I traveled to Florida to visit my brother and his family. And while there, I built my nephews a set of bunk beds. The bunk beds include a rock climbing wall, individual shelves for both bunks, and plenty of drawer storage along the bottom.
I did the design for the bed on the plane ride over so that as soon as my boots hit the ground, we could jump in and start building. If you have the time, it is a tremdious time saver to paint all your boards before you start building.
I was limited to two days so after one side got two coats and was dry enough to touch, I started cutting.
I do have a set of plans HERE if you’re interested, which comes with not only a material shopping list but also a full cut list.
This also saves a great amount of time as I could make all the cuts needed, at the same time, for the boards that make up two main bed frames, and the two side assemblies that connect the beds.
We had a full family operation going on. After I made the cuts needed, I pulled out my Amor Tool self adjusting jig and showed my dad how to drill in pocket holes in the needed boards.
While he continue to drill pocket holes, I continued working down my cutlist to get boards to their needed length. My brother would gather up the finished boards that needed to be hauled inside, and my mom would be feeding me new boards that needed cuts.
I do recommend doing all the assembly in the final location the bed will go. I did design so that portions can be taken a part and moved easily, but it will save time and effort if you build it in the bedroom.
I know you guys are used to seeing me in my shop where I have things pretty set up. But remember that the key to being a Maker or builder is to be resourceful when not having all the things.
Before going in to start assembling I wanted to cut all the 20 something slats needed for the beds and a stop block on the miter saw is the way to make this go quick, so I improvised. I used a Bessey quick clamp to attach a board to the underside of the welding table I was using as a stand, so that I could then clamp another board to the topside right where I needed my stop block to be placed. And now I’ll be able to lay my new board down, slide it down until it runs into this stop, and then make my cut without measuring.
We once again got into a cute family groove where dad would feed me new boards and my mom would take the cut ones while my brother moved in the piles.
Ok lets move in and start assembling. Let me introduce you to the most adorable apprentice I’ve come across. I’m starting with the frame for the bunk beds and since Noah was so interested in being apart of anything I was doing, I tried to include him. He loved just sitting and watching but he also loved being tasked with things like getting the screws or pushing on the drill.
By the way, if a whole box of screws go missing, be sure to check the kid’s dump trucks near you.
Before setting that aside, I glued and then screwed on a ledge that the slats will later rest on top of. Since this is an inside project, I used Titebond Original for the majority of connections.
Alright, setting that aside so that we can build the two side assemblies. This was going to require multiple hands so I brought in some sawhorses so my folks wouldn’t have to be on the ground.
We first attached some blocks that will act as ledges for the bed frame to rest on, later on. Just a tip for you when building, put a clamp on things you’re about to join so that when you drive in a screw it won’t be able to push the parts apart.
Then moving up to the top of the sides, we also attached what will later be the header and footer of the top bunk frame. Another tip is to use a countersink before driving in the screws. This not only creates a pilot hole to prevent cracking but also creates a divot in the wood for the head to sit below the surface. While my mom helped hold things, my dad would countersink, then I would follow him with the screws.
After repeating to make another side, I was ready to start attaching things together. If you have two people to hold the sides, then it’s as simple as placing the bottom bunk right on top of the ledge blocks, put into place earlier.
So putting the bed frame together, I used wood glue but when attaching the frame to the sides, I’m only using screws, and this is so it can be disassembled and moved in the future.
Once it was attached on the four legs, we dropped in the slats, spacing them just by eye, and while my brother went through to countersink, I drove in screws.
Next we moved to the top and attached the two remaining members to complete that bed frame then dropped in the slats up there as well.
Then the last thing we were able to do that night was attach the second portion of the four legs. We could set these in place, make sure they were flush, hold them using Bessey clamps, then attach them using screws.
It was so cute how all Noah wanted to do was go look at his new bed. He was so insistent that we went ahead and put the mattress on so he could sleep on it. It’s easy to get an early start when you have a three year old telling you it’s wake up time and he will love you if you build his bed.
The next morning I started off by building the ladder which is made up of simple 2x4s. After cutting the pieces to length, each one got a few pocket holes so they could be attached to the main board.
