Deck Benches

When it comes to deck benches, you can go built-in or freestanding—or both.
By: John Riha
Wood Deck and Bench with Succulent in Black Ceramic Pot

Wood Deck and Bench with Succulent in Black Ceramic Pot

Simplicity is beautiful, as pictured here. A large-leafed succulent in a black ceramic pot brings life to a wood deck.

Photo by: Chris Leschinsky

Chris Leschinsky

Your deck isn’t complete without a few places to park posteriors, and deck benches are classic compliments to your outdoor living area. Benches are complicated and make good DIY projects. But if you plan to include built-in benches, you’ll need to be up on the latest deck building codes.

Deck Bench Seat 02:57

Step-by-step directions for building a bench seat for a deck.

Built-in deck benches typically are built with the same material for seats and backs as you used for your decking. That keeps everything copacetic and gives your deck visual harmony. You can use the same wood material for 2x4, 2x6, and 4x4 framing, but you can save a bit of money and ensure some longevity for your project if you use pressure-treated wood for structural framing.

Splinter-free synthetic decking material is okay for seats and backs but note that synthetics tend to heat up in direct sun; natural wood is more comfortable.

Built-in deck benches often are used to define the perimeters of a deck. On low decks, deck benches can be plain seats with no backs. However, if the edge of your decking (walking surface) is more than 30 inches above grade, then your built-in bench has the building code obligation to act as a fixed railing system, too. In that case, the top of the bench back must be 36 inches above the decking.

Bench seating for your deck follows the same ergonomic guidelines as basic furniture construction, with the seat 16 to 18 inches from the walking surface, and at least 15 inches deep. For bench seating that includes backs, the seats should tilt about 5 degrees, and seat backs from 5 to 10 degrees.

Built-in deck benches are great all by themselves, or you can incorporate their design into other deck features, such as planters, pergolas, arbors, shade screens, and storage bins. For a plain bench with back, figure costs at $10 to $30 per lineal foot for materials.

Freestanding benches have the advantage of mobility -- put them wherever you want. However, a freestanding bench can’t substitute for a railing, even if the seat back is high enough.

If you stay with a wood theme, you’ll find garden benches in painted pine, cedar, redwood, and teak, and ranging in price from $150 (pine) to $1,500.

Mix it up with weatherproof benches made of wrought and cast iron, cast aluminum, and powder-coated steel. Iron is classic but heavy—take care moving cast iron deck benches around your deck. Cast aluminum is hard to beat for portability and style. Steel is the least expensive but also the most susceptible to the elements. You’ll pay anywhere from $100 to $2,500 for a metal bench for your deck.

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