Introduction: Easy and Strong 2x4 & 2x6 Bunk Bed
I’ve built a lot of these bunk beds in the past and recently built one for my own home. This is a super easy build as the materials are all common construction grade pine and every cut is a 90 degree cut so there are no complicated angles. The construction is with wood screws and pocket hole screws. Because all of the screws are installed from the inside there are no screw heads or carriage bolts showing on the outside. This gives the bunk bed a nice clean appearance. Both sides double as a ladder.
The overall measurements of the bunk bed are 72″ tall with a footprint of 81-1/2″ long by 45-1/2″ wide. The bed frames are sized to accept a standard twin mattress.
I'll walk you through the building process with this instructable to give you the overall process of building it. For those interested in the specifics of every dimension and cut I do have plans available and a link to those is in the last section of this instructable. The following is a rough list for materials:
- Four 2x6x10'
- Four 2x6x8'
- Seven 2x4x10'
- Twelve 2x4x8'
- Wood screws, pocket hole screws, brad nails
- Wood glue
A rough list of tools to complete this project:
- Miter saw or circular saw and speed square
- Table saw is optional
- Pocket hole jig. Super cheap ones work fine.
Using power tools incorrectly can be dangerous. If you are at all uncomfortable doing something don't do it. You can walk with a wooden leg and hold things with a wooden hand but you can't see with a wooden eye. Wear your safety glasses.
Step 1: Cutting Parts
The bed frames need to be built first because their overall width determines the length of the ladder rungs. Regular construction grade pine 2x6s are cut for the frames. I used my miter saw for this step. (pic 1)
I'm trying to achieve an aged look with the finishing process so I don't need to be super critical when sanding. I don't want everything to be super smooth but I do want to remove the manufacture stamp marks. (pic 2)
So to make the process much faster I decided to use my thickness planer instead of sanding. Just a few slight passes to remove the stamp marks. Having a planer is obviously not 100% necessary to build the bed but for me it did save some time and effort cleaning up the boards. (pic 3)
Step 2: The Bed Frames
The frame pieces are joined together with wood glue and pocket hole screws. These will be hidden by the mattresses and nobody will ever see them. The pocket holes are on the inside of the short rails of each bed frame. (pic 1)
2x2 material is needed for the slats to rest on in this bunk bed. For me it's cheaper to purchase 2x4 stock and make my own 2x2s so that's the route I went. Again, a table saw is not necessary for this build. If you don't have a table saw or simply do not want to make your own 2x2 stock then you can purchase a few pieces of pre-made 2x2. (pic 2)
These are glued and screwed to the inside of the bed frames along the bottom edge. (pic 3)
Step 3: The Slats
Typically when you see removable bed slats they are either 1x4 or 1x6 material. For a twin size mattress those sizes are definitely acceptable. But again this was an area where purchasing regular 2x4 material was less expensive per linear foot than 1x4 material. To reduce a little thickness and also create a spacer block a rabbet is cut on each end of the slat material. I slapped together a couple jigs to show you how easy it is to make these cuts with a circular saw if that's the only saw you are using for this project. This first jig will make the 1/2” deep cut. (pic 1)
And this second jig will make the second cut of the rabbet. It's just a piece of plywood with a spacer clamped to the end of the slat to position the circular saw blade 1/2” into the material. The resulting cut creates the rabbet on the slat and the offcut will be used in a later step. Most often taking the time to make a quick throw away jig for a project will increase accuracy and also save time in the long run. (pic 2)
I made those two jigs for the sole purpose of showing you that you don't need an expensive bandsaw or table saw to complete this project. Technically every cut on this project can be made with a cheap circular saw. However, that was just a demonstration. I used my bandsaw to make the remainder of the rabbet cuts to save some time. (pic 3)
The first slat to go in is the center slat. It's also the only slat that is secured with screws. The rest of the slats will be floating in place. (pic 4)
Next, all of the offcuts were glued and tacked with a couple brad nails. A scrap piece of 2x4 was used as a spacer block. The only purpose these serve is to keep the slats from sliding around over time. (pic 5)
Step 4: The Leg Assemblies
With the frames done I could focus my attention on the legs. Each leg is a L shaped formed by securing a 2x4 to a 2x6. The 2x4 will receive the pocket holes. The spacing of these pocket holes is critical though. Not necessarily for strength but instead for appearance purposes. These needed to be placed so that they would be covered up when installing the ladder rungs. (pic 1)
I didn't realize it until I had already built my legs but the 2x6 stock I purchased was a little less than perfect. Most of it had a bunch of machine roller marks on the ends. To remove them I used my block plane but now that I think of it I should have just ran the assembled leg through the table saw to remove a saw blade width from the bad side. (pic 2)
The ladder rungs were cut next. They will be secured to the 2x4 side of the legs to cover up the pocket hole screws. I used a couple spacer blocks to indicate where I could predrill holes. (pic 3)
Glue and screws secures the ladder rungs to a left leg to a right leg. The only thing to be concerned with here is to make sure the ladder rungs stay perpendicular to the legs and that they cover up the pocket hole screws on the legs. (pic 4)
The final pieces were the frame locating blocks. These will support the bed frames at the proper height during assembly. One block was used for every corner of each bed frame. (pic 5)
Step 5: Final Assembly
I thought I was going to have my hands full with assembly but it ended up being super easy. To start I slid one side of the lower bed frame into place and used a quick clamp to hold it in place. Then did the same to the other side and held it with a clamp too. (pic 1)
Because the clamps were the only thing holding the lower frame I could set the top bed frame in from above and slightly push out one side to get it in place. Again, a pair of clamps to hold everything in place as I screwed it down. (pic 2)
This part may seem a little overkill but I don't think it is. Each inside corner of the bed frame receives 8 screws to mount the frames to the legs. Two into the 2x4 side of the legs and six into the 2x6 side of the leg. This grid of screws creates a lot of conflicting geometry that will prevent racking of the entire bed. This may be a tiny bit cumbersome to remove all of the screws when moving the bed but for a furniture item that will spend 99.99% of it's life serving a purpose and not in transit I think it's just fine. (pic 3)
Finally the remainder of the slats can be installed. These slats are really strong. I weigh 190 pounds and put all of my weight on the center of one individual slat with no problems at all. I have no clue what the max capacity of this bunk bed is but it's got to be a lot considering all of the weight will be distributed amongst all of the slats and then to all four of the legs. (pic 4)
Because both ends are the ladders themselves it doesn't matter what way you position the bed. You can get on top bunk from both sides. As you can see I didn't put the guard rail on the top bunk. That's a personal choice to make but for those who are interested one is included in the plan. (pic 5)
Step 6: Finishing
As you can see in this first pic I installed this in the room without finishing it first. I had family visiting so I figured I would finish when time was available and it could be used in the mean time. (pic 1)
Since then I removed the bed and finished it with a wax only finish. I used Rustic Pine Briwax. This wax finish allows for easy touch-ups down the road as the bed gets abused and it also allows for the wood to naturally pick up character as people interact with it. Also in this picture you can see a pair of matching 2x10 bookcases which I will cover in an upcoming instructable. This bed is the first piece of an entire dimensional lumber bedroom furniture set I will be making for this room. (pic 2)
I hope you were able to find some inspiration in this project and are able to make one of your own. This is a really inexpensive build and a solid design that will last for years and years. Regardless of if you use my bunk bed plan, someone else's, or design your own I wish you luck with the build! Building it yourself is incredibly rewarding, you will get a much better product, and will save you a lot of money. For those interested I do have a detailed set of plans available for this exact bunk bed.
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What size screws etc do you use?