I was complaining to my husband, a couple of weeks ago, about the aches and pains I was experiencing since I lost my job and started my new business. I seem to have developed a case of tennis elbow and a sore wrist and shoulder from using my mouse and sitting in a wooden chair without padded arms.
My old home office set-up was fine for weekend side hustles, but not okay for multiple 8+ hour days. I know I’m getting older, but not that old!
When I upgraded my computer, my husband suggested I upgrade my desk as well. Several of the designers in his office had recently upgraded to standing workstations, and he suggested I explore the idea.
My old sitting desk set-up:
Benefits of a standing desk:
I wasn’t sure about standing all day, but when I researched the benefits it began to sound better and better.
- Better posture
- Better focus (some say)
- More energy
- Better core strength
- Reduced risk of obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and lower mortality (smithsonianmag.com)
The benefit that sold me: “Standing quietly, a 150-pound person burns about 114 calories per hour, or 912 calories in eight hours,” (livestrong.com) Yes, please!
Challenges of standing desks:
- Tired legs and feet
- One size does not fit all
- I can wander away from my work very easily (Ooh Shiny!)
DIY Standing Desk Project:
I first went to a used office supply store to see if they had anything that would work. They did have a lovely sit stand desk that had a motor to raise and lower the desk with a push of a button, but it had an ugly $1200 price tag. I did some research and Amazon had a sit stand adjustable desk base for $499. That was a bit better price wise, but I would still need to build a top. And since I am in the process of launching a new business and just invested the money from my first client into a new computer that was out of the question for me.
I definitely needed to go the DIY route. I had seen a DIY pipe frame harvest table, that I loved, on the Lowe’s website a while ago. It had a bit of an industrial look with pipes for legs, but I thought I could make it taller. After pulling the instructions for it, I decided to simplify my plans. I didn’t need room on the ends for someone’s legs and I wanted a bit more of an uncluttered look.
Stand Up Desks: Figuring Ergonomic Measurements:
While having an adjustable stand up desk would be ideal, it wasn’t in the budget, I wanted to make sure my new desk wouldn’t be causing me any more problems. Wired had a nice article on the standing desk ergonomics that I referenced.
Rule of thumb measurements for an ergonomic desk:
- Elbows should be bent at a 90º angle
- Monitor should be 20-28″ away from your eyes at approximately a 20º tilt.
- Top of the monitor should be at eye level or slightly below.
I started by stacking my keyboard on boxes on top of the kitchen counters until I found a height that felt comfortable. For my 5’8″ frame 42 inches tall would be perfect. (Hindsight is 20/20, but that’s the same as bar height and I could have possibly saved myself some time and headache looking for a 2nd hand bar height kitchen table.)
The wall I had to work with was a touch over 6′ long. I also needed the desk to be shallow, 24″ or less so it didn’t stick out past the window.
Supplies to Build A Stand Up Desk:
I took my plans to Lowe’s and started gathering supplies.
Note: the pipes are really greasy and leave icky residue all over your hands. I recommend you bring gloves or wipes and don’t wear nice clothes!
- 1 – 3/4 x 24 x 72 Aspen Panel (desk top)
- 3 – 1 x 4 x 6 Aspen Boards (used for supports under the desk top)
- 8 – 1/2″ black iron tee
- 2 – 1/2″ x 6″ black pipe nipple
- 2 – 1/2″ x 10″ black pipe nipple
- 7 – 1/2″ x 30″ black pipe nipple
- 1 – 1/2″ x 3″ black pipe nipple
- 5 – 1/2″ black iron cap
- 5 – 1/2″ floor phalange
- 1 – quart polyurethane
- 1 – quart mineral spirits
- 3/4″ wood screws
- 1 1/4″ wood screws
- 1 – 12oz can spray paint
- 3 – 2″ foam brushes
- Tack cloth
- Steel wool
- Felt pads for legs to keep from scratching the wood floor
Assembling the Adjustable Standing Desk Frame:
Remember the measurements I’ve shared here are the right measurements for my 5′ 8″ frame. The length of the pipes can be altered to adjust the standing desk to fit your specific ergonomic measurements. I recommend changing the length of the 30″ pipes if you need to raise or lower your standing desk height.
