Our garden swing seat is a tubular steel construction with fabric-covered foam cushions. The cushions were left outside one day and got rained on. It was a slippery slope from there as they became more manky and the squirrels had their fun with it.
I wanted to rebuild it with something more carefree and found the cheap and plentiful source of IKEA bed slats and a staple gun.
Step 1: Requirements
One broken garden seat
LUROY / Sultan LIEN bed slats – size depends on the bench
you want to cover
Strips of 3mm plywood – length of your bench
Staple gun + staples – I used 8mm long staples
Weatherproof PVA glue
Sandpaper / Sander / Belt Sander
Tenon saw / Crosscut saw
Spacer blocks – more on this later
Step 2: Choose Your Materials
LUROY is the curved birch plywood slats which come in a range of sizes depending on your bed from 700mm to 900mm long. Sultan LIEN is similar but an older model. Choose slats closest to the height of the seat back and seat. I found mine in the Bargain Corner of IKEA at £7.00 for a pack of 31 (one was missing, hence the discount). It is always worth looking in Bargain Corner for great building materials like this.
The curved slats are best for the bench as they provide some spring cushioning to the seat and back making for a slightly more comfortable position in lieu of a contoured base and frame. I took a pack of 700mm slats for the back and then a pack of 900mm slats which I cut in half for the seat.
Step 3: Prepare Your Materials
Firstly, separate the slats from the webbing that they are stapled to and pull out the staples. The slats are coated with a varnish as a form of waterproofing which is great for this project as you can skip the finishing stage but not great for sticking pieces together with the PVA glue. I set up my belt sander with a stop block so I can sand off the bottom 50mm of varnish on the underside of each slat so I can glue and staple each one to the supporting plywood strip.
The seat of the bench was about 500mm deep so I cut the 900mm slats in half to 450mm and made up a front edge from two strips of plywood glued together to form a rebate for the slats to attach to.
Cut some plywood strips to attach the slats to. Mine were 1800 x 50 x 3mm and 3 off (2 for the back and 1 for the rear of the seat) and the rebated front edge is one piece 1800 x 50 x 10mm glued to a piece 1800 x 80 x 3mm. I also chamfered the leading edge for softness against the backs of outdoor knees. My plywood was not long enough so I had to scarf joint two pieces together to make the length but if you’re lucky to have long wood, bravo.
Step 4: Take Time, Make Spacers
The slats need to be spaced equally to allow for drainage 11and a bit of aesthetics and making some spacer blocks really saves time from measuring the position of each slat. My calculations required one pair of spacers 13mm wide for the back rest and another pair 11mm wide for the seat. I made mine from some dismantled clothes pegs and styrene strips I had around. These are wedged between the last secured slat and the next one you’ll secure.
Step 5: Glue and Staple
Apply some weatherproof wood glue to the sanded section of the slat, position the long plywood strip and use two staples through the strip into the slat to secure it whilst the glue cures. Use a try-square for the first few slats to ensure a square, 90 deg fix on both sides. Put your spacer blocks against the slat, position the next slat and staple again. Keep repeating until you’ve covered the whole span on the back and seat.
Step 6: Finish Finish
You’ll have two odd looking ladders which should get some more outdoor varnish to cover the plywood strips and the ends of cut slats for protection. I maintained the clearcoat of the existing varnish for speed and ease.
Attach the slats to the seat with a couple of screws and you’re ready to sit in comfort and swing life away. I like how the springy seat feels and would appreciate a Vote! If you also agree.