In some stores, even the simplest looking stool can cost upwards of $300 each, and you can expect to pay double for something more substantial. So it’s not surprising to learn that building your own can cut down on that cost significantly.
To build bar stools, first consider key factors like their ultimate location, height, and use will dictate how you design and build your stools. With a plan in mind, you will need to purchase the relevant materials and follow a careful sketch with dimensions and ideas for finishes.
This article will discuss the best options for various uses of bar stools, along with suggestions for design and finishes. We will also cover the tools you may need and how you can properly upholster your bar stools.
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Make a Plan
Building any piece of furniture from scratch must begin with a good design with clear and precise dimensions. Take notes of the following:
- Decide where your stools will be in your home (indoors or outdoors)
- Measure the height of the table or bar they will be used at
- Decide on overall size and shape, and research possible options online
- Look at different materials and pick a suitable option for your needs
- Sketch out your design and include detailed dimensions
Depending on your skill level, there are many available plans online for various sized bar stools. These plans are free and detailed, from super simple frames to something more sturdy that could be upholstered. They often include a list of tools required, along with accurate sizing and material options.
Where Will Your Stools Be?
If you plan on using these stools outside, they will need to be sealed and coated with a weatherproof finish. Before you add a finish, it is important to seal any joints or holes created by nails or screws. This will prevent moisture from seeping inside the wood.
You will need to sand and prime your stools before painting with an oil-based paint specifically designed to last outdoors. If you are not looking to paint your stools, you should start with an oil rub, followed by a varnish coat to seal. Many of these sealants incorporate a stain and can be used to finish your wood beautifully.
If your stools are kept indoors, it is still a good idea to seal your wood. Being used at a kitchen island or bar will expose them to potential spills that could seep in and ruin the wood.
How High Should They Be?
Unless you fit your bar stools with an adjustable height feature, you will need to carefully consider their height. Too high, and they will be difficult to sit on comfortably. Too low, and the person sitting might struggle at the counter.
Don’t forget to take into account the depth of the seat. You will need to subtract this from the height when measuring the legs.
What Size and Shape Do You Like?
Some barstools are very simple, with a small round seat and four straight legs. This would be easy to recreate with the little previous experience needed. However, some barstools incorporate metalwork, a back on the chair, and upholstery.
Research the different options and take note of what you like. In many cases, a more simple design is more than enough. This can always be dressed up with a padded and upholstered seat.
Do You Have a Material Preference?
Making your barstools out of wood is going to be far easier than trying to incorporate metal framing or legs. That being said, there are many different options. On the cheaper end, you can find several great options that can be stained or painted.
Hardwoods are long-lasting but expensive. Though you likely wouldn’t need too much for a small project (unless you need to build several stools), it is unnecessary to spend too much on a DIY project. It is better to purchase inexpensive wood and use a good stain to lift the piece.
The table below shows a price guide based on a simple barstool made using 2×2 boards:
2 inch x 2 inch x 8 ft
As you can see, the cost of the hardwood is significantly higher.
Do You Have a Sketch?
Your sketch does not have to be perfect, but it should include all of the dimensions, including:
- Overall height
- Height of the legs
- Depth of the seat
- Width of the seat
- Width of the base, leg to leg
As mentioned above, there are several barstool plans available for free online. Another option is to look at YouTube. The following video demonstrates how to build a set of stools using 2×2’s. Watch through and take note of the cut sizes before attempting yourself.
As you can see, with just a few lengths of 2×2, you can create a simple yet effective wooden barstool.
Gather Your Tools
In many cases, you can build a set of barstools with the most basic of tools. Although high powered tools will undoubtedly make the job faster and easier, they are not necessary. Some common tools needed will include:
- Safety goggles – Always use goggles when sawing or sanding wood to avoid getting splinters or chips in your eyes.
- Wood – If looking to stain or paint your stools, you can choose a more inexpensive option to save
- Wood glue – Not to be used alone. This will help keep your piece together.
- Screws – Make sure to get screws that are to be used with wood. In some cases, you may need to pre-drill the hole to avoid splitting the wood.
