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How to Build a Mudroom Bench

Create a built-in place for coats and storage, with a seat to perch on while you tie your shoes

The second the sun goes away, out comes the umbrellas and the raincoats and the Wellies. And with them a lot of messy wetness that can warp hardwood floors and stain your best rugs. Short of forcing your family to disrobe on the front stoop, your best bet is to create a stopping area just inside the door where everyone can leave the weather behind.

Below, This Old House senior technical editor Mark Powers shows how to build the perfect catchall mudroom bench, complete with an open top shelf, coat hooks, and flip-top bench storage. This handsome entry hall built-in, made of plywood, shelf panels, and layered moldings, is sure to make your house more welcoming, even while protecting it from wear and tear. In fact, you may find it so convenient you'll catch yourself stopping by even when the sun's out.

How to Build a Mudbench Overview

Illustration by Gregory Nemec

Day-to-day Timeline for Building a Mudroom Bench with Storage

Friday: Build and trim out the seat box.

Saturday: Install the seat lid and beadboard panel.

Sunday: Assemble the shelf and paint the bench.

Cut List

(download cutlist here)

  • 1x12 - 2 @ 72 inches
  • 1x16 - 1 @ 72 inches
  • 2x4 - 1 @ 68 inches
  • ¾-inch plywood - 16 x 69½ inches
  • ¾-inch plywood - 2 @ 16x15½ inches
  • Beadboard exterior grade plywood - 2 @ 4x4 feet
  • ½ x 1 parting bead - 2 @ 48 inches
  • ½ x 7/8 inch decorative shoe molding - 2 @ 72 inches
  • ½ x 7/8 inch decorative shoe molding - 2 @ 12 inches
  • ½ x 7/8 inch decorative shoe molding - 2 mitered returns
  • 3/8 x 7/8 inch panel molding - 2 @ 72 inches
  • 3/8 x 7/8 inch panel molding - 4 mitered returns
  • 3/8 x 7/8 inch panel molding - 16 scribed to size
  • quarter round molding - 2 @ 72 inches
  • quarter round molding - 4 mitered returns
  • 1x4 - 2 @ 72 inches
  • 1x4 - 4 mitered returns
  • 1x4 - 7 @ 16 inches
  • 1x4 - 4 @ 10¾ inches
  • 1x4 - 4 @ 30¼ inches
  • 1x2 - 2 @ 15½ inches
  • 1x2 - 1 @ 69½ inches

Step 1: Build and Install the Seat Box

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

The bench seat starts with an open-bottom plywood box. To make the four sides of the box, rip two 16-inch strips from a sheet of 3/4-inch plywood using a circular saw. Cut the strips into panels: two at 69½ inches and two at 15½ inches.

If you have a baseboard, measure its height, then rip that amount off one of the longer pieces. This strip becomes the back of the box, shortened so that it can rest above the baseboard.

Assemble the box—side panels between the front and back panels—using glue and 1 5/8-inch deck screws.

Place the box in front of the baseboard. Mark where the sides of the box meet the molding. Remove the box, and, using a reciprocating saw, cut the baseboard 3/4 inch on either side of each mark to make 1½-inch notches that fit the sides of the box with the molding applied to it.

Find the studs in the wall and mark their location. Guided by a level, extend the marks 7 feet up the wall.

Slide the box into place. Position it so that the sides fit into the notches. Shim the box to level it if necessary. Screw the box to the wall at the studs with 2½-inch deck screws.

Step 2: Install the Hinge Support

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Using a miter saw, cut a 2x4 to 68 inches, the inside width of the box. Cut a 3½-inch-wide strip of plywood to the same length. Screw the pieces together with 15/8-inch deck screws.

Position the 2x4 assembly along the back of the box, 3/4 inch proud of the top edge. Screw it on, through the box and into the studs, using 3½-inch deck screws. This piece will later be hidden by a plywood strip and molding.

Screw L-brackets inside the box and to the floor, three inside the front edge and two on each side, to hold the box in place.

Step 3: Attach the Panel Molding to the Seat

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

For the stiles (vertical sides) of the panel frames, cut seven 16-inch strips of 1x4. For the horizontal rails, cut four pieces of 1x4 at 10 3/4 inches and four pieces at 30 ¼ inches.

Where two stiles overlap at the corners, the stile on the side of the box has to be narrower than the one on the front so that the paneling looks the same width all around. Using a circular saw or handsaw, rip 3/4 inch off the width of two of the stiles.

Starting with the stile that slides against the back wall on the sides of the box, glue and nail the 1x4s to the box using 3d nails. Align the edges of the 1x4s with the edges of the box. Use the narrower stile at the front corner.