Step 1: Use mineral spirits and a rag to clean off the pipes and lay them out according to length, tees, caps, and phalanges so that you can easily see each length.
Step 2: Assemble end caps on one end of all of the 8″ pipes.
Step 3: Assemble the bottom part of the horizontal braces for the sides of the desk. Attach a 6″ pipe – tee – 10″ pipe all in a row. Attach an 8″ pipe at a 90º angle to both ends. (Make two of these total.)
Step 4: Create the center brace that attaches both ends of the desk. Attach a tee in a row to either end of the 3″ pipe and an 8″ pipe at a 90º angle to one of them.
Step 5: Attach a 30″ pipe to either end of what you created in step 4, and attach both end pieces from step 3 to either oend of that.
Step 6: Adjust the frame so that it is standing on all 5 8″ legs.
Step 7: Add a phalange to all 5 of the remaining 30″ pipes and attach those to the 5 open tees on the bottom part of the frame you finished in step 6.
Step 8: Tighten and adjust the frame until everything is snug and all the legs are the same height.
Step 9: Remove any labels and wipe down again with mineral spirits
Step 10: Paint the frame with whatever spray paint you prefer. (I used a hammered metal paint.)
Assembling the Standing Desk Top:
Because I was lucky enough to find a board that was the size of the desk I wanted, I saved myself the step of ripping the top of the desk down to the right size. I also bought 3 6′ 1×4’s to add support to the desk.
Step 1: I cut the 1 x 4’s to a 45º angle with a chop saw. You could use a miter box and a hand saw if you wish.
Step 2: Then I glued them to the bottom of the 24″ x 6′ board, like a picture frame, clamping them to hold them in place while I screwed them down with 1 1/4″ wood screws. TIP: Use cardboard under the clamps to keep them from denting the wood.
Step 3: Measure, cut, and install the center support piece. Remember this piece is slightly to the right of center. I laid the top on the base and marked where the center phalange was with a pencil to make sure it would be in the right spot.
Step 4: Sand the top, bottom, and slightly round all the edges. Make sure to sand the screw holes as well, so there is nothing sharp to snag clothing.
Step 5: Use a tack cloth to remove all the sanding dust.
Step 6: Apply 3 coats of polyurethane, sanding it lightly between coats with steel wool.
Step 7: Attach the base to the top of the standing desk, making sure to measure the spacing and placing a level on all the legs to make sure they were straight.
The Finished DIY Standup Desk Project
Here is the finished project. I had to do a little more adjusting on the legs (the center leg was a touch longer than the others). I also added felt pads to the caps on the legs to keep it from scratching my wood floors. It took me 2 days to complete the project, allowing for drying time between coats of paint and polyurethane.
Tips for adjusting to a standing desk:
If you are not used to standing all day your legs and feet will get sore.
Remember, the goal is to be more active and to sit less, not make yourself miserable. Standing in one place for a long time can cause circulation problems, vericose veins, swollen feet, plantar fasciitis, and knee, hip, and lower back pain. Listen to your body and take a break when you need to! No one says you have to stand a full 8 hours every day.
Work yourself up to longer periods of standing over a few weeks.
- Use the bar across the base for a footrest, alternating feet to take some pressure off each leg
- Put some music on and sway or dance to the beat while you work
- Set a timer and walk around for a few minutes every hour
- Do a few squats, pliés, and leg lifts throughout the day
- Wear athletic shoes with adequate arch support and cushion
- Get an anti-fatigue mat or a rug with some carpet padding under it to stand on
- Build a wobble seat
- Buy a drafting stool or bar stool for when you want to sit and work.
Ending thoughts about my DIY Standup desk process:
I’m in love with my desk and super proud of myself for building it. I had a blast with my kids, who got into the action, helping me to assemble the pipes and screw on the supports and phalanges. I love the minimalist look and how airy and uncluttered my office feels now!