- Clamps – These will help to hold your stool as you work, such as when screwing together.
- Pencil – Use to mark on the wood where to cut.
- Tape measure – Measure twice and cut once for accuracy.
- Saw – Though it will be slower using a hand saw, it is possible. Take it slow and steady to ensure a straight cut.
- Sandpaper – Smooth off every surface before finishing.
- Paint or stain to finish – Remember to use a sealant if looking for outdoor stools.
If you are looking for extra help, you can purchase a handheld circular saw, as this Skil 7-¼ inch saw. Lightweight and powerful, this will cut down on your cut time significantly. Using a laser to ensure accuracy, you can cut your wood with ease.
- Powerful 15-amp motor delivers 5 300-RPM for greater speed and faster cuts
- 7-1 4-inch carbide-tipped blade included. Spindle lock for easy blade changes.
- 51° bevel capacity with a positive stop at 45° for a wide variety of cuts
Last update on 2022-09-20 at 16:08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Another time-saver that might be worth investing in is this BLACK+DECKER 20V MAX Cordless Drill. This will make attaching legs and the seat far easier and more accurate than a simple screwdriver.
- VERSATILE 30 PC. SET – Includes a wide variety of bits and accessories for drilling and driving tasks.
- CORDLESS DRILL/DRIVER – Compact, lightweight design for versatile use.
- 24-POSITION CLUTCH – Prevents stripping and overdriving screws for added control.
Last update on 2022-09-20 at 12:15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Secure the Legs
This design is a simple four-leg frame with a seat and some supports and requires the following components for a single bar stool:
- 3 – 2 inch x 3 inch x 8 feet boards (50.8 x 76.2 x 2438.4mm)
- 1 – 1 inch x 8 inch x 3 feet board (25.4 x 203.2 x 914.4mm)
- 2 – ½ inch trim head screws (12.7mm)
- Wood filler
- Sanding block
Trim head screws are designed for a neater finished and should be flush with your wood when you finish.
When cutting the legs, keep in mind the following guides:
- A 36-inch (914.4mm) high counter will usually need 23-inch (584.2mm) legs.
- A 41-inch (1041.4mm) bar will usually need 28-inch (711.2mm) legs.
- A 46-inch (1168.4mm) taller counter will usually need 33-inch (838.2mm) legs.
Here are the steps in drilling and securing your bar stool’s legs:
- Measure and cut the 1x8x3 board down to two 17 inches (431.8mm) long pieces
- Measure your 2x3x8 boards into four 14 inches (355.6mm) long and four 11 ½ (292.1mm) inch long pieces.
- Bearing in mind that your bar stool should sit around 13 inches (330.2mm) under your counter, cut the legs to size using the above guide.
- With everything cut, you should have 14 pieces of lumber.
- Start by arranging your 14 inch and 11 ½ inch pieces from the second step in two rectangles (each rectangle should have two of each piece sitting parallel with the shorter pieces on the outside).
- Pre-drill holes and then secure your screws into two holes at each joint, through the 11 ½ inch piece, into the 14-inch piece.
- Place one of your rectangles on the ground, and arrange your legs outside the corners.
- Pre-drill and secure four screws into each leg.
- Turning it onto its side, slide the other rectangle between the legs, sitting 14 ½ inches below the first.
- Pre-drill and secure with two screws where the frame meets the legs.
- Stand your stool up and lay the two 17 inch long flat boards over the top of your frame and legs.
- Pre-drill and secure with screws through the top and around the frame.
- Using the wood filler, fill in the holes and smooth until flat.
- Once the filler is dry, go over the whole stool with your sanding block.
- Finish by priming and painting or adding a stain.
For a complete look at how this stool comes together, check out the DIY video at The Rehab Life:
Incorporate a Back
The above design consists of two rectangular frames attached to four legs. This base gets topped with two boards that fit over the whole frame, bumping out to cover the legs and leaving a slight overhang.
An easy way to modify this design would be only to cut two legs to your desired size. For the other two (which would be the back two), you should aim to add at least 12 inches to their length. For example, if you wanted to cut for a 41-inch bar, the suggested leg height would be 28 inches. To incorporate a back, cut them no less than 40 inches.
