Outdoor Sofa Made Out of Pallet Wood

We’re lucky enough to have a large, sheltered first floor balcony that seems to suck up the sun, keeping it several degrees warmer than the ambient temperature and it really needed better seating. Que large pallet pickup and out with the tools…

First things first though. Design or more specifically, ergonomics. What is the best angle to use to get the most comfortable seating experience? After all, I intend to spend a lot of time sitting on this sofa! After a fair bit of reading around I settled on a 5 degree slope on the sofa base front to back and a seating angle of 110 degrees (or a 15 degree slope backwards on the sofa back). This seemed to provide a comfortable seating position but wasn’t so sloped that you couldn’t lie down (We like taking a nap out here…..) without rolling to the back.

I opted to take the timber from my pallets and build the sofa using my regular carpentry skills and it did take quite a bit of juggling the saw settings to get the angles required. I think this is because my brain is just so geared up to work at 90 degrees as they form the vast majority of cuts in everyday joinery.

If you want to build a much simplified version of this sofa, use the pallets intact. Just cut the pallet down through the bearers to narrow the width and build them up on top of each other. Add a packing piece at the front to get the 5 degree slope back to front.

Tips for outdoor sofa/ seat ergonomics…


I think I’ll let the pictures take over here…

corner details of outdoor sofa

The corner details showing the centre beam and double angled slope from it (front to back). I didn’t have any scrap wood long enough to make the back bearers, so I added in a couple of short pieces to make it to the corner.

outdoor sofa base

The base framework for the outdoor sofa sitting on the intermediate legs.

outdoor sofa side arms out of pallet bearers

Side arms also form the end two legs and I made them from the 50mm x 100mm (2″ by 4″) pallet bearers and I notched them over the frame side for strength.

outdoor sofa bottom pallet wood slats

Space out the bottom slats with something around 25mm or 1′ wide; I used a chisel. One screw is enough for the slat ends.

back angle between seat and backrest outdoor sofa

The ideal angle between the base and the back rest is 110 degrees for max comfort.

The dimensions of the seat base to fit my 600mm cushions

almost finished outdoor sofa

Almost finished!

And after giving it a couple of coats of a clear wood preservative and a couple of days or so to dry, it was ready for the grand opening! And very comfortable it is too…

Ideal outdoor sofa built out of old pallet wood.

Ideal outdoor sofa built out of old pallet wood.

Stay well


Comments 8

  1. We just built a large garden arbor and want to add a built-in bench. I’ve been scouring the web for decent ideas and I’m pretty sure I can adapt your design. Yours is the only one that I’ve found that looks both comfortable and has a nice aesthetic. Thanks for posting it!

    1. Post

      Great! Thanks for the kind words, hope your project turns out just fine 🙂
      Feel free to send pics…

  2. Hi. What is a packig piece? Can’t find instructions on creating the sloped back. Thanks.

    1. Post

      I think you’re referring to the paragraph for making a sofa by stacking of pallets as they are? I suggested a packing piece say a piece of 25mm high x 50mm wide bit of wood inserted in between the base pallets and the top pallet to give the top a small slope backwards.

      Let me know if you need more help!

  3. looks good,I’m going to build a new outside wooden bench and while a lot have a sloping back I have never noticed a rear sloping seat,why did you decide to go that route rather than flat,does it make a difference ?

    1. Post

      Hey Howie,
      The seat sloping back 5 degrees was a result of research on the net and in local IKEA type stores. Looking at seat ergonomics, especially for a lounge type chair, the slope does make it more comfortable. It stops you sliding forward when you lay back into the 110 degree ideal angle. It gives you that ‘sinking’ into the seat feeling too.
      If you go back to the post, I’ve put the links to a couple of the resources I used, plus like I said, I noticed that IKEA use a lot of angles in their designs, and the Swedes are supposed to know their design stuff right?!

      In practice, with thick cushions you don’t notice the angle particularly, other than you know it’s comfortable…
      And that’s all that matters in the end. I also found the height at the front to be quite important for comfort, too high and you feel it on the back of your legs…

      Good luck building your sofa Howie! I’d love to see some pics when your done 🙂

  4. Ian is there a way to send pics to you of my ceiling? The house is 1900. The ceiling caved in over the kitchen due to a leaky toilet. I’m not sure where to start.

    1. Post

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