Easy How to Build DIY Modern Outdoor Chairs

May 1, 2024

Hi! I'm Nicole

Fearless DIY. Sharing building project tutorials and interior design tips. Let’s build something beautiful together. For more projects, design tips and behind the scenes, follow me @designtobuild.nicole

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Ready to build DIY outdoor chairs to match your new DIY outdoor sofa from last week? Let’s do it! But before we get started, let’s take a quick peak again at what my patio space looked like BEFORE I built my outdoor furniture…..

Pergola space with a couple rattan chairs and couch along with a planter

Our pergola area was in need of some TLC, for sure. Add the outdoor sofa and two outdoor chairs and WOW!

Pergola space with outdoor sofa, outdoor chairs and new planters

What a difference new furniture makes! And what could be better than buying new beautiful furniture? Saving money by building your own!!

So let’s get to it. Simply follow my premium plans for the step by step process for building DIY outdoor chairs!

How to Build DIY Outdoor Chairs

(Instructions are based on ONE outdoor chair with the following measurements: 25″ tall; 28 3/8″ wide; 24″ deep). If building a different size, be sure to adjust measurements accordingly. 

If building two chairs, be sure to double the number of 2x4x8’s needed. Outdoor chair is built to fit 22″ x 24″ cushions. 

I purchased these cushions from Target.

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Materials Needed:

Tools Needed for DIY Outdoor Chairs:

Full disclosure: Amazon Affiliate Links Included

NOTE: If you’ve never used a Kreg Jig, here’s a great tutorial.   If you don’t have a pocket hole jig, I highly recommend buying one. You will use it all the time in the DIY realm! And it makes builds so much easier!

Step One: Rip your boards (Optional)

This step is completely optional. I like to get rid of the manufactured edge on all of my 2x’s before starting any project. It’s the secret sauce to building furniture that looks like it’s straight out of a designer store.

A game-changer, for sure.

While it is a very easy process, it does require a table saw. I’ll share the width I’m ripping them down to for this project and then explain how I do this…

Since this project consists solely of 2×4’s we’ll rip all of them to 3″.

Now for How I Do This: (Here’s a great post on how I give my boards this finished look)

I want all of my boards to be 3″ wide. (Originally a 2×4 is 3 1/2″ wide).

  • I simply set my table saw for 3 1/4″ and rip one side of my 2×4.
  • Then I set my table saw to 3″, flip my board over and rip that side of my board.
  • Now I have a 3″ board with straight edges on both sides.

This extra step gets rid of that manufactured curved edge and achieves a straight edge, finished look.

DIY outdoor chairs header image.

Some Things to Consider

Before we jump into the build, there are just a few things we need to consider first.

Sanding as I go…

I found it easiest to sand each board as I went with this project…rather than sanding it all at the end.

Here’s a great tutorial on how to sand furniture builds for the smoothest finish.

If you choose to sand each piece as you go, use a 60-grit sanding pad.

This will get rid of that yellow color pinewood typically has. And it will eliminate any rough patches.

No need to smooth out your boards yet. We’ll run a 220-grit sanding pad over the entire project, once we are finished building.

Cushions I like to use for my DIY outdoor chairs…

My dream cushions are Sunbrella seat cushions, but they’re a little salty. So, my next go-to is Target.

Target has a great selection and I’ve found that they hold up well. I can usually get 4-5 years out of them before they break down and lose their firmness.

For these modern outdoor chairs, you’ll need 22″ x 24″ seat cushions and the same for the back cushion.

Best wood Vs. the wood I like to use…

The best wood for any outdoor furniture project is cedar. It holds up very well in all of the outdoor elements.

Pressure treated wood will also hold up well, but not ideal if you’re wanting to paint or stain right away.

While both of these options are the best type of wood for outdoor use, they are also an expensive option. Therefore, I like to use a much more cost-effective wood–Pine.

When sealed properly, pine is a great choice for outdoor projects.

If you choose to use pine, be sure to apply at least 3 coats of outdoor polyurethane to the entire woodworking project.

How long this DIY outdoor chairs project will take…

Building this DIY patio chair is a very simple project. Perfect for a Saturday afternoon. The building process only takes a couple hours.

