build a sturdy loft bed from scrap lumber for less than 20 dollars.

Step 1: Acquire lumber!

I needed a bed on the cheap, and since my rented room has no closet I needed a way to hang up my clothes. Solution: loft bed!

I found 2x4s for free at my dad's work. They were going to toss them. Glad I got there first!

I used somewhere in the range of 40 2x4s to create this monstrosity, but many of them were shorter than the standard 8ft. You may need less or more depending on how tall you intend to make your bed.

I also found/purchased some add-ons for my bed:

1 closet rod
1 closet rod hanging kit
11 bolts with associated nuts and washers (we cut the ends flush after bolting the big sides together so length can vary)
a box of 2.5 inch deck screws
a box of 1.5 inch brass look screws (these were all donated by my dad so I'm guessing as to type).
2 pack of hooks to hang stuff on.

Step 2: Design your bed

I looked at a ton of different beds online, picked the parts I liked best, and drew up my plans. Unfortunately I have no scanner, so you can't see my plans, but you can see some awful paint drawings i made to give you an idea of how I put the thing together!

(note: I have no CAD program, nor do I have much in the way of drawing skills so these are an artistic rendition. In other words, don't sue me if your bed falls apart.)

Step 3: Measure once, Cut twice!

Now is the time for measuring your bed and cutting the basic peices from your 2x4s.
(Did you know that 2x4s are nowhere NEAR 2 inches by 4 inches? More like 1.5x3.5 after they finish the lumber)

Decide what size bed you want.

I wanted a full, so I found out how long a full was and added an inch to allow for bedding.

My total length for the upper and lower long supports:

Total width needed to support my mattress:
55" (subtract 3 inches to allow for the ends of my long supports to meet my short supports as in the corner drawing)

The slats will be a full 55" so they overlap the top of the long supports.

My legs also needed to be 55" to allow 45" clearance for the dresser to fit under the bed. The biscuit joined supports use up another 7 inches and 3" stick up above the top to prevent the slats and mattress from sliding around too much.

you'll need to measure:
5 long boards (76")
4 short boards (52")
2 med short (53.5)
9 legs (one for the ladder) (55")
lots o' slats (I had 11) (55")
Steps: as many as you need to get to the top. I used 3 (23")

Step 4: Biscuit Joining

If you buy lumber that is wider than 2x4 for the upper supports you can skip this step.

I'm cheap and didn't buy more lumber so I biscuit joined the 8 upper supports with #20 biscuits. I started 3 inches from the end and put in a biscuit every six inches.

I glued them in with wood glue and clamped them for about 45 minutes each.

(if you don't know what I mean by biscuits etc. you should probably just buy wider peices of lumber because the tools are a rather large investment)

Step 5: drilling

Now, depending on whether or not you have to maching your own angle brackets (try not to, that step took me veritable ages) you may or may not have to drill holes in various places. Basically, you'll need to drill holes in any board you plan to drill through to another board. This prevents cracking and splitting. You'll also need to drill holes for your 11 bolts to go through:
Lay your two big sides out flat and square them off. Put them in place and measure diagonally corner to corner from all corners. Not quite the same measurement? tap the longer corners towards the center with a rubber mallet until your 2 measurements are the same.

Then measure to the middle of each board and drill a hole that will accomodate your bolt.
2 bolts hold the top of each long side at either end (8 total)
1 bolt holds the long support at the bottom to the legs (2 total)
1 bolt holds the side of the ladder to the biscuit joined top support

You'll then need to drill partway back through one side of the bolt holes so that you can countersink the nuts and screw the angle brackets in OVER the bolts

You'll also want to drill holes in the ends of the slats at the distances indicated in the drawing: 0.75" from the end and 1.75" in from the side. Ditto that for the steps.

(this part of the instruction is awfully sketchy because I didn't pick out the drill bits to use, good ol' dad left them for me.)

Step 6: assemble sides

Now that you have 2 sides assembled with holes for bolts drilled through them (did you remember to drill a bolt hole for the side of the ladder?) you'll have to add the bolts and tighten them. Use a ratchet (you'll probably need the extender to fit into the countersunk spots) to tighten them until they won't move.

Now, see the ends of the bolts sticking up past the side of the 2x4s?

We're going to have to amputate.

Get out your hacksaw (or a handheld power saw if you've got one Mr. tool guy) and slice off the ends of those bolts flush with the side of the 2x4. Now you can put the pictured angle bracket flush over the ends of the bolts and the nut/washer assembly.

Step 7: put the thing together

Get out all your screws and a drill (or screwdriver).

This is the part where you add things like a closet rod supports if you want. You might also want to screw in your steps to the ladder at an appropriate interval (depends on how high your bed is and how big your feet are!)

Now lets really go 3D

Put the angle brackets on the short sides and have someone hold them in place while you screw them into the top and bottom corners on each of the 2 big sides you've assembled with the bolts already.

The sides are pretty heavy but I managed this the first time with only one person holding stuff for me.

Now you have a big box with no sides and a ladder attatched.

the slats are straightforward: lay them out from one end to another at regular intervals. Take those 2.5" long decking screws and use them to attatch the slats.

that's just about it!

Step 8: finishing

I used an electric sander to sand the important parts (like the rungs of the ladder).
I also added some hooks around the outside to hang things like belts on.

The bed is quite strong and can easily support the heavy mattress and several people. It also doesn't sway when you climb up or roll over in the middle of the night. This is a fine thing when you're sleeping almost 5 feet off the ground with no railings.

These are only approximate instructions so that you can build/design your own bed in any size, not precise instructions to make a copy of mine, because that would take all the fun out of it!

I will certainly update these as I find out what makes little or no sense to anyone but me!


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Bio: A caterer and adventurer looking for things to do! I like to crochet, cook, build stuff with wood, garden, do art projects etc. I also ... More »
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