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I am looking to make a floating bench that spans a corner. 10' either way. I recently built an L-shaped block wall with steel supports embedded within the concrete. Now, I need to build the bench.

Here is the wall: a PE engineer conservatively calced the point load on the ends of each 3" x 1/2" steel support at 580 lbs before sagging. My intent was to overbuild. CMU block spacing limits the span between each support, but they're no more than 28" apart. Each steel support is tied directly to the 2.5' x 2.5' footer via #4 rebar and horizontal #4 rebar cross members pass above and below the steel supports. The wall was then filled with 5000psi concrete. It's still green, but it's at ~20 days cure time.

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I have 2x10s so I'd like to use them as a structural component of the bench and then clad / wrap them in a maintenance free synthetic decking. I'm comfortable with the cladding, but how can I create a strong, flat corner joint between 2x10s? I plan to basically take four 10' 2x10s and make a 19" deep 10'x10' corner bench. I will have to take 1.5" off of two of the 2x10s since they have an actual width of 9.5". Here is a sample butt joint and mitre joint example to illustrate what I'm thinking:

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Would a mitre joint work? With added screws? Corner braces? Tie plates? Any thoughts would be very helpful. I'm not strong on using lumber for anything decorative and I'm not well-versed on all the different types of flat joints.

Here is what I am attempting to emulate:

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The first one uses what looks like 3 or 4 4x4s embedded in the wall to support 2x4s. The second one uses 6" x 1/4" steel plates at 30" spacing to support 2x4s with a 2x6 skirt.

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  • Edit to include a picture of your plans. That will help immensely in understanding what you're trying to do and the dimensions involved. In general, though, make the bench strong, then do any fancy miters in the PVC surface trim since its only job is to look pretty and not be strong.
    – FreeMan
    Feb 21 at 12:58
  • A 2x10 is not going to have the rigidity to hold people up in a cantilevered setup like that without a lot of springyness. You'll need to make the thing out of metal. Floating shelves/etc are not easy, they are extraordinarily structurally demanding. Feb 21 at 15:42
  • And without seeing details of the wall structure and supposed supports I can't be confident even a rigid metal floating bench would hold up. Feb 21 at 15:44
  • Thanks for the feedback! I've now edited the question to include images and more details. Perhaps steel running under the 2x10s is necessary?
    – pennstump
    Feb 21 at 17:50
  • Something to consider: The Sagulator says that a 300 lb load (a big guy) centered on a 2x10 spanning 28" will have a 0.1" sag which they consider unacceptable for a shelf that is not supported at the ends. I picked Eastern White Pine as an example of your general purpose construction SPF lumber. At a minimum, the inner corner won't be supported at the ends, and I don't know if you're planning a cantilever at the outside ends or not. For the spans between metal supports, they calc 0.02" of sag which they say is acceptable.
    – FreeMan
    Feb 21 at 18:08

1 Answer 1

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I would suggest your butt joint, reinforced by dowels, to help keep the boards flat.

After a good night's sleep, I realize that was terribly bad advice! You do NOT want to join wood cross-grain like that, it will end up splitting boards as the wood naturally expands and contracts through the seasons. Allow the boards to meet but not be physically joined at the inside corner.

Depending on when you're building, you'll need to accommodate expansion in different ways. Generally, in the winter, wood is at its smallest because the air is dry (though here in the US Midwest, this is a rather wet week or two and wood is swelling), and in the summer it's at its largest because it is humid. If you're building when it's dry, leave a 1/4- 1/2" gap between the left-hand bench (going all the way into the corner) and the right-hand bench (ending at the left bench). This will allow room for the left bench to expand to meet the right bench without getting jammed up and twisting. If it's been very humid for several weeks, you can get the gap pretty close (1/16 - 1/8") because the wood will be near its maximum width.

You'll also want to make oval holes/slots in your steel supports through which you're driving screws to hold the bench down. This will allow the wood to expand & contract (making each bench deeper from the wall or shallower) without tearing out the screws or warping. Please see this answer for a lot more info on wood expansion and how to build to accommodate it.

On further reflection, the following information is still valid. It is safe to join the boards along the long grain, because that's not the direction that wood expands by any significant amount.

I would also suggest that you dowel or pocket screw the long joints as well, to help prevent cupping. It appears that you're planning on having the boards butted against each other (there doesn't appear to be any space between them in your drawing). If you do this, be sure to:

  1. Ensure the edges of the boards are jointed nice and flat so you get a good, tight glue joint
  2. Alternate the growth ring pattern (one board cupped up, the other cupped down) to help counteract warping.
  3. As suggestion, dowel these joints as well as an additional defense against warping.

Once you've got the base of the bench built, put the decking on top in whatever pattern appeals to you. You could miter it or make a butt joint, make a herringbone pattern, whatever - this stuff is just the set dressing.

Note: Be sure that you do not attach the decking cross-grain. If, for example, you do a miter joint, where the right-bench pieces overlap the left-bench, do not attach them to the left-bench. Instead, leave them free floating above the left-bench so the solid wood underneath can move without tearing things apart.

If you're using actual decking material, it will add a fair amount of additional strength to your bench, since it's designed to be walked on (though supported on 16" centers, not 28"). If the decking is screwed down to the substrate the same way it would be screwed down to deck joists, having it cross the inside corner in a different pattern than the 2x10s would add some extra strength there. Again, do not attach it cross-grain.

Do be sure to use pressure treated 2x10s for this outdoor work. I wouldn't rely on the decking on top to keep the wood dry underneath, and you've got an ideal spot for snow (if you get any) to swirl and drift up underneath the bench soaking the bottom side, too.

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  • Thank you! What size and what spacing should I use for the dowels on the long joints? Also, could I use 2-1/2" pocket hole screws instead of dowels?
    – pennstump
    Feb 21 at 23:37
  • I'm sure you could use pocket holes & screws, @pennstump. This might be a good case for them, actually. Now that I'm thinking more clearly about it, I'm retracting the first bit of advice: DO NOT attach the wood cross-grain! See the update at the beginning of my answer.
    – FreeMan
    Feb 22 at 12:27
  • Also, see the update toward the middle.
    – FreeMan
    Feb 22 at 12:40

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