Introduction: Big Sturdy Loft

About: the adventure continues

For my weekend project, I built a big 8'x8'x7' loft from scratch in my apartment. I'll walk you through the process, garnishing the instruction meal with appetizing quips.
(and remember: Art is Wrong!

Step 1: What Yer Gonna Do...

So, this instructable is the epic saga of the construction of my new mighty loft at Fort Art=Wrong. It's longish, because I tried to take incredibly detailed pictures at every step of the construction, and after reading it, hopefully you can be a hero! Or at least build a loft...
(but you'll always be a hero in my heart)

(what am I talking about????)

(you can click the _next_ button now)

Step 2: Disclaimerish Bit

So, listen:
I want to impress on you two fundamental truths of the universe:

(1) There are two main schools of carpentry.
(2) I'm in the wrong one

I have no idea what I'm doing, I just make it up as I go along. What I did worked well for me, which is why I'm posting it. However, throughout this entire process, I had no idea what I was doing, and pretty much just camped out in my apartment for a weekend with a circ saw and a drill until something turned out right. What I'm trying to say is--don't take this instructable as holy writ. Change my steps! Experiment with your own structures and braces! Dance to your own whatever.

And oh yeah--good luck!

Step 3: Get the Stuff Together

OK, so here's what you need (I'm reading this off the receipts littered around my bedroom, so I hope I don't miss anything...)

4 4"x4"x8' trunks these are the main supports
4 2"x4"x8' stalks (for lack of a better general word for a long piece of wood) These give the loft its shape
7 2"x3"x8' stems You'll use these to make braces, and also supports for the plywood bed. Read steps
15 and 16 first--you may be able to get away with only 6 stems
2 4'x8' 1/2" plywood

Hardware: (home despot drastically overcharges for bolts. For the love of the Flying Spagetti Monster and all his oh-so-noodly appendages, buy your bolts at your local mom-and-pop hardware store! Support small businesses and don't get ripped off!)

8 1/2" x 6" bolts these hold the 2x4 stalks onto the 4x4 trunks
8 1/2" nuts
16 1/2" washers

8 3/8" x 6" bolts these hold your 2x3 stems onto the trunks
8 nuts
16 washers (duh)

28 3/8" x 5" lag screws Lag screws are basically big wood screws. Great for holding big pieces of
wood together. You'll use them to hold the stems onto things

a bunch of 3" drywall screws. Probably 20 or so

assorted other things:
(power tools)
Circ saw (sawzall would also work fine, as would anything else that cuts wood. Your call)

(things that go on the drill)
3/8" bit
1/2" bit --You're going to be drilling long holes. I used the flat drill bilts that were really long, and they
worked well. The normal bits I had originally weren't long eought

Bolt driver --Your lag screws should have a hex head. Get something you can mount on your drill that
can drive the screws. A ratchet set would also work...crappily. Do yourself a favor and get
the drill thingy. Otherwise you'll have a really tired arm and it'll be a huge drag
a philips head driver --to drive the drywall screws

(other things)
wrenches that fit the 1/2 and 3/8" nuts
Measuring tape.
Something that can draw a 45 degree line well. I bought a $10 saw and angle jig kit, which sucked, but at
least I could use it to draw the 45 degree lines I needed

Music. Get yourself some grooves from rock on, bro

A joke ( I came up with this on a boat somewhere in the southern hemisphere):
Why didn't the man like to take his legless dog for a walk?

(it was such a drag!)

Also, you'll need a sense of humor that has the strength to withstand a barrage of my aweful awesome jokes,
Finally, you'll want to have a room to put this loft in and a pet monkey.

I lied, you don't really need the monkey.

But that would be cool, wouldn't it?

Step 4: Get the Stuff the Exciting Way

Every hard task is way cooler if you don't use a motor! Grab a bike trailer and a bike and haul the lumber yourself. You'll be totally herculean!
It's such a nerve wracking experience to haul a hundred-odd pounds of lumber with a wierd bike on a fast road. I'd hate the be hogging all the nervewrack. Help yourselves. Don't die

Really, I mean that.

about the not dying. I'd feel really bad.

Am I a terrible role model?

prolly omg roflcopter

Step 5: Take a Shower

If you did step 4
you'll feel better.

I should also clean my bathroom mirror sometime

Step 6: But Seriously, Folks

OK, enough of my self-indulgence.
Pile everything into the target room. Figure out how high the ceiling is. My ceilings are about 7'6", so I used the circ saw to cut my trunks (those are the 4x4s, remember?) to 7'

Figure out how much floor space you have
I had over 8' in one direction, and about 7'4 in the other. I kept two of the stalks(the 2x4s, eh mate?) at the normal 8' length, and cut the other two to 7'4

Remember, your stalks are gonna overlap your trunks, so just focus on the stalk length.

Also, this is wierd. My 2x4s were really like 2x3.75s, and my 4x4s were more like 3.75x3.75s. Is that normal? Or am I getting gypped out of killing perfectly good trees?

Step 7: Holy Moly

OK, time to drill some holes. Stick that 1/2" bit into yer drill, and start your engines!

First, I aligned one of my stalks with the top of a trunk. I used the measuring tape to pick out the center of the overlap, and drilled a 1/2" hole through both of them. I like to stick two pieces that need to be aligned on top of eachother when I drill, since I don't trust my measuring skills, which are sub-kindergarten.

