My grandson, Charlie, is a typical boy; loves to climb, run, jump, and play play play. I think he plays in his sleep too. He had his own bed but often sleeps with mom and dad where he flops and spins and thrashes the night away.
It was a boring old bed
His old bed was the typical twin mattress on the floor. Mom and dad figured it was a simple arrangement that kept him from falling too far if he rolled off the bed. But it was boring. He wasn’t too impressed with it and neither was I.
But, then again, maybe it wasn’t so boring
I wish I had half his energy.
A lofty idea
Then, one day, I got the idea that I wanted to build him a fun bed. Mom and dad really liked the idea that maybe he would sleep in his own bed for a change and they would get a good night’s sleep.
I’d heard of loft beds for children. I did some searching on the Internet for “child’s loft bed” and found a great design with plans that had the dimensions on the drawings to make it easy to build. Ana White’s blog post on the bed her husband built for their daughter has everything I was looking for.
Ana mentions that this bed is a junior size bed. Charlie is still a little short for this bed so mom made use of his toy bin cabinet to give him that extra step up between the platform deck and the mattress. And, even though the whole thing takes up quite a bit of room, it offers lots of storage under the stairs, platform, and bed so you actually gain floor space with this unit.
Rock Solid Design
This bed is rock solid. It is built using stud grade 2×4’s and 2×6’s, glue, and pocket hole screws. Yes, it is a bit on the heavy-duty side of things. I thought of changing the design a few times to lighter weight materials for the decking, steps, and bed rails but always came back to the desire for safety.
In fact, it is so safe, both mom and dad can get up there and lay in bed with Charlie without so much as a groan from the bed frame.
Sharing My Experience
So I thought I would share my experience of building this bed, things to watch out for/be aware of, and some of the techniques I used. Let’s get started.
At the start of any project, you have to know how much material you’ll need. Create a cutting list that results in a shopping list. I have a pickup and 8′ trailer so I can haul longer lumber. That allows me to buy longer lumber and reduce cutoff waste.
Make sure that you check closely for tight knots, straight boards, and as little machining marks on the wood as possible when picking out your materials. Even when you stain the wood, gouges and other rough spots can take up the stain differently from the smoother portions of the wood.
Here are my versions of the materials shopping, cutting, and parts ID lists
Shopping List: Take this list to the store to get your materials. At the time I purchased the lumber (not including the plywood), screws, and a gallon of paint, the cost was $174. I had the plywood, glue, and rail brackets left over from other projects.
- 1 @ 1x2x8
- 2 @ 2x2x8
- 3 @ 2x4x8 (if available get the 2x4x92 5/8″ to save $$)
- 5 @ 2x4x10
- 5 @ 2x4x12
- 1 @ 2x6x8 (if available get the 2x6x92 5/8″ to save $$)
- 2 @ 2x6x10
- Optional 3/8x4x8 CDX plywood
- Pocket Hole Screws
- Bed Rail Brackets
- Wood Glue
- Wood Stain or Primer & Paint
Parts List: Labeled pieces helps keep track of parts
- 6 – 1×2 @ 7 ¾” Stairs Treads Supports
- 2 – 2×2 @ 75” Front and Back Mattress Support Cleats
- 4 – 2×4 @ 65 ½” Frame Legs
- 4 – 2×4 @ 37 ½” Right and Left Frame Rails
- 2 – 2×6 @ 37 ½” Right and Left Mattress Framing
- 4 – 2×4 @ 75” Front and Back Frame Rails
- 2 – 2×6 @ 75” Front and Back Mattress Support Rails
- 3 – 2×4 @ 40 ½” Ripped to make 6 2×2 Mattress Supports
- 2 – 2×4 @ 30 ½” Front and Back Platform Legs
- 2 – 2×4 @ 37 ½” Platform Leg Rails
- 1 – 2×4 @ 41 ½” Platform Framing
- 1 – 2×4 @ 41” Ripped to make 2 2×2 Platform Deck Cleats
- 2 – 2×4 @ 20 ½” Platform Framing
- 12 – 2×4 @ 22” Platform Deck
- 2 – 2×6 @ 43” Stairs Stringers
- 6 – 2×4 @ 20 ½” Stairs Treads
Cutting List: You can label each piece before you start cutting or label each cut piece as to it’s purpose. I usually print the list and check off each piece after I cut it. Labeling the pieces that are one of a kind with the length really helps when you start the assembly process.
