Friday, January 6, 2012

Toddler Bunk Bed

 This bunk bed for the girls was their other Christmas present. The inspiration came from an Ikea bed. I liked how low to the ground it was so that the little one could fall out with no injuries. I also liked how little space it took up in their tiny bedroom that they are sharing (I confess, I took over the fourth bedroom in the house for a craft room). My wonderful husband did the majority of the work. Basically, I think I said- here is what I want, and occasionally helped hold boards so that he could drill them in.
The end result cost us about $30. Sure beats the $200 from Ikea. Also, that bed was for a twin mattress, which I didn't already have on hand. When I get to it, I have an idea for how to make a tent cover for the top. One more thing for my to do list.

To make this bed, we measured the mattresses that we wanted to use, and made those our inside measurements for the boards. We used 2"x2" fir (the stuff that is around $.98 for 8' at Home Depot). The white board was some cheap particle board that was already a glossy white on one side; just a 4'x8 strategically cut'. We had some long wood screws leftover from another project, but I am pretty sure I picked them up at Walmart. We downloaded the Ikea bed assembly instructions from their website, and used it as our rough guideline. I just went and remeasured- the bed is 4' high, 30" wide, and 55" long. On the sides that have the white board in-between, we cut a groove in the middle of the 2x2 that we slide to board into. It actually ended up being very solid. The mattress on the top is resting on 1"x2" furring strips screwed into the 2x2 (we have 12, spaced about every 4"- so ~2.5 inches space between each). I have some cardboard just smaller than the mattress laying on top of the strips, but that is just because I had it in the crib (the instructions with the mattress recommended it, I think to keep the springs from rubbing against the mattress), but I don't think it is necessary. (Because I am silly like that, I have covered my cardboard with a crib sheet so that it doesn't look tacky from the bottom bunk).  Don't tell my husband, but I have seen two little girls standing on top of the bed (they might have been jumping) with no problems. Our three year old can climb in and out by herself and sleeps up top quite contently (and the 19 month old hasn't yet figured out how to climb, so she stays safely on the ground). I still plan on making the tent cover, someday. I have so many other projects on my to-do list it keeps getting pushed back.

I will attempt to post some more instructions on how we built these beds. Please note all disclaimers (i.e, I would prefer to not to be sued by anyone).

4: 2x2’s @ 52 (long sides)
4: 2x2’s @ 48” (posts)
8: 2x2 @ 27” (short sides)
1: 2x2 @ 46 ½” (ladder)
3: 2x2 @ 14” (ladder rungs)
2: 2x2 @ 36 ½” (upper bunk side rail)
2: 1x2 @ 10 ¼” (side supports on top rail)
12: 1x2 @28 ½” (mattress support)
5: board 27”x 10 ½+” (can’t remember exact width- they should slide into groves with enough leeway for expansion and contraction, but not enough to pop lose)
1: board 36 ½”x 10 ½+” (see note above)
1: board 52” x 10 ½+” (see note above)
Screws, sandpaper, paint, varnish, etc.

Note: Assembled, this bed is too large to go through a standard door frame. Because it was a Christmas present, we assembled it as much as possible in the garage, but left enough boards off to move it to their bedroom on Christmas, and finished the assembly there. It probably would have been much easier to just do it all in the room where it was going to end up. Also, I make no guarantees or promises of any kind whatsoever. I have not had this bed tested by any agency or anything of the sort (legal disclaimer- use at your own risk should you decide to make your own). Next disclaimer- I am writing these directions from memory. I apologize for all mistakes in advance. If something isn’t sounding right to you, it probably isn’t, so use your best judgement.

After getting the wood cut to size and laid out about were everything went (sorry- no drafting program, please see picture) we determined which boards needed a center groove cut in them for the whiteboard to slide into. I believe that our board was 1/8" thick, so the groove was just barely wider. My husband used his table saw, adjusted to blade so it would only cut a little into the 2x2 1/4" deep. I think it took two passes.

Sample of groove (in board we cut but didn't need groove. Oh, well).
We used this process to make the end board (we cut, sanded, stained, and varnished everything before screwing it all together. We did drill pilot holes before sanding and staining. It was a pain to keep the individual pieces from getting mixed up. If you are just planning on painting the whole thing, I recommend just assembling it as you go. If you want to stain it like we did, and leave the white board white, just come up with a good system to keep the pieces straight. I think ours involved colored pencils.)
and all around the top bunk.
With the board sandwiched between the 2x2's it was actually quite sturdy. We didn't cut grooves in the side posts, just the top and bottom rungs. The sides were flush (make sure your cuts are straight). We screwed everything together with some long screws that would go through the 2x2 and into the other enough to make us feel like it was secure. They may have been about 3" long. If you want to figure out how to make some CAM bolts or other fastening system work, feel free to. We thought about it, but the hardware would have increased the cost significantly enough that we opted to go with just screws. we made sure to offset the screws so that they weren't running into each other in the posts. Our screw heads are exposed, but we used a darker colored one so that they don't stand out too much.

I think the only part of the bed where assembly steps matter is on the posts leading into the ladder.
If you look closely, you can see a nice little cross section where the top side rail and ladder join (there on the right side of the ladder where the top rung meets). To attach that, we drilled the pilot holes into the post and the 2x2's they attached to individually. Then we screwed in the screws just through the post. Next we twisted the rung onto the screw till it was tight and lined up (it took a few tries to get it just right- make sure your grooved board ends with the groove side up) and repeated for the other side.Since the bed was 4' tall, we wanted to rungs and end boards to be spaced every foot. There is about 10 1/4" between all the boards (you may need to adjust this number to compensate for variations in 2x2's, because a 2x2 isn't really 2").

After the bed frame was all screwed together, the slats were screwed down (I think the screws we used here were 1 5/8". Don't forget pilot holes to reduce splitting). 
They were spaced mostly evenly, about every 4", but adjusted slightly to accommodate the ladder posts. Also, we inserted a center support post on the long spans of white board. Not sure if it is necessary, but figured it couldn't hurt. They are just screwed from the top and bottom in the center of the span.
Since the bed is against some walls, we only have the supports on the sides that are visible. That is the direction we faced the white board as well (it is just plain on the back side- you can see where we stained it on the bottom bunk here).

I am not positive, but I think this bed is designed to be against a wall. We knew which corner we wanted it in and planned the ladder and ends accordingly. You can move the pieces around to suit your needs.

There you have it. Hope it helps. Good luck!


  1. Hi!! I'm wondering if I can contact you by email? I'd love to get the plans/directions for these beds and also for the stuffed animal 'cage' if possible!! Thanks in advance:)

    1. I will try and post some more directions, but there aren't any "real" plans for the beds. You can certainly email me at with any questions and I will try to help.

  2. Becky, Thanks so much for the quick reply and for posting on my blog too. We are working on the plans now. If I come across any questions I'll email you!! Thanks again:)

  3. You are AWESOME!! Thanks so much:) We are planning to get this project started as soon as the Hubs has an entire weekend off work. Hopefully soon!! Thanks again!!

  4. How sturdy is this? I have a 33lb 1 yr old. (I plan on making changes for safety to the top bunk for younger babies) but do you feel the 2x2 was sufficent enough or would it be better to buy thicker cut to withhold more weight? Additionally is there sway without the rest of the side supports?

  5. Are those twin mattresses or crib mattresses?