How to Build a Built-in Garage Workbench

By: Danny Lipford on Today's Homeowner

I would like to build a built-in workbench in the garage, attached to the beans of the structure.

This is the only online resource I could find and is very close to what I want to do.

I will use his guide below as a template to my questions.

(Questions are in bold italic embedded within)


While the garage often doubles as a home workshop, it’s hard to get much done without a sturdy workbench. This simple built-in bench runs the entire length of the garage wall and attaches directly to the exposed studs. It’s easy to build and can be completed in just a few hours. Here’s how it’s done:

Mark the height for the bench, minus ¾” for the top, and pop a chalk line along the wall. Most workbenches are about 34” high, but you can adjust yours to whatever height is most comfortable.

The chalk line will be straight but not necessarily level, right? How do I ensure it is level?

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Cut pieces of 2” x 4” lumber 20” long to serve as horizontal supports for the bench. You’ll need one for each support plus an extra one at each end of the wall. Depending on the thickness of your plywood top, the spacing of the studs, and how sturdy a bench you want, plan on a support every 16? to 32.”

*Are there different types of 2x4 lumber or just a standard one? *
Wont be going to the end of each wall...

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Braces for the supports are cut from ¾” plywood and shaped like a right triangle with 16” legs on each side. Cut one for each support on the wall.
Just one, shouldn't there be support on both sides of the 2x4? enter image description here

Glue and screw the supports and braces together, with the plywood brace extending 3½” past the support to allow it to be attached to the stud.
Is this just that Elmer's wood glue?
What type of screws? Can it be nails?
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Attach the 2” x 4” supports at each end of the wall, checking to be sure they are level.
So I am not planning on going to the end of the wall, what modifications do I need to make? enter image description here

Nail or screw the support braces to the side of the wall studs, checking for level.
The 2x4 doesn't directly attach to the wall stud? This is where I thought there should be another triangle brace one on the other side...? enter image description here

Nail a 2” x 4” the length of the wall along the front of the support braces. enter image description here

Cut a 2’ wide top from ¾” plywood, and nail it on top of the supports.
Can I stain and gloss it? This is the same type of wood as used with the triangle brackets?
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Nail a 1” x 4” board along the back of the workbench to keep items from rolling off the bench and falling behind it.
enter image description here

How do I scale everything if I want the workbench to be 3 feet wide, instead of the 2 feet wide int his example (i.e. the triangle supports, etc?)

Diagram:

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

I'll try to take your questions one-by-one.

  1. You have two easy options for leveling the chalk line. The first would be to use a carpenter's level; you'd measure 34" from the floor at one end of the bench-to-be, then hold a long 2x4 to the studs with one end right at the mark. Lay your level on the top of the 2x4 and tip the 2x4's other (not at a mark) end slightly up or down until your level reads an accurate level. Now you can have a helper mark across all of your studs with a pencil instead of a chalk line. The second easy option doesn't concern itself with level at all, only with being parallel to the floor. Measure 34" from the floor at each end of your bench-to-be and mark that spot.

  2. Since you're in Washington, I think you'll probably have 2x4s available in spruce or "pressure treated", and probably no other options. Spruce should be just fine.

  3. The plywood braces (you can make them from either 3/4" CDX or ACX plywood) may be mounted only on one side of each stud or for greater strength & rigidity may be mounted on both sides. I've built a "strongarm" wood-storage rack very similarly to what is described here; I used smaller braces, but mounted both sides. For most in-garage DIY purposes, a brace on only one side would be just fine. If you plan to do heavier work, you may certainly install one on the other side of each stud, too.

  4. Elmer's Wood Glue, which is a yellow PVA (Polyvinyl Acetate) glue, is perfectly satisfactory. Franklin or Gorilla or TiteBond would also work just fine. You'll want a yellow glue or a polyurethane glue here; white glue gives you more work time before it sets up, but it's not as strong.

  5. You could use nails instead of screws, but they'll be much harder to drive without damaging anything. Your siding is attached to the outsides of those studs, so every time you beat on the side of a stud the nails holding the siding in place will become looser. I'd much rather that you used screws. You can use 1-5/8" drywall screws. It helps if you have a drill to drive them (much easier on your wrists).

  6. If you're not going all the way to the end, just stop wherever you want to stop. Until you install your benchtop, your new supports will feel very flimsy, but it will suddenly stiffen up when you install the top. There's no need for any additional brackets or supports.

  7. Nope, the 2x4 braces don't have any direct attachment to the studs - they're held only by the plywood braces.

  8. If you like, you could certainly stain and/or varnish your benchtop. If you do, though, and if you do any heavy work on its top, the stain/varnish will soon look terrible. You can use the same plywood for the top as you used for the braces. If you use ACX plywood , you'll have a much nicer benchtop than if you use CDX plywood, but a lot of very hard-working benchtops are made from CDX - they just have shallow knotholes in some spots (CDX may have "voids" and knotholes that won't be present in ACX).

  9. I'd like to urge you not to make a 36"-deep bench. They seem handy in theory, but your back cannot be comfortable reaching that far - you get backaches very quickly. Really. I'm 6'2", and I'm not comfortable with any bench deeper than 24". Also be aware that a 36"-deep bench is going to work as a much larger lever against the wall, and so can't be expected to carry as much loading as a 24" bench can carry. If you're really sure you really want 36", though... make the triangular braces at least 24" square. That'll take quite a lot more plywood - you can get only (16) 24" braces from a full sheet, and your 36" top will consume a full sheet leaving you with a 12"-wide strip of "waste" that can't be used for braces.

  • You shouldn't recommend using drywall screws for a structural application. Wood screws are the way to go for this project. Also, a line level would work for getting the chalk line level. – Doresoom Aug 31 '14 at 5:42
  • @Doresoom, in this particular application, drywall screws are perfectly suitable. The fasteners add no structural strength whatever if the braces are well glued, they're there to maintain clamping while the glue is setting up. They can even be removed once the glue has set. A PVA glue joint in long-grain-to-long-grain wood is stronger than the wood itself. – TDHofstetter Aug 31 '14 at 13:26
  • @TDHofstetter, +1 for sticking to 24" depth. Deeper just makes more flat space for clutter to accumulate :) – Jimmy Fix-it Aug 31 '14 at 13:26
  • You're right that drywall screws are fine for the plywood brace buildup where there's glue present, but not for securing the braces to the wall. I would not suggest gluing to the studs. What if the next owner of the house wants to uninstall it, or the OP changes their mind? – Doresoom Aug 31 '14 at 14:06
  • @Doresoom... Sawzall. :) But... to make it removable, one could through-bolt it with carriage bolts carefully drilled in a line through the stud centers sized to barely fit the bolts so as to weaken the studs as little as possible. – TDHofstetter Aug 31 '14 at 14:16

When I built my similar workbench, I let the 2 x 4 around the outside stand 1/4" above the surface of the bench, and then cut a piece of masonite as a replaceable bench top. Masonite with a coat of clear varnish makes a nice surface and I have replaced it 2 or 3 times.

  • thank you, how wide is your bench? – P.S. Sep 2 '14 at 1:34

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