I've been building projects from Instructables for years but have never really had the time to post any of my own projects. I've found myself with a little extra time lately though and decided it was time to start giving back to the community. So, for my very first shot at an Instructable, allow me to present (drum roll please):

Bunk Beds! (and there was much rejoicing!)
(from wikipedia): A type of bed where one bed frame is stacked on top of another.

Like Minivans, the more children you have the better bunk beds start to look. And unless you are lucky enough to live in nice big house where everyone gets their own room, the ability to stack your children at night provides more floor space for things like desks, couches, and toys to trip over.

Unfortunately, bunk beds can be pretty pricey - putting them out of reach for most people. Worse than that, most of the production bunk bed frames on the market that I've seen are pretty flimsy - and I just couldn't justify spending $1,000 to have my kids spend 8 hours a night, 5 feet in the air, worried they were going to come crashing down every time they rolled over!

The good news is, you can pretty easily build a bunk bed that is rock solid, looks great, breaks down easily for moves, and is completely modular - and for only $125 - $200 in wood and supplies.

What do I mean by modular?

Once built, this bunk bed can be assembled as a traditional stacked, one-over-the-other bunk bed frame; as an L-shaped bunk bed, where the bottom bed is only half covered by the top bunk; or even as two separate beds sitting on the floor - all with minimal effort to change around once the pieces are built.

The only power tool you absolutely need is a drill, but having some kind of saw and a hand sander will make your life easier. I'll go over the materials in the next step.

I have 4 kids, and made two sets of bunk beds. There are some style differences in the two (see pictures above) but the one big lesson learned from one to the other was to incorporate that safety bar on the top bunk.

All of the instructions in the guide are for version 2 (with incorporated safety bar)

Step 1: Materials & Tools

The materials below are essential for the basic, traditionally stacked (one-over-the-other) Bunk Bed.


2" x 6" Boards - 13 boards at 96"(8') long. These are used for the bulk of the frame. I used 2" x 6" boards - it will make the finished product rock solid, and I like the big chunky look they provide - but you could easily use 2" x 4" boards if you wanted; you would save about $1 - $2 per board; or up to $30 in total.
1" x 6" Boards - 8 boards at 96" long. These are used for the uprights on the head/foot boards. Plus 2 more boards for the mattress supports. $20.
2" x 2" Boards - 4 boards at 8' long. These are used to support the mattress. $6
4' x 8' sheet of 1/4" Plywood - Really important to use under the mattress IF IT IS A NEW MATTRESS. Otherwise 4 or 5 extra 1" x 4" boards will work fine. I'll explain the difference in a later step. If you are buying plywood for this project, spend the extra on a decent sheet and don't buy OBS or cheaper board - they are often sealed with a chemical bath that you really don't want your kids sleeping near. If in doubt, give the sheet the sniff test. If it smells like wood, it's probably good (give a sheet of OBS a sniff and you will know exactly what I mean.) ($35 - $45)
5" or 6" 5/16 Lag Bolts and Washers - 20. About $12.
1.5" Screws - Drywall or any other kind of screws you may have laying around. You will need a couple dozen. $3.
2" Finishing Nails (or Brad Nails) - You will need a lot of these, between 150 and 250. Used to hold the head and foot boards together. $7.
Wood Glue - For gluing... wood. $4.
5/16 Metal Doweling Rod - Used as a little extra support between the two beds. $3.
Sandpaper - This is dependent on the finish you are looking for. I put the time in to get a nice smooth, satin finish. This required the following sandpaper (I used a Dewalt palm sander): 1 package of 6, 60 grit; 1 package of 6 120 grit; 1 package of 6 220 grit - (about $15 in total)
Stain - 1 946 ml tin. Whatever shade suits your fancy. I chose 'Golden Oak'. You won't use the whole tin, but it's better than buying a smaller one and running out. (about $10)
Varathane - 1 946 ml tin. Comes in several finishes - I chose 'Satin' which is a low gloss finish. Don't skip this step; not only will it protect your hard work, it will also seal in the smell of the stain :) (about $12)

The more tools you have, the easier it is to work with wood. But, other than a decent drill, they are all pretty much optional.

