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How To Modify Your Existing Desk to Make It a Standing Desk

Whether you want to stand because it’s trendy, or you want to test the benefits, one of the biggest hurdles from a standing desk is the cost involved. Here are some standing desk options you can build for free.

Standing desks have become big news in the tech field because most of us sit at a computer for our daily jobs. There have been numerous reports about the benefits of standing while working, and some about the dangers, and a few of the How-To Geek writers have been standing for a while.

We won’t go into the benefits, or drawbacks, of standing while working because that debate is still ongoing. If you decided you wanted to starting standing at your computer desk, here are some inspirational ideas and tips to get you started.

Converting Your Existing Desk

Converting your existing desk is the easiest way to start standing up because you already have a good foundation for a desk. Obviously traditional desks are too short to stand and work so you will just need to make the desk top a little higher.

There are two methods to raising your existing desk to standing height.

  1. Place something on top of the desk to raise your keyboard, mouse, and monitor.
  2. Place something underneath your desk to raise the total height of the desk top.

Both are valid methods and you can probably perform either modifications for free depending on what you have lying around and what type of desk you have.

Raising Your Keyboard, Mouse, and Monitor

Click each picture for a larger version or more information

One of the simplest ways for creating a standing desk is to set something on top of your desk so that the desk height is high enough for your computer IO devices. This is typically the easier solution because it doesn’t need to hold the entire weight of your desk and usually it is easy to find something lying around.

Here are some items that can raise your IO devices

  • Books
  • Chair
  • Short Table
  • Box(s)
  • Shelves

Anything that will raise and securely hold your computer peripherals (or possibly just your laptop) will do the trick.

Drawbacks of this method

  • Stability (depending on what you use)
  • Reduced work surface

If you do a lot of non-computer work at your desk you may want to look at the other method.

Benefits of this method

  • Easy to setup
  • Easier to switch between sitting and standing positions
  • More people can use this method because it’s typically free
  • More desks can use this method because tops of desks are always flat

Raise Your Entire Desk

The second option for converting your desk is to raise the whole height of the desk by putting something under the desk legs. What you use will depend on what type of desk legs you have and how heavy your desk is.

Some of the easiest things to put under your desk are

  • Blocks of wood
  • Reams of paper (or full paper boxes)
  • Milk crates
  • Chairs
  • End tables
  • Bed risers and vases

The possibilities are pretty endless, you just need to look for something level and sturdy that can hold the weight of your desk, and you’ll probably need four of them.

Drawbacks of this method

  • Harder to switch between sitting and standing (unless you have a high chair/stool)
  • Need sturdier material to hold the weight of the desk
  • Desk legs are not all the same so you’ll need to find something that works for your desk

Benefits of this method

  • No loss of work surface
  • Easier access to desk drawers/shelves
  • No desk top at thigh/waist level to get in the way
  • Just as sturdy as putting the desk on the floor

Other Options

If converting your current desk is out of the question, or you are looking to buy a new desk in the near future, we’ll have a followup article to show you some of the best options to build a standing desk from scratch or buy a standing desk.

Justin is a Linux and HTPC enthusiast who loves to try new projects. He isn't scared of bricking a cell phone in the name of freedom.

  • Published 12/19/11

Comments (30)

  1. Laura

    Well, it’s not free, but it’s really inexpensive and is acceptable in a work environment (don’t any of you geeks have to work in an actual office???)- the Frederick computer station from IKEA at $119.00
    http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/00115992/
    The desktop can be put into the uprights at any height

  2. Dennis

    this is a joke story right? no one would really make their home or work space look like the are white trash on purpose, right? and, if this is for real, what the hell? you couldn’t come up with a better DIY tip than bricks, books and trash piled under your desk to make it a “standing” desk? c’mon, this is “how to geeks”

  3. Janet Lombardo

    Been standing at my desk for years! Keeps me awake. Staples sells (or used to sell) a desk PERFECT for standing. It has the main part which is the normal desk area, then next to it an double platform – one lower than the desk and the other about 10 inches higher. I put my keyboard and monitor on the upper part – a perfect standing height. If you like I will send pics. Also, I can still sit with this arrangement if I am just too tired to stand for a long time.

  4. James Lamar

    I have degenerative disc disease and I have used an actual standing desk for several months. It helped to move the pain from my back to my legs, but not much more. My desk was actually mechanical so it could raise and lower by a switch. It is a cool concept, but unfortunately did help my condition. I think would probably be very useful for any normal person though.

