Reuse Challenge: The Cardboard Chair

The Reuse Challenge is an series showcasing ways to reuse everyday items and materials in a new way. Think you can make this project better? Show us what you can do by sending us your photos & info.

The Story

For quite some time now, we’ve been oogling many of the innovative reuse projects available on the Internet. We give a huge round of applause to all you super do-it-yourselfers out there. But since we can’t yet count ourselves among the DIY pros, we decided to stop drooling – and start building.

That’s where you come in. Every month, we’re going to show you a project that we made (or attempted to make) in our office, and challenge you to do it better. Don’t be intimidated: if we can do it, then you can too. Seriously – we are really bad at cutting straight lines.

The Challenge

Cardboard. It is everywhere. Sometimes, it’s even inconvenient (you know how it goes, you can never find enough boxes when you’re moving, but then you don’t know what to do with them when you’re done). So, we decided to take matters into our own hands and attempt the ultimate in cardboard reuse: furniture.

We’ve built the foundation to any room, the ultimate starter piece – a chair. This is just the beginning, and a small beginning it is, so we hope you can improve upon our first round of designs.

Below, you’ll find the video that inspired us to build the chair, but we’ve made a few modifications. Also, our resident engineer and writer, Bob Peeples, was kind enough to do some CAD mock-ups, along with a blueprint to help you see what we did.

All in all, we spent around five hours making the chair, not including the CAD drawings. Here’s a basic guide to what we did and how we did it:


We started off with basic supplies to make our chair.

We started off with basic supplies to make our chair.

  • Cardboard
  • Box Cutter
  • Straight Edge (preferably a metal ruler)
  • Wood Glue (or something similar)
  • Decorating instruments (markers, magazines to create a decoupage collage, etc.)
  • String
  • Patience

Basic Steps

  1. Gather the cardboard. You won’t need a ton, but you will need some larger pieces, such as four, 24″x18″ rectangles to make your side frames.
  2. Cut the various pieces needed. We used 17 total.
  3. If you want to decorate your pieces, do it now before they are assembled. It’s much easier to draw on a flat surface than a chair.
  4. Assemble the pieces, using the wood glue as necessary. We also used string to help hold the pieces tightly together while they dried.
  5. Give it time to dry. We recommend at least a two-hour drying time, if not more. Overnight is best, if you can wait.
  6. Sit back, relax and grab a margarita. Ole!


  1. Have a scrap piece of cardboard to place under the piece which you are cutting. This prevents your work surface from being damaged.
  2. Measure each piece twice before cutting. If in doubt, err on the side of over-measuring, as it’s easier to cut a piece down than cut an entirely new piece altogether.
  3. If you need multiples, simply measure the first piece. Then use it as a “stencil” to outline the remaining identical pieces.
  4. Have a bit more cardboard than you think you need, in case you need to redo a portion of the project.
  5. Safety first: Be careful with your box cutters. If you have work gloves, they may be a good idea in the cutting stage.
  6. Recycle your scrap cardboard once you’re done, if the excess pieces are unusable for another project.
Building furniture from reusable materials is hard work. But, it was still worthwhile!

Building furniture from reusable materials is hard work. But, it was still worthwhile!

What Worked? What Didn’t?

  • Building a Solid Structure: Success! The support grid that we built for the under carriage of the seat really worked. It was strong enough to hold the tallest member of our crew. We were a little wary to put our full weight on it at first, but were pleasantly surprised when it held us with ease. This support system is a must.
  • Cutting Straight Lines: Failure! No amount of straight edges and T-squares could lead us in the right direction and when all was said and done, our lines just didn’t, well, line up. We did utilize some string and extra layers of wood glue to fill some gaps, but in the end, our chair had some visual spaces.

We think taking more time, having sharper box cutters and maybe more, experienced builders on hand would correct some of our issues in the future. However, working with the cardboard itself was a bit of a struggle, which is a hard fix no matter how many experts you have on hand for guidance. In the end, learning to accept the flaws may be the biggest challenge of all.

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  1. Really?? really? WHO, I’m sorry, Who, in their right mind would waste their time doing this? I can’t believe I wasted my time watching this vid.

    Sorry if you did too
    ….back to reality

  2. Obviously, this was just chumming the water to feed a challenge. Some may have missed this point. I would be willing to bet that Earth 911 would give a huge shout-out to anyone that impressed them with a great idea; no matter what materials they used. If you can make a car out of beer bottles, then this is the venue for your debut.

  3. Anyone out there my name is Michael, I am an MBA student at Lamar and working with a small group to do a startup recyling program. Just wondering if anyone had any previous experience or any helpful ideas? Hope all is well and everyone has a good day, help me out.

  4. This is good but in the spirit of friendly competition I’m going to up the bar with $500.oo real American money to the person who can meet RecycleBill’s Recycled Chair Challenge.

  5. I like this feature. I understand that it’s pretty time consuming, but I think it’s a great way to get people to start thinking about Zero Waste and a new way of approaching our “discards”

  6. I love the idea in principle, but the actual result is setting back the recycling movement by decades!

  7. Carol – How does reusing corrugated cardboard set back “the recycling movement back by decades”? Seems to me that: Reuse Is The Future!

