Outdoor Living: How to Build a Modern Outdoor Chaise Lounge. Part Two

Finished Lounges and other outdoor products available at my online shop here.

Cedar Slat Construction

In part two of how to build a modern outdoor chaise lounge, we pick up where we left off by fabricating the cedar slats used as the cross members across our douglas fir timbers. If you haven't seen part one of this series, click here to catch up.

Choosing Cedar Grade

In part one of the chaise construction, the material list included (4) 8 foot sections of premium cedar decking material. The actual dimensions of this cedar stock ends up being about 1 inch by 5 1/2 inches. Working or milling cedar for this chaise is a natural choice as it is outdoor friendly and gives a modern look when in slat form. If available in your region, opting for a clear, or knot free version of cedar or redwood is costly upgrade. But having a knot free piece is sometimes worth the additional expense for the upgraded visual appeal. Expect to pay 50% or more for clear cedar over premium grade.

Step 1. Cut cedar slats to length

Using a power miter saw, cut one rough end of all 4 pieces of cedar decking at one time. This will save a lot of time and will ensure that each slat will not easily splinter. After getting one clean end, cut each 8 foot decking piece at 28 inch intervals. This should yield three 28 inch by 5 1/2 inch pieces per board, or 12 total boards. 

Step 2. Cut cedar slats to width

In this step, using a table saw is time friendly, but if you aren't comfortable using a table saw, a worm drive or skil saw would be sufficient. For table saw application, set the fence of the table saw to exactly half of the dimension of the 28" cedar boards. Be sure to account for the width of the saw blade (table saw or not) when making your measurements. After you cut all 5 1/2 inch cedar slats in half, you should have a total of 24 slats that measure roughly 28" by 2 5/8. 

Step 3. Soften your edges

Depending on how sharp your saw blades of your table saw are, you may find that the edges of the slats you cut are rough and need attention. Since decking already has one edge rounded over, the best way to make a uniform look is to use a router equipped with an 1/8 inch round over bit to match the other edge. Using a router is surprisingly easy, but make sure to take a couple of breaks in between your 24 slats to let the router cool down intermittently. I suggest rounding over the end grain of each slat also to make a more finished appearance. The little details make all the difference. 

Modern Lounge Assembly

The assembly of the slats to the timber rails is probably the easiest and most rewarding part of the construction process. Seeing the cedar slatting of the lounge come together make the job worth the effort.

Starting the assembly

Start the fastening of the slats to the rails of the chaise by aligning the first slat on the end of the two rails. Be sure to overhang the leading edge of this slat about 1/8 inch over the edge. My preference when it comes to the side overhang is to use the 3/4 inch rule. Having a 3/4 inch overhang will provide a good watershed and also create a visual shadow line.

Having aligned the first slat the the specs above, pre-drill four holes (two on each side of slat) that dissect the timber rail underneath by exactly half. If you are using a drill bit that has a countersink attached, great. If not, go back to the four holes with a separate countersink bit prior to drilling the stainless steel screws into place. Counter sinking the screws is necessary for visual and safety purposes. On really hot days, the screw heads can be a heat hazard. After the counter sink has been bored, fasten the slat to the rails with stainless steel deck screws. 

Finishing the assembly

With a scrap piece of 1/2 inch material, (plywood or drywall works best) place the scrap in between each subsequent slat to mark for placement. Use a carpenters square to ensure that the slats are being installed straight both by length and width. Fasten the slats on the front and back end of the lounge with the 1/2 inch spacer. The two slats on the slant section can be spread apart by sight. The dimension ends up slightly larger than 1/2 inch. 

Painting and Oiling your Chaise Lounge

In regards to the timber rails, you can start the painting process immediately following the cutting and sanding. I've found the following process successful for the best outdoor paint coverage.

  • Prime with one solid coat of oil base exterior primer. The best quality that you can afford is recommended
  • Sand any bumpy surface from the prime coat with a very fine grit sandpaper. Be sure to sand by hand and not with your random orbit sander
  • Apply two coals of high grade exterior acrylic house paint from Benjamin Moore or Hirshfields.
  • Sanding between topcoats might be necessary.
  • My applicator of choice is a pro foam roller
Oiling your slats with the timber oil can be done two ways. Either wipe down each slat with the oil on both sides prior to assembly, or apply to bottom and sides of slats first, then the top after assembly. I prefer the ladder because you don't have to wait for the oil to soak into the cedar before assembly. 

Finished Outdoor Chaise Lounge
Finished Outdoor Chaise Lounge

Maintenance and Storage

Now that you've build your first modern chaise lounge, some storage solutions might be necessary depending on the outdoor climate you reside in. With little modification, two bike hooks could easily be attached to the broad timber rail ends to allow vertical storage. If you have ample garage storage, flat stacking is possible. 

This modern take on an adirondack-like outdoor chaise is a perfectly affordable and attractive way to sun lounge or entertain pool-side. If you have your own handyman or contractor business, it''s possible to make these and other modern outdoor furniture with scrap lumber from other jobs. Whatever your application, the hardest part of any furniture building project is to start building!

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Comments 1 comment

Athar 23 months ago

You had my boyfriend and I in tears of lauehtgr at 1am last night (thanks to Ikea's complete lack of adherence to requested delivery windows) when we were assembling our bed and realized that the required midbeam was idiotically not included! Thanks for the much needed lauehtgr. (Hopefully, tonight will be our last in our glorified litter box. )

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