Adults and children appreciate having plenty of seating areas in and near their playspace. Benches encourage adult supervision when placed in close proximity to the playground equipment. A tree bench also encourages a sense of community by creating a designated area for neighbors to gather together under a tree’s natural shade. If you have small to medium sized trees near your playground this may be the bench for you!
A tree seat generally refers to a bench that wraps around a tree. It’s an excellent way to give your garden or yard a little personality and can serve as a great place to cool off in the shade during the summertime. To build a bench around a tree, construct a hexagon out of wood boards and add legs and braces to support the structure.
Before taking this project on, know that you need some experience working with a miter saw to craft a tree seat. Expect to spend 2-3 days working on your tree bench; while the steps aren’t particularly hard for a DIY enthusiast, they are quite time-consuming.
5/4×6 treated or cedar decking (for this project with a 24-in.-diameter tree, we used seven 12-ft. boards)
2-in. decking screws
hand sanding block
drill with screwdriver and pilot/counterbore bits
circular saw or reciprocating saw
Top 5 DIY Tree Bench Plans
1. Classic Hexagonal Plan
The skill level on this tree bench is moderate for DIY – not a total beginner project but This Old House has some of the most extensive and fool-proof instructions for you to follow. They estimate the cost at $770 and the time required as 20 hours.
The creators spell it all out for you – the template making, the cuts, the type of wood, the stain – it’s all right there for you. So while it may look complicated, you’ve got a lot of help.
There’s a lot of drilling in this design and the results of this DIY project will last a very, very long time. All you need to bring is some tools, some supplies and some elbow grease. And before you know it, you’ll have a spectacular tree bench in your own backyard.
2. Pallet Wood Tree Bench
This tree bench is built 100% from pallet wood and is much simpler and less expensive – you might want to give this one a try if you’re a relatively new DIYer. You don’t need any special tools, really. The biggest requirement is 4 – 6 pallets.
They’ve built the bench a few inches out from the tree trunk – so it has room to grow. Do not forget that part, a tree is a living thing and will always get bigger.
There’s also a video, which always helps with DIY projects. The one part of this project that will require some effort, as you will see, is breaking apart the pallets. Not as easy as you might think. But worth it. And then it’s a matter of building chairs out of the pieces with a hexagonal main pattern. Sound complicated? It’s not. Check it out.
3. California Redwood DIY Tree Bench Plan
As Ron Hazelton points out in his DIY tutorial on this gorgeous tree bench – it provides sitting space while protecting the tree, acting as sort of a guard around the trunk (thinking about teenagers just getting their driver’s licence … ). This gorgeous plan is a hexagonal shape – that seems to be a popular shape in this milieu.
But what makes the look outstanding is the wood – California Redwood to be exact. The rich red is unmistakable and adds a level of sophistication to this DIY project.
He’s got all the instructions – broken out into different steps so you can deal with it bit by bit. Sections like, cut the inner seats, cut the middle & outer seats, supports, joins, how to level the bench and, the last step – apply sealer. It’s a great place to learn to build a tree bench. And a nice one, at that.
4. DIY Tree Bench with Fancy Details
As this Canadian woodworking site notes, one of your first steps should always be figuring out the diameter of the tree. This particular author started by measuring the circumference and going from there – you’ll have to call on your high school math! Once you know the diameter, add another few inches for growth and wiggle room.
Aprons, labels, feet – this plan goes into it all, and in great detail. It’s easy to follow and the author’s voice is fun. As this project should be! There’s nothing more rewarding than building something with your own hands that your family can gather round. Especially under the shade of one of your favorite trees.
Don’t let all the cuts scare you – while not a simple project, this is certainly doable. And look at the attention to detail – he’s even got brackets on the legs to fancy them up. And the lessons he learns? Always commit your plan to paper – before you start. And use right angles – they’re easier. And you, too, can have a bench worthy of a family gathering.
5. The Beginners DIY Plan
This one is an easy to build construction that even a beginner can do and likely in one weekend! And good point they remind us of right away – always build your outdoor DIY plan out of quality wood – such as Pine or Cedar. It will be exposed to the elements and a good wood will hold up much longer.
And another tip not to forget – use waterproof glue. It will rain on your creation (and possibly snow on it, depending on where you live). The first step, as always is to build your frame. By now, you know if you are going to add back support or not. It depends on your time, your budget and your needs.
