Introduction: Cheap, Easy, Low-waste Platform Bed Plans
Build a queen size platform bed on the cheap, with storage space underneath, for less than $30, in about an hour, and learn some basic carpentry skills in the process. Please read the "design objective" below.
For similarly easy shelving plans, see: https://www.instructables.com/id/Cheap-easy-low-waste-bookshelves/
For similarly easy dining table plans, see:https://www.instructables.com/id/Cheap-easy-low-waste-trestle-table/
As a professional carpenter, furniture maker, and designer/builder, I see a lot of home carpentry projects that are grossly overbuilt and over-engineered. One of the goals of this Instructable is to avoid the unnecessary overbuilding that I frequently see on this site, and that I see every day working in the residential construction industry. Many of the building methods we (in the US) use today are horribly wasteful despite the advances that have been made in materials science and structural engineering, because most people in the residential building industry, from architects and engineers to carpenters, are mired in tradition, doing things a certain way "because that is how it has always been done", rather than consulting the best available science, or even questioning their own assumptions about "the right way to do it". I don't intend to knock tradition, either. Many of the tricks, techniques, and tools that I use daily are definitely "old-school", but seem to have been forgotten.
This bed is designed to be cheap, lightweight, sturdy, and produce a minimum of waste, using a minimum number of tools. It is intended for use with a futon or mattress without a boxspring and provides storage space underneath sized to fit common cheap plastic storage bins. It also provides good ventilation for the futon or mattress, something that I learned was necessary after my expensive futon grew a large mold/mildew patch on the underside. For those who might think that this bed is flimsy, my wife and I use it nightly, and I am 6'-5" and weigh 240lbs. I wouldn't jump up and down in the middle of it, but it will easily take any other abuse you commit upon it. When I calc it out, this bed uses 23.16 board feet of lumber (1 bd.ft.= 144 cu.in.), or 1.93 cubic ft., and produces only 42 cubic inches of waste, about 1.25%.
Step 1: Materials and Tools
I was able to pick up these materials locally for just under thirty bucks. Bonus points for using reclaimed or scrap lumber.
(4) 14' 1x4 #3 and better pine
(1) 10' 1x4 #3&btr pine
(2) 10' 2x4 Std&btr fir larch
(8) 3" #10 wood screws
(72) 2" #10 wood screws
Try and pick fairly straight, pitch (sap) free lumber, if your local lumberyard lets you do so. Some yards are stingy about this. Try telling them that you are building a bed, and that you would rather not have pitch all over your mattress/futon and floor.
The finished dimensions of the top of the bed are 76" x 55". A queen mattress is 60" x 80". The slight mattress overhang covers up the ends of the slats and keeps the user from bumping their legs on them, and uses standard lumber lengths efficiently.
A note on screws: I am a professional carpenter and furniture maker, and I make things easier on myself by NEVER using Phillips head screws. The Phillips head was designed to "cam out" at a fairly low torque for assembly line work before the advent of adjustable torque limiting drill/drivers. I use only Robertson square drive or Torx head screws, and save myself a lot of time and frustration.
Saw (Skil, hand, jig, or miter. Shown is a Skil)
Square (Speed, framing, or try. Shown is a speedsquare)
Drill (Cordless or corded)
Appropriate driver bit for your screws
#10 pilot bit/countersink
Step 2: Measure, Measure, Mark, and Cut.
Yes, measure twice. There is very little waste from this project, and consequently little room for error. A mis-cut will most likely mean another trip to the lumberyard.
Start by checking both ends of each board for square, and mark and trim square if necessary. Never assume that anything about a board is square.
From three of the 14' 1x4's cut nine pieces at 4'-7" each.
From the fourth 14' 1x4 cut one piece at 4'-7" and five pieces at 1'-9"
From the 10' 1x4 cut one piece at 4'-7" and three pieces at 1'-9"
From each 10' 2x4 cut one piece at 4'-0" and one piece at 5'-11"
Step 3: Predrill, Countersink
Measure and mark both ends of the shorter 2x4's (on the broad face) 3/4" in from the edges and 3/4" in from the ends. The picture makes this much more clear. Predrill and countersink with the #10 bit. You will be drilling two holes in each end of each short 2x4, eight holes in all. After this step, there is no need to predrill any more holes, so put the countersink away.
