Upholstered benches are such a practical piece of furniture around the house. They are just one of those pieces that can be put just about anywhere to add a little style and functionality to your home. But who wants to spend hundreds of dollars on a bench that may not be your exact style or size you want? Not me! Hence, this super easy DIY Upholstered hairpin bench project.
This project really couldn’t be any simpler. It only takes 2 days to complete (mainly due to the drying of both the stain and polyurethane) and is so simple that anyone can do it in no time at all. This post will show you how to make a bench that you can customize to your specific style with minimal cost and tools.
- 2″x12″x4′ Pine Boards
- Hairpin Legs
- Tack Cloth
- Marker (I use a fine tip sharpie)
- Minwax One Step Polyurethane
- Minwax Coffee Gel Stain
- Upholstery Fabric (at least 18″ x 54″)
- 1/2″ Thick Quilt Batting (45″ x 60″)
- 1″ Thick Project Foam (24″ x 72″)
- Spray Adhesive
- Kraft Paper
- Drill Bits
- Table Saw or Circular Saw
- Sand Paper
- Utility Knife
- Staple Gun With Staples
- Painter’s Pyramids
Applicable Safety Equipment
Let’s Get Building!
To start this project you are going to need buy a 12″ x 2″ x 4′ board. If your hardware store only sells in 8′, you can just cut the bench to length (or even make 2 benches)! Next you want to sand down the wood until it’s smooth to the touch. I did this with my rotary hand sander, starting with 60 grit sand paper, then 150 grit, then 220 grit. I normally don’t go all the way up to 220 grit sand paper but I wanted this to be extra smooth since it’s a piece of furniture people will be using. Now, this is going to be the most time consuming and boring part of the project so just be patient with it (listening to music helps make this a little more fun). For the edges I rounded them over with a sander instead of a round over router bit to give it a more hand made look, imperfect look.
Once the sanding is done, wipe down the board with a tack cloth to get all the sawdust off. This is the point where you get to be creative and make the bench in your style. You can leave the wood plain, stain it, or paint it to get the look you want. It’s important to have your fabric picked out at this point so the finish you use on the bench goes with it. For my fabric, I picked a navy blue and white stripe that goes great with the dark color of Minwax Coffee Gel Stain. Plus, I love the deep brown color and it matches the industrial feel of the rest of my furniture. Whatever method you use, just make sure to follow the product’s instructions and to speed up the process you can use painter’s pyramids to finish both sides at the same time.
Once your finish of choice has fully dried, it’s time to put a protective coat on it so it can withstand heavy use. I recommend using polyurethane (Minwax One Coat Polyurethane is my absolute favorite) for this because it will provide protection to the wood better than other sealants and literally only one coat is needed. Polyurethane will dry clear but still provide a hard protective coat over the wood.
Once that dries, it’s time to install the legs. All you will need for this is a ruler, drill, drill bits, tape, and a sharpie marker. Start by determining where you would like the legs to be placed. I picked 3/4″ from the corner. Using the sharpie, mark where all the screws will be. Now, wrap a small piece of tape around your drill bit a little shorter than the length of the screws. This will help you drill to the appropriate length without going too deep. Now simply install the screws.
Depending on what your workspace looks like, you can make the upholstered top while your bench is drying or wait until afterwards. For this part a lot of it is personal preference on how you want the bench to look. For me, I wanted the fabric to line up closely with the dimensions of the bench but if you want overlap or not you can modify these dimensions to suit your personal tastes. What you will needs for the upholstered top is your fabric of choice, quilt batting, project foam, spray adhesive, staple gun, OSB board, and a retractable knife or other sharp cutting tool to trim the foam. Make sure with your fabric that you iron it out before adding it to the top so you don’t have creases in your bench top.
To start you will need to cut down a piece of OSB board. I like using this because it’s very inexpensive and while it doesn’t look great, no one will ever know! I cut my board 1/2″ less than my bench top, so 10 3/4″ x 47 1/4″. This will allow 1/2″ for the batting and fabric before it starts to overlap the wood top. Once you cut this down, it’s time to start putting everything together. I would recommend using something to cover your workspace like kraft paper so you don’t accidentally ruin it with the spray adhesive.
So the next step is to lay down your OSB board and spray it down with your adhesive. Quickly line up the edge of your project foam with the board and press down, making sure it adheres to the board. Carefully trim the excess foam because you will have enough to add another layer, giving you a nice comfortable bench top. Simply spray foam with adhesive, line up with the edge, press down and trim excess. A more practical route is to buy 2″ project foam to complete this step and if you have it I would recommend it, unfortunately it wasn’t available at my store when I was doing this project. That’s it!
Now it’s time to at the quilt batting. The point of this is not only to add a little more cushion, but to help soften the edges of the furniture so it’s not clunky looking. It will also wrap around the OSB board, helping not only to hide where the OSB and foam come together but also give a little protection to the fabric so it’s not rubbing against the rough sides of the wood. For this project you will have enough to add a double layer to the top of the foam and also a large wrap around piece that will smooth everything out.
So cut your batting so that you have two pieces, one for the top layer and one to wrap around. The top section should be 21 1/2″ wide and 47 1/4″ long. For the second piece don’t trim it down until the end. Add adhesive to the top layer of project foam and press batting down after lining it up with the edges. Then spray batting foam with adhesive and fold over top piece, giving it a double layer.
Next we are going to wrap the whole top with the left over quilt batting. To do this you want to lay the batting flat on your workspace table, smoothing it out as best you can. This is important because if there are bubble or wrinkles in your batting, then your fabric is going to show it.
Now gently pull the batting tight against the OSB and secure with staple gun. You want to staple often and uniformly to get a nice clean end result. I stapled about 2 inches deep and 2 inches apart. For the corners you may want to spend a little time playing with different folding techniques to get a feel for it. I wrapped it under, then over to get a smooth rounded corner. Once it is stapled in place, trim excess batting off. Almost done!
At this point I got rid of my kraft paper and cleaned the top of my workbench. This is important because you are now applying the fabric and I didn’t want to risk anything getting stained or dirty. Once that is done you are going to repeat the same method as you did for the batting. Lay your fabric flat and put your top foam side down on the fabric. You want to take great care in lining up your fabric if you have a pattern like lines so it’s even on the top. When stapling, instead of stapling in a line, I would do the two ends, then one in the middle, then work my way in between the staples. I did this to help reduce any unnecessary pulling in the fabric. Since my fabric is striped, I also drew a line on my OSB to make sure I was securing the fabric evenly so I wouldn’t get wavy lines in my fabric. Once your fabric is all secured just trim off the excess and get ready to secure it to the bench.
This step is very simple. On the bottom of the bench you want to pre-drill your holes so the top is completely secured. I did this 5″ in and 4″ in at the corners, then 2″ in and every 12″ length wise. I then secured the top with #9 2 1/2″ screws. Make sure to line up the upholstered top well before drilling so the top is nice and uniform with the bench.
That’s it! Can you believe it? I know, it’s so simple but so many people just go to the store and spend big money for the same thing! But you have a leg up on them because you saved a TON of money and have something you are 100% satisfied with!
Disclaimer: Please make sure with all your projects that you have read your equipment’s safety manual and are following the recommended safety precautions. We are not responsible for the results of your DIY projects as results can vary based on your skill level, quality of materials, and age of your equipment.