How to Build a Loft Bed- DIY Tutorial and Plans- Space Efficient and Frugal

We live in a very very very small apartment with 3 kids, and we manage to make it work, without feeling too cramped. Part of that is by figuring out creative solutions to make the place as user friendly as possible, and to try to streamline the furniture to maximize the space most effectively.

We have 3 main rooms in our home- the living room/dining room/kitchen, the main bedroom, and the smaller kid's bedroom. The smaller kid's bedroom used to be a storage room and the kids all bunked with us. Then we cleaned up and decluttered the storage room and turned it into a usable kids' bedroom.
But that was only phase one.
Still crowded and cramped.

On Monday, we completed phase 2 of the project (and it only took us 1+ year after completing phase 1! lol- how efficient!) and made a loft bed for the kids' room. 
The reason for the loft bed is such:
With such a small room, and such a small house, space is a premium. Using vertical space is one of the best ways to do this- why take up room on the floor when you can use up empty room on the wall? 
By making a loft bed, we now have the mattress high off the ground and the kids can play in the space underneath. We also have another mattress that we can put down over there should we have guests or should the kids decide that they no longer want to sleep on the same mattress. (They like each other's company while they sleep at this stage in their lives.)
By making the loft bed, we've effectively doubled our usable space in the bedroom. See the difference between this and the previous one?

The completed made from scratch loft bed.
Because wood is expensive where we live, this project cost us 165 dollars, but if you'd buy the same wood from Home Depot or a lumberyard, it would probably cost you around 50 dollars.

While 165 dollars is a lot of money, its at least half or a third of the price of a purchased loft bed where we live. And the added benefit is that because this room is narrow, with a low ceiling to boot, we needed the bed to be a certain dimension, and we were able to build the bed exactly to those specifications. 

Here's how we built the bed, including plans so you can build it as well.
It took us approximately 5 hours, including mistakes we made and needed to fix. I've included details about the errors we made so you can learn from them- no need to reinvent the wheel.
(P.S. I drew the plans up, purchased the wood, measured the wood, and then Mike cut the wood. I positioned the wood and held it in place while Mike drilled and then screwed in the screws with the drill. It was a team effort, but mostly me. :-D Just feel the need to take credit and give credit where it's deserved. I'm just not in any of the pics since I was the one snapping them, not because Mike did it all.)
Tools Used:
Measuring tape
Electric saw (circular saw/miter saw)
Electric drill
Level (we used a level app on a smart phone)

This can be done without electric saws or electric drills, but those certainly save a lot of time and energy.

Here are the plans for the loft bed.

We used 2x4 and 2x2 beams for the bed. The areas with the diagonal stripes represent the 2x2 beams and the pink shaded areas represent the 2x4 beams.

Just for clarity's sake- 2x4 and 2x2 are their names in inches, but all measurements in this plan are in meters.

 photo 001_zps618c5c7d.jpg

We were trying to make this bed narrower and shorter, because of the dimensions of the room- if you are using a mattress of a different length, you'll need to adjust the sizes. The mattress we used was .70 meters by 1.82 meters, so we made the dimensions of the bed 1.9 meters by .75 meters, but if your mattress is wider, replace .75 m with whatever width your mattress is (plus a few centimeters to leave a little wiggle room), and/or replace the 1.9 meters with whatever dimensions you need.

Locally the 2x4 beams come 4.8 meters long, and the 2x2 beams come 4.5 meters long.
These are the pieces of wood that you'll need at the top. And at the bottom, a list of how many 2x4 beams and how many 2x2 beams so that you need as little wood as possible and aren't wasting more wood than necessary. Each line says what size pieces should be cut from each beam of wood. If your beams come in different lengths than ours did, to figure out how to be most space efficient, take each full length beam, and subtract the length of as many longer beams as possible then slightly shorter, than slightly shorter, so you can work out how to get as many pieces as possible from your beams. Then try other configurations and see what works better. You don't want extra wood left over, because extra wasted wood is wasted money.

 photo 002_zps719e3746.jpg
Total wood necessary for this- 3 4.8 meter 2x4 beams, and 5 4.5 meter 2x2 beams.
You'll also need a whole bunch of screws, long screws, and 4 heavy metal brackets.

Before anything, before cutting anything, measure the wood out, and mark the length of all the wood with a pencil that you intend on cutting. You can't uncut wood, but you can re-mark it if you see you made a mistake.
Then cut the wood. You can do this with a regular saw, or you can do it with an electric one.

 photo woodcutting_zps69fd2953.jpg

Once the wood is cut, you'll need to first create the frame for the mattress. As shown in the diagram above, you'll need to position the 2x4 beams into a rectangle, fitting the .75 meter pieces within the 1.9 meter pieces. (We originally made a mistake and put the 1.9 meter pieces between the .75 meter pieces, but then had to unscrew it and redo it correctly.
Use a drill to drill in through the first piece of wood, but ensure that the drill doesn't go through second piece of wood. Put three screws at each corner, in a triangle. Don't put the screws directly next to each other, bit diagonally across from each other, as two immediately next to each other can split the wood.

