How to Build a Step Stool

Updated: Jul. 23, 2023

The versatile flip-flop stool just might become a permanent fixture in your bathroom, especially if you have kids.

FH15APR_FLFLOP_01-2 how to build a step stoolFamily Handyman
You'll find plenty of uses for a flip-flop stool. With the back swung up, it's the perfect chair for little kids to plunk down on. With the back swung down, it's the perfect step stool for reaching slightly-out-of-reach faucets, shelves and cabinets-for kids of all ages.

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Step 1: Mark the two side pieces

how to build a step stool

Photo 1

Use a tape measure to swing arcs for the edges as shown in Figure A, then mark the holes for the pivot screws and the back dowel stop.

How to build a step stool

Begin by cutting the two sides to length and laying out the boards (Photo 1 and Figure A, check out the wooden step stool plans below). Note that the sides will be mirror images. To mark the curved sides, hook your tape over the lower corners then swing 15-in.-radius curves on each side. Use a paint can to create the rounded inner edges of the legs. The positions of the pivot and dowel holes are critical, so measure carefully. The pivot hole goes all the way through the board, but the dowel holes are only 1/2 in. deep. Drill the holes, then use a jigsaw to cut out the parts. Use a 1/4-in. round-over bit or sandpaper to soften all the edges.

Step 2: Assemble the stool with 2-in. screws

Photo 2

First, screw the back brace to the bottom shelf, then secure this L-shape assembly to the sides. Drill the holes for the pivot screw and the back dowel stop.

Connect the 1×10 bottom shelf and 1×4 back brace to create an ‘L.’ Secure this assembly to the sides so the top edge of the 1×4 is flush with the upper back corner of the sides. Use 2×4 blocks to ensure the right spacing (Photo 2).

Step 3: Install the back

how to build a step stool

Photo 3

Screw the back to the pivot arms to create a U-shape. Drill the holes in the pivot arms, then secure the back using 2-in. bolts, washers and nuts. Don’t permanently fasten the top until you’ve ‘test swiveled’ the back to make sure you have enough clearance.

Cut the three parts for the back assembly (Figure A). To create the curved back, drive a pair of finish nails 3-1/2 in. from the edge of a 1×6, and flex a thin piece of wood upward between the nails to create an arc. Mark the arc with a pencil, then cut it out with a jigsaw. Secure the back to the two 1×4 sides to create a U-shape. Use 2-in. bolts (Photo 3) to secure the back assembly to the sides of the stool. (Tip: To install the washer between the back assembly and the stool, tape it over the hole in the side before installing the assembly.) Finally, position the top far back enough-about 1/2 in. from the front of the sides-so the back doesn’t hit the front lip as it pivots.

Figure A: Flip Flop Stool Plans

Additional information and wooden step stool plans

Required Tools for this how to build a step stool project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • 1/4-in. round-over bit
  • Cordless drill
  • Jigsaw
  • Router

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.

  • 1/2-in. dowel
  • 1/4" x 2" bolts
  • 2-in. screws
  • 2' 1x6
  • 4' 1x4
  • 6' 1x10
  • nuts
  • washers

Additional Information