To create a profile on the inner edge of the 1x4 framing, cut panel molding to fit inside the 1x4 rectangles. Miter the ends of the molding. Nail the molding to the box, tight against the 1x4s, with 2d nails. Frame the other side of the box in the same way.

Trim the front of the box by creating two frames joined by a single piece of 1x4 in the center. Overlap the 1x4s at the corners flush with the side paneling. Fit the panel molding inside the frame.

Step 4: Cap and Trim the Box

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Cut a piece of 1x2 to 71 inches. Glue and nail it to the top edge of the box front with 3d finish nails.

Cut two pieces to 16¼ inches and use them to cap the sides. The side caps should now sit flush with the 2x4 assembly secured to the wall.

Trim the base of the box using 3/4-inch quarter-round molding mitered 45 degrees at the corner joints.

Step 5: Trim the Seat Lid

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Use a 6-foot-long stock piece of 1x16 shelving board to build the seat lid.

Using a miter saw, cut strips of ½x7/8-inch decorative shoe molding to fit the front and side edges of the lid. Miter the ends at the corners, but leave the back edges square. Attach the molding to the lid edge with wood glue and 2d finish nails.

TOH Tip: To avoid splitting narrow wood stock with finish nails, dull the points of the nails with the strike of a hammer before tapping them in.

Step 6: Install the Lid

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Rip a 72-inch piece of plywood to 2¼ inches. Nail it down at the back edge of the seat box to cap the 2x4 assembly. Trim the edges with shoe molding.

Attach the lid to the 2x4 assembly using three European cabinet hinges, installed according to the "full overlay" instructions. This type of hinge allows the lid to open completely over the 2x4 assembly but conceal that same assembly when it's closed. The lid should overhang the box by 1 inch on the sides and front.

Step 7: Mount the Beadboard Panel at the Back

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Since the beads on a 4x8 sheet of this plywood run lengthwise, you need to cut the sheet into two 4-foot pieces with a circular saw, then set the pieces side by side on the wall to fill the full 6-foot width of the bench.

Mark a level line on the wall 4 feet up from the seat. Hold the two panels in place next to each other at the line, making sure the rabbets at their edges overlap, and position the seam between them over a stud. You want the seam to fall on a stud so that you have something to screw the edges to.

Mark the interior edges of the base box onto each end of the beadboard. Rip the two panels at these marks.

Secure the panels to the wall using adhesive caulk applied 1 inch from the edges and in a zigzag across the field, and 2-inch trim-head screws driven into the studs.

Step 8: Hide the Beadboard Edges

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Finish the edges and layer trim at the top and bottom of the beadboard paneling to create a stepped-down profile. You'll need to make 45-degree mitered returns on either side to finish the ends.

Cut two 4-foot strips of parting bead. Caulk them to the beadboard sides and to the wall. Tack them with 3d nails.

Cut two pieces of 1x4 to fit between the outside edges of the beadboard assembly. Miter the pieces for outside corners, with the back of the board running the full width of the beadboard and parting bead, and the front extending past the parting bead edging. Attach the boards at the top and bottom of the beadboard with 3d finish nails.

Step 9: Finish the Trim

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Affix a return onto the end of the 1x4 with adhesive caulk.

Add a mitered panel molding, with returns, below the 1x4 at the top of the beadboard and above the 1x4 at the bottom.

Layer ½-inch quarter-round molding, with returns, over the joint between the 1x4 and the lid.

Step 10: Install the Fascia for the Shelf

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Use a 6-foot piece of 1x12 shelving board to create the fascia board above the beadboard panel. Mount it to the wall using 2-inch trim-head screws installed through the studs.

Step 11: Mount the Shelf Brackets

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Measure and mark the placement of three shelf brackets, one to fall at the center and the others 4 to 6 inches in from each end of the fascia board.

Using the provided hardware, install the shelf brackets flush with the top edge of the fascia board and on center at the marks.

Step 12: Secure the Shelf

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Trim the front and sides of a 6-foot-long stock 1x12 shelving board with decorative shoe molding mitered at the corners. Glue and nail the molding on with 2d finish nails.

Set the shelf on the brackets and tight against the wall. Secure it to the brackets with 2-inch trim-head screws.

Cut a strip of decorative shoe molding, mitered with outside corners, to fit the full length of the fascia board. Turn it upside down (fat end up). Nail it over the seam between the 1x4 and fascia. Caulk returns on the ends to wrap the fascia.

Step 13: Paint the Bench

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Sand the entire bench with 180-grit sandpaper. Fill all the nail holes and gaps between moldings with caulk.

Prime the bench, beadboard panel, shelf, and moldings, then paint them with two coats of semigloss latex.

Step 14: Attach the Hardware

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Screw coat hooks to the fascia board, spaced evenly between the brackets.