Build a Window Seat With Storage

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Introduction: Build a Window Seat With Storage

What's a bay window without a window seat?  An unfinished and underutilized space waiting to be transformed!  Building a window seat is a basic "build-in" project and here's how you can do it.    

Step 1: Plan It Out

Since bay windows are not all created equal, you'll need to measure the angles of the walls.  The standard is 135° but there are other variations and the "as built" angles will probably be different.  Walls are never perfectly straight, corners are never perfectly square...you get the picture.  In the end, you don't have to be super exact since a piece of trim will cover the gap between the wall and the seat, but the angle needs to follow the wall.

How deep you'd like your seat to be is the next question.  I build this one to be 24" deep so we could use a rug runner instead of cushions.  Runners are 21"-23" wide.  How deep your seat is will also determine how wide it will be.  At 24" deep, mine turned out to be 8' 5" long.  Since sheets of plywood are 8' long it would have been easier to make the front shorter than 8' long and let the depth work itself out.  In that way you could rip an 8' piece of plywood for the front whereas I used 2 pieces.    

On www.askthebuilder.com I found a sketch of the framing for a window seat (pic 2).  The height they recommend is 19" with a 21" deep seat.  You can see from the drawing that a window seat is actually a short floating wall achored to 2x4 cleats on the wall.  The front can be wood, sheetrock or other materials since it is only decorative.  The one thing I did differently from the drawing was to place the 2x4s on edge as opposed to typical wall framing.  This makes a sufficiently strong wall and also creates a bit more storage space inside the bench.  

Step 2: Supplies You'll Need.

Your vision of how you'd like your window seat to look will also determine the supplies you need to acquire.  The possibilities range from basic plywood  to sheetrock to expensive trim to reclaimed wood.  The basic frame, however, will not vary greatly and I used two 10' 2x4s and four 8' 2x4s.  For the front, I used a 4'x4' sheet of bead board and around 24' of 1x4 poplar for the trim.  One 4'x8' sheet of 3/4" plywood is more than enough for the top.  3/4" is the minimum thickness for the top since people will be sitting on it.  To strengthen the front edge of the top, I ripped 1 1/2" poplar strips from 3/4" thick stock on my tablesaw.  To finish the junction of seat top & wall, I used 12' of 3/4" cove molding.  And lastly, 3/4" quarter round was used along the bottom of the front and a couple short pieces of baseboard were also necessary to finish the trim. 

Other things you'll need for this project are construction adhesive (Liquid Nails), silicone caulk, wood putty, sandpaper, primer, paint, 3 1/2" wood screws and nails.  A trim nail gun and air compressor are ideal and worth renting if you don't have them.  A miter saw is also very nice for the many angle cuts.  In addition, you'll need the usual carpentry tools such as a level, stud finder, hammer, nail punch, circular saw, etc.  

You'll see as we go along that I used pocket screws for constructing the 2x4 frame and also the poplar trim.  Pocket screws are a quick and easy way to make strong tight joints and are applicable to virtually every type of woodworking.  If you aren't using pocket screws, check out http://www.kregtool.com/pocket-hole-jigs-prodlist.html and join the fun!

I don't hate painting if painting is my project (e.g. paint the kitchen).  What I hate is building my project and then having to paint it.  I get that "You did it!" feeling and then realize I have to paint it.  To remedy this problem I paint before I start my projects when possible.  While I'm scratching my head and measuring and figuring, I run to the shop periodically to lay down a coat of paint.  It only took me about 30-45 minutes to paint the boards and plywood each time.  As it dries, I go back to scratching and starring blankly at the walls.  When the project is built, just dab some wood putty in the holes, touch up the paint and you're done.  It is so much easier it's insane.

Step 3: Building the Frame

To begin framing the box, use a stud finder to locate the studs inside the wall.  Normally studs are 16" apart on center, however, there is likely to be some variation under the windows.  With the stud locations marked, mount a 2x4 along the back wall using 3 1/2" wood screws.  The top of this board is 18 1/4" off the floor so the final height will be 19" when the 3/4" plywood is added.  Make sure the 2x4s mounted to the wall are level.  There is no reason to miter the 2x4s in the corners as there is no benefit to doing so.  These ends will be hidden from sight and mitering the ends would have no effect on strength.