  5. jon

    I think anyone would have the brains to think of this. This is not a DIY, it’s junk, and since it has ads, it’s now spam. Provide useful tips and advice or don’t’ send me ads. I will assume it’s a joke and not hit unsubscribe. Next time, goodbye spammers.

  6. gmonk

    If you find this enlightening then you’re thick as a brick.

  7. Matt Gilbert

    I’ll be watching for Jay Leno’s white trash segment where he does ‘fixes’ from thereifixedit dot com for this one.

  8. daveb

    Just for the record, I often stack the desk on the end table when I need to work from hotel rooms. I’m sure the maids think I’m an idiot.

  9. Anon
  10. James Lamar

    EDIT: the raised desk did “not” help.

  11. Bryan

    Slow news day or just too much party on the weekend? This is so below standard that I pray no one I know clicks on any links I’ve previously shared. How embarrassing.

  12. tommy2rs

    What? No cinder blocks, particle board and duck tape? No 2 x 10’s set across two ladders? No sawhorses and old doors? No milk crates? No re-purposing of Junior’s/Juniorette’s crib or changing table? Not even a shopping cart and plywood?

    What kind of redneck engineering is this?

  13. Shani

    While I would find some not so redneck’ish ways to do something like this at work, at home, woopie. I have a back and shoulders problem and would love to work like this. Even better, would be to setup my desk on/at my treadmill!!

  14. Annon
  15. Trevor

    So for all of you who are all up in arms about this article you should really consider the situation before judging. A good standing desk is not cheap (IKEA Jerkers found on Craigslist aside) making it a very intimidating prospect for a lot of people who are considering making the move to one. Why go out and drop several hundred dollars on a new desk just to find out that you hate standing all day long? This presents alternative methods to hack yourself together a functional standing desk to try it out for a month or so.

    Oddly enough, I actually know one of the owners of the featured pictures in this article. My friend interned with a small start up this past summer and he has always been a HUGE fan of standing desks. He really wanted his workstation to be a standing desk, but what kind of company is going to drop a couple of bills on a new desk for the lowly intern? So he dropped it on a couple of cinder blocks, and threw his monitors on some paper reams for risers. He was able to have his standing desk for the summer, and the company didn’t have to spend any money. Now if he goes back to work for them after graduation I don’t doubt they will be more then willing to purchase him a nice standing desk (and possibly a couple more for other people who he got interested in the idea) but at the time this was an ideal option.

  16. Emanuele Lopopolo

    I read about you by studying the problem “working standing up vs. sitting” solutions.
    I created a product that could help the development of standing-up jobs: Baxaver (the Back-Saver, http://www.baxaver.com), a portable telescopic backrest fit for resting the back when standing in the upright position.
    Today working in the upright position causes a lot of problems, because the vertebral column is under a continuous pressure and dehydration.
    Baxaver allows you to stand upright while alternating the vertical and the bending postures, so that you can relax your column without sitting and using in a better way your stand-up desk.
    Baxaver was defined “the kangaroo’s tail for humans”, because the kangaroo is the only other animal that stands upright, but it has a pyramidal structure (legs + tail), while the humans don’t have a solid structure, having only 2 legs.
    Please take a look at the Baxaver’s website (www.baxaver.com).
    Thank you for your attention and, awaiting your kind reply (comments, partnership, etc.), I remain,
    Yours truly,
    Emanuele Lopopolo

  17. Chip

    I am one of the owners of said company (and happen to be in the pic) and yes indeed. Said intern’s idea was deemed crazy at the time and no budget was given… then he put the damn thing in and it turned out to be so useful it is still here and used frequently. I suppose we ought to step up and get a real one though.

  18. brett2014

    Do it because it is trendy? Thanks, but I’ll do things for comfort. What a worthless suggestion and principle reason. And how unimaginitive. I have severe back pain and tried several posture changing ideas some years ago – none mitigated the pain much, and standing simply got painful after a while. Give it a break.

  19. Snert

    Everybody has something to say but me.

