How to Make a Low Cost, at-Home Standing Desk

David is doing his first guest post today – I absolutely love the new standing desks he made us, check it out!

Hey everybody, this is Brittany’s husband. I like to tinker when I am not trying to keep up with Brittany, and I wanted to share one of the projects I have been working on behind the scenes: A low-cost standing desk using Ikea hacks!

2 complete

Standing Desk Basics – Brittany might have mentioned I started a new job a few months ago. At my new job I was introduced to the sit-stand desk (Brittany has had one for a while but they are new to me). If you don’t know what these are you are missing out, they are great!  Basically, a sit-stand desk is a motorized desk that moves up and down with a button so you can sit or stand throughout the day. I would say some people in my office don’t use them very often, but my immediate work group is full of triathletes and runners and they make full use of these desks, which is totally awesome because it encourages me to make full use of it as well.

Standing Desk Benefits – I’m sure you have heard of some of the benefits of standing desks. Supposedly it can extend you life, increase circulation, and reduce your risk of diabetes because sitting for hours at a time is not healthy. I’m not going to dwell on the medical benefits though because I am a major skeptic and I haven’t seen enough published scientific evidence to convince me standing is any better than sitting. I could just as easily point to studies that say standing still for hours at a time is just as bad as sitting for hours. What I can say is that I enjoy my sit-stand desk at work especially as a triathlete. Brittany and I both agree it is great to be able to stand when you are recovering from a long weekend workout and we both feel like standing for half the day improves our leg/hip strength and makes us feel a little more energized. The more I stand during the day the more I actually don’t feel like sitting. 

Standing at Home – After getting indoctrinated to sit-stand at work I started to notice how often I sit at home. I noticed I have developed a bad habit over the years of coming home from work, sitting in front of the computer, and then wasting time surfing the web.

original desk

{ the “old” sitting desk }

It’s hard to overcome what I call the “sitting inertia” once you do sit down at home. I wanted to be more productive so I decided my project would be to bring sit-stand home. Brittany humored me and told me she would consider getting one as well. I looked around the web but found that most sit-stand desks start at $900-$1,500 and they look very industrial (“ugly”). The next best alternative I found was a fixed standing desk (at Brittany’s suggestion). This didn’t seem too bad. If I’m on the computer for so long at home that I need to sit down then I probably need to walk away from the computer anyway. Plus, in the worst case if I really need to sit, I could just sit on a stool or a drafting chair.

I looked through tons of ideas on the web for standing desks. There are a lot of great ideas, but I had a few criteria: I wanted it to look good, take up a minimal amount of space, cost less than $200, be easy to install, fit our height, and have enough room for storage. The best looking one I found came from Thibaut Colar who designed a standing desk for his home office using Ikea parts.

I decided to use his basic idea with a few adjustments. For one, I replaced the table top with a smaller one to save space and use fewer parts. I also flipped the brackets he used to hold the table top to the shelving unit upside down so the screws are hidden under the table top and not exposed. And finally, instead of using a cable tray to hide the wires, I used inexpensive pipe foam with stick on Velcro. I think this does a little better job hiding the wires and it is cheaper.

After building the desks I was pleasantly surprised. I thought a standing desk could look weird but it turns out they actually look better than our standard executive desks did. The absolute best part though is the amount of floor space that getting rid of office chairs opened up. Getting rid of the chairs now leaves plenty of room to set up the bike trainer for Brittany. Also, the cubbies are great for setting up charging stations for things like Garmin watches and bike lights that used to take up desk space. I even sold my old computer speakers and bought a speaker strip which fits in under the table top to help clear up even more desk space.

front view

For anyone who are interested in copying my take on Thibaut’s design, here you go:

second desk

  • Tools required: Power Drill with a 3/8” drill bit [only used for the anchor bolts listed above], socket wrench, screwdriver
  • Total build time: ~1-2 hours
  • Total cost: ~$185 (not including wicker storage cubes)

Other notes: Depending on how you set up your computer, you may need to buy longer cables for monitors or speakers since they are now a little farther away from your computer box.  Depending on your height (we are 5’10”-5’11”, you may need to adjust the brackets or legs; you want a 90 degree bend in your elbows when typing).

Step 1: Assemble Ikea Shelving unit (main unit)

Step 2: Attach the angle braces to the table top

Step 3: Attach the feet to the bottom of the main unit

Step 4: Place the table top where you want it on top of the main unit

a) An easy way to find where to drill the hole (i.e. the center of the bracket) is to put tape down at right angles so that it just makes a box around the outside of the bracket. Once you remove the table top you can connect the corners with a pencil and have a pretty good idea where the center hole should be.

 tape squarefull tape square

Step 5: Inset bolts to attach table top to main unit

Step 6: Enjoy!

Parts list:

My Description
(Official Name)
Cost Measurement Comments
4 x Angled Bars

(Ikea Capita Stainless steel brackets)

~$70 H 6 -1/4” These are a little hard to find since they don’t make them anymore. Most stores still have some inventory in the back if you ask them or you can buy them on amazon. If anyone has a good alternatives please let me know. Note: I only used 4 brackets instead of the 6 in Thibaut’s design. This saves a lot of money and works fine especially with the smaller table top. The picture below is courtesy of as an example of some alternatives to the capita bracket if you can’t find them at your store.Click for larger version
1 x Table Top

(Ikea Linnmon table top)

~$20 H 1 -1/4”
L 47 -1/4”
W 23 -5/8”
This is different than what the original design called for. I felt the original design took up too much space so I substituted a smaller table top. I thought it might look funny but after installing it but now that I have it together I think it actually looks better and give me a little more functional room on the sides.
table top
1 x Main Unit

(Ikea Expedit Shelving unit)

~$70 H 31” The only caution I have on this one is you have to be ready to put holes in it to attach the brackets and legs.
4 x Legs

(Ikea 4”Capita leg)

~$12 H 4.25” This is what I used for my desk. I am 5’11” and it worked perfectly. It is worth noting that I used 4 legs instead of the 6 in the original design and it seems to work just fine. If you want it to be a little more weight bearing then I would recommend moving leg a little to the outside so that is supports both the bottom and the side. I didn’t do that when I put mine together. It hasn’t been an issue but if I were to do it again I would probably move the leg a bit.  tall legs
4 x Alternative Legs

(3” metal leg)

~$5.5 H 3”  
This is what I used for Brittany’s desk. She is about an inch shorter than me (5’10”)  so I used legs that were a bit shorter. You want to make sure the desk is the right height for you so you may have to use a different height leg, or if you are shorter go without the legs.short legs
1 x Cable Tray

(Foam pipe insulation)


cable tray 

I used this on the backside of the unit to run all the monitor cables through so they aren’t visible. I attached the foam tubing using stick-on Velcro so I could move it if I wanted to adjust something easily. Its hard to see in the picture but all the cables run through the foam tube to the floor so you don’t see them through the empty cubby holes.

4 x anchor bolts

(M6 x 1.0 x 80cm bolts)

~$8   These are used to hold the table top to the expedite shelving unit. The only downside of using these is you have to drill a large bolt hole. (note, the picture below is of a 90cm bolt that I used. I found these were a bit too long which is why I recommend the 80cm)
Total ~$187   Does not include the decorative wicker baskets for cubby holes

6 thoughts on “How to Make a Low Cost, at-Home Standing Desk

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