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Window Seat

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BLACK+DECKER B+D Contributor 186 Projects

One great way to add cozy charm to a room is to build a window seat. Not only do window seats make a room more inviting, they provide functional benefits as well, particularly when you surround them with built-in  shelving. The window seat shown here has a base built from above-the-refrigerator cabinets. This size provides just the right height (when placed on a 3" curb) to create a comfortable seat. Above the cabinets and flanking each side is a site-made bookcase. A top shelf bridges the two  cases and ties the whole thing together—while creating still more space for storage or display.

Window Seat Diagram

Window Seat Cutting list

How to Build a Window Seat

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    Mark the center of the window opening on the sill. Use a square and a level to transfer that mark down the wall to the cabinet height location.

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    Measure from the floor up to the level line in several locations to make sure the cabinets will fit all along their entire run.

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    Strike a plumb line on each edge of the cabinet run. Use a 4-foot level and strike the line from floor to ceiling.

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    Use a pull-saw and sharp chisel to remove base molding between the vertical layout lines. Because a pull-type saw requires almost zero clearance at the bottom of a cut (where it would hit the floor in this application), it’s great for removing the base molding so the cabinet carcases fit tight to the wall.

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    Since the curb will not be visible, you can use just about any shop scraps you may have to build it. The one shown here is made with MDF sheet stock that is rip-cut into 3"-wide strips. Then the curb is assembled into a ladder shape by attaching struts between the front and back curb members with glue and screws. Once the ladder is built, set the cabinets on the curb so the cabinet fronts and sides align with the curb. Mark the location of the backs of the cabinets onto the top of the curb and then remove the cabinets. Attach a nailer to the curb just behind the line for the cabinet backs. Then, position the curb tight against the wall in the area where the base molding has been removed. Attach it to the sill plate of the wall with nails or screws.

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    The top of the ledger (we used a 2 ½"-wide strip of plywood) should be flush with the tops of the cabinets when they are installed on top of the curb. Attach the ledger with panel adhesive and nails or screws driven at stud locations. Measure between the top of the curb and ledger and cut a few nailers to this length.

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    Measure between the top of the curb and ledger and cut a few nailers to this length. Attach them to the wall at the ends of the project, and add a couple near the center to help support the ledger.

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    Set the cabinets in position on the curb, with the back edges against the nailer. Drive shims between the curb and the floor if necessary to level the cabinets. Fasten the cabinets to the nailer strip.

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    After clamping the cabinet face-frames together, predrill and fasten them together with screws.

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    Cut, rout, and install the seat top. Cutting a 74" × 25" blank from MDF (medium-density fiberboard) works well. This will create a 1" overhang at the front and sides of the cabinets. Use a router and bit with a decorative profile to smooth the hard edge of the MDF.

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    Cut a ½" wide by ¼" deep rabbet on the backs of the standards. Clamp all work securely before milling the rabbet for the backers with a router, which will provide safe, accurate cuts. The remainder of the layout and sizing must be measured from the seat top to accommodate specific site conditions.

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    Use the layout lines to size the top shelf backer and the backers for the vertical shelf units. It should fit between the ceiling and the top of the window casing—and between your vertical layout lines.

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    On a flat surface, lay all the bottoms of the bookcase members flush and mark out your shelves. Use a framing square to mark them. Marking layout lines all at once using a framing square is a good way to keep lines parallel from shelf-to-shelf. Make sure all bottoms are held flush during the marking procedure.

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    Install the shelves between the side standards. Glue the joints and clamp them. Tack them with finish nails. Drill countersink pilot holes and reinforce with three 2 ½" deck screws at each joint.

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    Hold the shelf assembly as tight as possible to the window trim, seat top and wall then fasten. Drive at least two or three screws to hold each unit, in addition to nails.

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    For paint grade units, caulk any gaps to make shadow lines disappear. You can caulk the gap on paint grade shelves too. Be extra diligent in wiping down the material after caulking.

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