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Turning a salvaged bed into a bench may be easier than you think

Inspired by an Ask the Experts inquiry, Print Editor Karen Knapstein explore the subject of repurposing a bed that's seen better days, and refashioning it into a one-of-a-kind bench.

Thanks to Pinterest, do-it-yourself websites and design blogs, It’s easy to find thousands of examples of old wood or metal beds repurposed into benches. Among the many reasons this is a popular trend: old beds are cheap and plentiful, they are often made of solid materials and are well made, and the “upcycling” salvage project is relatively easy.

Transforming Worn Bed Into Brilliant Bench

For simplicity’s sake, we’re going to consider one way you can re-invent a wooden bed as a bench.
Before you begin, consider the finish you want on your finished bench. Determine whether you want to apply a new finish before or after assembly. Will you leave the finish as it is, perhaps scuffed and battered with lots of aged character? Or will you finish your bench by painting it with milk paint and distressing the edges?

If you’re going to use milk paint, or a similar product, there will be no need to sand first. (I have a friend who absolutely swears by milk paint. She won’t use anything else; she uses it in all her projects, and they always turn out fabulous.)

However, if you’re going to finish your project with a process that requires sanding, it will be easier to sand your pieces before you assemble them into a bench.

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Construction Insight

There are many ways to tackle the construction project itself, but here is just one option:
The headboard is used as the back of the bench, and the footboard forms the sides. Measure the width of the footboard and saw it in half with a circular saw, making sure your measurements are accurate and cuts are straight and square. If you’re building a bench from a full size or larger bed, you may want to trim material out of the middle of the footboard so your bench isn’t too deep, making an uncomfortable seat. To help determine how deep you want the seat, set the footboard perpendicular to the headboard and “eyeball” it; go with what feels best to you. If needed, trim the legs of the footboard.

Measure and drill the cut edges of the footboard pieces for dowels to fasten the new bench sides/arms to the bench back (headboard). (Dowels are just one way you can attach the arms to the back. The number of holes/dowels will depend on the design of the bed.)

Determining Dowel Placement

Measure the headboard side posts and mark for proper dowel placement so the holes/dowels line up perfectly between the sides/arms and the back. Making sure the holes and dowels are free of dust and debris, attach the sides to the back using wood glue and dowels; clamp and let dry.

Meanwhile, build a box out of two-by-fours to fit inside the arms and back to support the seat, and cut pieces of lumber to the proper length to run the width of the seat. Decide the width of the planks according to your preference, but the boards should be thick enough to safely bear the weight of however many people will be seated at once.

After the bench assembly has dried, attach the box to the bench frame and the planks to the box, making sure before attaching that everything is square and evenly aligned.

Exploring Finishing Options

If you prefer a smooth, finished look, fill the joints and cracks with caulk. Consider routering the edges of the seat to make sitting more comfortable. (To my knowledge, no one likes sharp edges cutting into the backs of their thighs.)

If you are going to use your new old bench outside, use a weatherproof finish.

Consider Second Service of Old Beds

I know there are some purists out there who will say “Don’t do it!” for the sake of keeping vintage and antique beds original. I would never suggest using a rare or valuable bed as building materials for a do-it-yourself project. However, there are a lot of beds out there that have little to no value. Beds are languishing at garage sales, parked at curbsides, even thrown into piles for bonfires. These are the beds that could do with being reincarnated as something else.

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Why not go green by making a new old comfortable seat for your porch, patio, entryway or green space. It will last much longer than anything you buy at a big box store, and have a whole lot more character, too.

Note From the Editor: Feel free to share your upcycled furniture pieces with us ... We’d love to see them and may share them in a future issue of Antique Trader. Email project descriptions and photos to or mail to: Antique Trader Upcycling, C/O Antique Trader Editors, 700 E State St., Iola WI 54990.

Need more project details?
Brittany Bailey, a “DIY enthusiast and all around Handy Girl,” provides step-by-step instructions for creating this charming garden bench – as well as many insights and do-it-yourself projects – on her blog, Visit for this and other tutorials.

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