If Carlsberg Made Loftbeds!





Introduction: If Carlsberg Made Loftbeds!

Frustrated by the lack of floor space in my new flat, I resolved to build the ultimate loft bed! I have tall ceilings at 2.75 metres, so building up seemed like the way forward...

Total material cost for this project, including hardware, bed base sabotaged from an old iron bedstead, and mattress from the same old bed was only about 175 quids, with about 110 quid on the wood itself.

All in all it took 2 days to build. I done the cutting and part assemblys myself on the first day, and on the second I had a friend help with the major assembly.

This bed is sturdy, thats for sure! Being an Engineer/Architect for a living makes you acutely aware of structures and strength, and I was paranoid that my girlfriend and I might plummet to our doom so I over engineered the thing somewhat... it is reasuringly solid though, and it is also wedged and packed off of the walls, thus it dosent move in the slightest, and no creaking either!

Step 1: Design

I enjoy designing stuff. Sometimes I end up spending far too much time designing and not just doing it though, but with this one I wanted to be sure. Concept design was done in Rhino 3D and hand calcs (beam theory) done in Excel. If I was being ultra geeky I may have done some FEA on it, but thats for another day! Suffice to say the hand calcs give me a factor of 3 safety with 2 people on the bed which is good enough for me.

The main load bearing side beams are therefore 200mm x 25mm and span 2.75m, with a 50mm x 50mm rail glued and through bolted along the bottom edge for the bed base to sit on. The main uprights are 100mm x 100mm. I could have got away with 75mm x 75mm here, but opted for the chunkier material instead. Under bed clearance is 1.8m, and me being 1.85m tall I can generally get under it if I slouch a bit! My girlfriend is shorter at 1.65m and has loads of headroom. Clearance above the mattress was 700mm. I deemed this to be the best compromise between useable space beneath the bed and sleeping room above it. I would say 700mm is at the lower end of the comfortable above bed clearance for sleeping.

I wanted the bed to span a whole wall so that the legs would not intrude into the room. This requirement drove up the need for beefier structure as it spans more than a normal bed. It was also necessary for my nice big desk from Ikea to sit under the far end, as this would be the only available space for it - I was still storing it in my bathroom!!! What is also cool about having it next to my little hallway is that I will be able to put a 24" cheapo Ebay CRT telly up at the far end of the bed for bed time viewing.

So, with these requirements, I started drawing in Rhino. As the design evolved the calcs were influenced and I kept to the factor of 3 safety with 2 people rule as closely as possible. the final design looked like this... I'm pleased to say that this is almost exactly what was built.

Step 2: Find Materials and Equipment

I was a little sceptical about being able to find pine in the dimensions that I had specified, but I was plesantly surprised on my visit to the local timber merchants to find hundreds of options! This did excite me. The guy there that managed the timber was also having a slack day, so between us we managed to pick out the best looking stock at the right lengths to minimise wasteage. He did a very good job of this, as at the end of the project I had a total of about 1m total length of wasteage!!! Also, I had several really good looking boards in terms of cleanliness and grain structure. They were also able to sell me the hardware required:

24x M10 130mm Coach bolts
12x M8 75mm Coach bolts
Large penny washers for the above
Gripfill building adhesive

I also took the oppertunity to buy a new saw, just a standard saw, but with slightly finer teeth for a more finished cut. M10 and M8 new drill bitts also minimised the effort required from my puny battery drill! This and a few measuring tools and sandpaper were all that was required to begin the build... the next hurdle? Getting it all home! Fiesta to the rescue...

Step 3: Cut Everything to Length

Now that I had everything on site to begin the build, I took careful stock of the condition of the materials. I decided what faces of what boards I would like visible in the final product and made easily removeable identifying marks on the board. I took careful measurements to ensure that the design on the computer would fit where I wanted it to go in the room, and so settled on a final dimension for the design. With that finalised, I started cutting the lumber carefully to the dimensions that I had produced using Rhino. Once the edges were cut I finished them with sandpaper, but the cut was pretty good anyway for using the fine point saw. I was careful to ensure all my cuts were square and tidy, and I always cut to the outside of my line to ensure that I had the complete length required.

