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Picture of Cheap, easy, low-waste platform bed plans
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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: http://www.instructables.com/id/Cheap-easy-low-waste-bookshelves/
For similarly easy dining table plans, see:http://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%.

Instructables member frazeeg has posted a SketchUp model here.

 
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Step 1: Materials and Tools

Picture of 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.

Material:

(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.

Tools:

Saw (Skil, hand, jig, or miter. Shown is a Skil)
Square (Speed, framing, or try. Shown is a speedsquare)
Pencil
Tape measure
Drill (Cordless or corded)
Appropriate driver bit for your screws
#10 pilot bit/countersink

Step 2: Measure, measure, mark, and cut.

Picture of Measure, measure, mark, and cut.
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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

Picture of 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

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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.
diag.pdf(792x612) 50 KB

Step 5: Lay out and attach slats

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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.

2-1/2"
9-3/4"
17"
24-1/4"
31-1/2"
38-3/4"
46"
53-1/4"
60-1/2"
67-3/4"

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

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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

Picture of 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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murmom2 years ago
Just made 2 of these (twin size) had to make different heights to accomodate mattress thickness. My sons wanted couch height. This was so easy, thank you for the instructions.
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Bee_bee murmom1 month ago

May I ask what measurements you used? and How are the platforms holding up for you?

aeray (author)  murmom2 years ago
Glad you liked it, and thanks for the photos.
I built this bed yesterday in a full sized version. I started with Phillips head screws which were a disaster, and quickly chose to drive all over town in search of Torx screws. After I found them, an hour and forty five minutes later, my "work in progress" guest room has a great looking sturdy bed! I'm working on a wood burning project for the headboard, and my daughter has already asked that I make her one in a twin version and paint it turquiose! I am going to shorten the legs though, she's only 5, lol. We are going to get the materials later today!

I am going to build bedside tables and bookshelves myself also. Once I realized how much money I could save, I decided the entire guest room will be made by yours truly.

Thank you aeray! I am inspired! ;-)
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what are your measurements inside the legs on the long side of the full bed you made with these plans? trying to decide if I can use this to store a twin mattress under the full bed. so the leg-leg distance is the important measurement for me. thanks.

What measurements did you use for the full size bed?
aeray (author)  skillingsworth4 years ago
Excellent work, and thanks for the photos.
I am totally inept and I built this bed a year ago. It is a great bed, used with Otis futon. One of the best things about this bed is that it takes up so little space due to the fact the mattress overhangs. The size of the mattess if the amount of space the bed takes up. I'm about to undertake building 2 more. My husband is impressed as I have no carpentry experience whatsoever. Just trying to encourage other slightly beyond middle age women out there.
Thanks! Oh, p.s. only problem was that I couldn't find torx screws anywhere in the size recommended. Should I use deck screws on the next beds?
aeray (author)  southboundtrain4 years ago
If you have already built one, you are NOT inept. You read it and ran with it and it worked out, and you're about to do it again (and again). I'd like to see pics. As for the "deck screws": "deck screws" will be more expensive (you're paying for corrosion-resistant screws), and if you made the first one with Phillips screws, you can make the other ones with Phillips too. If you still can't find Torx or stardrive screws, try finding Robertson or squaredrive screws. If you are really into it, McFeeley's http://www.mcfeelys.com/ has just about any kind of screw you could possibly want. Any kind of drive other than Phillips or flat will make it far, far easier and faster, so ordering might be worth your time.

Thank you for the link. Finding the #10 2" Torx wood screws was impossible at Lowes, Home Depot, and my local lumber store. I used #8 instead as that was all those stores carry that is close to the #10 2".

