2 x 4
2 x 6
2 x 8
2 x 10
4 x 4
Pocket Hole Screws
Polyurethane or Polyacrylic to finish
*Do not use pressure treated lumber or cedar.
Pocket Hole Jig
Radial Arm or Compound Saw
Impact Wrench / Driver
I didn't provide a the number of boards that you'll need, since not all boards are the same. A 8' 2x4 will give you two 3' boards, where you might squeeze four out of a 12 footer. However, when you get to the lumber yard, you might find the 8' boards are in much nicer shape than the 12' ones. It might also be cheaper to buy two 8' boards than a single 16', so I'll leave this to you to decide what to buy based on quality and price available. What type of wood you buy is largely a matter of personal taste. However, I will say do not use pressure treated wood, even if you have a bunch laying around. Most of you know this, but pressure treated wood is pretty toxic. It's toxic to the touch and off gasses into the air. I wouldn't rely on a finish to make it safe either. Just don't use it for this project.
The list of tools is also just just a suggestion, there's many ways to accomplish the same thing. I personally used all the tools I listed. You could probably get away with just circular saw and drill, but I wouldn't recommend it.
Step 1: Get Your Lumber, Finalize Your Plan
The boards sizes were chosen for aesthetic purposes, not for structural reasons. As designed, it's built like a tank. If you want to go smaller, I don't know what the minimum board size you need is. I suggest looking up deck codes if you want to know this.
Here are the basic steps to start:
1) Decided on the basic dimensions you want for your bed. This one is 86" x 56" x 51 high" Take things like ceiling fans into consideration as you go up.
2) Decide what boards you need to buy. Basic materials used in the plan:
- Posts 4x4s
- Top Rail 2 x 6s
- Balusters, 2x4s
- Decking 2 x 10s
- Fascia / Joist 2 x 8s
- Ladder, 2x4s
3) Buy your lumber.
4) Measure the lumber width and thickness.
5) Modify your plans as needed to account for the lumber's true width. For example, if you expected your 4x4s to be 3 9/16 x 3 9/16, but found out instead they were 3 7/16 by 3 7/16, you'll have to increase the lengths of your joist or decrease the length of the top rails and balusters to accommodate this.
6) Produce your cut list, a list of all the boards, their quantity and dimensions.
Step 2: Cutting to Length
Once you have the final length of all the boards planned, cut everything to length. This is easiest to do with a chop (compound mitre) saw or radial arm saw, but a circular saw or even a jig saw will work just fine.
Step 3: Rip Cuts
Unless you designed your bed to be exactly (6) 2 x10s wide, you'll have to compensate somewhere. Ripping the decking board that will be installed closest to the wall to achieve the proper width is easiest. Few people will notice it's thinner than the rest, especially since it will mostly be covered by the mattress, and fewer will care.
Here's what you need to rip:
1) The top rails should be ripped to be just a bit wider than the 4x4 posts. This is for aesthetics and to provide some grip.
2) Rip the baluster to the desired width. The plans call for them to be 1/2 the width of the 4x4s.
3) Rip the left most decking board.
4) Rip the ladder boards.
Step 4: Final Joinery
When making your dados, the baluster should be spaced less than 4" apart. If you were building a deck, this would be required by codes. Your kid's bed should be at least as safe as your deck.
As your cutting the dados on the post, dry fit the balusters to make sure you have a good tight fit.
Step 5: Rounding Edges
- Ladder Boards
- Top Rails
The cleanest way to round over an edge is with a router. A 1/8 rounder over bit works nicely. If you don't have a router or a round over bit, you can break the edges by sanding them down or using a block plane. Some people can even achieve a round over look with sander if they have enough practice at it.
Step 6: Sanding and Finishing
Once sanded you're ready to apply the finish. If you're using pine, you should consider a wood conditioner to prevent blotching, if you using fir, wood conditioner is not necessary. Once conditioned, the next step would be staining the wood if you want. If you like a natural look, skip the stain and go straight to poly. Poly is applied to protect the piece. Either a polyurethane or polyacrylic will work well depending on your preference for oil based or water based finishes. Since the bed is supposed to look like a outdoor tree house, a flat finish is recommended. Its good practice to give everything at least 2 coats but you might be able to get away with just one for the surfaces that won't get touched much. You need to apply at least one coat to all sides of all boards though to protect the wood from spills and other dangers. Apply the conditioner, stain, and finish of your choice per the manufacturer's instructions.
Step 7: Pocket Holes and the Frame
Once you've drilled pocket holes into all the joists, it's time to assemble the frame. If you haven't moved everything into the bedroom. Do it now because you won't be able to move it though a doorway once the frame is assembled. Start assembly by connecting the outside joists to the post. The order doesn't matter, whatever is easier for you. Since the connection is a basic butt joint, someone will have to hold the boards in place while someone else drives the screws into the pocket holes. If you don't have someone to help you, you'll need to rig up some way to keep the pieces aligned while you drive the screws. Long clamps should do the trick. Once all the joists are connected to all the post, connect the inside joists to the outside joists. The frame is now complete and it should stand on it's own. Move it roughly into position now. It will be heavy to move very far once the decking is down.
Step 8: Decking, Railing, and Ladder
Once the decking is down, assemble the railing. The choices for attaching the Top Rail are the same as for the decking. Pocket holes in the post or drilling down from the top. Drilling from the top is probably the least noticeable option in this case. The baluster go next into their Dados, but don't screw them in yet. Set the middle post so that the balusters run though the dados in all three posts. Attach the middle post to the bed by driving screws from the bottom of the deck boards. Two or three screws should hold it nicely. Finally, screw the balusters into the posts. There's no good way to hide the screws so just counter sink and drive them in.
Finally the ladder needs added. Drilling from the back into the ladder rails and rungs hides the screws and makes a pretty strong joint. Place the rungs where appropriate for your child.
Step 9: Finishing the Room
- Cover part of the bed with a fabric tent, a leaf, or something else. This will make the bed feel more inclosed and will further the tree house feel for the kids.
- Keep the tree theme going and add a tree wall decals. They can be found all over the internet these days.
- The bed shouldn't be fun for just the kids. Have some fun while designing and building it.