Once the cuts were done I had a very small pile of offcuts - thanks go to the guy from the timber merchants for taking the time to ensure I had the right material for the job! I now had the lumber sitting ready for the next step...

Step 4: Part Assembly 1... the Long Rails

This part assembly operation was what I considered critical to the whole project. If these didnt work, the project would fail. They take the load of 2 people, a steel bed base and a heavy mattress and suspend them 1.8 metres above the ground - an onerous requirement indeed. I therefore spent a good deal of time considering how I could make these assemblys as strong as possible, while keeping them good to look at to fit in with the overall scheme of the project. I decided that the rails would be 50mm x 50mm section and they would be through bolted at regular intervals and glued to the long rails of the bed. I felt that this combination would give it the ultimate strength required, and by using coach bolts on the outside, the asthetic would not be compromised either. So, with the support rails cut to length, I spent some time setting up the position and the drill holes for 6 M8 75mm coach bolts that would hold the rails and clamp them while gluing.

With the bolts in place and a dry fitting carried out to confirm that everything would be ok, I applied a bead of Gripfill into the gap between the two parts. I then proceeded to bolt down the support rails onto the long rails and torqued them up a bit. I then cleaned up the squeezeout. I marvelled at how strong the whole assembly seemed! The whole process was done twice for 2 long rails, and then they were set asside for a day to ensure that the adhesive had time to set up.

With Part assembly 1 out of the way, I could progress to Part assembly 2...

Step 5: Part Assembly 2... the Bed Ends

The ends of the bed when built would need to be square and true to ensure that everything else fitted, so I spent time laying out the bed ends and ensuring everything was at 90 degrees to everything else! These were quite tricky to get right as i didnt have a big set square to use. In the end I used a large shelf from my desk to ensure everything was square. At this stage I made a template to ensure my bolting holes would be consistent around all four legs, and to ensure that there were no bolting clashes.

Once these 2 part assemblies were complete they were very heavy indeed - Reassuring me that the overall construction would be firm and sturdy.

Step 6: Major Assembly... the Tricky Bit

Everything before now was done on one day. The assembly of all the parts into the major assembly was carried out the following day when I had help available. It would have been difficult to do this stage on my own, but If I was careful and used lots of clamps I could have probably done it ok. With Nick available everything went smoothly and we had the final assembly done in about 2 hours.

We cleared everything out from where the bed would finally reside and set the Bed end assemblys into their approximate locations. We then used the template and held up the long rail assemblies, marked and drilled everything and placed some bolts in them. We carried on in this fasion untill we had all four corners of the bed bolted up. We used 2 bolts on each corner of the long rails and 1 bolt on each corner of the security rails.

With the bed all together, we then lifted it into final positions and torqued the bolts up to final tightness. The bed was an impressive sight, and the ammount of floor space that had been reclaimed was instantly clear. I was pleased.

WE then proceeded to the next step...

Step 7: Bed Base and Mattress

We lifted the bed base up and into position. It slotted into the recess made for it in the support rails perfecty - thank god we measured accurately! Happy with the fit, I climbed up for a try... A little wobbly as we hadnt braced it off anything yet.

We then got the mattress on and tried it with that. We were pleased to note that the dimensions as designed in Rhino were accurate, with the predicted 700mm above the mattress turning out to be 710mm! More is best... Also, under the bed worked out well with 1.8m under the long rails and 1.87 under the bed base, so standing headroom for me under the structure! Happy.

Next step? Bracing it off the walls.

Step 8: Bracing Off the Walls

I decided that my girlfriend was more likely to approve of the bed if it didnt move and didnt creak at all, so I devised a scheme to brace it off the walls in the corner where it stood. Using over long bolts, washers, nuts and pads I was able to really wedge the bed into position in a way that it would not move at all, infact, it feels like part of the wall! there is now no way it will ever budge.

Well, that concludes the structure and what I have done so far... the next step is to design a staircase/ladder up to the top deck.

Theres some finished photos in the next step.

Step 9: Final Pictures

Heres a few pictures of the final product... I was going to ask peoples opinions on what to finish the pine with... something easy please!!!



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    If you measure a parallelogram diagonally, corner to corner, it is square when the diagonals are equal. Carpenters use this trick all the time when building houses and decks and such,

    Did you countersink the holes on the outside (the part you can see)? If you did, I would fill those and simply paint the frame.

