Several years ago, I built an Adirondack chair for the blog in honor of our two-year anniversary. This summer, I revisited the original design, took some of the key elements, and turned it into a completely different project: a chaise lounge chair. I’d been thinking about designing a lounge chair for the last year or so, but everything I found online was either very elaborate or looked straight forward but uncomfortable. What amazes me about the design of the Adirondack chair is how such small curves and slight angles make such a difference in comfort. I decided to stretch those design elements into a lounge chair so you can soak up as much vitamin D as possible this summer.
My favorite DIYs are the ones I can’t find online. I love bringing something new and different to the table (or the chair), and this project is the perfect balance between building a lounge chair out of straight boards and creating an art piece in your backyard. All of the curved parts are cut with a jig saw, but this project has a surprising amount of flexibility—so don’t worry if you’re not familiar with the tool. Because there aren't a lot of seams butted up against each other, this chair actually requires less precision than, say, the pie box we made.
I built this chair from tight knot cedar. You can use white wood if you’re looking for a more inexpensive option, but keep in mind that cedar is naturally rot- and bug-resistant—and it’s lightweight, which makes it easy to move around your yard. Choose whatever wood works for you, then let’s get started!
Step 1: Cut wood
- Cut one-by-tens to two 85” lengths for the side panels and one 22 1/4” length for the head of the chair
- Cut two-by-four into four 22 1/4” lengths, six 14” lengths, one 21” length, and two 15 3/4” lengths with one 45 degree beveled cut
- Cut one-by-fours into five 37 1/2” lengths
- Cut one-by-threes into twelve 23 3/4” slats
- Cut two-by-two into one 22” length and one 21 5/8” length
These cuts are also reflected in the cutting guide.
Step 2: Cut side panels
Print out this diagram for the side panels, then cut it out. We’ll use it to cut the two 85” lengths of one-by-ten that will create the Adirondack curves on the bottom of the chair. These boards have one smooth side and one rough side, so make sure you cut mirror images of the side panels so both smooth sides can face out.
Start with one 85” board and measure 37 1/2” in from the end that will be the head of the chair. Place the diagram just past this mark, with the straight side lining up with the bottom edge of the board. The distance from the diagram to the other end of the board (the foot end) should be 23”.
Trace the top edge of the diagram onto the wood with a pencil. Then, using a straight edge, draw an angled line from the top corner of the diagram to the top corner of the board, 3/4” away from the head end. On the opposite end of the board, measure up from the bottom edge 3 1/2” and mark. Draw a straight line from this marking to the top corner of the diagram.
Clamp down your board in sections and cut along the marks with a jig saw. Cut from the head of the board along the angled line until it changes direction. Then cut from the opposite end of the board until you meet up with your original cut. I felt comfortable cutting all of the straight lines with a jig saw, but you can also use a circular saw until you reach the curved parts if you’re concerned you won’t be able to get a straight cut with a jig saw.
Step 3: Cut back slats and back braces
This is the last step of cutting with a jig saw—you’re almost there!
Print and cut out this diagram to mark the curved tops of the back slats (the 37 1/2” one-by-four boards). Lay out your one-by-fours and decide on the order you’d like them in. I always like to be intentional about placing my boards in some kind of pattern so any color variation looks like an artistic choice rather than an accident.
Start with the two middle boards, lining up the #1 diagram at the top of the boards so there is as little waste as possible. Trace the curve onto the wood with a pencil, clamp the boards down, and cut with a jig saw. Repeat for the #2 and #3 diagram pieces, lining up the diagrams with the already-cut boards so that all the boards make one fluid curve.
For the two-by-two and two-by-four back braces, use the guide below to make the measurements, then connect the points with a sloping curve. This is a much less precise cut (which is why we're free-handing it) because these pieces will be hidden behind the slats—their function is just to create a curve in the back of the chair. Because we’re cutting down the length of these boards, it’s safest to clamp down the board with only a small part overhanging your work surface and make your cuts in small segments.
Step 4: Sand
Because there are so many moving pieces to this project and I didn’t want to spend any more time than necessary sanding, I focused on the areas you’ll be most in contact with when you sit in the chair: the tops and sides of the slats and the outside of the frame. The legs and various other pieces got a light sanding from a sanding sponge to remove any large splinters from cutting.
Usually, I would start with 100-grit sandpaper, then move to 150-grit and 220-grit. To save time, I only used 150-grit. The smooth side of the cedar wasn’t rough enough to make 100-grit necessary (at least not for me), and I didn’t think the chair needed to be 220-grit smooth. That said, if you want to go the extra mile and sand all your pieces to 220-grit, go for it! You've got to choose the hill you're going to die sanding on, and this just wasn't it for me.
Step 5: Assemble frame
To build the frame of the chair, place the two one-by-ten panels side by side with the smooth sides facing out. Sandwich a 22 1/4” two-by-four at the foot and the 22 1/4” one-by-ten at the head. Add a two-by-four of the same length on the inside of the one-by-ten and another two-by-four in the middle, 16 3/4” from the inside of the one-by-ten head.
Secure all pieces together by driving 1 1/2” screws through the side panels and into the ends of the boards. You can add wood glue for extra stability if you like.
Step 6: Add seat slats
Now we’ll add the slats that will make up the seat of the chair. First, pre-drill two holes at both ends of each one-by-three slat. My holes were positioned 3/4” in from the sides of the boards and 3/8” in from the ends. These measurements will ensure the screws are uniform and centered on the one-by-ten board. I used a small, marked scrap piece of one-by-four as a guide to mark the screw placements instead of measuring each individual board.
