Wednesday, August 6, 2014


Last week I began writing about our living room built ins by showing you my inspiration and detailing our plans along with the first step in the process, running the electrical.

Today we can really get down to the business of building the window seat, which is when I really started to get excited about this project. There is nothing like seeing your visions become reality, and it's even better when things pretty much work according to plan!

Here was our process:

First off, we had to create walls for the inside of the window bench, because we needed something to nail the supporting 2x4s and and front piece of the box in to. We did this before running the electrical conduit in to the cabinets.

Next we nailed a 2x4 directly to the sheetrock along the front wall, making sure that we were nailing directly into the studs (spaced at 16" intervals). This 2x4 would serve as the header for our framework for the window bench.

Yes, Ryan is using a full on framing nailer, and yes, that is probably overkill, but it was a new tool and he wanted to try it out. This window bench a'int goin' anyplace.

Next we continued the support for the window bench by adding a 2x4 to the wall of the cabinet and one vertically to the side of the cabinet. We did this with each side of the window box on both cabinets. To help keep things square, we added a small block at the bottom of the front supports.

Once we had the sides in place, we could add vertical supports across the width of the bench. We started by running a stringer from cabinet to cabinet and securing it to the back of the two vertical supports we had already gunned in.

Then we added three more vertical supports across the span, one in the center and one on each midsection. We gunned the vertical supports into the stringer, and ran them all the way to the floor.

Because our bench is a full 96 inches long, we decided to have the top of the window box open in two separate panels. This meant we had to add supports for each of those panels to sit on when the doors were closed AND that they had to hold some weight so that when I do sit down on said bench, I don't crack the plywood with my enormous rear end. Or worse (I'm imagining the carnage of nieces and nephews dancing on the window box, then a loud CRACK).

So, we hung the center 2x4s by framing brackets. These are meant for framing actual beams and are meant to be used at some distance apart. Since we had to put them this close together we ended up jerry rigging them a bit, but the result is still very solid.

As with the center of the bench, we had to create an additional support to hold the outsides of the doors on the cabinet sides (the doors themselves don't go all the way to the cabinet). So we measured then gunned in two additional 2x4s along each edge.

I skipped a few steps in photos here for the sake of time, but once we had all the supports in place, we were able to add the actual cabinet fronts and doors. In the picture below I've tried to highlight each separate piece in a different color to give you an idea of the composition of the cabinet, but here's a list of our pieces as well.

We started with one 4x8 foot sheet of 3/4 inch oak veneer plywood.

The front face of the window bench is a full 96 inches by 19 inches tall.
The two window bench hinged doors are each 16 inches deep by 46 inches long.
The two back pieces along the wall are 4 1/2 inches deep by 46 inches long.
Each side piece along the cabinet is the 2 1/4 inches wide by the full depth of the bench of 21 inches.

We attached the four door pieces separately (green to purple, teal to blue) using two 36" piano hinges before nailing them in place. We ended up using piano hinges after a lot of research because they can support a lot of weight and are relatively low profile. We chose a depth of 4 1/2 inches for the back of our bench before the hinge after testing to make sure the hinge would open far enough that the door of the bench would rest on the window when open.

With the window bench structurally complete and having passed the sit-on-it-and-pray test for both of us, we moved on to finishing the cabinets.

The first thing we had to do was hide the toe kick. Since these cabinets are made for kitchen and bath use, and not meant to be part of a built in, there was a couple inch deep toe kick we had to hide. We did that by adding in a couple short support pieces cut from leftover 2x4 and a plywood face plate. Out of nowhere was goodbye ugly particle board hole and hello built in cabinet!

With our cabinets still topless, it was time to add the oak ply to finish them off. We cut the ply to give us a 3/4" overhang on the front and side of the cabinet, then we had to do was cut a hole in the ply for the electrical junction box.

We traced the junction box on to the ply where we wanted it, then cut it out with a jig saw. Ryan started by plunging a hole with his drill, then followed the traced line with his jig saw. We added the junction box, placed the top on the cabinet and nailed it to the cabinet with a finish nailer.

Once our top was securely in place, it was time to wire the electrical. Being the smaller of the two of us, I climbed in to the cabinet and run the conduit up through the junction box.

See how good things are starting to look in this picture... if you squint really hard you can almost see what its going to look like.

Inside the cabinet, I secured the cable conduit to the side with a u shaped clamp to keep it out of the way, then I slid the conduit in to the junction box and tightened the fitting.

Once the conduit was in place it was time to wire the outlet using the wires inside the box. There are three wires in there, white (neutral) black (hot) and green (ground). Ryan stripped some of the plastic coating off each wire to reveal the copper, then used needle nosed pliers to create little u shaped hooks on each of them. The outlet makes it pretty easy with a silver screw (for the white wire) a black screw (black wire) and a green screw (ground) - all he did was loosen the screws, hook the copper hooks in to the space between the outlets and the screws, and tighten.

We screwed the outlet in to the junction box, took deep breaths and turned the power back on (good point to note, NEVER work with electrical wiring when the power is on at the breaker box). We plugged a tool in and breathed unanimous sighs of relief as it whirred to life!

So, here we were at the end of day two of the project, feeling like real carpenters with a nearly completed window bench and cabinets.

Here's a shot of the window bench open. I was already calculating just how many vases and figurines I could fit in the storage space when Ryan loudly proclaimed it looked like a perfect spot to store his extra tools. The jury is still out.

Next up, I finally get my bookshelves!


  1. Hi, I'm visiting from the Link It Or Lump It Party. Your window bench caught my eye because we have one on our To Do List and I found your tutorial very helpful. Definitely pinning this!
    Marie@The Interior Frugalista

    1. Thanks Marie! I've got two more posts lined up detailing the rest of the process... stop by tomorrow for the next one. It's really less daunting than it looks.

  2. I'm quite traumatized that the rest of the process is not on here yet! I really wanted to see it finished!!

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