Introduction: One-legged Bunk Bed

Picture of One-legged Bunk Bed

Bunk beds are surprisingly expensive if you get a sturdy one, and the cheap ones feel pretty flimsy. This one is very easy to build from off-the-shelf lumber, and is rock-solid. Well, at least as solid as your house. This bed was made for my two small boys, but it's strong enough for anyone... as the second picture attests. Try doing that with a regular bunk bed! (actually, don't. It's not very comfortable. Lie on it instead).

Note: this bed worked so well I made two more, this time supported with a combination bookshelf/ladder.

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

Four 2" x 4" x 10' construction lumber
Four 2" x 4" x 8' construction lumber
Two 4" x 3/4" x 10' finished knotty pine
One 6" x 3/4" x 10' finished knotty pine
One 8" x 3/4" x 10' finished knotty pine
Two 8' x 4' sheets of just about anything - plywood, mdf, particle board, whatever - the mattress sits on it so it could also be slats if you like. I used 1/2" plywood, because I had a project in mind for the offcuts.
3" deck screws
1 1/2" drywall screws
Eight 6" long 1/4" lag screws with washers
Ten 3" 1/4" bolts with nuts and washers
Two 6" 1/4" bolts with nuts and washers
Polyurethane
Wood filler
Sandpaper
You should be able to pick this up for about $150, less if you have some materials lying around.


Step 2: Tools

Picture of Tools

Cordless drill/driver
Saw (I used a mitre saw and a table saw during this build, but a circular saw or a even a hand saw would be fine)
Level
Tape measure

A router is good for rounding edges, but sandpaper and elbow grease works too.
A studfinder is useful, or you can use Eric's magnet trick.

Step 3: Assemble Frames

Picture of Assemble Frames

Measure the size of the mattresses you're going to use, add some space for bedding (say 1" all round), and you have the dimensions of the frame you need. If you're buying the sheet materials, get the lumberyard to cut it to size on their panel saw. Keep the offcuts for other projects. Screw the 2 x 4's together using deck screws as shown below. Make two of these frames.

Step 4: Add Rails

Picture of Add Rails

To one side and one end of one frame, screw the 1 x 6. These screws will show if you fasten in the normal way (thin into thick), so go from the inside out. The drywall screws are not long enough for this job, so predrill bigger holes in the 2 x 4 using a stop on the drill so the drywall screws will go most, but NOT ALL, the way through the 1 x 6. The drill stop can just be a piece of tape. Repeat on the other frame with the 1 x 8.

Step 5: Build Leg

Picture of Build Leg

Many commercial beds have 1 x 4 as the legs. This bed is massively overengineered, so you might like to make something lighter weight than the two 2 x 4's I used! 
Screw your two pieces of lumber together lengthways to form an L-shape. Filling the screw holes and sanding will make your bed look nicer. The length should be the same as the height of the top rail in your finished bunk. 
 Note the routed edges in the photo.

Step 6: Fix in Place

Picture of Fix in Place

Get help for this step. Someone strong and patient is good!
Drill a hole in the leg at the height of the top bunk and into the pre-assembled 8" frame. Drill another hole the depth of the head of your lag screw + washer, and large enough to accommodate the socket. The hole will go through the leg, through the 1 x 8, through the 2 x 4 and into the end grain of the other 2 x 4. Drive in the lag screw.
Find the wall studs, and mark where to drill.
Get someone to stand inside the frame and hold it against the walls in the corner. Use a level to get everything straight! Drill guide holes for the lag screws through 2 x 4, drywall and into the stud. You need a long narrow bit for this. Drive the lag screws through the bed and into the wall. Your helper may now relax.
Repeat for the lower 6" frame.

Step 7: Add Upper Rails

Picture of Add Upper Rails

To stop anyone from rolling out of the top bunk, add rails using the 1 x 4's and some short 2 x 4 uprights. Always screw from the inside out as previously done. Leave a gap for the ladder.

Step 8: Build Ladder

Picture of Build Ladder

You can certainly make less elaborate ladders than the one shown here. This one used a hemlock handrail as rungs and two angled 2 x 3's as uprights. The rungs were attached to the uprights using countersunk 1/4" bolts (see photo). Longer bolts were used for the topmost rung to fix it to the bunkbed. I found the ladder easier to make in place, scribing all the bits I needed to cut. A vertical ladder would have been easier, for sure.