I always like to pre-drill cedar with a countersink bit when I’m driving screws so close to the edges of boards. Cedar is a very soft wood so the heads of screws have a tendency to damage and split the wood around them. A countersink bit allows room for the heads, which eliminates that problem. It’s those little touches that can make a big difference in the project looking professional and well-made.
Once the slats are pre-drilled, lay them out and choose an order to place them in. Just like with the one-by-four back slats, if you have varying colors of cedar boards, it’s a good idea to disperse them in a pattern rather than positioning them all together. This will make the color variance look like an artistic choice instead of an accident.
Once the slats are lined up, secure them to the chair frame with 1 1/2” screws, placing them 5/16” apart. Start at the foot and work your way up. You can use deck spacers to ensure the gaps are even, but I find those a bit expensive for this kind of project so I opted for plastic shims. They’re a little more awkward to use, but they accomplish the same purpose. I used a 1/4” shim and a 1/16” shim to create a 5/16” spacer.
Cuts are never perfect, so when I got about halfway done securing the slats, I jumped to the other end (the part where the curved section of the side panel ends) and started working backwards. If your spacing is off, you can adjust the boards as needed to ensure you end at the right spot and the slats look good.
Step 7: Assemble back
Now it’s time to build the back part of the chair. Lay the one-by-four slats out with the smooth sides down and the curved ends lined up—the top of the back should resemble a semicircle. Keep the straight end of the slats touching, but fan out the top part a little, no more than 24” wide. Position the two-by-four back brace at the base of the slats, and drive two screws through the brace and into each slat.
Next, center the 22” two-by-two back brace 7” from the center top of the slats. Secure in place with two screws driven through the brace into each slat. Then place the 21 5/8” two-by-two brace 22” from the top. Secure in the same manner.
Because of the curved cuts in the braces, the width that you’re driving screws into varies. Check the length of your screws against the actual project, and make sure you use shorter screws as you work your way into the middle. The screws for attaching the two-by-four should vary from approximately 4” on the outside to 3 1/2” in the middle. The screws for attaching the two-by-twos should be approximately 2” on the outside and 1 1/2” in the middle.
The most challenging part of attaching the braces was getting the slats to angle with the curve and sit snugly against the braces. The best way to deal with this is to first place the scrap piece from cutting the curve underneath the slats to encourage them into that curved shape. Attach all of the slats to the braces first, then go back and reattach any that aren’t cooperating while holding the slat firmly against the brace.
Step 8: Attach back to lounge chair
We want the back of the lounge chair to be adjustable, so now we’ll position hinges along the flat edge of a 22 1/4” length of two-by-four so the barrel (the cylindrical part of the hinge) overhangs the two-by-four. Secure one side of the hinge with the included screws.
Line up the hinged two-by-four with the bottom of the two-by-four at the base of the chair back, making sure that there’s about a 5/8” overhang on either end. I marked where the hinges lined up on the chair back so I could move things around and keep the two pieces centered. The line between the barrel and the flat plate of the hinge should line up with the seam between the two-by-four and the back slats. To secure the hinges to the chair, position the chair back at an angle so the hinged two-by-four can rest open while you secure the bottom half of the hinges.
Step 9: Add back supports
To build the adjustable back supports, start by adding hinges to the flat bottoms of the angled two-by-four pieces. Then, position the supports along the two-by-four in between the seat and the head of the chair and secure the other side of the hinges. When in use, the supports can rest on either the middle or top brace on the back of the chair, depending on the angle at which you’d like to sit—or they can be laid flat and the chair back can rest on the angled frame of the chair so you can lie down.
I also added a one-by-two to connect the two supports so they can easily be raised and lowered as a unit. I thought this would be an optional step, but the pain of trying to raise and lower both sides together drove me crazy. You can use a scrap piece of one-by-three or one-by-four if you don’t have a one-by-two around, but I highly recommend adding this step.
Step 10: Add legs
The last step of assembly is adding the two-by-four legs. Flip the lounge chair upside down and place the 14” two-by-four legs in both the corners and center of the chair (just inside the middle two-by-four). I positioned my legs so the faces of the two-by-fours were parallel with the side panels. I think this makes the legs look less bulky and more sleek.
Make sure each leg is square with the bottom of the side panels and the tops are even with the top of the two-by-four framing. Clamp in place for ease and accuracy, and secure with multiple 1 1/2” screws.
Step 11: Stain
The final step in this project is adding a protective finish to the wood. This brings out the beauty of the wood and keeps it looking nice into the future.
The main challenge for this project is staining all of the different surfaces, so I opted for a stain that doesn’t need to be wiped off after applying. Sikkens Cetol SRD (which stands for siding, rails, and decks) comes in a gallon container—so it’s more of an investment than other stains—but it’s been one of my go-to stains for exterior projects like this one. Even without wiping down the stain, it still took me a couple of hours to get in between all of the slats and make sure everything was good and covered, so make sure you leave yourself a good chunk of time.
And remember, always follow the directions on your stain or finish and use the recommended applicator. Now you’re ready to kick back and relax in your very own lounge chair! For more backyard seating options, check out our tutorials on building an Adirondack chair, chairs for an outdoor movie night, and these nesting chairs.