With the paver patio complete, we were excited to dive into phase two of our backyard project – planter boxes! We’ve been talking about these boxes for months – over dinner, in the car, while walking the pups (you name it!) – and it felt so good to start knocking them out. In our minds, we were planning on completing them in a day, but as most things go with DIY (and my runaway imagination), that didn’t happen. Even still, we made a ton of progress, so we’re calling this step one of phase two. Let’s go!
When we had our backyard graded and prepped for pavers, we allowed for a 30″ border around the perimeter for our above-ground planter boxes. We pinned inspirational boxes, sifted through pretty online garden photos, and in the end, we made the last minute decision to incorporate a built-in bench, too. Before we hurried off to the store, we sketched out plans and debated the merits of a 20-inch height versus 22 or 24. We threw around talk of a deep walnut stain or a weathered grey stain, and we even wondered if we should spring for cedar and skip the stain altogether. Nothing was off the table just yet, but we did nail down all the lengths so we would have a basis for shopping.
We love the way Sarah’s bench seating (our inspiration) plays off the curves of the wide, circular base of the fireplace, so we also threw in a couple of 45-degree angles to keep things interesting. Below, you can see where we landed on length, including the box alongside our staircase (see it there in the lower left corner?). And that gap between the two 8′ boxes? That’s where a sweet little 4′ bench will go:
Although we originally thought we might buy 2″ x 8″ pressure treated boards (allowing for a 3-board height), we quickly realized that the thickness of a 2-x would be overkill! Instead, we opted for these 5/4″ x 6″ x 10′ boards that were a true thickness of 1″. The 10′ lengths would allow us to cut each length needed for the planters with enough leftover to create the depth. But! By going down to a 6″ board versus an 8″ board, we had to adjust our plans for a 3-board height and step up to 4 to get them as tall as we’d like.
In total, we tallied up a total of 55 pressure treated boards, but with each 10′ board weighing 10+ pounds, we nixed the idea of hauling them home in our car. Instead, we scheduled a delivery for the following day, just as we did with our brick pavers! Side note: Lowe’s charges a $59 flat delivery fee, and it’s 100% worth it. Every last board was brought in on a pallet and set inside our garage.
OUR SHOPPING LIST
5/4″ x 6″ x 10′ pressure treated deck boards
Pressure treated 4″ x 4″ (corner supports)
3″ Polymer-coated deck screws
Cabot semi-solid deck stain
Foam board insulation sheets
2″ x 4″ x 8′ pressure treated boards (for our bench seat support frame)
Exterior grade wood putty
Tarps for protection
If shopping for yourself, the quantities above would depend on how many boxes and what sizes you’re making, but you can see that the supply list is pretty simple! For the stain, we have paint rollers, brushes and trays already, so keep those add-ons in mind, too.
The same day the boards were delivered, we spent the evening ripping 1/8″ off both sides of each and every board using our table saw. Common boards have a slightly rounded edge, so although this is complete personal preference, we always take the time to do this step so that the edges are nice and square. In the end, we love that it gives off a more polished look:
Just be prepared to clean up the massive amount of sawdust!
With our boards prepped and ready, we spent last Saturday building! We started with the 7.5′ planter next to our staircase first, the most straight-forward box of the bunch. We started by cutting the 4x4s to 21″, which would be our finished height. We decided on an overall depth of 24″, so after cutting the long lengths to 7.5′, we used the remainder of those boards and cut them to 22″; this accounts for the 1″ depth of the front and back boards:
It was easiest for us if we worked our way around box, layer by layer, squaring the 4x4s as we went. Scott used two screws into each of our corner braces on every board. Additional 4x4s were added to the middle of all our boxes, which helped to align the boards and give them more support.
For a bit of interest, we used shims to space each board apart. Not only did this help give the illusion of straighter boards across the longer runs (we had more freedom to push and pull the boards into place along the 4x4s), but the 1/8″ gap added a tiny design detail that we liked. Our planter boxes will ultimately be lined with insulation – a tip given to us by a local nursery to protect perennials – so there won’t be any spillover from dirt, precipitation or watering.
For being one of our smaller boxes, this guy still weighed a ton. Like, I was barely any help to Scott, but we were able to get it into place. At this point, we still needed to add a finishing lip around the top (more on that in a minute), but things were looking up!
Next, we worked on the angled box that would sit to the left of the fireplace. It was built in the same way, but we needed to use three 4×4 halves to support the corners, and we cut the ends of the vertical boards on a 45-degree angle as well:
The box to the right of the fireplace was our most challenging, because we wanted it to seamlessly wrap around the corner along the garage as well.
But look! Cute!
You can see we added a finished edge along the tops at this point, which really sets them off. We are so happy with how they took our pretty planters and made them look complete:
We made the edges deep enough to cover the 4×4 supports with just enough for a 1/2″ overhang. The math worked out that each lip is the same width as the vertical boards – about 5″.
Although straight cuts would have looked fine, we decided to use mitered corner cuts. One deck screw from the top into each 4×4 is keeping them secure!
The largest corner planter is very, very (very!) heavy, so it’s still floating in the yard for now. At least this will help us get all the way around when we go to stain the boxes, but we’ll likely need to call in the help of a few friends to shimmy it into place:
This weekend, we’ll be building the 4′ bench that will span the distance between these two planters (again, the corner planter isn’t in place, so that gap will be large enough for a 2-seater):
In addition to building the bench, we’ll be puttying over all the exposed screw heads and lining them with foam board insulation. We’ve decided on a deep, dark stain that we’ll apply before finally moving them all into place, and then it will be time to fill them up with dirt and plants and choose a nice layer of gravel to finish off the look between and around them!