dandersen42 years ago
AWESOME project! I have put together some name brand furniture with more difficulty and lesser quality. I asked the lumber yard to cut it for me and just assembled it when I got home. It took about 1 1/2 hours and an adjustment after I was finished as it set too high for my thick mattress. I used it until I moved and gave it to my niece who has been using it now for over a year with no problems. Thank you for a great, easy project.
aeray (author)  dandersen42 years ago
I'm glad it worked for you, and thanks for the compliment.
zirlock3 years ago
I absolutely love the instructable! I built the first bed and then I could not stop and had to build one for the upstairs bedroom as well. :) I think the text was well written and even with zero carpentry background I was able to build the beds with great success. Thanks aeray!
BuildAFence3 years ago
Just so ya'll know, if you use an impact screwdriver and not a drill driver the phillips head screws go straight in. I was using a drill with a bit to run 4 inch screws into the studs of a wall and when the drill gets loose and jumps the track while your still pressing in it just eats the screw head. Not so with impact driver. I have never had the impact driver jump out the track of a phillips head screw, even once its all the way in it'll keep driving. Impact drivers are awesome!! I have a Ridgid at home and the new little 12V Dewalt for work.
By the way here is my twin version. It is kinda high for my liking and for kids to climb onto so I think I am going to chop the legs in half. It was nice to put those kids jumpers and walkers under there for a while.
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aeray (author)  BuildAFence3 years ago
Thanks for the pics. I bought an impact driver several years ago, immediately after borrowing a co-workers. Unfortunately, I used it so much that it was in the shop being repaired when I made this Instructable. They were also really expensive at the time, so I didn't think many do-it-yourselfers would have/want to buy one. I frequently use mine to drive 12" to 20" long "timberlock" or "olly" screws while timberframing and installing SIPS panels, and have even used it to remove the lugnuts on my truck a time or two, not to mention siding two houses using solely screws as fasteners, and half a dozen+ metal roofs. Impact drivers rock, and are, IMHO, the best cordless tool invention ever.
urbanalbino4 years ago
I made this today! Thank you for posting such awesome directions. I have never assembled anything this 'detailed' before. I had the help of tool identification and uses from my dad and an exceptionally smart 7 year old cousin. I haven't put my mattress on it yet, but I've got a feeling its going =)to be postiively splendiferous.

By the way --- using a saw leaves you with a very strange satisfying feeling!! =)
aeray (author)  urbanalbino3 years ago
I'm glad you enjoyed it. Any pictures?
aeray,

I told you I was going to do it again...but I didn't! She did it herself! (I pre-drilled all the holes) But she really did her thing, this was an excellent project to do together.

Thank you again.

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aeray (author)  skillingsworth4 years ago
Thanks again. As divalea wrote: "I guess platform beds are like kittens, peanut butter cups, and potato chips: hard to stop at one!"

My only other comment is that the slats look a little widely spaced. If it is a fairly stiff mattress, and your daughter is fairly light (as it appears) it shouldn't be a problem now. As your daughter grows, and the mattress ages, you may need to add some more slats.

Please keep me posted, and keep up the good work.
Thank you, I thought they were far apart also, and was about to go cut another one when I remembered her mattress is the "bunk mattress" it has it's own built in slats at the bottom of the mattress, so I don't think it will be an issue.

Take care, I'll be checking back often, I noticed you talking about a corner unit and some other projects I'm dying to see, lol.

Goodnight.
Mindfulmoon4 years ago
This is an excellent instructable. Directions were clear, thorough and easy to follow. The project turned out just as it should have. Even though we calculated and purchased for a different sized bed (Full) we had no trouble doing so. Took us slightly longer than we had planned but that was due to a severe thunderstorm, two meals and a movie break. :-) We are not "rushers". Thank you for posting this. We have plans for one more (twin) in a month or so. Also, we decided on a different sized bin due budgetary restraints and found it advisable to "downsize" the legs by 6 inches. I'll post a pic when I can. Also, I'll try to show our "hack" for attaching my legacy store-bought headboard.
aeray (author)  Mindfulmoon4 years ago
I look forward to it.
theloo0074 years ago
This is such a wonderful layout for a bed frame/storage area. I have a question for the author, do you see a problem if I substitute using 4x4 for legs. I want to add wheels and will shorten legs accordingly to adjust for the height? Lynn
aeray (author)  theloo0074 years ago
It shouldn't be a problem.
aertz4 years ago
This looks pretty simple! I'm planning on building this but for a full size mattress. How would the measurements differ?
aeray (author)  aertz4 years ago
Just make the slats 5" shorter. Everything else is the same.
ddodd14 years ago
Firstly, this bed looks incredible, and it seems like an extreme thorough and concise instructable. As a college student, I especially like the low price estimate!

I'm hoping to build a platform bed for a twin size mattress, but it needs to fit a 28" tall dog crate underneath. It seems simple enough to just build much longer legs, but is that safe? Should I add an extra leg in the center and/or connect all four legs to keep it from wobbling? Maybe drill it into the studs along the wall? How much bowing do I need to account for? I don't have an extremely extensive amount of carpentry experience, and I'm worried about crushing my dog!
aeray (author)  ddodd14 years ago
For a twin, you should be fine with just elongating the legs. If you want to be extra-safe, just use 1 x 6's for the legs instead of 1 x 4's.

ddodd1 aeray4 years ago
Perfect! Thanks so much! I can't wait to build my bed!!!
divalea4 years ago
I guess platform beds are like kittens, peanut butter cups, and potato chips: hard to stop at one!