When looking to add a back to this design, you will need extra lumber. One extra piece of 2-inch x 3-inch x 8 feet board will be enough to build the legs and back, along with added supports. Rather than cutting four 14 inch boards, cut six. The extra two can be secured between the now taller back legs to create an easy back.
Also, you will need to cut the seat to make room for the new back. In the original design, the seat covers the whole frame, including the tops of the legs. To make room for the back, you can cut one of the flat boards to make it a couple of inches narrower.
Alternatively, you could shift the seat forward, creating a larger overhang at the front.
Finishing Your Barstool
Whether you are looking to paint or stain your barstools, it is important to protect your woodwork. A proper finish can:
- Prevent swelling from absorbed moisture
- Prevent cracking
- Protect against stains (from spillages)
- Gives the wood a nicer look
Most woods are porous. Even if you choose an expensive hardwood that you intend to leave natural, you should still use a protective finish to make sure it lasts as long as possible.
When looking to add color, you should always start with a primer. It helps to protect your work and act as a smooth finish that your paint will better adhere to. Without a primer, you run the risk of an uneven finish and cracking paint in the future.
Painting your barstools is an excellent way to make them your own. From painting the gold frame to using fun matte chalk paint, you can easily customize your finished piece.
Staining is a simple and effective way to enhance your wood. Even a cheaper wood can be upgraded with a good stain. Stains come in a variety of shades and penetrate the wood to bring out the natural grain.
Stains should be finished with some coating or oil to keep it safe from wear and tear. Varnish will offer protection from spills and scratches without covering the natural-looking wood.
Upholstering Your Barstool
If you choose to add padding to your seat, you should prepare this before attaching it to the frame. You will need:
- Hot glue gun
- Staple gun
- Fabric of choice
- Extra thick foam
- Fabric shears
- Heavy-duty corner bracket
How Much Fabric Do I Need for a Bar Stool?
When purchasing your fabric, be sure to get enough to cover the seat and have enough to pull over the frame and secure underneath. Typically, ⅓ of a yard should be enough to cover a barstool seat. If you are looking to cover the seat and back, you will need something close to ⅞ of a yard.
Here are the steps in upholstering your bar stool:
- Using wood glue, attach your two pieces of flat boards as if they were to be placed on the frame.
- When the glue is dry, lay the board on the foam and trace the size.
- Cut the foam and trim excess.
- Using the hot glue, attach the foam in place.
- Lay your seat, foam side down, in the middle of your chosen fabric.
- Carefully pull the fabric tightly around the edges and staple in place.
- Work around the seat, being sure to secure the fabric around the whole frame.
- Rather than screwing the seat from the top-down, use wood glue to attach your seat in place.
- When the glue is dry, turn the stool on its side.
- Using the brackets, carefully secure the seat to the frame, attaching brackets on the legs’ inner edges where they won’t be seen.
Upcycling Bar Stools
If the idea of building your stools is a little intimidating, or if you don’t have any tools, upcycling older stools is an excellent way to create something that is your own. Some simple ways of upcycling include:
- Paint – Adding a fresh coat of paint can breathe new life into old stools. Start by sanding them down and priming before adding your paint.
- Reupholster – You can reupholster your seats with some fabric and a staple gun.
- Try chalk paint – Chalk paint is a great way to give your stools a shabby-chic effect.
- Get creative – Try painting a design on the seat, or incorporate vinyl stickers.
- Scrap fabric – Using fabric scraps and hot glue, wrap the legs with fun fabrics for something different.
If you want to build a bar stool, there are plenty of online resources to make the journey easier. From free plans for simple designs to more complicated instructions, you should be able to find something that works for you.
Start with a solid plan and a clear list of dimensions and materials required. Gather your tools and always be sure to double-check your measurements before cutting. When securing your pieces, always pre-drill your holes to prevent splitting the wood.
When finishing your barstools, use a finish that will protect your work from everyday wear and tear, along with potential spills and stains. Painting with bright colors is a fun way to make them unique, but a good stain can dress up even the cheapest wood.