How to Build a Standing Desk for Under $30

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Christine here: I decided to transition to a stand up desk mainly because of tightness in my left hip. At one point, it was making me really miserable. I was having some really intense pain when I stood up after being seated for so long. The standing desk is the next stop on my journey to resolving this problem, along with massage and chiropractic.

I cannot take credit for the project idea -- I saw someone else's project here. As the author notes, it can cost as much as $800 to buy a commercially available standing desk.

This table was a nice alternative to an expensive desk, and I decided to make a few changes after reading the comments of their post.

I liked that it was low investment, as I wasn't sure I would like a standing desk. I also knew I wouldn't be super upset if I made a mistake and drilled the holes wrong since the cost was so low.

Note that the finished project is intended to sit upon an existing desk. I was already using the glass topped desk you see in the photo above and the finished product sits on top of my desk. This solution is also great because you don't have to do too much thinking about ergonomics.

So, here's what you'll need from IKEA:

(1) Lack side table $7.99

They have others for $9.99, and some very pretty lacquer tables for $12.99. I stuck with the table for $7.99. The $7.99 table and the $9.99 table look nearly identical, but if you're going the cheap route, make sure you grab the one for $7.99.

If you are using multiple monitors or just want a bigger area for your desk, consider getting another table for more monitor space.

(2) Ekby Valter 11' Wood Brackets $4

Make sure you get the 11' brackets and not the smaller ones.

(1) 11' Ekby Valter Shelf $5.99

These come in black and red only. The black will match the table very closely, and the red really stands out. It looks great in my office. Be sure to get the 11 inch shelf so you don't have to attach the shelf to your brackets.

These shelves are just pressboard with a color coating. Be sure to get one that isn't dinged up or scraped.

Note: If you don't have a drill, consider buying one at IKEA. They are usually sitting right next to the shelving area in the store with boxes of wall anchors and screws. My 18v drill was probably overkill for this project, but that's what I have on hand.

What You'll Need from Home Depot:

I bought these screws, lock washers, flat washers and nuts. Many commenters from the original project said that wood screws were just not enough to hold the brackets onto the table.

I measured the width of the table leg and the bracket, which came to 2 1/2 inches, so I knew I needed a screw that was at least 3 inches to pass through both sides of the table leg.

If you already have these items at home, even better. Each package was $1.18 and I had plenty left over.

Step 1:

Open the table package and take out two legs. These will be the front legs. I decided to drill the holes in the legs before I attached the legs to the table.

Make sure your drill is charged up before you get started.

Step 2:

Look at both ends of the table legs and make sure you orient up/down correctly. The top of the leg is pre-drilled for attachment to the top of the table. Make sure you orient the table leg in a way that you don't get confused about which is the top and which is the bottom.

Step 3:

Next, decide where you want the bracket mounted. The brackets will hold your keyboard tray, so you'll want to make sure the height is right for you.

The original project showed the brackets flush with the bottom of the table legs. The author is 5'10 and since I am about the same height, I mounted my brackets the same way, lined up with the bottom of the table leg.

If you are taller you will probably want to put the brackets on higher, and if you're shorter you may have to adjust the height of your workstation, as you can't mount the brackets any lower.

Here is an ergonomic diagram to help you figure out the right height for you:

Photo courtesy Mississippi State University

Step 4:

I did not mark the holes before I drilled because the holes in the brackets were too small for a pencil lead to fit through.

I don't think it makes a lot of difference if you decide to mark the hole. You will need to make the holes on the brackets wider to fit the screws anyway, so I think it's better to drill through the bracket. You'll need to hold the bracket in place or use a clamp to hold it there for you while you drill.

Using a 3/16 drill bit, drill all the way through the leg of the table, going through the bracket hole. You may need to flip the leg over and realign the bracket to drill the hole through the other side of the table leg.

Step 5:

Attach the table legs to the table using the instructions on the box. There are double ended screws and pre-drilled holes for this, and it takes just a few minutes to attach the legs.

Be sure to attach both drilled legs next to each other with the holes facing forward. You might have to adjust the tightness of the legs by turning more/less to ensure they are both facing forward.

Step 6:

Using the screws and washers, attach the brackets to the table legs. Here's how I threaded the washers onto the screw:

I found it was easiest to line up one hole first, thread the screw through, and then line up the second screw.

You might have to do some more drilling if your holes don't line up exactly. Don't worry too much about this, because no one is going to see it. It will likely be covered by the washers, plus it's facing away from the front of the desk.

Attach both brackets like so:

Put another locking washer and a flat washer on the screw before you put the nut onto the screw. You may need a screwdriver or a small wrench to tighten everything up. Don't overtighten these -- there is no need. The locking washers ensure the brackets will not come off the table legs.

At one point it did occur to me that all these washers might be overkill, but I wanted the keyboard tray to be stable.

Although the brackets are stable, you cannot lean against this desk, because the table isn't designed for that.

Step 7:

Flip the table over and set the shelf board on top of the table legs. Your desk is ready!

Step 8:

Plan on making some adjustments in your office space to accomodate the new desk. I had to move some cords around to reach from the computer to the monitor height.

You might need a riser for the monitor. I was already using the riser on my seated desk. If you find that you need the monitor higher, try using some textbooks for reams of paper to get the right height.

Also, consider using an anti-fatigue mat to stand on. A small step stool for one of your feet to rest on while shifting your weight might be helpful, too.

Total cost of this project: $26.70 plus tax

Please let me know how this works for you! I'd love to hear about your modifications and customized add ons! Please let me know how yours worked out!