Introduction: Garden Seating, Incorporating Retaining Wall

About: I am a Marine Engineer in the RNZN (45 years done in various navies) and am looking forward to retirement!!! so I can do more messing about with tools

Having now got my shed just about completed It was high time that I started on relaxing areas of the garden, So I have decided to build some modular style seating and a "chill" area.

It's not exactly Chippendale, but hey it is garden seating!

Step 1: Dig Out the Area

Obviously nothing is easy! Step one is to dig out an area to put the seating.

Due to access limitations this was all done by hand and barrow, (well it keeps me fit!) and was done over a weekend, the fill was put into my raised 6m x 3m bed as subsoil for root vegetables (potatoes, kumara etc)

Approx 12 cubic meters of soil was removed, the first photo was taken a few hours after starting and the second at the end of the weekend from approx the same angle (There is a rose at the base of the white sack and you can see how much was removed by its position on the second pic (I have put a box around on the pictures))

The pic of the raised bed is after Day 1 (approx 75 barrow loads of soil)

While I had the spade out I also planted a trio of citrus trees (Lemon, Lime and Satsuma), which were previously in pots inside the pool area, the red frames are to stop the dogs/chooks etc digging them up.

Step 2: Digging Complete (I Hope!)

From the reverse angle you can see I have dug the area in a "lazy S" , however the storage bench will be laid out in an approximate semi circle. The bench already there will be relocated (and I may even do an I'ble on building one of them later)

Step 3: Costings

I had quite a bit of the timber lying around from previous projects but will cost as closely as I can, all prices are in NZ$. However if you are on a budget, there is no reason why this entire project couldn't be made from pallets, including seat bases. In that case all you would need to buy are the fixings.

Exchange rates NZ-US 0.68, NZ-GBP 0.44, NZ-Euro 0.60

4 x 2 for frames 3.5m per frame 7 frames $3/m --------------------------------$73

4 inch nails 3kg -------------------------------------------------------------------------$25

2 inch screws (1/2 box) ---------------------------------------------------------------$13

18mm decking 70m --------------------------------------------------------------------$153

1 sheet 18mm ply -----------------------------------------------------------------------$54

3 sheets 12mm ply ---------------------------------------------------------------------$100

35mm screws (found in bargain box at Bunnings) $5 a box ---------------- $10

Black builders plastic free from skip ------------------------------------------------$0

Varnish/stain ------------------------------------------------------------------------------$40

Seat Squabs 6 @ $59 ea -------------------------------------------------------------$354

TOTAL $822 (US$560,362 GBP,493 Euros)

Step 4: Frame Cutting List

I have 4 cushions, thus I need 5 frames (I will probably buy a couple more cushions and extend this bench, but the rule is 1 more frame than cushions!)

Each frame is made from 4x2 (or 2x4s if you're an American!)

To give me the heights I want, and to fit the cushions they are cut as follows


1x 1200mm

1x 650mm

1x 570mm

1x 520mm (not 500 as written on it in the picture)

All these were straight cuts on the chop saw


1x 530mm

This had 15degree cuts at both ends as shown to give a sloping back rest

Step 5: Tools

Because I have a lot of powertools that is what I mainly used, HOWEVER all of this could be done with handtools provided you meet the following criterion:-

1. You are mad

2. You are very poor!

So I used (in no particular order)

A Chop Saw

A Table Saw

A Circular Saw

A Jigsaw

An Oscillating Saw

A Drill Driver

A Hammer

A Belt Sander

A Detail Sander

A Spirit Level

A Tape Measure (optional!)

A Pen or Pencil (or crayon if I can get it out of my nostril)

Brute Force


A Lot of Beer!

Step 6: Assemble

Assembled with 100mm nails with the exception of the top of the backrest which I screwed with 2.5 inch screws.

I allowed 200mm at the base for the legs to be buried to give stability

Once I had made, and was happy, with the first one I used it as a template and assembled the rest on top.

Step 7: Siting (First Fit)

I put the frames in position and buried the legs making sure they were upright, the seat was flat and, most importantly, that they looked right.

I used one of the cushions as a spacer/template to ensure correct positioning of the frames

Originally I was going to bend the decking to fit, but this proved troublesome so I cut lengths and screwed them into position along the front and top of the backrest.

At this point the frames are only temporarily sited as I need to remove them to panel out, however will make them more rigid first. I also need to make sure the base is flat (so maybe a little more digging ;-) )

The backrest and front are to be boarded with 18mm decking timber

This was when I decided that I actually needed to make it larger with 6 seats instead of 4 as it would look better

Step 8: So I Built 2 More!

I cut some 18mm ply (marine ply) for the seat bases and screwed this into place to brace everything in the correct positions.

Now at this point I started putting all the seat faces on (18mm decking timber) Then suddenly realised that I wouldn't have enough space attach the backs to act as a retaining wall, and screw the storage box bases on (unless I dug a s***load more earth out).

Soooooooooooo I dismantled it all and reassembled in 3 pieces, with the backs on, then lifted/slid it all back into place and.

The backs are 12mm marine ply and I will staple some plastic sheeting onto it to act as a moisture barrier between it and the bank before I backfill.

I did take some pics but the camera said no! I have no idea where they disappeared to - will have to try the internal drive (found out I had camera on panorama and didn't save - what a klutz)

Needless to say it is very heavy and hopefully not coming out again!!

I then started replacing the Decking timber,

Step 9: The Seat Bases and Backs On

So this shows the seat base in position, all are slightly different I basically cut a piece of 18mm ply sheet to fit - measuring stuff is for losers!

The two seats nearest the camera have the bottom base on the underneath of the bottom stringer rail - this gives an extra 2 inches (5cm) of space which I need for a couple of the things I am going to store. The other 4 will have the base at the top of the stringer as it is easier to attach and if I had panelled it all out it would have been too unwieldy to move.

As you can see there is still some earth to move (and bench to relocate)

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the chooks for all their assistance!

Step 10: And Backfill

So I stapled some black builders plastic to the rear of the unit and backfilled (thought I said I was done with this digging lark!)

Step 11: Carry on Panelling

I bought some rectangular, white boat squabs and because of the curve decided to infill with some armrests/drink rests

These were cut to fit out of some 8x2 I had lying around (which was free) plus I screwed some cut down decking to the sides for decorative effect

Because I had only roughly measured/guesstimated the positions of the frames these are all slightly different sizes, however they look ok and their main purpose is to position and secure the cushion/squabs

Step 12: Relocate Bench

Dug it out and transported to other side of garden

Had forgotten how heavy it was!

Step 13: Access to Storage Spaces

I marked out and cut out a rectangular access into the underseat storage spaces, rounded the corners and screwed in ply supports for seat base.

Finger hole drilled in the centre to aid removal

I used an oscillating saw to start the cut, and completed with a jig saw.

Step 14: And Finally.............

Just need to give it a quick sand and stain/varnish it.

I am looking to finish it with a clear varnish for 2 reasons

1. I think it will contrast well with the darker background and foreground when I complete

2. Someone gave me a load of clear varnish free!!!

Next project is a firepit to go in front and some paving/planting

Oh and yes, there was more digging to do before I finished after all!!