Custom Built Mudroom Bench – On a DIYer’s Budget and Skill

Original mudroom corner

I decided I was done with this hot mess. There was nowhere to put anything, the coats were hanging on random screws in the wall, and there was nothing to sit on which made putting on shoes a balancing act I didn’t excel at. Plus, our Northeast winter was looming around the corner and with it to come snow boots, huge jackets, and hats, gloves, scarves, on and on.

Yeah, it was time for an upgrade.

This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission for anyone who clicks on a link and purchases a product. All product links, affiliate and otherwise, represent my unbiased opinion about the product.

As most of my DIY projects do, this one started as a dream for a better world…

Vector image of the bench plans
I dreamt of a functional Mudroom bench

I created this on Adobe Illustrator which is a program I personally can’t live without. It’s entirely to scale and includes important details like where the floor vent is (a moot point, I learned, since it’s no longer hooked up to anything). It took me ages to make but I wanted to have everything fully fleshed out before beginning.

And since this is a fail blog, I suppose I should also point this out…

Can you spot the differences? The first one I made out of 2x4s – like literally, 2″ by 4″ beams. I nearly finished the design when I thought, “you know, I should just made sure a 2×4 is actually 2 inches by 4 inches.”

Spoiler alert: it’s not.

2x4s are ACTUALLY 1.5″x3.5″ – so I had to redo the whole thing with new measurements.

Next step was material gathering!

Note: If anyone would like to know the dimensions, drop me a note, I’m happy to share! For the time being though, I’m going to share the process so you can determine your own dimensions right for your home.

Materials

  • 2x4s – these are the cheapest and sturdiest for framing
  • Plywood – I bought the cheapest stuff Home Depot had since A: I’m broke and B: I was gonna paint it anyway.
  • 2.5″ Screws – These ones!!! Save yourself so much time and stress and just get these buggers. You know me, I’m a cheapskate, but these are so 100% worth it. They self-drill into 2x4s and ply and countersink themselves.
  • 1 5/8″ Screws – Again, these ones!!! See above.
  • Wood glue – Truth be told, I hold no allegiance to any particular wood glue brands, but this one is inexpensive and works perfectly well.
  • Thin wood trim – Icing on the cake.
  • Panel Board Nails – These are great for nailing small things and plus, they’re just really fun to nail.
  • Wood Putty – This stuff is both super cheap and super effective.

Framing

2x4s
Home Depot haul #1

My car isn’t exactly a pickup truck, so I had to get a few cuts done at the store. This is two 8′ pieces and eight 2′ pieces. I couldn’t resist the 2′ pieces because I figured I could use them for the height of the bench and not have to cut them at all – 8 pieces perfectly the same length that I didn’t have to cut! BUT. Read on to see how I botched that up 🙃

Framed bench

BOOM. Finished framing. Actually this part was the easiest in the whole project – and the most fun because it came together so quickly! With the screws I mentioned above, I didn’t need to drill any pilot holes or anything either.

I used a jig saw to cut the 2x4s like the one below.

Woodworkers reading this are definitely cringing. I don’t recommend this, but it was what I had and hey, it worked.

If you have one, use a chop saw or a circular saw to cut the 2x4s.

Putting on the Plywood

Plywood plans

This is a crappy picture I took on my phone of my computer showing me what I needed to buy for plywood. It was surprisingly effective. Since the plywood came in 4’x8′ sheets, I had to have them cut a lot. Home Depot cuts for free, though!! Aaaand…

Womp. This pictures shows that my plywood piece is about 4″ too short. Well, technically my frame is 4″ too tall. According to my plans, the plywood is cut correctly, but I got so starry-eyed when I saw the 2′ 2x4s that I completely forgot that I only made the bench 20″ tall! It was way cheaper and easier to cut the bench frame down, so I decided to do that. Time to take the vertical 2x4s off and cut them all down.

Cutting the height down to size

Pro Tip: Use whatever you’re cutting to, to measure. Measuring tapes lie but patterns don’t. The picture above shows me lining one of the vertical beams up with the height of the plywood.

Of course, Home Depot didn’t cut ALL the wood, so I used a jig saw to cut the rest of the pieces out of the plywood using the bench frame as makeshift sawhorses.