Step 4: Assemble and Square Up Frame
Assemble the 2x4 frame, using the 3" screws to attach the shorter 2x4s to the longer 2x4s, "capping" the ends of the longer 2x4s (refer to diagram). Don't worry too much about keeping the frame square, just suck the screws up tight. Once you have the frame assembled, measure from corner to corner diagonally across the frame. Push and pull the frame, checking the measurements frequently, until the measurements are the same (about 88-3/16" in this case). When they are, the frame is square. Yes, I know, it could be a trapezoid, but if your components are reasonable close to the right length, it will be square enough. This is one of the processes used to square up anything larger than your largest reliable squaring device, from foundations to windows, and no math is required. Use one of the 4'-7" 1x4 slats attached with two 2" screws across one of the corners of the frame to keep it square temporarily.
Step 5: Lay Out and Attach Slats
This step may sound confusing, but look at the photos and read the steps as you act them out. It is also confusing because the tape will "read" upside-down, since for some stupid reason, a "right handed" tape measure is designed to be held in the right hand, with the left hand making the marks. Most carpenters, myself included, hold it in the left and make marks with the right, and learn to read the tape upside down. "Left handed" tapes are available, but I have yet to find one that will stand up to the daily abuse and none are 30' long, the length I most commonly use.
1) Turn the frame over so that the cross brace is underneath.
2) Face a long side of the bed frame.
3) Holding the tape in your left hand, hook the end on the edge of the frame on your right.
4) With your right hand, make marks at the following lengths, and draw an X to the right of them.
5) Make the last mark at 71-1/2" and this time make the X to the left of the mark.
6) Repeat the process, but in mirror image, along the other long side of the frame.
Attach the slats using (4) 2" screws per slat. Place each slat over each X and align the slat edge with the layout line. Use a scrap of 1x4 to gauge the overhang as in the second photo. Note that the first and last slats will overhang the top and bottom of the frame be 1". Check the slats for bow, and put it up, so the weight of the futon pushes it flat later.
If you can't find the eleventh slat, it is still screwed to the bottom of the frame to keep it square. Taking it off now is O.K., because the screws through the slats will hold everything square.
Step 6: Build and Attach Legs
Butt two of the 1'-9" 1x4s together along their edges, at a 90 degree angle, and join with three 2" screws. Repeat until you have four legs.
Turn the bed over, so that it is slats-down. Place a piece of 1x4 scrap in the inside corner of the 2x4 frame. Insert a leg, butting it to the 1x4, and attach it with (2) screws per 1x4, on the diagonal. Look at the photo. Remove the scrap, move it to the next corner, and repeat. The gap provided by the scrap helps to prevent squeaks.
Pay attention to the orientation of the legs, because in cross section one side is longer than the other. Structurally, it doesn't matter, but if you take the time to make a symmetrical layout, it will look better.
Step 7: Admire and Enjoy Your Work
Flip it back over, put a mattress on it, and try to fend off all your friends who want one too. I charge $30 plus a 12-pack of beer for mine, but you can work that out on your own.
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We have a be nice policy.
Please be positive and constructive.
I dont have any tools besides a drill, does Lowes or Home Depot cut the lumber to your specifications?
They often will, for a small fee.
I know that Home Depot does for sure, they've helped me out many times. HOWEVER they do not do precision cuts. That means if the boards aren't square on the ends they don't square them before beginning so they won't be square after being cut. I usually don't worry about that since I don't make precision-type projects and everything is usually fine. I AM NOT A PRO this is just the opinion of a common, self-taught wood worker.
Love, love, love this instructable and plan to make it this weekend. I'm wondering if you think some sort of doors could be added to the sides? Maybe some lightweight ones that lifted up like some cupboard doors do? Maybe lightweight sliding doors? Any specific suggestions? Again, thanks so much for this amazing post!