I had the idea to add a utility sink outside to keep our kitchen sink free of renovation clean-up debris (paint, caulk, etc.) We happened to have just enough room to put in a narrow counter-height bench opposite of our raised bed without overwhelming the space. Plumbing up a rain barrel and some gutters completes this attractive “potting station.”
Drill and drill bits
The original plan for the sink, bench, and rain barrel. We ended up making it a bit smaller, not including the additional shelves and moving the sink to the right side of the bench.
The process for making the bench was to cut the 2×4 cedar to make the legs on both the right and left side (center legs come later) and join them with lag bolts and washers to a “rail” that sets the depth of the counter. We didn’t want a solid top, so we made sure to set this depth so that we had about a pencil-width of room between each of the long boards.
The next step is to cut two 2x4s to the length of the countertop and then lag bolt them to the rails at each end on the corners. At this point things will be a little wobbly, even with lag bolts holding everything together. Cutting some regular trapezoids and screwing them in with wood screws to brace each corner really stiffens the whole structure up.
Next up was to frame in the sink opening, which required knowing the sink dimensions. Two short 2x4s about 18-inches apart fastened with lag bolts to the bottom of the long rails, as this allows for the top to lay on top of these supports. The top is made by cutting 2x4s to length and then spacing them about a pencil-width apart on the top which lets water go through the top — perfect for a wet potting area.
I added a shelf down below to the left of the sink in a similar manner to the other parts of the frame to hold some garden accessories. Once the structure was complete I sealed it all using Ready Seal, a semi-transparent oil-based stain, in “Cedar.”
The sink we got came with a nice layout template that made it easy to mark out where to drill some 5/8-inch holes and where to cut the top out. The sink then just dropped right in. I got some female-female brass hose-to-NPT fittings to receive the male ends of the faucet inlet and hose outlet and sealed the connections with Teflon tape.
I wanted the ability to have either city water supplied to the sink or rain from a barrel fed by gravity. This required a rain barrel and stand to elevate the outlet of the rain barrel to roughly the same height as the sink faucet tap. I made a crude stand out of some scrap pine 2x4s and regular 2-inch wood screws with some bracing to stabilize the legs. Houston isn’t really a desert, so collecting rain water is a bit silly, but it is nice to be able to water indoor plants with rainwater whenever I want! It can also tide over our outdoor plants for those weeks where it doesn’t rain in Houston.
In order to fill the rain barrel I had to install gutters and a downspout adapter that diverts some of the flow to the barrel. I calculated that I only needed about 8 feet of gutter to sweep an area of our roof that would fill the rain barrel when it rained 1 inch. Keeping this in mind, I pitched the gutters to that about this much gutter length drained to the downspout, but I also carried the gutters along the length of the patio to a separate downspout that ties into the existing French drain system I have running along the length of our property.
I have a piece of scrap hose connected to the overflow tap on the rain barrel that drains the barrel to the ground if it ever gets too full.
After everything was plumbed up and tested I connected the sink outlet flange to PVC fittings that drained 2-inches into the gravel bed the whole structure sits on. This means that really only water should go down the drain, and no solid wastes. We’re thinking of maybe spray painting the PVC black so it doesn’t stick out so much.
Happy to report that we finally got several inches of rain in late November and the yard, patio, gravel, rain barrel, and sink all drain very well — no more flooding!
I’m not sure how much potting use this bench will get, but it sure is a nice place to set down your drink and enjoy the view!
This post was written for the Collected Eclectic blog.
Collected Eclectic was a passion project focused on recording the process as Grace and Michael van Meurer transformed their builder grade home in to something special.
124 blog posts were published between 2018 and 2021. Explore the complete Collected Eclectic archive here.
Learn more about the project here.