Shoe Bench

How to Make a Shoe Bench from Scratch

If you have a lot of shoes that are just sitting around in your closet, then it might be time to build yourself a shoe bench. A shoe bench is a type of furniture that will basically keep your shoes off the ground while you are not wearing them. Shoe benches are a great addition to any room and can be built for a variety of purposes. They’re perfect for getting shoes off the floor, storing them out of sight, or making your entryway more welcoming. It can be an addition to an entryway, hallway, mudroom, or even in the living room.

A shoe bench has many benefits including being able to hide shoes out of sight and providing extra seating space when needed. These benches are also versatile since they come in so many different shapes and sizes! There are many different types of benches that you could make depending on the space available in your home and what type of materials you have at hand.

In this blog post, we will cover what this type of furniture is, why you should have one in your home or business space, and how they can help declutter your home or office space by providing additional storage solutions that work with the furniture you already have. Finally we’ll show you step-by-step how to build one from scratch!

What is a shoe bench?

A shoe bench is a bench designed to hold your shoes while you are indoors. They can be beautiful additions to a house and, when done properly, can really look great. Their function is to store your shoes when you take them off, so they are usually found right next to a door. They can also be used as a hallway seat while you put your shoes on – this saves you having to sit on the floor, which is much less comfortable.

Many shoe benches that you can buy also come as a matching set with a coat rail too, or as part of a complete hallway furniture piece. This way, they are designed to be functional, rather than just look pretty.

Why should you have a shoe bench?

A shoe bench is an excellent investment in your home. Not only will it help keep you and your floors clean, but they also add a touch of extra style to any hallway and can be made with hardwearing materials that make them built-to-last.

If you do not want to buy one off the shelf or cannot find something you really like, you could always build your own from scratch. It’s a fun project and can be made to match any style of house or hallway decor. Plus, this way, you really get to make it your own.

What are the different types of shoe benches?

So, if you want to get stuck into this project, you should know that there are several different types of shoe benches that you could make.

There are the standard benches, which hold one pair of shoes per shelf – this is a very simple design and can be made from almost anything. The higher up your shelves are, the better it will work for larger or bulkier shoes like boots. You could even add little drawers underneath to keep gloves and scarves in.

Here are a few of the most popular shoe bench ideas that you could make:

Open shoe benches

This type of shoe bench is ideal for those who want to tidy their shoes, but don’t mind if they are exposed. It’s like a shoe rack, where the shelves are not enclosed but it has a back, and the top is enclosed as a bench where you can sit. The internal shelves can either be made from wood, or metal poles – depending on both your personal style and what you think will look best in your home. Most people like these because they are easy to make, and look good in any hallway.

Closed shoe benches

These are similar to open racks, except that, well, they’re not open! They are enclosed on all sides and have a door at the front which closes. This adds an extra layer of protection against dust, or, if you have pets, it will certainly stop your puppy from removing your shoes from the rack for a good chew!

Shoe chests

These are great because they can hold lots of shoes, but they definitely have a much less practical design. Instead of the shoes being on a shelf, or behind closed doors, the chest has a lid that lifts up, and the shoes basically go in a free-for-all bundle inside. 

On the outside, they do look fantastic though – especially if you paint them in bright colors or jazz up the design with some awesome patterns. You just might need to rummage around inside to find the right pair of footwear. However, they can also be used as both an indoor and outdoor storage option. So, as long as you treat the wood correctly, you could use a shoe chest as an outdoor unit to store your dirty welly boots.

Upholstered shoe racks

Now, all of the shoe benches we mentioned above can be easily made into a much comfier bench by adding a nice upholstered seat to them. This adds an extra layer of protection to the wood and an extra layer of comfort for you.

It’s up to you how much work or expense you want into this project but just remember that the more time and effort you put into it, the better your end result will be. You could always paint or sand back the design if you’re not happy with how it looks but remember that this is a long-lasting piece of furniture for your home so take as much care over making these designs as possible!

