foam ( 2in X 2ft X 8ft for arm - $20, and 4in X 2ft X 8ft for seat and back cushion - $50), Dacron (30in X 7 yards - $7 but not sure how much $), tufting twine ( $15), Spring Coils ( 21 for $21), 1/2" welt (4 yards for $6),and wooden feet ( 4 for $24). So the total is about $331, but there is alot of wood left over for other projects or other pieces of furniture.

Hope this helps.

gluvsu (author)2011-01-02

I didn't see if you mentioned the amount you spent to make this couch! By the way I am so inspired but scared to try! It looks amazing!! Great Job!

duo8144 (author)gluvsu2011-01-02

So far the entire cost of the sectional: wood, fabric, foam, jute, twine, etc... is costing me just over $900. I am using premium materials, so this can be dramatically reduced. The wood frame cost me about $240 (2 Chaise and 1 armless sofa). I got the Faux Leather for $10/yard and I got 22 yards so $220. The foam is probably the most expensive part.

You should try it. Start small, like a single seater, so there is not as much of a financial investment. You cant be afraid to mess up. It is expected. If you got it right the first time, them you probably didnt learn anything. Im about to finish upholstering this chaise and I have messed up in multiple areas, but when I upholster the other chaise and armless sofa, they will come out 10Xs better. Think about it like this, once you learn, even if you messed up, in a couple of months or years you can try again on the same piece of furniture. Good Luck!!!

robertlfulton4 (author)2011-01-02

I have found on other furniture that the edges that come in contact or neer contact with the apulstry needs to be rounded so as to not cut the cloth

duo8144 (author)robertlfulton42011-01-02

I have knocked off the corners with some 80 grit sandpaper just to smooth out the corners. Also Dacron is wrapped around the corners to soften them from being hit by shins or toes.

player2756 (author)2011-01-02

Very cool. Definitely plan on building some furniture and have been thinking about doing something similar for a while.

gluvsu (author)2011-01-02

shoot you can make anything in your house if you can do this!!

mcenerny (author)2011-01-02

Waiting anxiously for the next ible! This is just in time to help me with my own sectional project, very similar to yours. Good work!!

nathan43081 (author)2010-12-20

I can't wait to see the instructable on how to cover the frame. I have been toying with the idea of making my own furniture like this, and need to understand the covering part more before I get going.

spiderham (author)nathan430812010-12-20

Check out your local Tech school for upholstery classes. I took an 8 week course one day a week at mine and learned alot more than I expected. I'm curently doing most of the upholstery work at the amusement park I work for. $85 well spent.

duo8144 (author)spiderham2010-12-20

Thanks for the info. I have looked into some upholstery classes at the local adult school, but I guess I wanted to give it a shot to see how it will come out. I will post pics, if you have any advice or you see any sections that I can improve on or give advice on how to fix, I would appreciate it.

spiderham (author)duo81442010-12-23

It's looking really good. Since you're working with faux leather, it's a good idea to keep the fabric warm. Cold "pleather" tends to rip easily and loses some pliability, it's also much easier to work with. When you staple the fabric start from the middle and work your way out, pulling back and slightly away from the middle. This will help keep unwanted wrinkles down.

As far as the overlap on the arm, it's a little difficult to tell from the pic, but it just looks like you pulled that one pleat tighter than the rest.

duo8144 (author)spiderham2010-12-23

Thanks for the great info.... Since I am doing this in the garage, the vinyl has been cold... could I use a blow dryer to warm it up. I have seen people do that but for car upholstery. I didnt know that it should be used for house furniture. I will try that when I upholster the other chaise arm.

Yeah the pleat on the arm is pulled a little tighter than the rest. I kinda ran outta fabric torward the front. Maybe if I would have stapled the pleat in place first and then warmed up the vinyl I could have stretched it into position over the front of the arm?

spiderham (author)duo81442010-12-23

A blow dryer might work for problem spots (don't go nuts with it, just enough heat to work the fabric.), but it might be better to just get a space heater for your garage and keep the fabric nearby. Stretching the fabric on the pleat won't work because it'll want to settle back to it's original state. Another draw back to pulling "pleather" too tight is that it tears much easier and continues to slowly tear until it eases the tension. Try to give yourself a couple extra inches on every side when you cut your panels and cut off the excess after installed.

duo8144 (author)spiderham2010-12-24

Thank you for the great advice.

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