    From the look of things that is just a piece of threaded rod or bolt and he is using the nuts and washers to press the two pieces of wood apart, clamping it in place. All of the force would be applied through the washer pressed against the wood just twist them apart. Here is a crude drawing explaining what I can see. Heck that might even be the head of a bolt pressed to the left block of wood.

    Hey could you go into more detail of how you braced it off the wall?

    I noticed that in one of the pics you have there is a lot of foot room there.  For me, right up next to the wall where that space is is where I would put the ladder.  If you were living there perminetly (or for a kid's room) have steps inside the wall that fold out of the wall with a flip of a switch or button.  sort of like this:
    hope you like it!

    Picture 2.png

    Do you have a ladder with this system. Nice job by the way!

    1 reply

    I did eventually build one, but it was very simple, consisting of heavy wood slats across the foot frame of the bed.  I didnt want the staircase to intrude on the floorspace in any way, and it turned out to be a good towel rail in the end!

    for finishing the pine: i personally like the light colour of the pine... so i'd just varnish it with something clear, maybe slightly brown tint. but in such a small space be wary of using a dark stain or something similar as it would make it more imposing in the room, and make it look smaller. there are some cool techniques around for bringing out the grain of the wood nicely, without darkening it too much too i think. just google "pine grain highlight" or similar and you'll find something i'm sure :)

    1 reply

    We recently finished off a pine floor that we installed with flaxseed oil (boiled linseed). You can add a bit of stain to the oil to give it a mottled pumpkin color. The linseed oil is natural and smells okay too.

    Nice use of space. You might consider moving the head of the bed to the other end to allow you to utelize the space above the doorway more easily, but then you would have to switch the desk as well. Well done!

    I had one my entire "big bed" childhood, came in handy since my room was an after thought of the house. that looks nice too, like ikea furniture, but better lol

    There are no triangles, so a bed like this would be wobbly unless it was fitted in a space like yours where you could brace it firmly against three walls. That might be an important point if anyone were to copy you. The design looks great! It's a little non-intuitive because you don't expect to access the bed from below, and you haven't built the ladder yet.

    1 reply

    Yes, the bracing does help it a lot. If this were to be free standing it would require some form of diagonal bracing to keep it from "racking". As for the ladder... I'm scheming! Watch this space...

    Nice work, great use of space. As long as the final product is successful, and you haven't become too attached to a design to change it, then there is no such thing as 'over designing'. Any improvements/ changes you would make if you did it again?

    1 reply

    Anything differently... hmm, I think if I had a router available I may have added a round over to some of the more exposed edges. As it stands I just know to be a little careful with them, also with the router I may have recessed the bolting arrangements a little on the 100mm x 100mm material just for neatness. As for final dimensions and overall concept, it is fulfilling my needs and i havent hit my head off of anything yet, so it seems good!

    Much like what my dad made for my wee bro, worked great, except we used chunkier wood to match the bedroom furnishings he made and the rest of the house, it's a bit sad he was a great carpenter depsite being a tyre fitter, thankfully I saw most of the design ideas and this is a great one, ours was very similar except him and I made a kind of workspace below and added a TV shelf that was bigger than my wee bro's feet were long allowing comfort and storage up there.

    WOW! That's one small apartment or is it more of a converterd room in a house? It has a kichenette in it as well? I kinda like it. I am a fan of small, but well utilized spaces (including loft-type beds). My apartment is as cheap as chips, but way too big for my meager needs (I use only half of my bedroom ... the rest is empty space). I wish my bedroom was like yours. I like the loft bed. btw.... how do you climb up into the loft? I also like the unique storage area above the doorway.

    2 replies

    As for getting up to the bed, I am currently using a chest of drawers to stand on while I design and build a more permanent set of stairs/ladders!

    Lol! Yes its rather small, but property prices are sky high where I live and work as we are right on the coast with lots of nice beaches 2 minutes walk away. Its exactly that - a converted room in a house. Being an engineer/designer myself, like you, I appreciate well utilised space. With good design I feel I have made a small cheap appartment punch well above its weight, and it is now being more than I am actually paying for it!