What do you need to make a shoe bench?

So, before we get into the nitty-gritty of how to build a shoe bench from scratch, let’s talk about what you need in order to make one.

Wood

Of course, one of the key components to your shoe bench construction will be the wood you use.

There are many different types of wood available, but the most commonly used is pine. It’s affordable, looks good in any design (it can be painted pretty much any colour), it can be cut easily with hand tools, it doesn’t warp or twist too much when being treated – which makes sanding easier. Plus, best of all… it’s super sturdy!

If you plan on painting or staining your wood, then this is the best type of wood to use – especially if you want a natural-looking finish. However, if pine isn’t your favorite choice in color and design then there are other types that might be better for you – just remember that they will need different treatment and sanding techniques, and they must be much more expensive (for example, if you use oak).

DIY materials

In addition to the wood, you will also need a few other basic DIY materials. For example, rubber feet for underneath so that your bench doesn’t scratch floors, wood filler – this will help cover up any visible hardware like screws once built which looks much neater. Plus, you may want things like dust sheets, and protective DIY clothing. You can get these at any hardware store.

Copper piping

If you’re opting for an open shoe bench with metal rails, the most important design choice is going to be the piping. This can either be copper or another type of metal but, personally, I prefer copper because it adds a more rustic feel to the furniture.

Screws

Of course, to attach your pieces of wood together, you’re going to need some screws – I would recommend using wood screws as they are very strong and easily gripped. You can choose any color you want, and if you don’t want them exposed at all, you can cover the screw holes up with wood filler.

Wood filler

As mentioned, for covering up those pesky screws, we used some wood filler on our bench. This is a great way of hiding any visible hardware inside the piece, and it helps keep everything looking professional.

Wood glue

Certain parts of the shoe bench are much easier to stick together with wood glue than with screws. It’s a much cleaner option, especially if you plan on painting your shoe bench after – no screws will be visible at all!

Wood paint

Unless you’re satisfied with the natural color of the wood, you’re going to need to invest in some quality wood glue to get your bench looking nice and clean. Good quality wood paint will both not need as many coats to apply, and won’t come off as easily. 

This is super important when you’re building a shoe bench. Scuffs and scrapes from shoes are pretty common, so you’ll need to be sure the paint can withstand the wear and tear. You’ll also need to make sure that the paint won’t just wipe off if you ever need to clean the bench with a damp cloth.

Wood varnish

Another important touch you’ll need is a quality wood varnish. For either ensuring that your wood is protected (if you don’t want to paint it) or for sealing in your color choice (if you’re planning on painting it later), this is essential. It will also help to give the bench a smooth finish that looks professional.

Tape measure

A vital piece of kit for any DIY job, a tape measure will ensure that all the components of your bench are the perfect size for wherever you plan to place them. This will make sure that they fit together smoothly and securely, without any gaps or visible screws, and make your project a whole lot easier.

Masking tape

To stop paint or varnish going where you don’t want it to, you will need to use a type of tape. My personal favorite is Frog Tape. It’s affordable, easy to use, and it’s super useful when it comes to preventing paint from running.

Circular saw

Of course, you’re also going to need something to help you cut your wood. For this job, I recommend using a circular saw, but if you have a table-mounted circular saw then this will certainly work too. If you’re a fan of DIY and plan on doing a lot of other projects, you’ll find that this will be an invaluable tool for you.

Paintbrushes

To apply your wood glue, paint or varnish, of course, you’re going to need a good quality paintbrush! There are all kinds of different shapes and sizes that will help with various projects – it just depends on what kind of finish you want. You can also buy a mini roller set, which works just as well for the type of project.

Drill

For when you’re inserting screws to attach your pieces of wood together, a drill will be an essential item for this job. Even just a basic cordless drill will be fine! Just make sure that the bits fit in all the different types of screw heads that you might come across and that they’re suitable for drilling into wood.

