How To Build a Sofa for $100

I’m sitting in my living room right now and I can see my TV console table from a garage sale, my coffee table from an auction, a cute little cane-back chair from Craigslist, my sofa table from my Grandmother’s old home and my dining room table and chairs from Craigslist.  The only three pieces left are my upholstered sofa and two upholstered sitting chairs which I purchased new because y’all, I pretty much hate buying used upholstered furniture. How do you know that it’s really clean? What if someone peed on it, or worse?? Upholstered furniture and rugs are two things I prefer not to buy second hand, everything else though, absolutely.  But for this reason, I have not just once, but TWICE found myself wondering how to build a sofa…and on the cheap, no less!  Keep on reading (or just stroll on down) and I will teach you how to build a sofa for roughly $100.

The first time I figured out how to build a sofa was for my college apartment.  I had little more than a mattress to my name and needed a cheap solution for a sofa.  I wish I had pictures of that beauty but alas, they were on an old computer that bit the dust.  This time around, I needed to build a sofa for two reasons.  First, I again had no money for a sofa.  We bought a fixer upper so of course, all our money has been headed that direction and not so much on the perfect furniture to fill it.  More importantly though, because I could have been patient and found a leather sofa for $300 or so that would have fit into the budget, I HAVE SMALL CHILDREN.  My small children are GROSS.  They wipe buggers on things.  They smear jelly everywhere.  They have poop explosions and pee down their leg and don’t even care.

What I needed and wanted was the least expensive seating solution that I could possible come up with.  I considered bean bags, floor pillows, and secondhand sofas.  But then I remembered that awesome sofa I built in college and wished so bad that I hadn’t left it behind at some point.  My brain kicked into gear and I realized that not only do I know how to build a sofa, I know how to build a sofa better than the first time around and for CHEAP.  Ding, ding, ding….sofa building time.

The hubs was just SOO thrilled with this idea but, because he’s used to it, he went along with it and even helped me.  I promised I could make this sofa for under $100 and that’s exactly what I did.  Here’s the deets on how to build a sofa for $100 including mediocre instructions and poor photography:

How to Build a Sofa:

DIY Sofa Supplies:

The Plan:

This high quality, super fancy plan shows you exactly how to build a sofa.  Okay, maybe it’s not too impressive but it is legitimately all I worked from and for this project, it is all you need.  Since it is kinda hard to read, here’s a break-out of the main dimensions:

Back Panel – 75″ x 32″

Seat panel- 72″ x 32″

Arm Panels- 28″ x 32″

Middle Support (not drawn)- 14″ by 32″

Step 1- Cut the Doors

All three panels need to be cut across the width.  In other words, they will all get shorter or chopped into many pieces.  They will not get narrower.  I don’t have a picture of the cutting stage, but I used a circular saw with a Kreg Rip Cut to make sure my cuts were perfectly straight.  if you do not have a Kreg Rip Cut, you can use a straight piece of lumber and some clamps to create a jig.  The dimensions for each piece are as follows:

Door 1: Back Panel – 75″ x 32″

Door 2: Seat panel- 72″ x 32″

Door 3:  Arm Panels- 28″ x 32″ and Middle Support (not drawn)- 14″ by 32″

Step 2: Screw panels together

Start by screwing the back panel to the arms to make a big C shape.  Then attach the middle support.

Pay attention to the raw edges. Where possible, put the raw edge on the bottom or consealed against another panel so it won’t be seen. Some raw edges will inevitably show and will be addressed in Step 3.

I screwed straight through the outside panels so the screw heads are visible on the outside of the sofa.  I considered using pocket holes but since the doors are not solid wood, I was worried that the particle-ly interior would not make for strong connections.  I painted over the screws in the last step and they all but disappeared.

Tip: build this in its final place. It is HEAVY when it’s finished.

Step 3: Fill Raw Edges

Fill the raw edges with joint compound. Use the paint scraper to apply a layer of joint compound. Let the layer dry and then apply additional layers until the roughness is completely hidden. After applying each layer, use a damp wash cloth to wipe up excess from the sides. Also use sand paper to lightly sand and smooth after each layer.

How to Build a Sofa, filling raw edges with joint compound
Fill raw edges with joint compound.
How to build a sofa, filling raw edges with joint compound.
Horizontal edge of the sofa arm is after the first layer. Vertical side of the sofa back shows after two layers but before sanding and smoothing.
How to build a sofa, filling raw edges
Horizontal sofa arm is receiving second coat. Vertical edge to sofa back panel has two coats and is sanded, smoothed, and ready for paint.

Step 4: Paint

You can paint however you think best. I used leftover eggshell wallpaint and a foam roller to apply it.

How to build a sofa, paint sofa.
I painted the back panel before I attached it. I don’t think it matters a whole lot which order you paint, but you will be painting the raw, cut edges after it is put together which is why I made this step 4 in the How To.

Step 5: Attach Shelf Brackets

Attach the shelf brackets for additional support. I placed two on each end and two on the long back side for a total of six.  To attach the brackets, first use a level to draw a line that marks the bottom of the seating panel (use the top of the middle support as your reference point). Then align the shelf brackets with that line, mark the screw holes, drill, and attach.  Then place the seating panel on top and screw it to the shelf brackets.

Step 6: Upholster

Y’all, I’m no pro when it comes to sewing and upholstering so I’m not going to give a detailed how-to on this portion. There’s far better tutorials on DIY upholstery then I could ever write: like this one. In case you want to wing it like I did though, here’s a few details: I used this foam from JoAnns, this painters cloth for fabric, and this batting to wrap the cushion.

NOTE:  The cushion linked above is actually not as deep as the sofa is.  There is a gap between the back of the cushion and the back of the sofa.  The back pillows or cushion hides the gap and the functionality of the sofa is not affected.

how to build a sofa and upholder the cushion
Iron the fabric first to remove wrinkles
How to build a sofa and upholster a seat cushion
Cut the fabric to size. Don’t forget to account for a seam allowance!

Sorry I don’t have any pictures of it actually being sewn together.  One thing to note is that you probably want to use either a zipper or velcro (thats what I did) on the backside so that it can be removed and washed!

How to Build a Sofa
I sprayed the foam cushion with this glue (available from lowes) to help the batting stick.

For the sofa back cushions, you can either repeat the process above and create an additional back cushion or you can use pillows.  We had some extra European style pillows around the house so I just decided to throw those on and call it a day!

The Finished Sofa

We’ve been abusing this sofa for over a year now and I am so happy to say that it still looks great and I don’t regret for one moment the effort that I put into it.  I’ve washed the seat cover numerous times, like right after my toddler wet his pants on it, and it has held up fine.  That one episode was enough to make happy I built this sofa that I fully intend to throw  away once the kids are a little older and potty trained.

The places I filled with joint compound look just as good as the day I painted them.  I was worried about cracking and chipping in those areas but that hasn’t happened at all.  At first my husband was afraid to sit on the sofa with me but he has since gotten over it.  I’m proud to say that it can support the whole family without any issue!

One neat upgrade I added after the fact is an eating table attached to the back.  It’s perfect for my toddler to sit at and eat his breakfast…yes, in front of the TV because we all need our slow mornings!

Eating table attached to back of DIY Sofa
Eating table attached to back of sofa

Looking for more DIY furniture? Check out these other posts:

DIY Crib
$10 Hook Shelf
Cable Spool Ottoman



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