2x4x12 - 65 1/2", 30 1/2", 20 1/2", 20 1/2" 2x4x12 - 65 1/2", 30 1/2", 20 1/2", 20 1/2" 2x4x12 - 65 1/2", 37 1/2", 20 1/2", 20 1/2" 2x4x12 - 65 1/2", 75" 2x4x12 - 75", 41 1/2", 22" 2x4x10 - 75", 37 1/2" 2x4x10 - 75", 37 1/2" 2x4x10 - 37 1/2", 37 1/2", 37 1/2" 2x4x10 - 20 1/2", 40 1/2", 41" 2x4x10 - 20 1/2", 40 1/2", 40 1/2" 2x4x8 - 22", 22", 22", 22" 2x4x8 - 22", 22", 22", 22" 2x4x8 - 22", 22", 22", 22" 2x6x10 - 75", 37 1/2" 2x6x10 - 75", 37 1/2" 2x6x8 - 43", 43" (these are angled cuts)
Whenever you use a set of plans for a project it is really helpful to go over the drawings and written instructions. Authors make mistakes in their drawings and write-ups. If you view a project published online, make sure to check the comments section to see if mistakes have been spotted by others. Here is one mistake I found in one of the plan drawings.
I decided that I wanted the bed to be easily disassembled to move. Since the family lives in an apartment there are usually stairs involved and weight/size can be a serious issue. Think of it as an Ikea approach.
A Modular Approach
I built the frame ends, platform frame, platform decking, and stairs as separate modules for easy breakdown later.
I used clamps to test assemble the stairs module to make sure I had the unit square and all the parts fit.
I also decided to make the Platform Decking as a separate module. I don’t have a picture of that. To make the decking a module I used the 2 pieces cut from the 2x4x41″ pieces to bind all of the planks together. I clamped the 2 cleats to the inside of the platform frame and flush with the frame top using trim head screws to attach the planks and cleats together.
Paint or Stain?
Staining this project will shorten the build time since you don’t have to spackle defects in the wood surface.
I decided to paint it and was left with a lot of spackling and concealing work to do. I decided to conceal the pocket holes on the bed frame modules. I used Kreg brand solid wood plugs.
I used a jamb saw to cut the plugs flush. The saw has almost no “set” in the teeth, which minimizes any resulting saw teeth marks on surrounding wood. Less sanding is needed afterwards.
I decided to paint the under side of the plywood and mattress cross supports to give it a better finished look.
Watch out for lumber grading stamps on the wood. If you prime/paint then make sure you use a good stain blocking primer as this next photo shows. I didn’t know that regular primer would not conceal the black stamp. As a result I had to sand a couple of spots back down to bare wood and prime/paint after sanding off the remaining stamp ink.
If you have a miter saw or can rent one for a day, I suggest that step. Cutting all of the pieces square and clean makes or breaks this project. I am fortunate as I have a miter saw on a work station that includes adjustable stops for accurate length cuts. I can set the stop and cut all 12 deck boards at exactly the same length.
Because the project was a bit big and had so many pieces, I decided to do an initial assembly to make sure I had all of the modules and extra pieces like the bed rails cut correctly. I also wanted to get all of the screw holes in place and not worry about stripping a screw head during final assembly.
This is the step where you really find your measuring/cutting mistakes. I didn’t want to take the time to paint everything and then find out I had to tear a module apart and rebuild because of a mistake.
Added the platform frame and marked the frame for the stairs. I clamped the stairs pieces together and used a long straight 1×2 to make sure the stairs led straight out from the platform. Even though all end cuts were clean and smart, it is still possible to assemble things out of square.
All totaled, building the bed, start to finish was 2 solid weekends worth of time working by myself. The results are well worth the effort. He loves the bed, especially the climbing up and down.