Skip to Content

3 Easy Ways How to Build a DIY Wood Desk Top

Learn 3 easy ways to make a DIY wood desk top, the best wood for a desk top and the best top coat for a wood desk!

We are starting our DIY built in desks for our home office and DIY office built in cabinets. One of the most important parts of the desk build is the desk top!

There are many ways to build a DIY wood desk top and many factors to consider, including durability, the final look, cost, and the type of wood to use.

I’ve built many different types of DIY wood desk tops and DIY wood table tops. Today, I am sharing 3 easy methods on how to build a DIY wood desk top and details on the best wood for a desk top and the best top coat for wood desk.

3 easy ways to make a DIY wood desk top

Let’s start with the best wood to use first before we get into the building methods.

Note, this post contains some affiliate links. For more info see my disclosures here.

The Best Wood for a Desk Top

The best wood for a desk top is hardwood. Hardwood is typically stronger, more dense, and less prone to denting easily like softwoods. Hardwood examples include oak, walnut, and maple.

However, if budget is a concern, softwoods are usually much more affordable than hardwoods. Softwoods, like pine, are a good budget friendly alternative. But they are a usually a soft wood so they will not be as dense as hard wood.

Another benefit of softwoods are that they are very easy to find and readily available at your local home improvement store.

Both hardwoods and softwoods look beautiful with a wood stain color.

3 Ways How to Build a DIY Wood Desk Top

1. Plank Style Desk Top

The plank style desk top is one of the easiest styles to use for the top of the desk. I used this method for my simple and easy DIY wood desk for $45.

DIY wood desk with plank style DIY desk top wood

For this desk top, I used 1×6 knotty pine boards to keep the costs way down.

To build the DIY wood desk top, I drilled pocket holes with my Kreg Jig (pocket hole jig) and then attached the boards with pocket hole screws and wood glue. Tip: Make sure to always wipe away excess wood glue.

building a plank style diy desk top wood with 1x6s and pocket holes

Check out my tutorial for this simple DIY wood desk for the step by step directions on how to build it! The tutorial includes free plans too!

DIY wood desk top with wood stain

Note, this style desk could easily be made with any hardwood instead of pine!

2. Butcher Block Desk Top

Butcher block is gorgeous, strong, and durable. It’s also super easy to use for a desk top, you just need to cut it to size. Or you may be able to buy butcher block already in the size you need as they come in multiple sizes!

Butcher block size options at home depot

Butcher block is more expensive than the other options discussed here. However, it does come in less expensive species options like Hevea and birch butcher block compared to more expensive species like oak.

The easiest way to cut butcher block to size is using a table saw or a circular saw and straight edge guide.

I have not used butcher block on a desk before, but I did use it for our DIY built in kitchen cabinets. We used birch butcher block and it turned out beautiful! It has been incredibly durable too!

butcher block countertop with oil based stain and polyurethane

3. Plywood (or Project Panel) Desk Top

The third easy way to build a DIY wood desk top is to use plywood or a project panel.

Plywood offers a lot of flexibility in cost and size. You can buy lower price softwood plywood or higher end hardwood plywood. I love using these pre-sanded, formaldehyde free, birch plywood boards from Home Depot.

Plywood comes in 4ft x 8ft sizes but it’s also available in smaller pre-cut sizes like 2ft x 4ft.

The biggest drawback to plywood is the unfinished edges. To finish the plywood edges, you can use edge banding, trim, or cut the edges at a bevel (for a seamless joint). Beveling is cutting the edges at a 45-degree angle.

For our DIY built in desk tops in our office space, we used plywood and beveled the front edges with a 1 1/2″ wide plywood board. Check out our easy DIY built in computer desk tutorial for the how to details!

DIY built in desk or DIY built in computer desk with DIY wood desk top

Another alternative to plywood are project panels which do have finished edges. They are basically boards laminated together to make a large panel. However, they do not come in sizes as large as the 4ft x 8ft boards. But, they do come in ready to go sizes!

DIY desk in office with diy wood desk top made with project panel and trim

I used a ready to go 2ft x 4ft project panel for my easy DIY computer desk. I wanted it to appear to be thicker than 3/4″ so I trimmed it out with a 1×2!

See my computer desk DIY tutorial for detailed instructions on how I did this.

DIY wood desk top made with project panel, a best wood for desk top and trimmed with 1x2 pine

For my DIY workbench top, I did a similar look, but used plywood and trimmed it out with 1×2 as well for a thicker look.

Finishing and the Best Top Coat for Wood Desk

The last step to a DIY wood desk top is to finish it! The most common options are wood stain or paint.

Painting a Desk

If painting, its best to use a very durable paint like a cabinet and trim paint. I love the Benjamin Moore Advance paint and it’s what I recommend for painting kitchen cabinets because it’s super durable and easy to clean too!

I used this paint on my desk makeover and it has held up great!

office desk painted white

When using paint, as long as it’s latex paint and not a paint that distresses easy like chalk paint, you do not need any additional top coat.

Staining a Desk Top

If staining a desk top, one of the best top coats to use over the stain is polyurethane.

It’s commonly available, low cost, low maintenance, easy to apply, and very durable! Check out my how to apply polyurethane to wood tutorial and my how to stain wood tutorial to learn more.

Also, if you’re desk top is made out of birch plywood, make sure to check out my how to stain birch plywood tutorial too!

Stained wood on a DIY desk top wood with polyurethane, the best top coat for wood desk

Finishing Tips for the Best Top Coat

Tip 1: The key to a beautiful wood finish (whether painting or staining) is to make sure that your wood is sanded really well before starting. Use an orbital sander with different grit sandpaper, like 80 grit, 120 grit, and 220 grit to get a smooth finish. See my how to sand wood tutorial for more details.

Tip 2: If staining, make sure to use a pre wood conditioner before staining to avoid a blotchy finish. Again check out my how to stain wood post for a step-by-step guide.

I followed all of these tips for all of my DIY wood desk tops including our latest DIY built in wood desk top:

DIY built in desk or DIY built in computer desk with DIY wood desk top and chair as part of office DIY built ins

I hope this post has been helpful for learning different ways how to easily build a DIY wood desk top (or table top) for when you want to build a new desk!

Follow along for my latest projects and sneak peaks on Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest!

Sharing is caring!