  8. I love it! THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX! (Sorry, it was so obvious I couldn’t help it…) I agree, eucarya, Reuse Is The Future! How wasteful to go straight from use as a box to the recycle bin. You have to admit that, with some effort, the homemade box chair can be as good as some of the conventional furniture for sale! ;>)

    MICHAEL–Will the recycling program be at Lamar? I was in a small group in the early 80’s when I was in college that started a “recycling program” at our school. We got permission from the university to place recycle bins in appropriate places–the computer center, the snack bar, etc. We built bins for soda cans and paper [computer cards :>) and printouts]. We had a regular schedule of emptying the bins & hauling it off to recycle. We separated out the steel soda cans from the aluminum ones. You can’t assume the people throwing their cans in will know the difference. Of course, now you would probably want to have plastic recycling too. One suggestion I can give you is to place bold, very clear labeling on your bins–i.e. PAPER, SODA CANS, PLASTIC, BATTERIES, whatever y’all decide to recycle. Then, in smaller print, maybe list what can go in there. People who aren’t recycle-minded need clear direction as to what they can recycle. Good luck!

  9. I think this is a GREAT, FUN idea. The first guy who thinks he “wasted his time” is missing out. I buy/sell used cardboard boxes (by the truckload) and think its GREAT to spark creativity by finding new ways to RE-USE an item that’s already out there. Why cut down a tree to make more wood, or paper (or any other art/craft material) when we have SO MUCH cardboard available. Did you know that the US makes about $0 BILLION in cardboard boxes every year? And they are all just used ONCE, and thrown away (some recycled). NO WONDER companies like Smurfit Stone are filing for bankruptcy…. US consumers are finally “getting it” that we are tired of corporate waste and consumptiveness (if that’s a word!). Kudos to CREATIVITY and RE-USE.

    Marty Metro
    Founder and CEO
    North America’s cheapest, easiest and most earth-friendly way to get boxes for

    Check out our new sites: and!

  10. To Michael, wanting a start-up project for recycling. Get a copy of Worm Cafe. It is a great book, tells how to evaluate the styrofoam wasted, and food dumped at, say, a local school, business, hospital, etc., and how to turn it in to compost for sale (and worms for sale), and improve the recycling of waste. Wish you well!

  11. some people have a great deal of time on thier hands, just sit on a box.
    your taking this green thing too far

  12. and then you can make a cushion by weaving a newspaper “sit-upon” like we did years ago in girl scouts…oh and the footstools we made by covering a bunch of tomato juice cans.

  13. The first big person to sit on that wimpy chair will bust their butt and if they’re the right kind of jerk you’ll end up living in a cardboard box, proving yet again that irony is not dead.

    Seriously, if you really want to make furniture out of cardboard, you should make it out of “papercrete”. This is done by pulping the cardboard (or paper) in a mixer, adding a binder and pouring the mixture into a form (made out of cardboard, of course!) You won’t even need to use any glue, just pick up some free latex paint (most people have some laying around, and some towns give away latex paint that’s made from dropped-off paint). Mix that with your cardboard pulp, and the chair will be a pretty color and waterproof to boot once it dries (that can take awhile, but remember… patience, Grasshopper! For information on how to make papercrete, Google the tubes and be prepared to have your brain explode.

  14. Pingback: Recycling in North Carolina | Green Eco Services

  15. I’d Like everyone who has personally made a chair like this and actually USES it (doesn’t hide it when people come to visit) to post.

  16. I’m a big girl so there’s no way I’m going to try to make this as I would no doubt be in the hospital with a broken something…but l like the idea. But here’s a challenge, I’m an avid reader and would love to see someone make book cases (big tall ones) out of cardboard. I haven’t seen this anywhere…yet!

  17. for one of my classes we have to make a cardboard chair. I had the same problems with making straight lines but i found an inguenis way to over come that. We are not aloud to use anything but card board to make our chair so we could not use string and glue to file in the gaps like you guys did. I decided to make the whole chair out of one piece of cardboard. the whole triangle shape of the chair is held togeather with slits and slots. i am planing to go even bigger out side of class and try and make a cardboard couch and then a cardboard tv case and maybe a catapult. wish me luck. i will post pics of my chair later as well as pic of other cardboard projects.

  18. i forgot to add i have already maybe a cow out of old newspapers, well worn and holed t-shirts, old paint, and some excise wood that was being thrown out after a constuction project in my area was finshed. The cow was for a Chick-Fli-A contest and i won first place in it. i love DIY projects and i think reuse not the future but Reuse is the Now. Any one who thinks other wise plz send me your trash so that good resouces dont go to waste.

  19. Hi, Thanks’s for your great article. I really enjoy to read untill end. So informative and useful. Today I want to share my knowledge about cardboard. Do you know that there are some advantages of corrugated cardboard boxes? They come with a long lasting guarantee and can be used for a long time. The second is they are made of recycle paper. So i really love corrugated because they are environment friendly.

  20. This is for Gale (above) – I realize it’s been quite a while since you posted (about 5 months), but I would love to hear about how your later cardboard furniture projects worked out for you. Please update if/when you have a chance. Thanks!

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