Learn how to build an easy DIY built in computer desk or a DIY built in desk in any custom size you need!
I love building DIY built in desks because they are a simple design and easier than building a new desk because you don’t typically need any type of bottom legs since the desk gets secured to the wall or cabinets that you are building it into! It’s basically a floating desk.
So you just need to build a DIY wood desk top and frame most of the time which is the best thing! There are some exceptions to this and I will cover those below!
They are a great solution for maximizing a small space like we have since we need to fit two built in desks between our built in DIY office storage cabinets so we can each have our own desk.
Below I am sharing detailed instructions on how we built our DIY built in computer desks!
Note, this post contains some affiliate links. For more info see my disclosures here.
How to Build a DIY Built in Computer Desk
Note: Material quantities will vary based on your actual built in dimensions!
*Can be 2ft x4ft or 4ft x8ft size depending on how large your desk will be. Also, I prefer to use this premium plywood.
DIY Office Makeover Video:
Check out our YouTube video for our DIY office makeover for two which shows us in action building this DIY built in desk!
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1. Determine the DIY built in desk dimensions
Just like with any DIY built in project, like our DIY office built in or DIY built in cabinets in our entryway makeover, you need to determine the final dimensions of your DIY built-in desk.
To do this measure the distance between your two walls or cabinets to get the total length. For my office built ins, I measured the distance between my wall and built in cabinet which is where my desk is going.
For the height, the standard desk height is 30″ tall. This would be different if you want to make a built in standing desk.
For the depth, the typical desk depth is about 20-24″ but it will depend on what you want and any space constraints. For example on my wall there is a window, so I could only do 22″ deep max.
My final DIY built in desk dimensions are 30″ tall x 21 3/4″ deep x 38″ long.
Note 1: if you do not have a wall or cabinet on one side of the desk, you will need to add support. To do that, it you can create desk legs or side panels by using an actual wood desk leg or using a piece of plywood as the side support.
Note 2: if your walls are wonky and not square like ours, then your measurement for the length of the desk may be a little different when you measure for the length of the desk at the back of it vs. the front of it.
This just means you may need to use wood shims when installing the desk. Make sure to use the smallest measurement when measuring for the length of the desk.
2. Make the cuts for the frame of the built in desk DIY
Based on the dimensions you determined in step #1, cut the 2×3 @ 8ft to the sizes needed for your desk top frame using a miter saw.
The front and back boards should be the length of the desk.
The middle and side support boards should be the total depth of the desk less 3″ (to account for the thickness of the front and back 2×3 frame boards) less 3/4″ (for the front 1×3 trim) less 3/4″ (for the 3/4″ thick plywood desk top overhang).
Here are my desk frame cut dimensions as an example if I used 3/4″ thick plywood for my desk top:
My final built in desk dimensions are 21 3/4″ deep x 38″ long.
- (3) 2×3 @ 17 1/4″ (for side and middle frames)
- Calculation: 21 3/4″ – 3″ – 3/4″ – 3/4″ = 17 1/4″
- (2) 2×3 @ 38″ (for back & front frames)
*TIP: If your desk is more than 5-6 ft long, you will need to add another middle support board for additional support.
3. Build the frame of the built in desk DIY
Build the frame of the DIY built in computer desk.
Use a Kreg pocket hole jig and drill pocket holes on each side of the three side and middle boards. Make sure it is set for 1 1/2″ thick wood.
Tip: See my how to use a Kreg Jig post for an easy, step by step tutorial and video tutorial on how to use the Kreg Jig!
Place the side and middle support boards between the front and back boards as shown in the photo below and attach the frame together using wood glue and 2 1/2″ Kreg pocket screws.
*TIP: Make sure to locate your wall stud location before assembling the frame. If your wall stud falls directly in the middle of the wall where the middle support board on your frame would be attached, then move the middle support boards a few inches down to ensure you can still get to the wall stud when attaching the frame to the wall.
4. Attach the DIY built in desk frame to the wall
Use a stud finder and locate the wall studs.
Use 3 1/2″ woods screws and attach the desk frame to the wall studs to secure it in place. On any sides where it needs to be secured to cabinets, use smaller screws (will vary depending on the thickness of the cabinet).
*Make sure to install the frame level too, use a level to help!
