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I am building a dividing half-wall/shelving unit to separate my living room from entrance door. I am planning to put a bench on the side closer to the door (so me and my guests can sit down while lacing shoes) and I am wondering about what kind of material should i use for this bench?

Approximate dimensions will be 3-4 feet length(or width), 16 inches deep and 17 inches from the floor.

I want to make sure that this bench can withstand big loads (some of my friends are big) I was thinking about using 1 inch thick plywood sheet on top of 2 2x3s, but I am not too sure about it. I also don't want it to be too thick or have some posts in the middle, because I want to be able to put shoes under it.

Can someone recommend what materials should I use and possible construction of this bench (or point in right direction) ?

  • @tester101 - Thanks for editing title of the question, but it changes the meaning of the question, makes it blurry. I am specifically looking for materials and (maybe) designs, so i would like to include word materials in the title – Alex Feb 8 '12 at 20:16
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    Is this bench going to be cantilevered out from the wall or will there be supports at the end? – auujay Feb 8 '12 at 21:08
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    You could probably use plywood ripped to 3" and glue them together for your supports, and maybe put a trim skirt of plywood around the top that is the size of the supports plus top...or even trim it with a better piece of wood. – lqlarry Feb 9 '12 at 2:58
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Take a look at these Standardized Work Table Plans as it might give you some ideas. Obviously you would not need the lower shelf, but otherwise it would be similiar (but scaled down), and this thing can hold a lot of weight!

Table Top Design
(source: eaa1000.av.org)

  • thanks, it is nice. however I would like to avoid using 2x4s as they consume too much space...Would it work with 2x3s or 2x2? – Alex Feb 8 '12 at 20:46
  • I think the key with a plywood top is just ensuring its adequately supported below so that it does not sag and crack. If you are worried you can space the supports closer together while going down in size. – Steven Feb 8 '12 at 21:04
  • Based on @Steven design, I would probably add chain going from the corners opposite of the wall, at 45 degrees, connected to the wall using some sort of eye bolt and washers (making sure to hit the frame in the bench and studs in the wall). If there's no support for the bench below, and your friends being on the bigger side, you'll need something to support the weight and not rip it from the wall. That would leave the below perfectly clear for shoes and storage. – lsiunsuex Feb 9 '12 at 12:11
  • personally, i would not add the lateral cross support bars. you are not really gaining any strength by doing that... I would simply put 3, 4 or 5 parallel beams across the long span with the ply board on top.. that way the nails /screws in the ply will add the flex support. -- – Hightower Mar 22 at 2:53
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I have such a bench at the entrance to my home. It wraps around two walls of a closet. The third wall of the closet is an exterior wall; the fourth wall of the closet has the closet door.

It is made of 3/4" thick medium density fiberboard (MDF), and is painted white to match the house's MDF trim. It is about 17" tall, and has two layers of cubbies. The cubbies are about 14" on-center. The cubby dividers are structural, and are also made of the 3/4" thick MDF. The top layer of the bench consists of two layers of MDF. There is a custom 3 1/2" thick cushion on top of the bench.

The cubbies are very convenient for storing shoes, gloves, and other items that are put on or taken off at the door.

You might want to choose a material that is more water-resistant than MDF.

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I'd use 2x4s on 16" centers supported from underneath with 2x4 legs to the floor on each end and some triangular pieces at the top back of the legs to prevent skewing. 1 inch wider on the face of the bench is not much of a loss of space. Use whatever you like for the top but I wouldn't go less than 3/8" thick. I'd be more worried about how close the front of the bench is to the door, I'd hate to have to take the bench out to bring in a new refrigerator.

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