DIY Bunk Bed Construction
Like the music post a while back, I’m not going to attempt to tie this to education in any way.
I’ll start this off with a caveat similar to my posts on programming . . . I’m just a guy trying to do stuff. Almost all of it is on the very edge of, perhaps a bit beyond, my competency levels. It is not unlikely that I will either say something that’s a bad idea or document something poorly. You have been warned.
To set the stage, I have four kids. We have three bedrooms so the youngest two share a room. It’s not a huge room so bunk beds have been a topic of conversation for a while. I decided I’d talked enough over Winter Break and decided to make them. I have little woodworking experience. To the point that I’m not even sure if people call this woodworking. Carpentry maybe? I’m probably doing something like calling heating up pre-made cookie dough baking . . .
Full disclosure, I have a table saw1 and a circular saw. I put in hardwood floors in our first house. I used floor glue instead of nails.2 I built a gate for that house as well. It weighed roughly 600 lbs and could withstand the charge of a bull elephant. It was a decent replacement for the roll of wire I used for roughly a year and a half.
For some reason, I thought there’d be better free-bunk-bed plans on the Internet. There may also be secrets to finding them that I’m not privy too but my normal Google skills came up relatively short. I found one or two which look decent and I pretty much played it by ear/eye from there.3
I didn’t take pictures when I was building it. I should have. It was a bit chaotic as I opted to do this while my wife was out of town and I had all the kids. I was also on a tight timeline in that I needed to have it done in time for the kids to go to bed.
7 – 2×4 @ 8 feet long
6 – 2×6 @ 10 feet long
4 – 2×6 @ 8 feet long
2 – 2×2 @ 8 feet long (note- I had to go back and get 2 more of these for a total of 4 – 2×2)
Goal one was to build the end pieces. I decided early on that I wasn’t going to build a separate ladder. I figured the ends of the beds were going to serve as ladders one way or another so I might as well roll with it and save myself some time. I decided to space out the end slats so they formed regular steps.
Essentially, I ended up building two ladders. They consisted of two 6′ 2x4s with 6 crosspieces made of 35 5/8″ 2x6s. That sounds kind of carpenter-y.5 You can see some more details in the diagram above. I basically used the 2x6s to space out their own gaps. That kept things even and prevented me from screwing up any measurements. I drilled pilot holes for the screws and used 2 1/2 screws with the torx heads. I greatly prefer these screws to flat or philips heads. I thought I was smart by laying out a sheet of thick plywood I had lying around to center the 4×6 crosspieces but it wasn’t quite as think as I thought it was. What can I say? I’m an amateur and I was in a hurry. It is a good idea though especially for people short of tons of clamps or adult help.
Once you’ve got round one of your end pieces done, you’ll chop up some 2x4s like you see below. Screw them on from the inside out and it’ll look prettier in the end. This is one of those times it’s handy to have a clamp. I had one of these clamps from an earlier attempt to repair a chair. It seems to work really well but I don’t have a huge variety of clamps (maybe one in 7th grade shop) to compare it to.
Now that I had the end pieces setup. I cut the long pieces- four 2x6s 82″ long and the one 2×4 for the upper rail. I took everything upstairs. The end pieces were heavy and fairly awkward. At this point I had to enlist the help of my two older kids. They held the end pieces up and I set the boards and drilled pilot holes and then ran carriage bolts through the holes. I used washers and fairly industrial looking bolts. It’d look better with something else but I ran out of time looking for alternatives.6 I did two bolts at each join and probably would have done four if I had centered the boards better. You’d need 16 or 32 depending.
I screwed in a few spare pieces of wood, vertically to make a fence for the top. This lessened the likelihood of falling out.
In any case, this is a solid bed. The kids have been climbing all over it and it doesn’t even wiggle and yet it should still disassemble easily. They also got to play different roles building it. All in all, a good starter project for everyone. It cost around $150-$200 (including buying some tools) and took about 4 hours to purchase and build.
1 I bent the metal legs and had to remove them. This speaks volumes about my experience level.
2 Glue was a terrible, terrible mistake.
3 There may be a carpentry term for this.
4 The website is a nightmare.
5 I do need to switch to metric for my own sanity.
6 I had my two younger kids with me and browsing for bolts appears to drive children insane at great speed.