Chisel

For when you need to make a slot for the shelves to slide into, or if you simply want to create a more professional finish by chiseling off the excess material around your screw holes, then this is an important tool. This will give it that clean and sharp appearance – especially if you’re painting over it after.

Orbital sander

For ensuring that your wood is smooth, an orbital sander is a great tool to have in your arsenal. It’s also ideal for smoothing down any rough edges that you created with the circular saw, and it will help applying a smooth coat of paint or varnish too!

Protective eyewear

When cutting wood using either a table-mounted circular saw or a handheld one, and especially a sander, you really must have some protective eyewear on. Not only is this for your own safety but also because wood dust in your eyes will not be pleasant!

Safety glasses are a great idea if you don’t want to wear glasses or contacts – they fit over your face and are nice and secure. You can also buy safety goggles, which cover the whole of the eye area as opposed to just around it like glasses do.

Gloves

Lastly but most importantly, I recommend that you never attempt a wood-based DIY project without wearing gloves. The reason for this is that you can get splinters in your fingers – not only will this hurt, but it’s also super dangerous as they could potentially be infected if left untreated! So, invest in a pair of quality DIY gloves for woodwork.

How to make a shoe bench from scratch

Now for the fun part – how to actually go about building your own. It’s quite easy really, so don’t be put off if you have not made things like this before. All you need are some basic tools and materials plus a bit of patience. You’ll also want to make sure you have plenty of space to work in – while it’s not a large project, you might need more room for all the pieces and tools involved.

For the purpose of this design, we’ll be making an open shoe bench with wooden shelves.

Step 1 – Measure your space

First things first, you’ll need to measure the areas where you are planning to put your shoe bench.

When it comes to the length of the bench, you could either do this to fit an available space (such as the gaps in a hallway), or to fit a number of shoes. For instance, if you wanted to ensure that 6 pairs of shoes could fit on the rack, then measure the length of those shoes, add a bit on for good measure, and that should be the length of your bench. This can also help you determine how deep the bench should be.

As well as length, don’t forget to think about height and how tall you’d like the bench to be, as it’ll need to be both big enough to fit shoes in, yet also suitable for sitting on without being too tall. Make sure you are as accurate as possible with this because the bench will need to fit in perfectly.

Step 2 – Source your materials

Once you have measured your space, it’s time to find your materials! You can use any type of wood that you like for the bench, but I recommend using something like pine or white oak. Pine is not too expensive and it’s easy to work with plus it doesn’t chip or damage. If you’d rather go for more durability, oak is another great choice.

This is also the point where you’ll need to purchase things like saws and drills if you don’t already have them. Don’t forget the wood screws, paint, and varnish!

Step 2 – Saw your legs and sides

Next, it’s time to create the basic frame of the bench, so this is where the legs and sides come in. Each leg should depend on the height and depth of your bench, and they should be exactly the same length. 

To make the frame, cut each length of wood with two cross-cuts (a standard straight cut) and one 45° bevel cut – if you have a table saw. If you don’t have a table saw, then two straight cuts will also work. However, the angled cuts will help ensure that the pieces will line up nicely with the top.

Step 3 – Saw your internal shelf

For the purpose of this design, we’re only using one internal shelf, but if you wanted to make this bench taller, you could include several different shelves inside the bench.

For the internal shelf, cut the piece of wood to the exact length of the shoe bench and about one inch shorter than the desired depth of the shoe bench. Both these cuts need to be square.

Step 4 – Cut the slot for your internal shelf

In order for the shelf to slot into the frame, you’ll need to make a few grooves that it can slot into. 

First, place the shelf at the desired height on the leg, and then draw round it, or measure the shape of the wood. Then, you’ll need to notch out that shape to about half an inch depth.

