How to Build a DIY Standing Desk

standing desk

Hillary Black / Unsplash

Overview
  • Working Time: 5 - 7 hrs
  • Total Time: 1 - 2 days
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Estimated Cost: $75 to $125

As we spend more time behind desks, we also spend more time sitting. Working for long periods of time means inactivity and fewer calories burned. Plus, it can be detrimental to our posture and overall wellness.

One way to sit less while continuing to do your desk-based hobbies and activities is to stand at your desk. A standing desk elevates your desktop to elbow height, so you can do your activities without having to stretch or strain your arms.

Building Your DIY Standing Desk

For this DIY standing desk, the desktop height is set at 42 inches. But you can adjust the height to suit your personal needs. The desk is 24 inches deep by 48 inches wide.

A 6-inch-high riser in the back is a great place for setting up monitors or charging stations for electronic devices.

For standing at your desk for long periods, you may wish to pair the desk with a stool (not included in the plans) or anti-fatigue mat.

This build is designed to get you up and working fast. No complicated woodworking is required. Materials are cheap and can be sourced from your local home center.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Cordless drill
  • Pocket jig
  • Bar clamps
  • Electric miter saw
  • Pencil
  • Tape measure

Materials

  • 8 two-by-fours
  • 1 one-by-twelve softwood board, 8-foot
  • Wood glue
  • 4 12-inch steel mending plates
  • Stain
  • Flat polyurethane coating
  • Pre-stain conditioner

Instructions

  1. Cut Wood

    Use the electric saw to cut the two-by-fours and softwood board into the below pieces.

    Two-by-Fours

    • Riser Legs: 4 pieces, 4 1/2 inches each
    • Riser Tops: 2 pieces, 48 inches each
    • Riser Connectors: 2 pieces, 3 inches each (or cut to the desired length)
    • Desktop Front Trim: 2 pieces, 48 inches each
    • Desktop Side Trim: 2 pieces, 22 1/2 inches each
    • Legs: 4 pieces, 42 inches each
    • Leg Center Brace: 2 pieces, 15 1/2 inches each
    • Leg Bottom Brace: 2 pieces, 15 1/2 inches each
    • Back Leg Unit Brace: 1 piece, 45 inches
    • Diagonal Back Leg Braces: 2 pieces, 15 inches each (miter each at opposing 45-degree angles)

    One-by-Twelve Softwood

    • Desktop: 2 pieces of one-by-twelve, 45 inches each
  2. Build Riser

    Use two of the 4 1/2-inch pieces of wood and one of the 48-inch pieces of wood to create the beginning of the riser. The two short pieces act as legs and the long piece sits on top of them.

    Build the riser upside-down (with the legs up in the air) with screws drilled at an angle through the pocket jig.

    When finished, turn upright again. To increase the depth of the riser, add more sections. Add two of the 3-inch pieces of two-by-four underneath to connect two of the sections. Increase the length of the connectors if you decide to increase riser depth.

     Number of Sections  Riser Depth Connector Length
    1  3-1/2 inches 3 inches
    2  7 inches 6 inches
    3 10-1/2 inches 10 inches
    4 14 inches 13 inches
  3. Build Desktop Surface

    Run a bead of wood glue along the long side of one of the 45-inch sections of 1x12 softwood. Join this to the side of the other 45-inch board. Tighten with bar clamps. Wipe off excess glue. Join with the four 12-inch steel mending plates and the screws provided in the packet. After the glue is dry, remove the clamps.

  4. Add Desktop Trim

    Run the two 22 1/2-inch side trim pieces of two-by-four along the sides of the desktop. Align the tops of the two-by-fours to be flush with the top of the desktop surface. Attach from underneath by drilling screws with the pocket jig. Run the two 48-inch front trim pieces along the front and back. Attach with the pocket jig and screws.

  5. Build Leg Units

    The desk rests on two leg units. Each leg unit is made from two vertical 42-inch legs, one bottom brace, and one center brace.

    1. Lay the two long boards 15 1/2 inches away from each other. These and all other boards in this step should be placed flat on the ground.
    2. Place the center brace between the two boards at around the 21-inch mark.
    3. Place the bottom brace at the end, between the two long boards.
    4. Connect all of these boards by drilling screws through the pocket jig.
    5. Repeat all of the previous steps to make the second leg unit.

    When set in an upright position, a leg unit will look somewhat like an upside-down A.

  6. Connect Leg Units to Desktop

    Each leg unit will be attached to the inside side trim of the desktop. Attaching to the inside hides fasteners and saves you from drilling more jig holes, plus it gives the legs an attractive offset look.

    Screw the leg units into place. Make sure that the leg units' bottom braces are on the floor side.

  7. Add Back Leg Unit Brace

    Run the 45-inch back leg unit brace from one leg unit to the other. Heightwise, you may decide to place it at the same height as the leg unit cross braces: 21 inches. Or, for a less uniform effect, run it slightly higher or lower than the leg unit cross braces.

  8. Add Diagonal Back Leg Braces

    Place the two diagonal back leg braces between the leg units and the desktop. This diagonal bracing significantly increases to the standing desk's stability.

  9. Finish Standing Desk

    For a rustic look, stain the wood with one or two coats of stain and lightly coat it with a flat polyurethane coating. For a more refined look, add more coats of stain and use a semi-gloss polyurethane coating.

    Tip

    The softwood desktop will soak in stain at a different rate than the two-by-fours. For this reason, be sure to use a pre-stain conditioner on all surfaces to equalize the coloration.