The next step is to remove the baseboard and build the front wall frame.  I chose to build the wall next so I could insure it was parallel to the back wall.  Alternatively you could mount the other 2x4s on the side walls, however, this seemed a simplier way to determine where the wall would actually be located.  Both the top and bottom 2x4s have 45° cuts on both ends to match the wall.  The front wall is only 18 1/8" tall so shims could be placed underneath it to bring it to level with the wall mounted 2x4.  True to form, my floor had a crown in the middle and it was necessary to shim both ends.  

My design was for 4 front panels so I placed five 2x4 blocks in the front wall.  These blocks are located behind where the poplar vertical trim pieces will be which allows for nailing.  I'm not sure why I didn't have the furthest left & right blocks all the way at the ends of the wall, but I ended up adding a block on each end for trim nailing (pic 3).  Note the pocket screw holes in the blocks.

The final steps are to add the 2x4s on the side walls and add some bracing for the top.  The side 2x4s have a 45° angle on the front end so it can butt up to the front wall.  Once they are screwed to the walls using 3 1/2" wood screws you can also place screws through the front wall and into the side 2x4s to lock the corner. Three 2x4 were installed between the front and back walls using pocket screws.  The middle 2x4 is centered and the outer 2x4s are located where the end of the lid will rest.  

Lastly, this is a very good time to reinstall the baseboard & quarter round on the inside of the box.  


Step 4: Building the Faceframe

For a project of this size, I find it easier to build a faceframe in my shop as opposed to installing each board individually.  Although it is not important in this case, faceframes also add considerable strength.  I build the faceframe to be 18" tall to accomodate the floor crowning which made the stiles (vertical pieces) roughly 11" long.  When this is installed, any gap will be along the floor and covered by the quarter round.  Since the faceframe is shorter than the wall, it can be lifted flush with the top of the 2x4s before you nail it.

Picture 2 shows the finished faceframe.  Doesn't it look nice painted!!  You may also notice that the 2 inside rectangles are slightly smaller than the outside rectangles.  This is by design to make the box look less symmetrical and "exact".  When something you build is very precise and regular, it doesn't look natural.  Nature is much more random than it is regular which can make a large symmetrical piece appear odd and less pleasing to the eye.  When I have the opportunity, I try to add a bit of asymmetry to projects.  No one will be able to tell you why they like it better, but they will like it better.

Step 5: Cover the Front Wall

Now that the faceframe is ready, it's time to cover the front of the box.  I don't have pictures of this step but it's very straight forward.  Apply a bead of Liquid Nails construction adhesive to the front of the 2x4s and nail the beadboard/plywood to the 2x4s.  The only edge which will be visible is along the top lip so position the beadboard flush with the top of the 2x4s.  Installing the faceframe is essentially the procedure.  Run a bead of Liquid Nails on the back of the faceframe and nail it in place.  Fill the nail holes with wood putty and caulk the seams with silicone window caulk.

Step 6: Building the Window Seat Top

The top of the window seat is comprised of 4 pieces of 3/4" plywood with a 1 1/2" strip of trim along the front edge. Pic 2 shows the shape of the pieces. I began by cutting the rear piece which is 5" wide with 45° angles on each end. After a bit of trial and error, I found 5" to be sufficiently wide to allow the lid to rest against the window and remain open. This piece could be wider, but not much narrower or the lid will fall down all the time.

Next I measured the distance from the front edge of the 5" piece to the front of the box to get the width of the lid. Since the piano hinge requires almost 3/16" space I cut the lid to 19" which was the actual distance measured. This gave me 3/16" overhang on the front of the box when the hinge was installed. I chose to make one large lid, however, you could easily make two. Alternatively, you could also make a solid top and doors on the front. In this case, I made one lid which extended to the center line of the outside 2x4s. In this way, the side edges of the lid rest on the 2x4 for support. The lid measures 19" x 51".