Measuring tape - You could guess your measurements, but you'd end up with a Tim Burton looking bed.
Saw - Required: Hacksaw for the metal doweling (about $6 - $12 if you don't have one) Optional. If you don't have one of the following: table saw, skill saw, radial arm saw, jig saw, hand saw, beaver; ask the nice people at the lumber yard to pre-cut your wood for you. They will usually do this free of charge.
Router - Optional. I used a router along the long edges of all my boards to round the edges. If you want to skip this step, a little judicial use of sandpaper can achieve a similar effect.
Palm Sander - Optional, but recommended. There is a lot of wood used in bunk beds, and depending on the type of finish you want, there will probably be a lot of sanding. I you have forearms like Popeye, feel free to use a hand sander instead.
Drill - Needed to pre-drill holes through wood members. I assume that if you are considering building wood bunk beds, you likely have one of these already. Not optional.
Safety Glasses - Highly recommended if you don't enjoy eyes full of wood splinters and dust ($7 - $30 depending on how cool you want to look while working)
Dust Mask -Again, highly recommended while sanding. The dust from most types of wood is really not good for either your sinuses or your lungs ($6 for a pack of 3)
Nail (Brad) Gun - I used an air powered Brad Nailer with 2" brads, but you could use a hammer and finishing nails easily enough.
Paint Brush & Sponge - Stain is easier to apply with a sponge brush ($.99 or $1.99 for a pack of 3). Varathane is best applied with a good paint brush ($1.99)

A carpenters square, or quick square as well as some quick clamps will come in pretty handy also.

Total cost of project, assuming you don't have to buy any tools: $120 - $180

If you want to build an 'L' shaped bunk, you need to construct an additional head and foot board, and this will add approximately $25-$35 to the cost of the main project.