I built a queen platform for myself this past weekend. I managed to get the Spax screws at Home Despot, but still had to settle for the loathsome Philips. (Which ended up causing problems, mainly fatigue from fighting the camming-out.) Another lesson learned with this project:check the angle on your table saw blade EVERY TIME, even the NEXT DAY. Most of my cuts were at a slight angle, very slight, because my blade got angled just enough from the previous day's cutting. On the slats and legs, this was not a big deal. On the one long frame piece, it was a "use a hacksaw to cut off a slice to square off the end of the lumber because otherwise there will not be a good joint" deal.

The building did go faster this time. Still not a two-hour job, but faster. The lumber and screws cost $40. I ended up with a number of 1.5" pieces (that I'm going to use for another project) because it was cheaper to buy 6' lengths of wood than 12'. (6' 1x4 at my HD was $1.99, 12' 1x4 was triple that.) I had to predrill everything again. Even with better screws, the wood split. Grrr.

After sleeping on my mattress on the floor for nearly a year (hey, divorced lady, should've taken the King bed frame!), this bed feels really high in the air. It's great!

I got the uncut lumber into the Crown Vic this time (last time, I had some pieces cut first, this time I didn't.) It took a while! I've included a pic for proof. ^__^

Pic 1 is the bed, all dressed up. I'm using a king comforter and flat sheet. (Bed linens were all sourced from discount stores like TJ Maxx. Still expensive, but much nicer than what the same money would buy for "current season" linens.) 
Pic 2 is to show the awesome storage under.
Pic 3 is construction, using a sewing table and the first platform bed as sawhorses.
Pic 4 is "How to get 13 pieces of lumber in a car."

Next project: building your bookshelves to make swell room dividers. Can hardly wait.
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aeray (author)  divalea4 years ago
Excellent. Thanks for the pictures, especially the last one.
llmadigan4 years ago
aeray, you are THE MAN! i made your shelves and am super pleased with them - especially since i'm not much of a builder :) i'm planning on making this bed tonight and have everything but the countersink. how important is it that the screws are sunk in? could just a pilot hole be good enough? i'm not trying to be a cheapskate, but if i don't have to buy it i'd prefer not to...

thank you, btw, for putting together these plans and posting them for free! i'm so proud of myself for building simple/solid stuff for myself.
aeray (author)  llmadigan4 years ago
Just a pilot hole is fine, especially since most Torx head screws are self-countersinking to some degree. The only holes I bothered countersinking are the ones for connecting the 2x4s together for the frame. Oh, wait- if you already made the shelves, that means that you already have a 9/32" drill bit, right?
Just drill the small pilot holes, and then use the 9/32" bit to "countersink" them about 1/8". Problem solved. Post pics when you're done, and look for my upcoming "Cheap, easy, low-waste trestle table" which I should have up by New Years.
aeray (author)  aeray4 years ago
Oh, yeah, you used 3/8" all thread didn't you? Whichever bit you used for that will work as well, but be careful not to let it pull itself in too deep.
Hi Aeray,
Just wanted to send you pics of one of your bed designs. This is a full size. I had to use a piece of 2x4 vs 2 pieces os 1x4 (see pic). Will this cause me probs over the long run?

THANK YOU!
MaryAnn
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aeray (author)  mhendrickson4 years ago
Looks good. The 2x4 shouldn't be a problem.
eckmannl4 years ago
Thanks so much for posting this! It is just what I needed. Last week my dad came over and I just called out directions to him and his helper. This week, I decided that I needed another one. This time I did it entirely on my own. I have never built anything totally by myself before (I'm a woman in my 30's), so this was really satisfying for me. The one that was built last week was according to your instructions. The one I did this evening was made a little more narrow to fit a full, extra long mattress. Thanks again!!
aeray (author)  eckmannl4 years ago
You're welcome. Post a pic or two.
Kbjug1234 years ago
I made my bed a week or two ago, built it all by myself. Amazed my husband that I actually did it. It squeaks slightly under certain conditions, but I think that I just need to put one new leg under it. For a headboard I really wanted a picket fence type headboard so I put an ad on Kijiji for a peice of used fence. Then , walking past our "burn" pile ( we live on a feedlot) I saw a peice of brown picket fence. My husband helped me fish it out and when I measured it , it was a perfect 60 inches wide, which is exactly what I needed. So I painted it glossy white and popped it between the bed and the wall. Ladada!!! Thanks for the great instructable . Can't wait to try something else!!
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