To do this, I used a chisel and notched out about half an inch deep, the entire length of the shelf into the inside of each leg. You’ll need to make sure that this is precisely the same place on each side of the legs, or else the shelf won’t sit level.

Step 4 – Sand the pieces

Next, it’s time to ensure we have a smooth surface. On both of the legs and the internal shelf, sand down and edges and corners – particularly the saw edges.

I recommend using a harsher grit like an 80 for the first sand, particularly to smooth off those saw lines, and generally go over the wood and remove any kinks. Then, go back over with a finer grain like a 120 or a 180 to smooth the wood out further.

For an even smoother finish, you could even go over it a third time with 320 to 400 grit sandpaper. But you don’t need to do this on any edges that are going to be hidden.

Step 5 – Paint the finished pieces

Don’t worry if this seems like we’re getting ahead of ourselves – we’re going to circle back to the top of the bench soon!

For now, we’re going to paint the pieces we’ve already finished. If you want or need an even smoother finish for your bench, then first, apply some primer (a base coat) over the wood. This will not only ensure that no seams show through when we start applying the paint, but it will also help you get a better finish.

Next, it’s time to paint the finished pieces – or varnish them, if you’re keeping a natural wood finish. If you’re using paint, use two coats, and make sure to let the first layer dry completely before applying the second.

Then, apply your topcoat – again in two coats for best results – but one is also usually okay. It’s important that if you’re using water-based paints or varnish to not brush too hard while applying because this could cause bubbles and other marks on the finished surface! Use long, smooth strokes and try not to press too hard on the wood, and make sure the paint isn’t too thick on the wood or it could drip.

Step 6 – Assemble the legs and shelf

Once the less and shelf are dry, it’s time to assemble them. The shelf should slot nicely into the grooves you chiseled out on the inside of each leg.

To make sure this is stable, take a drill, and drill two screw holes from the outside of the leg into the groove. Then, take a screw, and screw it in from the outside of the leg. I would also recommend using wood glue on the inside of the groove to make entirely certain that it’s stable. Do this for each leg.

If the screws being visible bother you, use the drill to make sure the screw sits slightly below the surface of the leg. You can then simply fill this gap with wood filler, sand it down, re-paint, and voila! The screw is no longer visible.

Step 7 – Saw the lid

Now that we have the basic shape for the shoe bench completed, it’s time to fit the lid. This is basically the bench bit of the shoe bench – so it’s pretty important!

First, measure the width of the frame. 

This may be a tiny bit of variation from what we originally planned since fitting the shelf, so it’s important to take this measurement again. Then, cut your wood to the new length and depth of the shoe bench. If you originally used a 45° bevel cut to make the legs, you’ll need to make the same bevel cut but at opposing angles on each side of the bench. 

Position the top between the two legs to make sure it fits.

Step 8 – Sand and finish the lid

Just like you did with both the legs, sand the lid down to smooth out any rough surfaces with 120 or 180 grit paper. As this piece will be the most visible, it’s important to get a perfect finish. Be careful not to damage your bevel cuts! 

Then, apply primer and paint over it just like you did with the legs for a smoother finish if desired.

Step 9 – Assemble the bench

Now that all of our pieces are finished up, let’s put them together into one shoe bench!

Line up the lid of the bench on top of the existing frame and, once the position is right, secure each end with wood glue and 2 ½ inch screws. To get that screw exactly where you want it, I recommend pre-drilling the hole. 

Once again, if you want to make sure that the screws aren’t visible once you’ve finished, drill them a little deeper into the wood and use filler to hide the gaps.

Once the top of your shoe bench is securely in place, this is also the point where you can make a back to your shoe bench if you’d like one. I used a simple piece of plywood for this and measured the entire back of the bench and cut it to fit. I hammered in some nails around the outside and used wood glue to keep it in place.

What if you want to upholster the bench?

Now, these next few steps are only applicable if you want a comfy cushion on your shoe bench. Otherwise, the bench is effectively finished and will already make your hallway storage much tidier. 