Before you glue & nail the 5" back piece in place, it's much easier to go ahead and attach the lid to it. This is a job you don't want to do from inside the box. Picture 3 shows how a piano hinge is attached. A piano hinge is a long continuous hinge which is very strong and a perfect solution for this project. PIano hinges commonly come in 30" and 48" versions and 48" would have done the job. I chose instead to use two 30" hinges so the entire gap would be filled. This was easier than mortising a space for the 48" hinge. Piano hinges can be cut to the desired length using a hacksaw or portable grinder. The hinges I used have sides that are 3/4" wide so I mounted them flush with the bottom of the 3/4" plywood. In picture 4 you see that the hinges protrude a small bit but it's not noticeable when the rug in laying on top of it.

Update: I received a question about screwing the hinge into the edge of the plywood which you normally don't want to do as the edges don't hold screws as well. Ideally it would be better to mount the hinge on top of the bench or reenforce the edge with solid wood to help hold the screws. So far my bench lid has held up, but we don't open it on a daily basis which probably helps. If in constant use, there's a good chance the screws may wobble around and loosen over time.

With the 2 pieces hinged together, there's a couple things that need to be done before permanently attaching them to the box. First is to mark out and cut the 2 smaller side pieces. This is most easily accomplished with the lid & back piece in place so you can measure size. Leave a 1/16" gap between the lid and the side pieces in case the wood expands. Plywood doesn't move much but a little gap is needed. Once the side pieces are cut, the second thing is to attach the 1 1/2" trim to the front of the lid and 2 side pieces as in picture 5. Some wood glue and nails is sufficient.

Now put it all together with some Liquid Nails and some solid nails. Lay down a bead of Liquid Nails on the 2x4s which are under the 5" back piece and nail it in place. Then do the same with the 2 side pieces. Make sure to avoid getting the adhesive under the lid --especially when positioning & nailing the side pieces. The last picture is the 3/4" cove molding along the top edge of window seat. I like cove molding here but you could also use quarter round or a larger piece of trim.

With everything in place it's time to touch up the finish by filling nails holes with wood putty, caulking the seams and giving it another coat of paint.

Step 7: All Done!

I hope this instructable has been helpful to you.  A window seat is pretty easy to build for such a large project and there's a lot of bang for the buck too.  In it's simplest form, this seat can be built for around $100.  Mine was a bit more because of the poplar trim and bead board on the front.  Regardless it's been worth every penny and it's great to have some extra storage in our kitchen.  

Thanks for looking!  I look forward to any questions or comments.

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88 Discussions

0
MGPT
MGPT

Question 2 months ago on Step 7

Hi,
Your post is exactly what I was looking for my bay window seat project . I am doing it for the first time and I have these questions:
1. Can I use 2x3 instead of 2x4 for the frame ?
2. What size screws you used for joining the 2x4 wood pieces in the pocket holes? and what size i need to use if 2x3 is okay to use .
3. Should I add a support block piece under the 3 horizontal bracing ?
4. is it ok to only remove small front portion of the baseboard from the side wall to fit the bottom 2x4/2x3 instead of removing the whole baseboard and reinstalling ?

Thanks
Bay window.jpg
0
kentdvm
kentdvm

Answer 2 months ago

Great time to be doing some work around the house! I'm not a very good engineer, but I would use 2x4's even though 2x3's are probably okay too. Cutting an 1" out of the height decreases the strength across the span a good deal and the cost savings is not great. If you only have access to 2x3's, I would use 2 with one horizontal on top of the second vertical one. Looking at it from the end it makes a long "T" and that would give you better support. That would be plenty IMO and you won't have to worry about adding a support underneath.

When joining 2x4's using pocket screws you set your jig to 1.5" thickness and use 2.5" long screws. And it's probably better to leave the trim in retrospect since it doesn't interfere and helps to seal the crack. Good luck!!

0
MGPT
MGPT

Reply 2 months ago

Thank you Kent for your response and guidance. Yes , I am using 2x4s only as suggested . Have started the project and should be able to complete by next weekend.
Please advise on these- if it will help, I plan to add one support block at the bottom center from the front frame to the back wall ( see the pic- have just kept the wood in formation not yet joined) also and was thinking if the pocket hole side ( on vertical 11 inch bars) can be on the back side instead front?

wset d1.jpg
0
kentdvm
kentdvm

Reply 2 months ago

Looks good to me. Yes they can be on the back side. Good work!