  20. GeorgiaCowboy

    Just so happens I’m sitting here right now with my leg propped up and hurting like hell cause this is the third time I’ve had a blood clot. These things KILL every friggin’ day.
    All those poking fun at this need to get a clue.
    I’m an Internet Marketer and I also repair PCs. I needed another work station and I decided to build one to stand at. I built it from scratch and didn’t cut corners on it and even built a new test machine with an open case mounted to the wall with a new circuit (on a breaker by itself) with a power strip, plenty of shelf space, padded work surface, ethernet terminal, ect.
    This article IS good because IF you like this idea (and it COULD even save your friggin’ life) maybe later you could do something more permanent and/or esthetic.
    Merry Christmas!

  21. Dennis

    I made a comment about this being a trashy DIY project and a not so well thought out How to Geek article, and I totally stand behind my original statements, this is NOT a worthy project, I to have severe back pain, I work 10 hour days on my feet and have knee and feet problems as well, this would in no way be beneficial to me, that being said, I don’t disagree with the idea of a standing desk, that wasn’t at all what my comment was, the article is trashy, cheap and not thought out at all, who in their right mind would turn their work/play area into something that ugly on purpose? I understand not everyone can afford to build a nice new desk, replace their desk with a brand new or even used desk, the point is, that the how to part of this article was a joke, cinder blocks, crates, books and so on, that isn’t a how to worthy to be printed on any media. show the masses a “how to” article where you build an addition to your desk to raise it, even if its an under the desk “insert” type item, but use something other than the trash laying around inside or outside your house or garage.

  22. 99er

    We get it Dennis, your a snob. You didn’t have to reiterate it, we got it the first time.

  23. Jeremy

    Wow…I’m seeing a lot of negetive rhetoric here. Has anyone ever looked at the health reasons to stand instead of sit? There’s negetives to everything, but standing can not only keep you more attentive, but it can also help you lose weight, be more energetic and help identify when you insoles need replaced…
    Seriously, this isn’t just a trend, it’s a healthy option. I wish I could put a standing desk in at my office.

  24. rattlhead

    @99er hahahahahha I’m a snob for thinking this was a stupid post about using trash to put a desk on and call it a DIY project? lol are you retarded? did you not read my second post? and I re-commented because to many can’t read or understand the English language apparently! I wasn’t stating that “stand up” desk’s were bad, just this lame project! and if you like trash for furniture, by all means have at it my friend! Id much rather be called a snob than white trash!

  25. 99er

    well rattlhead, or Dennis. I assume you are Dennis, but you had to change your name for some reason. I wasn’t referring to the general idea that you stated with regards to the stand up desk being a good idea. Calling people white trash, or mentally handicapped on the basis of how they try to make their lives a little easier is low, and disrespectful.

    Some people can’t afford these solutions, so this tutorial provides people with an alternate solution. Sure it may not look aesthetically pleasing, but it gets the job done.

    You’r move shmedly…

  26. Medswab

    I would like to see Janet’s picture of her desk I have been using cardboard boxes on top of my desk…big one for laptop …shorter one for mouse. …I like height of 39to41 inches for the desktop…I have lost weight and feel better. When tired I just put boxes under desk but would prefer a high table or desktop and an adjustable chair

  27. Jensen-Lewis

    I know this isn’t the point of this blog, but we sell a desk that has a motorized raise and lower mechanism. It was designed and crafted in Denmark where there is a law that if you work over 20 hours a week you need to have a desk that is height adjustable. When you think about it, it really makes way too much sense.

    Anyways, it is awesome and here it is.

    http://www.jensen-lewis.com/pid/00009298/Ergonomic-Height-Adjustable-Desk

  28. Texas 1/2 Geek

    I’m not big into standing and working. I bought a legitimate racing seat with a recline from Jegs and mounted it on my office chair wheels with 3/4″ plywood (and black spraypaint so it doesn’t look so ghetto). When I have back pain or discomfort, I change the recline. it’s pretty awesome, but if you recline enough you simply fall over. Although it may be funny, it’s not very productive.

  29. Jarcmaster

    Geeks? Really?

  30. Suvrojit

    I have a normal desk but sometimes prefer to stand & type on the keyboard & it feels very good too. While sitting most of us forget the postures required for a healthy computing which often leads to severe pain in back, neck, etc. I agree with what @Jeremy said and also its important to maintain the same requirements for standing position also. Like your monitor should still be below your eye level while inclined like +15 degrees, position from your eyes to monitor should be at least one feet or one hand away, while typing your hands should be straight & parallel & the last one but not the least you should maintain the the 20-20-20 rule for eyesight…

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