Side note rant: why on earth can’t all saws just get their own names?? At least give them last names or something! I’ve mentioned two saws in this post so far and they’re super different but have the same name. I guess I could call the first one a “table jig saw” and the other one a “hand jig saw”, but wouldn’t it just be easier if they just had completely different names??

Update: Apparently the table jig saw is ALSO called a scroll saw. I henceforth ban the name “jig saw” from being used for a table jig saw.

Anyway. Moving on.

Jig saws aren’t the straightest shooters if you’re not an expert (like I’m not) so you’ll probably have to sand down some bits. The straightest line you can get is with the thin edge of a ruler. Lay it on the edge you need to flatten, then mark where the bumps pop up. Sand down the bumps and voila! Flatter! This is a furniture project, though, so little bumps are okay – we’ll fix them later.

It’s worth noting that technically, a better tool than the jig saw for cutting the plywood would be a circular saw. Circular saws cut straighter because the blade is longer, so to speak. Personally, I find the circular saw way more intimidating than the jig saw so I opted for more work sanding with better ease of cutting for my nerves.

Screwing it All Together

Screwing on the plywood

Once all of your plywood pieces are cut out, it’s time to screw them into the frame! The plywood is a bit harder than the 2x4s, but all I had to do was give the screws a swift hit with a hammer to stick them in, then they drilled in no problem.

Woot! All screwed together!!

But since I’ve gone like, a whole 10 sentences without a fail, I guess it’s time for another one.

My screws were too long. I didn’t have 1 5/8″ screws so I used 2″ screws but they popped out. I unscrewed every 2″ nail that was popping out and switched it with a 1 5/8″ screw later – I had to. Little, nasty, scratchy bits sticking out aren’t ideal.

Sanding Like CRAZY

Time for a TON of sanding! Make everything nice and flat. I adore this old sander I got from my gramps – it has a trigger rather than an on/off switch for better control and with a course grit, this baby can take off some crazy dust.

Product advertisement!

If you don’t have this, follow this link and buy some. Of all people, my gram introduced me to this stuff. It’s SO CHEAP and coming from someone who always has at least three cuts on her hands at any given time, it’s a necessity. It just acts like skin, moves with you, and doesn’t come off in the shower/sink. I usually put it over bandaids for some extra hold power.

No one likes to get blood on their work – it’s hard to get off.

Fixing Split Wood

Split plywood is annoying, but easily fixable. Just fill the split with wood and clamp it down. Be careful not to clamp TOO tightly and squeeze all of the glue out, though.

Shoe Shelves

To make the shoe shelves, I glued one layer of dividers down, glued down a shelf, rinse and repeat. These shelves bear virtually no weight, so glue should be enough to keep them sturdy.

Of course, it was impossible to get the dividers to stand up perfectly, this made me cringe.

But art truly is all about turning mistakes into successes. I got thin wood to nail over the edges (using panel board nails) and make it look nice.

Fixing holes (Wood’s Fault, Your Fault, Who Cares?)

This stuff is a MUST for every DIYer. It’s extraordinarily cheap, you just mix the powder with some water until you get a paste, so the powder lasts forever. This is great for wood pieces like this because as the can says, it’s “rock hard”. Try not to pile it on too thickly because unlike plaster wall fillers, it’s difficult to sand down. However also unlike plaster wall fillers, it can withstand a lot of abuse so you don’t need to worry about your bench getting kicked around.

There she is! One (mostly) finished bench! This picture is pre-puttying and pre-painting of course, that stuff had to wait until after I made the shelves. It’s also pre-chest-lidded (that makes sense, right?) I had already cut a piece of plywood that fit the top of the chest, then I measured about 4″ of a long side and cut it as carefully as I could. You can see the thin piece of ply on the chest against the wall, that is where I will attach 1/2 of the piano hinges, the other half will be attached to the chest top which I’ll attack after everything’s painted.

I hope you enjoyed part one of my mudroom bench series! Once I finish the next part I’ll link it here.

Don’t hesitate to let me know if I wasn’t clear on anything and I’m also always up for comments/suggestions! Even though my bench is done, I’ll surely be woodworking again and other DIYers can always benefit from more insight.

Warmly,

EGinny

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