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Build Your Own Window Seat – What’s a bay window without a window seat? An unfinished and unused space waiting to be transformed! Building a window seat is a basic “built-in” project, and here’s how you can do it.
Since bay windows are not all equal, you will need to measure the angles of the walls. The standard is 135° but there are other variations and the “as built” angles will likely be different. Walls are never perfectly straight, corners are never perfectly square… you get the picture. In the end, you don’t have to be super precise, as a piece of trim will fill the gap between the wall and the seat, but the angle should follow the wall.
Build Your Own Window Seat
How deep you would like your seat to be is the next question. I made this to be 24″ deep so we could use a rug runner instead of pillows. The runners are 21″-23″ wide. The depth of your seat will also determine how wide it will be. be 8′ 5″ long. . Since the plywood sheets are 8′ long, it would be easier to make the front less than 8′ and let the depth work itself out. This way you could rip an 8 inch piece of plywood for the front while I used 2 pieces.
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On www.askthebuilder.com I found a sketch of the frame for a window seat (fig. 2). Their recommended height is 19″ with a 21″ seat depth. You can see from the drawing that a window seat is actually a short floating wall anchored to 2×4 slats in the wall. The front can be wood, sheet metal or other materials since it is only decorative. The only thing I did differently from the plan was to place the 2x4s on the edge as opposed to the standard wall framing. This creates a pretty strong wall and also creates a bit more storage space inside the counter.
Your vision of what you would like your window seat to look like will also determine the supplies you need to get. Possibilities range from basic plywood to sheet metal to expensive finishes to reclaimed wood. The base frame, however, won’t be much different and I used two 10′ 2×4’s and four 8′ 2×4’s. For the front, I used a 4’x4′ sheet of beadboard and about 24′ of poplar 1×4 for the trim. A 4’x8′ sheet of 3/4″ plywood is more than enough for the top. 3/4″ is the minimum thickness for the top since people will be sitting on it. To strengthen the front edge of the top, I tore 1 1/2″ poplar strips from 3/4″ thick stock on my table saw. To complete the intersection of the top of the seat with the wall, I used 12′ 3/4″ cove molding. And finally, 3/4″ square was used along the bottom of the front, and some small base pieces were also necessary to complete the cut.
Other things you will need for this project are construction glue (Liquid Nails), silicone caulk, wood putty, sandpaper, primer, paint, wood screws and 3 1/2″ nails. A gun and air compressor are ideal and worth renting if not there you have it. A miter saw is also very nice for the many corner cuts. Plus you’ll need the usual woodworking tools like a plane, nail finder, hammer, nail, circular saw, etc. .
You will see as we go along that I used pocket screws to construct the 2×4 frame and also the poplar. Pocket screws are a quick and easy way to make strong tight joints and are applicable to almost any type of woodworking. If you don’t use pocket screws, check out http://www.kregtool.com/pocket-hole-jigs-prodlist.html and join the fun!
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I don’t hate painting if painting is my project (eg painting the kitchen). What I hate is building my project and then painting it. I understand that “you made it!” i feel and then i realize i have to draw it. To remedy this problem, I paint before starting my projects when possible. While I scratch my head and measure and calculate, I periodically run to the store to apply a coat of paint. It only took me about 30-45 minutes to paint the boards and plywood each time. As it dries, I go back to scratching and poking at the walls. When the project is built, just dab some wood putty into the holes, touch up the paint, and you’re done. It’s so much easier it’s crazy.
To begin framing the box, use a finder to locate the studs inside the wall. Normally the studs are spaced 16″ on center, however, there may be some deviation under the windows. With the stud locations marked, attach a 2×4 along the back wall using 3 1/2″ wood screws. The top of this board is 18 1/4″ from the floor, so the finished height will be 19″ when the 3/4″ plywood is added. Make sure the 2x4s mounted to the wall are flat. There’s no need to measure 2×4’s at the corners as there is no benefit in doing so. These edges will be hidden from view and cutting the edges will have no effect on the strength.
The next step is to remove the baseboard and make the front wall frame. I chose to build the wall next to it so I could ensure it was parallel to the back wall. Alternatively, you could place the other 2x4s on the side walls, however, this seemed like a simpler way to determine where the wall would actually be. Both the top and bottom 2x4s have 45° cuts on both ends to match the wall. The front wall is only 18 1/8″ tall so shims could be placed underneath to bring it flush with the wall where the 2×4’s are installed. Actually, my floor had a crown in the middle and they needed to be bridged both ends.
My plan was for 4 front panels, so I placed five 2×4 blocks on the front wall. These blocks are located behind where the vertical poplar cut pieces will be located which allows for nailing. I’m not sure why I didn’t have the farthest left and right blocks all the way to the ends of the wall, but I ended up adding a block at each end for nail trimming (pic 3). Mark the pocket screw holes on the blocks.
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The final steps are to add the 2x4s to the side walls and add some bracing for the top. The side 2x4s have a 45° angle at the front end so they can clip all the way to the front wall. After they are screwed to the walls using 3 1/2″ wood screws, you can also put screws through the front wall and into the side 2×4’s to lock the corner. Three 2×4’s were placed between the front and back walls using pocket screws. The middle The 2×4 is centered and the outside 2x4s are where the edge of the cap will rest.
Finally, this is a very good time to reattach the baseboard and quadrant to the inside of the box.
For a project of this size, I find it easier to build a face frame in my shop, as opposed to installing each board individually. Although not important in this case, the face frames also add significant strength. I built the face frame to be 18″ tall to accommodate the floor crown which made the sticks (vertical pieces) about 11″ long. When installed, any gap will be along the floor and covered by the fourth round. Since the face frame is shorter than the wall, you can raise it flush with the top of the 2×4 before nailing it.
Figure 2 shows the final face frame. It doesn’t look nice painted!! You may also notice that the 2 inner rectangles are slightly smaller than the outer rectangles. This is by design to make the box look less symmetrical and “precise”. When something you build is too precise and regular, it doesn’t look natural. Nature is much more random than it is regular, which can make a large symmetrical piece look odd and less pleasing to the eye. When I get the chance, I try to add some asymmetry to projects. No one will be able to tell you why they like it better, but they will like it better.
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Now that the face frame is ready, it’s time to cover the front of the box. I don’t have pictures of this step, but it’s very simple. Apply a Liquid Nails construction adhesive to the front of the 2×4 and nail the beadboard/plywood to the 2×4. The only edge that will be visible is along the top lip, so place the bead board flush with the top of the 2×4. Installing the face frame is essentially the process. Run a bead of Liquid Nails on the back of the face frame and nail it in place. Fill the nail holes with wood putty and caulk the seams with silicone window caulk.