To make sure that we made the frame with right angle corners, we used the metal braces we bought to help position the wood properly.

The 2x2 beams that are 1.82 meters in length need to go alongside and within the 2x4 frame. This is so that the .75 meter 2x2 beams are able to rest on it and be flush against the top of the frame, so the entire top is one level surface upon which the mattress will rest. Measure the width of the .75 meter 2x2 and where it would need to sit, and then position the 1.82 meter beam directly underneath it. Attach it along the length of the 1.9 meter 2x4 with at least 6 screws. 
Do the same on both sides.

Place 8 .75 meter 2x2 beams along the length of the frame, resting on the 1.82 meter 2x2 and between the 1.9 meter 2x4 beams. Try to space them out as evenly as you can, but if it's not perfect, its ok, as this will be covered by a mattress so it doesn't need to look as aesthetic. 

Screw them into the 1.82 meter 2x2 beam, one screw on each side.

The frame is now ready.

With a pencil, mark down .25 meters from the top of the 1.35 meter 2x4 beam. These will be the upright beams for the loft bed, what will keep the mattress off the ground. Now you need to screw the frame .25 meters down from the top of each beam. We found the way that worked best was to hold the frame on its side, and hold the wooden beam we were attaching in place, screw it on, then screw another beam onto the opposite end. Use the brace to help ensure that these pieces are being attached at a right angle.

Once that is done, carefully flip over the frame, making sure that the beams aren't jostled around, and then lean it against the wall to help hold it in place.

Position the wooden beams on the other two ends closer to the wall, and then screw them in. Use a level to ensure the frame is level, and use the support to make sure all the beams are at right angles. Unscrew and readjust as necessary. Again, attach each corner with three (or even four) screws.

Measure up .36 meters from the floor, and screw the long pieces around the edges to give the bed more support. We ended up using 2 .75 meter 2x4 beams and 1 1.9 meter 2x2 beam because we accidentally cut our last 2x4 a drop too short. Feel free to use either a 2x4 or a 2x2 for this one. (Hence the number in parenthesis in the schematics above.)

Use the remaining .75 meter 2x2 beams to make a ladder on one side. We used wooden blocks on both sides to lean the beams on when drilling/screwing them in, to make it easier for our tired arms, and to make sure that they were level. (We ended up adding one more ladder rung after this picture was taken.)

Attach 4 of the .48 meter 2x2 beams on the inside of the top of the 1.35 meter 2x4 beams. We used 4 screws along its length to make these extra secure, as these hold the guard railing and we want it strong enough to withstand the weight of a kid rolling into it.

Screw 3 wooden 1.9 beams to the two outer .48 meter beams, starting from the top and moving down in equidistant lengths. Again, we used wooden pieces to make sure they were level. We used 2 2x2 and 1 2x4, but you can use 3 2x2 beams as well.

Finalized rail for the bed.

The final step for the bed is to attach these strong metal supports to the underside of the mattress and onto the legs of the loft bed. You need to put 6 short screws on each side of the support. Attach these to each of the four corners.

 photo IMG_0305_zps8c85247a.jpg

Voila, the final bed, in all its glory!

We purposely positioned the legs of the bed on each end and not on the sides to make sure there is room to lay down a mattress there, should we want it. (Like in this picture.)

I'm very happy with how this bed came out! Hopefully this tutorial is clear enough so that you, too, can build a loft bed for your home! (We still need to sand and paint/prime the wood, but in the meantime, the bed is usable.)

P.S.- I'm not an architect nor was I specially trained in wood working. I'm just a mom with some power tools. You don't need to be a professional to be able to do this- it's totally doable for just the average Joe or Jane.

What do you think about the difference of the before and after in the room?
Does this tutorial seem clear enough for you? Does this project seem doable to you? How much does wood cost where you live?

Linking up to Simple Lives Thursday

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. Great job! Can it be modified as the kids grow?

  2. Can it be modified as the kids grow?

  3. Wonderful! We are planning a loft and appreciate the tips.

    And thank you for spelling "voila" correctly. :-) I so often see "viola" from people who are more familiar with the word written, or "wallah" from people who only know how it sounds...and it really bugs me, as silly as that may seem. So I'm glad to see it spelled right!

    1. "Wallah" and Voila are two diffrent words with two diffrent meanings....

  4. You're gonna hate me.
    For two beds this size in the US, it's costing me less than $100 USD for all of it.

  5. Want to make a queen size loft bed using these guidelines. Does your bed wobble any, i.e. how sturdy is it?

  6. We modified this plan somewhat so that we could put a twin over a full...For right around $100 wood and other materials we made this bed! When the girls move to their own rooms we will be able to put a desk and shelves in under the loft! Very exciting!!!

  7. The best thing about it is its cost

  8. Has something happened to your images? Only two of them are visible to me.

  9. Wish the images loaded!

  10. I need images (eeeeek) They have disappeared!

  11. Ditto on the images.

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