Since these steps will be in contact with little feet, I would recommend using a router and round over to soften the top edges. Or, if you’re like me and didn’t have one, then use a sander to do the same.
I used wood glue on all the ends of the pieces before attaching with screws and a good way to think about when to use glue and when not….is the components that make up a larger assembly typically get glue….such as the rung to the ladder, but I would skip the glue when attaching the ladder to the bed frame so that in the future it can be removed if needed.
Ok we’re making some progress and ready to move on to making and attaching the shelves for both the lower and upper bunks.
So I first moved the entire bed up against the wall as these shelves attach directly the wall in between the two sides. These are definitely an add on so they are easily left off but I like them because they bring a ton of function to the otherwise, unused space. I started off by drilling a few pocket holes in the bottom of each long shelf. Next I started attaching the vertical boards to make three individual areas of the shelving unit.
Before adding the shelves though I decided to add in some of the railing needed on the top bunk. While mattresses have a standard length and width you can get off line, the height of mattresses do vary so I recommend getting that dimension before you place your railings. You want them to be high enough over the mattress to capture a rolling child of course.
Now if you put in the second mattress you’ll have a comfy platform to sit and on while installing them. I first went through and marked off the stud locations, then attached the slats. After placing one screw, I would use a level to make sure it was going on straight, then attach the rest in the same manner.
After getting the backer boards attached now the shelving unit we built before can be added. These are simple to be attached since all the pocket holes are already drilled and the unit can be lined up to the back boards.
And of course the shelf sizes can easily be changed I just thought this arrangement looked nice.
Ok a little touch up paint, then to the top bunk to repeat.
I still had about half a day before having to catch a plane so I decided to add in a few additions to increase the function for the parents, but also the fun for the kids.
When I think of little kids and beds, I think of books so I made sure to incorporate a built in bookshelf to utilize some otherwise dead space.
I started off by cutting to size and attaching some little standoffs to the front portion of the bed. I couldn’t use screws to attach these so instead I used a really powerful adhesive. I applied some to the back of all the blocks then held it in place with clamps for a few mins to dry while I went outside and ripped a few more needed boards to length and width.
Two boards can be added to the standoffs to create railings that will later prevent the books from being able to fall forward. Easy enough huh? It doesn’t hold as much as a bookshelf but you can at least place the children’s favorites within reach.
I’m going to go ahead and apologize now for the poor lighting, this was a really difficult shot to get with my tripod. But you’ll still see how next I built a really fun rock wall on the side of the bed.
I original thought to add a solid sheet of plywood and paint a cool design on it, but I didn’t like the idea of cutting off visibility completely to the bottom bunk for my brother and sister in law. So I added some slats instead.
This still gives me plenty of surface area to next attach the hand and foot holds that will make up the climbing wall. It will also leaves some visibility for them to peak in from the door and put eyes on their boy.
And it shouldn’t be any surprise that this was Noah’s favorite feature. Once he realized what this was, all he did was go up the rock wall then down the ladder just to go up the rock wall again.
Then the last feature I tried to include was adding drawers to the bottom of the bunk bed. There is so much wasted space here that drawers are perfect. I’m thinking of them being used for toy storage where the children can pull out a drawer, play with the toys inside of it, then push it back when they are done. However, I suppose they could also be used for clothing or other nurersy items.
Since my brother has carpet in this room, the drawers don’t have casters but rather will be slide on top of the carpet. If you have tile or hardwood, then shortening the drawers is a simply adjustment so that you can add casters.
I was really pushing my limits on time and getting to the airport, so I wasn’t able to put handles in the drawers. I also needed to touch up some paint, but my brother can handle that.
All in all, not bad for two days worth of work! Not only that, but I love how involved the entire family was. Especially Noah. I had no idea a three year old could be so involved in such a build.
If a bunk bed is on your to-do list, then I really hope this video will help you out. It’s a big build, but really a simple one. I love how much use the kids will get out of it for years.
If you would like a set of plans, I’ve got those for you HERE! They come with a material list, a cut list and all of the dimensions I used.
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Hope you enjoyed this build and I’ll see you on the next one!
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