0
MGPT
MGPT

Reply 15 days ago

Hi Kent,

Completed with some modificaitons , explained in the 'I made it' segment above.
Thanks,

Final.jpg
0
kentdvm
kentdvm

Reply 13 days ago

Good work. Looks great!

0
jesscatherinedesigns
jesscatherinedesigns

Question 5 weeks ago on Introduction

Hi there! I am looking to build a window bench seat with an L-shape for my breakfast room. I do not have a saw :D. Do you think if I provide Home Depot or Lowes with all the proper measurements and cuts I can just have them cut the supplies for me? Also, I have one floor vent and two outlets to figure out. I want access to them, but I'm not sure I understand how. Thank you!!

IMG_9913.jpg
0
kentdvm
kentdvm

Answer 5 weeks ago

I think that would look great! I don't know how precise they are on their cuts, but it may be possible if you had the right person. The outlets could be moved to the front and placed in electrical boxes. Using ductwork the vent could be extended and come out the top or turned & run across the floor and exit at the bottom of the front face. If the air duct under the floor is running in perpendicular to the front face, you could also cut a hole in the floor and move the vent in front of the bench.

0
Jdwelly1
Jdwelly1

Question 6 weeks ago

Hello! I'm wondering about how long it took to build the window bench seat?

0
kentdvm
kentdvm

Answer 6 weeks ago

To be honest it was too long ago to remember, but I think I painted the wood over a couple weekday evenings and then built it over a weekend. A lot depends on experience, tools, access to a shop, etc.

0
wilt2465
wilt2465

Question 2 months ago on Step 6

Appreciate the thorough instructions for this project. Can you clarify you comment about the piano hinge length? I was planning on a 48" hinge versus using multiple 30" hinges cut to length, but am confused by your comment about having to mortise a space for the 48" hinge. Thanks in advance.

0
kentdvm
kentdvm

Answer 2 months ago

It's been so long since I wrote this instructable I had to figure it out too. Since the back of the lid is wider than 48" you'll have a gap on each end where there's no hinge. That's why I went with 2 x 30" and cut to fit. The gap between lid and box is probably 3/16" so not that bad especially is you cover with cushions or a rug. If you recess the hinge into the edge so it sits flush then the gap would be even the entire length. Looking back on it now I'd center a 48" hinge in the center and not worry about the gaps on the ends. Doesn't affect strength and ours is covered all the time anyway.

0
wilt2465
wilt2465

Reply 2 months ago

Thank you!!

0
k2keel
k2keel

Question 3 months ago on Introduction

What if the bench is going to cover a vent? How do we factor that in?

0
kentdvm
kentdvm

Reply 3 months ago

You'll need to either block it off or locate the vent on the front of the bench. Assuming you need the vent there are 2 ways you could do that the first being to continue the duct across the top of the floor and attact to new vent in bench front. The other would be to cut an access hole in the floor before starting and reroute the duct under the floor with it exiting near the front. Ideally the second option would be best.

0
k2keel
k2keel

Reply 2 months ago

Thank you for your help!

0
bonaroba
bonaroba

Question 3 months ago

Hi - I am a complete novice. Are the front wall and the face frame two separate pieces? Thank you!

0
kentdvm
kentdvm

Answer 3 months ago

No worries. Either way is fine. I glued the 1/4 plywood to the 2x6 and the glued the face frame to the plywood and drove nails through both into the lumber frame. You could also build it as a single piece.

0
DDubDub21
DDubDub21

Question 8 months ago on Step 6

You said the lid was plywood and you put a piano hinge on it. So did you screw it into the edge of the plywood? I've always thought screwing into the edge of plywood is not a good idea.

0
kentdvm
kentdvm

Answer 8 months ago

You are correct, but I did it. Ideally you'd either mount the hinge on top or reenforce the edge with solid wood. If I were to do it again I would either edge band some oak to it, or cut a dado or rabbit and glue solid wood into it. So far I've gotten away with it since we use our bench more for long-term storage. Piano hinges are a bit more forgiving maybe, but if in constant use it should not be screwed into the plywood edges or end grain.