My Latest Video Tutorial:

Step Two: Build the arm rests (Side frames)

The first step of the project, is to cut four 2×4’s to 22″

Cut four 2×4’s to 25″

Drill 1 1/2″ pocket holes into each end of the 22″ boards.

Attach together to make a square using 2 1/2″ pocket hole screws. See picture below for more clarity….

Two 2x4's jigged together to make an L shape

Be sure to check for square as you add each board. You want to make sure they are all at a 90 degree angle.

Three 2x4's jigged together to make a U shape

Follow these same steps for the second armrest.

Your armrests should now look like this and you should have two….

Four 2x4's jigged together

One last step to the armrests:

Measure up from the bottom of the square 10″ and mark both sides.

Cut a 2×4 to fit between the two 22″ boards.

Drill 1 1/2″ pocket holes on both ends of your board made to fit and attach between the two 22″ boards using 2 1/2″ pocket hole screws.

The top of your board, “made to fit,” should line up with the mark you made on both sides….

Armrest complete.

Repeat for other armrest and you should now have two armrests that look like this….

Two side armrests made of 2x4's

Step Three: Build the seat

To build the seat frame, we’re going to cut two 2×4’s at 22″

Drill 1 1/2″ pocket holes on both ends and attach with 2 1/2′ p.h. screws to the front and back of the armrests. You will want them flush with the “made to fit” 2×4 at the 10″ line you marked in step two.

(Ok, here’s my big fail for the week as a content creator 🙁 I forgot to take pictures of these steps individually. Sorry!) Hopefully, I’ve made it clear, what to do, in the pictures below….

Chair one of two outdoor chairs. Raw wood ready for paint

Seat Slats: Cut five 2×4’s to fit between the armrests. (Cut to fit, but they’ll be approximately 22″ each)

Drill 1 1/2″ pocket holes on each end. Attach using 2 1/2″ p.h. screws…

Seat boards for one of the outdoor chairs

Step Four: Build the back of the chair

To build the back support, we’re going to cut one 2×4 at 22″

Drill 1 1/2″ pocket holes on each end. Attach these back boards, using 2 1/2″ p.h. screws, in between top pieces of armrests (making it flush with the top of the armrests)….


Chair one of two outdoor chairs. Adding back board

Cut two more 2×4’s at 22″. These will be your back slats.

Evenly space them between the top back board and the seat back board. Attach using 2 1/2″ p.h. screws.

wooden chair with markings of where to place boards

Step Five: Finishing touches for your DIY outdoor chairs

Always the best part! Your outdoor chairs are built and you are ready to add all the finishing touches.

Fill in pocket holes with wood filler. It’s only necessary to fill in the ones that you’ll be able to see when the cushions are on.

Sand with a 60 grit sandpaper using an orbital sander. (If you didn’t sand as you built, sand the entire chair. If you did sand as you built, sand the wood filler spots only).

Sand again with a 220-grit sandpaper for a super smooth finish….

Outdoor furniture ready for stain, in front of a garage

Stain or paint. I used Varathane Ebony stain on my outdoor chairs….

Backyard patio space with outdoor furniture and planters

Add 3-4 coats of exterior poly and your outdoor chairs are finished!!

Here’s the link to that beautiful soft, cozy throwBe sure to add designtobuild.nicole in the promo code for 20% off!!

Backyard patio space with coffee table and outdoor furniture

Aren’t they gorgeous!?? Now, step back and admire your work….because YOU just built that!! Enjoy!!

I hope you found these free plans to be helpful. Are you ready to build your own wooden chairs for your outdoor area?

This truly is an easy build. But as always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

Be sure to check back next week for another amazing building tutorial! Or get it straight to your inbox, by subscribing below!

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Let’s go beyond the design to build something beautiful together!

Until next week,

Happy Building, Friend!!

Hop over to Instagram to see all of the RL behind the scenes. What am I working on now?….come check it out!

Are you ready to build more furniture for your outdoor space? Check out these posts….

More outdoor posts:

DIY Outdoor Sectional Sofa

DIY Modern Outdoor Couch

How to Make a Modern DIY Planter Box



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