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How to Build a Two-Level Desk

DIY to the Rescue host Amy Devers gives step-by-step instructions on how to build a two-level desk that provides a sitting and standing area. This is a great project for an office or kitchen desk.

More in Remodeling

building a two level desk

Step 1: Cut the Wood

This desk is designed for a sitting height position of about 30" and a standing position of about 38". The tops are 18"deep x 24" wide and 18" deep x 18" wide -- but could be made larger as needed. We built our desk in two pieces, the lower left-side desk and the taller right-side desk. Then we assembled them in the room.

Cut wood:
1 - 18" x 24" board – top for lower desk area.
2 - 18" x 18" boards – top for tall desk area.
2 - 18" x 37" boards – sides for tall desk.
1 - 18" x 30" board – side for lower desk.
1 - 23 1/4" x 30" board – backing board for lower desk (24" wide minus 1 side plywood thickness).
1 - 16 1/2" wide x 18" board – bracing board for tall desk (18" wide minus 2 side plywood thickness).

Note: Backing and bracing boards are attached inside of the desk upright sides so measurements are the width minus the thickness of the 3/4" plywood. Because 3/4" plywood is often not exactly 3/4", it’s important to measure your plywood to get exact widths.

Step 2: Construct the Lower (Left Side) of the Desk

Note: We used screws instead of nails to make the desk strong. Gluing is also very important when building a piece of furniture. Use clamps as necessary to secure the wood.

Glue and screw the 30" side board to the left side edge of the 30" backing board. Make sure all of the edges are flush. Tip: Pre-drill for screws as you go along (Image 1).

Start with one end, do the other end and then do the middle screws. Tip: You can also "pin nail" it first to hold the pieces together and then come back and screw to secure it (Images 2 and 3).

Turn the unit upright and glue and screw the lower desk top onto the top edges of the side and backing board. Make sure the edges are flush. This creates a 2-sided L-shaped box with a top.

Step 3: Construct the Tall (Right Side) of the Desk

Glue and screw 37" side board to bracing board, centering bracing board in the middle of the side board (we left some of the back open to access outlets in the room). Tip: Measure outlet heights to determine placement of the bracing board.

Glue and screw desk top to top edge of side board. Make sure the edges are flush.

Place the other side board under the desk top and over the bracing board edge. Glue and screw the desk top to the side board.

Glue and screw the side board to the edge of the bracing board. This creates a 2-side H-shaped box with a top and the bracing board between the side boards.

Optional: Add mitered molding trim to the front and side edges of the desk tops, and/or to the front edges as desired. Glue and brad nail these in place. Finally, fill the screw and nail holes with putty, sand and paint.

add mitered molding trim to front and side edges

Step 4: Secure the Lower Unit to the Tall Unit

Place both desk units in the room and line the lower L-shaped desk up to left side of tall H-shaped desk.

Use a square and level to make sure the lower unit is in the proper position against the tall desk.

Secure the lower desk top to the left tall side board with screws -- from the inside of the tall unit.

Secure the lower backing board to the tall unit, with screws from the inside of the tall unit.

Step 5: Add Brackets and Secure the Unit to the Wall

Add brackets and secure the desk to the wall as necessary. If not able to drive the screws directly into the wall, install drywall anchors to better secure the desk and keep it from tipping over.

add brackets and secure desk to wall

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