Make sure you are installing the frame at the right height. The top of the final desk top should be at 30″ from the floor. So if you are using a 3/4″ thick plywood desk top, then attach the top of the desk frame at 29 1/4″ from the floor.
Also, if your walls are wonky and not square like ours, then you may need to use wood shims when installing the desk frame of your DIY built in desk, which we needed to do.
Not the best photo with the lighting but here are are two desk frames attached to our built ins on each side!
5. Trim out the frame of the DIY built in cabinet
Use a miter saw and cut the 1×3 to the length of your DIY built in computer desk.
Then, install it to the front of the desk frame with wood glue and 1 1/4″ brad nails to trim it out.
6. Build the DIY wood desk top
There are many ways to build a DIY wood desk top for a DIY built in computer desk or DIY built in desk. Check out my post on three ways to build a DIY wood desk top for different ideas if you want a different desk design for the top.
In this tutorial, I am going to share how to build the desk top using plywood. I recommend using 3/4″ plywood as I have shared here.
But, I actually used 1/2″ thick plywood for my desk top because I had it leftover from another project. But, I will continue sharing how to do it with 3/4″ thick plywood.
Before building the desk top, decide how you want to trim the front of the desk out.
To make this as simple as possible, you could just trim the desk out with a 1×2 to cover the plywood edge of the desk top and to make the desk top appear thicker. I’ve done this many times for DIY wood desk tops, including for our modern DIY computer desk.
However, if you want to level up the look and make the front edge seamless, you can bevel the front edge of the desk top and the top edge of the trim. This method also allows you to use the same plywood as the desk top so the wood will be the exact same, which looks extra great once stained!
I chose to bevel my edges for those reasons. Here’s the building process how I did it and cut my desk top to size with a front beveled edge and trim:
Make the DIY wood desk top
Cut the plywood to the length you need it using a table saw or circular saw and straight edge guide.
Make the front trim cuts
Adjust your table saw or circular saw blade to 45 degrees for a bevel cut. Cut the long side of the plywood (for the front trim) with a 45 degree bevel angle.
Then, measure and mark 1 1/2″ (the trim width) from the long point of the bevel edge.
Adjust your saw back to a 0 degree straight cut. Cut at this mark to create the front trim board that will be 1 1/2″ wide x the length of your desk.
The top of the board will be beveled and the bottom will be a straight cut.
Make the desk top cuts
Repeat the steps above for your desk top except the width will be the depth needed for your desk top.
We made the cuts for both desks:
Attach the desk top and front trim together to create the DIY wood desk top
Attach the beveled edges of the front trim and desk top together using wood glue and 1 1/4″ brad nails.
When attaching, use clamps to help and you can also use painter’s tape too, but you want to try to lined up your edges as close as possible for a clean joint and less finish work,
Also, make sure to generously use the wood glue and then as little nails as possible for a beautiful, clean front.
Note: For this part, because I was using 1/2″ plywood rather than 3/4″ I had to add a small board behind my trim as shown in the photo. This was so I would have a larger overhang of the desk top than 1/2″ but you don’t need to do this with 3/4″ thick wood.
If there are any small gaps where your beveled edges meet, you can lightly hand sand and or run the shaft of a screwdriver over the edge to blend the wood fibers together.
7. Paint or stain the DIY built in desk
Fill all nail holes with wood filler and sand well.
Paint or stain your 1×3 desk frame trim and your desk top.
I painted my 1×3 trim with Cornwall Slate by Sherwin Williams to match our DIY built in and storage cabinets.
8. Attach the DIY wood desk top to the DIY built in computer desk frame
To attach the DIY wood desk top to the frame, you can use corner brackets so it’s removable if needed.
9. Drill a hole in the wood desk top DIY for cords and attach a keyboard tray (optional)
This step is optional but it’s what makes this more of a DIY built in computer desk and a functional desk than a regular DIY built in desk. But, it’s all optional depending on your specific needs.
Use a drill and a 1″ spade bit or hole saw bit to drill a hole towards the back center of the desk (or where desired) to run computer cords through it to a wall outlet or power strip.
You can cover the hole with a hole cover.
Next, if desired, add a keyboard tray attachment under the desk! You may need to add another 2×3 with pocket holes for mounting it depending on which one you buy.
Here is the DIY built in desk (or DIY built in computer desk)! It’s a simple desk, but still a beautiful desk, I just love it!
I hope these step-by-step instructions have been helpful!