So, if you fancy topping your creation with a comfy cushion, here’s how you would go about it:

What you need to upholster your shoe bench

If you’re going for an ultra-comfy shoe bench, then you may also want to upholster it. To do this, you’ll need a few additional supplies:

  • Staple gun and staples
  • Upholstery foam
  • Plywood
  • Batting
  • Your choice of fabric

None of this is expensive, and you can source the upholstery fabrics either online or from a local fabric shop.

Step 10 (optional) – Cut your plywood

If you decided to put a back on your shoe bench, you may be able to use whatever wood you had leftover from that step. Basically, you need to cut a piece of plywood the exact shape and size of the benchtop. This will be how you attach the cushion to the existing frame.

Step 11 (optional) – cut your fabrics to size

Once you’ve sourced all of your upholstery materials, it’s time to make sure they fit your shoe bench. Take measurements of the top lid of the bench, and then cut the foam to size first. This will be what fills your cushion. I recommend cutting it slightly larger than the bench because you usually end up squishing it down a bit during the upholstering.

When it comes to cutting the other fabrics, both the batting and the top fabric need to be cut larger than the foam because they are going to wrap around it and needs a little bit of give on either side.

Step 12 (optional) – Fit your batting

Next, lay your piece of batting on the floor and place your foam first then your and plywood on top of it. Wrap the batting around the foam, ensuring you have about a half-inch excess on every side. Cut the batting to size and then use the stable gun to secure it around the foam.

Step 13 (optional) – Fit your fabric

Following more or less the exact same steps as you did to fit the batting, fit the fabric to the cushion. Cut around it so you have some give and then wrap it around the foam, wood, and battling, and staple it in place with the staple gun. 

Remember to tuck the corners in so that they don’t look tacky. And there, you have a perfect cushion!

Step 14 (optional) – Fit your cushion to your bench

Finally, place your cushion on top of the bench and pull it down to tighten around the corners. Using a drill or screwdriver, attach the plywood to the top of the bench by screwing it in from underneath. You’ll need to pick the perfect length screws for this, and preferably ones that aren’t too long.

Once you’ve attached your cushion, you have a finished, beautiful, comfortable shoe bench!

How to make a shoe bench Q&A:

What type of wood should you use to make a shoe bench?

I recommend using pine because it’s affordable and sturdy. However, you can also use oak, mahogany, or any other type of wood that you have on hand. For this project, I used pine boards and then stained them to look darker for a richer finish and  simple sheet of plywood for the back.

What type of fabric should you use to make a shoe bench?

This really depends on your preference and the look that you’re going for. I like using upholstery fabrics in bright colors because they add more personality than plain cotton or linen would. But I also like neutrals depending on the space. If budget isn’t an issue then just pick whatever you like, or use any fabric you have on hand.

How big does a shoe bench need to be?

A shoe bench needs to fit as many pairs of shoes as you can comfortably store, so keep that in mind when making your design plans. The size will normally also depend on the space you have available.

How tall should a shoe bench be?

For this project, I made my bench 18 inches high. The standard size for benches is between 17 and 19 inches, but you can go whatever works best for you.

Is it difficult to make a shoe bench from scratch?

No, it’s actually quite easy. If you have the right tools, and some basic DIY skills, it shouldn’t take more than a day or two to complete.

How much does it cost to make a shoe bench from scratch?

This will depend on whether you have the tools already or not. For our bench, just the materials cost about $60, but you may have to spend more than this if you need to buy hand tools.

Conclusion…

Overall, this was a fun and easy project that was a great way to spend a weekend. I would recommend it to anyone looking for an affordable alternative to store their shoes, or just wanting some extra seating around the house. 

If you’re interested in building your own piece of furniture from scratch, I hope this blog post has inspired you! But trust me, DIY projects can easily become addictive and, before you know it, you’ll be building your own everything!

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