thank you! this is a wonderful project and easy :-) we want to build bunk beds for our grandchildren when the come to visit. I would like to see pics of L-shape arrangement. My Aunt Phyllis told me they had bunks that the top and bottom was offset so if the kid on top fell out, they would end up on the bottom bed unhurt. the open space underneath became a little closet where they could hang thier clothes. My grandpa built a door at one end of the bed. They also used the space for hide n seek!<br>I would love to have directions for a bed like that too but this one is awesome - thanks again!
<p>Great project, well done looks awesome. I am going to be building a bunk bed too, can't wait to give it ago.</p>
<p>Great plan! I've almost finished the project and it's looking great so far! A couple of things to note that you might want to adjust on the plan.</p><p>Under <strong>Cutting the Boards to Size: 2x6 Boards</strong> you state that 4 of the 2x6 boards need to be cut to 75&quot; and the rest cut to the smaller size. This should be 5 should be cut to 75&quot;. I ended up with 2 extra short boards and had to pick up another board to use for the safety bar.</p><p>I picked up a 946 ml tin of stain (Cabot) and it was not nearly enough. I went back to get more and found out that the store no longer sells Cabot stains. So I had to get a completely different brand (Minwax) and color. I can tell you from experience that all stains are NOT created equally! After using 2 different brands of stain I still have NO IDEA how you could stain this entire bed with only a 946 ml can.</p><p>Under <strong>Drilling: Drilling the Cross Pieces</strong> you state to drill 4&quot; into the cross pieces. This is definitely overkill! ...or at least it was for me.</p><p>While assembling I found that the lag bolts definitely do not seem very secure when holding the cross pieces to the head and footboards. I don't know if you meant some sort of lag screws that will dig into the cross pieces and hold then into place, but the lag bolts with no nuts to grip onto slide way too easily. I put a little bit of wood glue on some of the lag bolts so hopefully that will hold them. I will leave the two beds separated for a while to make sure things don't start to fall apart. </p><p>Also, pictures 1 &amp; 2 of drilling make it look as though the holes in the head and foot boards for the bolts for the crossboard are at the halfway point of the vertical 1x6's (about 2 3/4&quot; from the outside). Unfortunately, assembling it this way does NOT fit a standard 39&quot;x75&quot; mattress. The holes need to be closer to 3/4&quot; from the edge in order for the mattress to fit. Looking at the pictures of the completed project it looks like you did put them closer to the edge, but (unless I missed it) this isn't specified in the instructions. </p><p>Also, thanks for the tip on not drilling all the way through in order to prevent splintering of the holes! This helped immensely. </p><p>Overall it has been a really fun project, and apart from some adjustments to the instructable (hopefully fixed soon) and the concerns about the connection between the ends and the cross pieces, it has been a great plan. </p><p>Thank you for sharing it! </p>
<p>Yeah, so I'm hoping in the last 8 months you've realized your error...but if not: The reason that the bolts seemed loose to you is you used &quot;carriage bolts&quot; instead of lag bolts. Carriage bolts require a nut to tighten, lag bolts are intended to be screwed into wood, just like a screw. Would make a huge difference in the stability of your bed.</p>
<p>Valiant, great work on this instructable and thank you for sharing your project with us! I recall seeing this sometime last year, and felt inspired to build one for my 2 girls. With the help of some family members, it took just two weekends to go through each step you had here. </p><p>Even with a few liberties I took with placement and some additions (cheap PVC and pool noodle safety bar on bottom bunk), the bed turned out great - girls love it, it has held up wonderfully, and, being built like a tank, it's the safest place for the girls in case of an earthquake. </p>
<p>I loved this one so much that I made it too! And I learned a *ton* while doing it, enough that I thought it warranted an entirely new &quot;supplemental&quot; instructable. I just posted it, you can see it over here: </p><p>https://www.instructables.com/id/Pine-Bunk-Bed</p>
<p>These are awesome. I think I may have a project in the near future!</p>
<p>Good design and Instructable! </p><p>One note for people building this - standard wood glue does NOT stick well to finished wood, esp. varnished or polyurethaned wood. Even oil-based stains will significantly reduce the strength of the glue bond, I'm afraid</p><p>For maximum strength, either stain and varnish after assembly of the glued boards (I know it's MUCH more difficult to get even coverage then), or sand off the varnish where you are applying wood glue and do touch-up after assembly.</p><p>Really, by gluing varnished boards together, the glue is pointless - it's the nails / screws etc holding it together, the glue is adding very little strength.</p><p>I'm not trying to carp on it to much, I just think beginning woodworkers and those trying it for the first time should know how wood glue works - it's a water based aliphatic resin, just a slightly advanced form of the elmer's glue you probably used as a child - just think how well elmer's works on waterproof stuff like glass, plastic, and metal, and that's how well wood glue works on varnished wood.</p><p>Of course, the rules are a little different for polyurethane wood glue.... but it still works best on clean, bare wood.</p><p>Again, I really like this design - simple, sturdy, minimal tools required, looks good.</p><p>I actually have a mostly complete wood shop, and do furniture with traditional wood joints like mortise and tenon, lap, and bridal joints where there is not a single nail or screw involved - only wood and glue - hence my unfortunate foray into proper glue use.</p>
LOL, just reading a list of most recalled items last week, and bunkbeds were on the list. If you're going to use them, might be a good idea to read back through bunkbed recalls, and make sure this doesn't have any of the flaws mentioned. <br> <br>Because you're unconscious and the top bunk needs to contain you, people can get hurt or rarely even die from things that aren't obvious at first glance. <br> <br>
I love the beds... But noticed the steps in the garage to the upper level... Did you make the steps? If so I'd like to ask you a few more questions a out them. Pls email me.... Fogdor@gmail.com
I have a neat pack of Instructables to talk about, today on my Blog, and your's one of them! :) <br>http://faz-voce-mesmo.blogspot.pt/2012/11/instructables-traceparts-e-noticias.html <br> <br>Also, your kid with the Hard hat, if that's not a Poster child for Hackers, Tinkerers, and Gizmo Makers, I don't know what is! LOL
Thanks and thanks! Kids can't be happier than when banging a nail into a block of wood. They just need opportunity, they come with creativity and enthusiasm built in!
Yup, empowerment is as fun as it is seriously promissing!
nice 'structable (and beds)
Wow! Fab. beds, and fab Instructable! Was very impressed by the safety gear you and your son wore too. Thanks so much for posting!
Thank you! <br> <br>When we're young with like to think that safety gear is for 'old folks' but it's so important when working with power tools!
Congratulations! Great job! I just added it to my faves.
Thanks so much!
I love all the tips and tricks you included - this is such an awesome build. They look great! :D
Thank you!

About This Instructable




Bio: I like to fix, tinker, and make things from scratch. I also like to cook. mmmmmm... foooood.
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