Picture of Lifeguard Chair from Recycled Lumber
lifeguard chair clean.png
The inspiration for this chair came from seeing one on a pier at Lake Tahoe. It’s big – seating two pretty comfortably – and tall, affording a nice view along with protection from cannonballs and wet dogs.

This one is made from lumber recycled from a redwood deck we ripped out. The weathering, stains and screw holes all add to character of the chair even after rigorous sanding on the seat, footrest, arms and back. With ‘free’ lumber, the cost for this chair was two boxes of screws, some glue and sand paper. (And in my case, a belt sander – but that’s an investment, right?)

Though not particularly difficult to build, it did take a few days and some table saw skills. There are a number of angled cuts and a couple of dados to contend with. I would not recommend taking this on without a table saw, a belt sander and a good drill.

The plans were created using SketchUp from photos taken of the inspirational chair, with a few modifications for aesthetics and ease of construction. The SketchUp files are included here, if you don’t have the program you can download it for free at . Description of the files is at the bottom of this step.

It's important to note that a 2x4 is actually 1.5" x 3.5" - the plans assume this, and if you're using recycled lumber you'll need to take that into account .
2x4 lumber - 92 linear feet (can be done with12 8' boards if you lay it out carefully)
2x6 lumber - about 6 feet for the armrests
2.5" deck screws - two boxes (about 150 screws)
2" deck screws - 18
Glue - outdoor grade wood glue

Table saw - with tilting blade for some 15 degree cuts. Also a set of dado blades unless you're using a router for the rabbet cuts.
Hand saw - there are a few cuts that are just easier to do by hand.
Jig saw or band saw - for rounding the arms. Optionally you can approximate with the hand saw and sand it down.
Belt sander - essential, there's a lot of sanding to get the sitting area smooth, especially if you're using recycled lumber. 
Drill - you need to put in about 150 screws
Drill press - optional, but makes for beautifully aligned pilot holes
Clamps - at least four hearty clamps for holding the legs during dry assembly, also used in assembling the seat, footrest and back.
Pencil - cheap but effective.

Protect your eyes and ears when using power tools!
Gloves or Epsom Salt - your choice for dealing with splinters. I started with Epsom Salt, which is great for removing that nasty splinter that goes in your finger all the way to the nail. Then I changed to gloves. I recommend starting with the gloves.
Mask - wear it when sanding, or cough a lot.

The chair has three main parts - the backrest, seat and footrest, with the arms, legs and cross members holding it all together. We will build it in that order. I highly recommend reading and understanding the whole process first.

There are four versions of the model in SketchUp included below. They each contain all the parts, but in different configurations for your (and my) convenience. The basic model has everything you really need.
lifeguard_chair_basic.skp - The fully assembled chair with height dimensions (as shown in the 'Main Assembly' step).
lifeguard_chair_boards.skp - One possible layout to cut the pieces from 12 eight foot 2x4s and one six foot 2x6.
lifeguard_chair_explode.skp - Exploded version showing the main parts of the chair (as shown in the last image of this step).
chairDetails.skp - Each main assembly with some notes (as shown in steps 3, 4, 5, 6, 8).

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scrantonicity01 made it!7 months ago

Completed at last! I had such a great time building this chair -- so glad I finally made the time to do it! I am relatively new to woodworking and learned a whole lot on this project that I haven't done before (it is odd to find rabbet cuts fun? :-) ) I even used that sweet 15 degree jig idea you showed and it worked like a charm!

Anyway, thanks so much for the excellent instructions and pics. Here are a few pics of the finished product (with a couple kids in there for scale).

crosendahl (author)  scrantonicity017 months ago

Congratulations - it looks fantastic! Your own yard throne. :)

I'm very happy to hear that the instructions worked out well. Thanks.

bball3 made it!yesterday
Excellent design! I am building two for our neighborhood pool. I am going to try and modify it so it will not be so wide and deep. I will let you know of my progress.
jjjjmiller1 month ago


having troubles can't download sketchup files

Thanks! Currently a work in progress (got 3 components done so far) - just a matter of finding the time to complete. Will post pics once finished. Thx!
This is a fantastic 'ible and has been in my Favorites and on my to-do list for 2 years and I am finally getting started! Very excited!
Quick question -- If I wanted to make this a bit taller/higher (say 6-10 inches), would it require any significant modifications beyond using longer leg boards?
I'm trying to envision whether any of the angles would need to change or anything like that. Thanks!
crosendahl (author)  scrantonicity018 months ago

I'm excited you're building one!

For only 6 - 10 inches you should be fine without changing the angles. That first step (the foot rest) will be very high, though. You might also consider beams between the legs near the ground to help keep them steady - they're 2x4s and might get wobbly (though mine even after 3 years is rock solid). Perhaps the same distance down as the distance from the seat to the foot rest for symmetry.

Please put pics up when you're done!

ngajic3 years ago
where can I buy one of those scrap wood shredders
l8nite3 years ago
10 points just for the cool by the pool factor ! Great looking chair !
djsfantasi3 years ago
Excellent! Well detailed and very intelligent design.
paganwonder3 years ago
Would also make an excellent "Lord of the Backyard BBQ" chair. Excellent re-use
drknotter3 years ago
Excellent instructable! If I ever own a pool, I'll definitely look into this!