When you’re ready to finish your project, be sure to treat it properly. Several coats of stain will help protect your bench from bad weather. And not just snow and sleet and rain – sun can damage wood as well. Applying several coats of good quality stain and sealer will ensure that your work holds up for years of family fun.
How to Build a Bench Around a Tree
Learning how to build a bench around a tree is a great way to add visual appeal to your backyard while also increasing the amount of seating there. It works well as both extra seating for outdoor gatherings or simply a comfortable place in the shade for you to rest.
Many people choose not to do this because they are worried they lack the technical skill needed to build the bench, or because they are worried they will harm the tree in the process of building the bench. However, it is possible for anyone with even rudimentary skills to build a good bench and there are ways to build and install it that will leave the tree unharmed.
1. Build a Hexagonal Bench
Bench around a tree in autumn parkRound benches are certainly beautiful, but they are extremely difficult to build. A hexagonal bench looks nice and is very simple to build. Choosing a hexagonal bench makes it possible for anyone to build a quality bench for their own backyard.
2. Plan for Tree Growth
As you are designing your bench, you need to build one large enough to accommodate the growth of the tree. This means ensuring the circumference of the bench if large enough, but it also means not attaching the bench directly to the tree. A common misconception is that benches like this are attached to the tree, but this is not true. Since trees are constantly growing, attaching a bench to one would mean that in a few years your bench would be off the ground.
3. Cutting Your Bench Boards
Step 1: Cut your interior boards using a miter saw.
Put on some protective eyewear and some thick gloves. Plug your miter saw in and adjust the angle of the saw by moving the guideline on the base of the saw until it reads 30-degrees. Place your first board flush against the plate of the saw. Turn the saw on and slowly lower the blade into the line that you drew to trim the board. Repeat this process on the other 11 lines that you’ve drawn.
You have to flip the board around after every cut since the lines you’ve drawn lead away from the center.
Step 2: Lay 3 other boards above one of the interior boards.
Once your interior boards are cut, put them together on the ground in the shape of a hexagon to make sure they fit. Then, set one of the boards on a stable surface with 30-degree cuts pointing away from you. Lay 3 boards lengthwise above the piece that you cut. Insert 1⁄4–3⁄4 in (0.64–1.91 cm) spacers in between the boards to separate them a little.
Put at least 2 spacers between each board to ensure that the boards are separated evenly.
The size of your spacers will determine how much space is in between each board. So long as this distance is less than 1 in (2.5 cm) but more than 0.1 in (0.25 cm), your bench will be structurally sound.
Step 3: Use a scrap piece of wood as a straight edge to mark your cuts.
Lay a scrap piece of wood on top of the boards. Adjust it so that the edge of the cut interior board is flush with the edge of the scrap piece of wood. Use your carpentry pencil to extend the angle that you cut through the 3 boards above it.
Repeat this process for the other 11 lines that you’ve drawn. Once you finish extending the lines of an interior board, set the pieces aside and a new set of 3 boards for each interior board.
You’re essentially extending the 30-degree angle out from your interior board by tracing its path.
If you don’t have a ton of space, make a note in the middle of each board to indicate whether it belongs in the first, second, third, or fourth layer of your bench. If you do have plenty of room, set the boards aside in the proper order to keep track of your layers.
Step 4: Cut all of your boards to size at a 30-degree angle.
Do not adjust the angle of your miter saw. Set each piece of lumber underneath the blade and use it to make plunge cuts along each of your lines. Cut each piece to size the same way you did when you were cutting the interior boards. With all of your boards cut, set your pieces out on the ground or a large table and check to make sure that all of your boards fit together in a hexagon.
Cut and Assemble the Bench Supports
Each bench support will consist of two 2×6 legs. Use two 1×4 cross braces along the top of the legs to hold them together. You will need galvanized carriage bolts, washers, and nuts to secure everything together. Tighten the bolts with a socket wrench until the wood compresses slightly. Make six bench supports in total.
Use the Bench Supports to Attach Seat Sections Together
Join two seat sections together, and drill pilot holes into the joint to allow the support to hold everything together. Then drill one pilot hole at both ends of the assembly. Attach the support to the joint to hold the two seat sections together. Do this twice, leaving the remaining sections until you have positioned the bench around the tree.
Attach all of the supports. You should have four bench seat sections, with five supports attached. The two open ends of the bench will each have a support with one side exposed, and one screwed on to a bench seat.