Step 9: Finish

Picture of Finish

Add the base material and mattresses. Make the beds and you're good to go. You have an incredibly sturdy bunk that will last as long as your kids want it. Because it is all screwed or bolted together, it can be dismantled and rebuilt easily elsewhere.

Comments

knuckbo (author)2016-10-09

Your design is very much what I had envisioned when I starting thinking about making my own bunk bed. I wanted to use the house as my support system, so this is perfect. However, I have some questions. The bunk beds I will be making will actually be for adults in a vacation home. I need each bunk capable of supporting about 450lbs (two large adults per bunk) and their respective mattresses - in this case, I will be using queen size mattresses. Do you have any idea of weight limitations or special suggestions for supporting such weight? Thanks!

makendo (author)knuckbo2016-10-09

I think it is massively over engineered, but use 2x6 instead of 2x4 for the platform if you're concerned at all. Will only add a few $ to the price.

oddwon made it! (author)2014-09-07

Thanks for the design! I used it as a base to make a quad-bunk system.

makendo (author)oddwon2014-09-08

Looks great. That's a serious amount of sleeping room right there!

mark.summersgary (author)2014-08-31

I want to make this as a loft for my 6 yr old but I want to make it a full and I'm a little concerned about the single leg with the extra size. Any suggestions?

makendo (author)mark.summersgary2014-08-31

Well, remember that the other legs are the walls of your house, so they're plenty strong enough. This loft is built more like a deck than a bed!

mark.summersgary (author)makendo2014-09-01

yea I guess I'm just concerned about the leg moving. It's like a deck without pouring a cement footing. Without the lower bunk to secure the bottom of the leg.

makendo (author)mark.summersgary2014-09-01

Ah, OK, didn't spot you wanted a loft. Either skew nail the foot into the floor to prevent any movement, or perhaps try this other design I came up with for loft beds: https://www.instructables.com/id/Loft-beds-with-bookshelf-ladders/

mbodkins (author)2014-07-22

So glad I found these plans... Saved me a ton of money and some room as well.... In a small room inches make a big difference... Excellent instuructables, thanks for posting

makendo (author)mbodkins2014-07-22

Great to hear it was helpful, & thanks.

SWV1787 (author)2010-10-04

It looks really nice but it is kinda a pain to make beds with one or two edges pushed against the wall...

makendo (author)SWV17872010-10-04

Thanks. So that's why my boys hate making their beds...
I think your point is true of bunk beds in general rather than this one in particular; you can leave as big a gap as you like between the mattress and the wall for the bedding.

JAGGIE (author)makendo2011-08-26

The problem is the wall, not the bunk. You have to kneel on the bed to put the sheets and blankets on the wall side and it's very awkward. It's also awkward on the railing side but not as much. Maybe someone will invent a sheet or device to make this easier no matter the size of the bed against the wall. We used to have bunk beds for the kids, and they just slept in cheap sleeping bags that got washed every week. Spreading them out flat "made the bed"!

dbull (author)SWV17872010-10-04

My kids never make their beds no matter how we arrange them! This is a sweet design and seems faster to assemble than having 4 legs. Great Job!

makendo (author)dbull2010-10-04

Many thanks dbull. Yep, easy to make and the design is pretty forgiving.

sredmon (author)2011-07-14

Pretty nice design. I like it.

AngryRedhead (author)2010-10-09

Wow.

seamster (author)2010-10-05

I like it. Very nice and tidy.

makendo (author)seamster2010-10-06

Thanks seamster. Certainly no one seems to notice it is home made, much less that it's missing three legs...

jeff-o (author)2010-10-05

Nice work. In a few years my kids will graduate to bunk beds (or loft beds) and this design would fit well in their rooms!

makendo (author)jeff-o2010-10-05

Thanks jeff-o. I have to build 2 more myself as my kids all get their own rooms, and these will probably be lofts.

keiou (author)2010-10-04

Nice! :)

makendo (author)keiou2010-10-05

Thanks keiou.

sensoryhouse (author)2010-10-04

YES!!

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Bio: Analog maker dabbling in digital manufacture
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