I don't trust my cuts to be exactly square, so I kept the factory-cut end of the trunk on the floor, and put my cut on the top, which is where you're attaching the stalks.

Take a look at the drawing--what you're doing here is making the two sides of the loft.

Drill enough holes to make both sides. For those of you not following my obtuse description, you could
(a) whack yourself over the head wit da ugly stick till I make sense (I like this option...)
(b) take this advice.
You're going to drill 4 holes.
When you're done, you'll have two stalks, each with two holes, one at each end
all 4 trunks, each with one hole at the top

Resist that temptation to bolt the bits together, cowboy.
you've still got step 8 ahead of you

Step 8: More Holes

OK, now you're going to drill the holes for the other stalks, which will give your budding loft its first squarish shape.
This is also where you set the height of your loft. I set mine at 5', which gave me some comfy headroom on top, and still made the underside navigable.

When you've figured out a good height, grab the two undrilled stalks and align them over the trunks at the height you want. Drill a hole at the center of the intersecting area. Also, be sure that you're drilling a hole on one of the faces of the trunk that doesn't already have a hole in it (these stalks run in a different direction than the ones you just drilled in the last step)

Look at the drawing here, too, if it's unclear. You're drilling holes to attach the stalks that will join the two sides of the frame.

Maybe the picture will help you get an idea of what you want to do.
I get a feeling it's worth more than a thousand of my words

Step 9: Bolt, Bolt, Bolt

OK, now you can bolt stuff together. I'd recommend building one side with both of the cross-stalks and then line up the cross-stalks from the one side with the holes on the other, and bolt them together.

It should look like the thing below when you're done

Remember, you're using the 1/2" bolts
The bolts will probably be pretty tight in the holes. If you can't push them through by hand, give the bolts encouraging whacks with something like a hammer or a block of wood. Really, any form of thumping technology will do the trick, as well.

Step 10: Is It Stable? Nope!

Remember, the thing you just built is nowhere near stable (see how it's all leaningish in the picture?). Make sure it's leaning against a wall or something, or have a friend hold it while you go off and eat ice cream for hours.
Man, gobble some of that ice cream for me. We all scream, man.

Step 11: Ready, Set, Brace!

OK, so now we're going to brace the frame, which will make it stable.

The guy at the home despot told me that these types of braces are called sway braces. Maybe that means more to you than it does to me.

We're going to cut 8 braces. Get out that circ saw again, and dig up that thing you use to draw right angles

You're going to cut the trapezoid shape below out of the 2x3 stems. The angles are 45 degree angles.
There's no good rule (that I know. Keep in mind that I don't know anything about this, though...) for how long your braces should be. As I understand it, a longer brace will give you (I think) better leverage when the joint tries to move, so maybe longer braces make the structure sturdier, but I definitely know that they make it uglier. Eyeball it and figure out a length you like. I picked 17.5" for no real reason. It's a number that probably has absolutely _no_ significance in the zodiac.

I assumed when I told you how much stuff to buy that you'd be able to fit 4 braces onto one stem. If you can't fit that many, buy an extra stem or two.

To attach them to the frame, I lined up a 45 degree edge with the underside of the stalk, and then slid it along the stalk until the other 45 degree edge lined up with the edge of the trunk.
otherwise it will be braced in a non-square position, which sucks.

Anyway, then I put a lag screw through the brace into the stalk, and drilled a hole through the brace and the stem and put a 3/8" bolt through that. The pictures might help you visualize it.

I'm pretty sure I put my lag screws in a dumb way. Tell me what a better way would be!

better yet, tell the people who are reading this by posting a comment. I already built my loft

Step 12: Intermission

I went to bed after writing the last step.
I slept on my loft. It was really nice, but I rolled over onto my arm in my sleep and cut off the circulation, and when I woke up, my right arm was just flopping off my shoulder like a venemous python sinking its teeth into my clavicle. Pythons aren't venemous, you say? Just wait....

I dreamt about soup. Split pea soup. Which was really nice, but I was bummed when I woke up. Nothing worse than wanting soup and not having it.

Go eat some soup and listen to some soupmusic and continue.

I like this band called the Ditty Bops. Most excellent soupmusic!
ditty bop picture below!

Step 13: What Have We Done So Far?

Let's see what we have:
You should have a squarish frame that's fully constrained with a brace at every joint between a trunk and a stalk. It should be pretty sturdy. I did pullups off mine at this point, and crawled around on top of it to see if it would break. It didn't

Does yours look like that? Cool!

and I know that there's some extra cross-beams in the second picture. Sorry about that. I just jammed them in before I took the picture. Don't sweat it--you'll learn about those soon enough, child

Step 14: Floor Supports

Aren't you excited? It looks loft-ish, and it'll get more so.
Now we're going to put in 4 stems that will support the plywood floor. If you say to yourself, "I don't need floor supports, plywood is strong enough by itself," you will probably be finding a you-shaped hole in your floor pretty soon, and a you-shaped person on the floor, sheepishly rubbing your painful you-butt.

First, measure the distance between the inside of the two cross-stalks(these are the stalks that are at the height you decided your floor should be). Cut four stems to this length.
The best way I found to put these stems in is to line up the stem so that it's flush with the cross-stalk . A friend really helps with the alignment process, but it's possible solo. (I did all the loft construction by my lonesome, with the exception of wrangling the plywood up the stairs. My neighbor Diego helped me with that. More about Diego later...)
Anyway, line up your stem with the stalk. Remember that you're putting 4 stems in, so space them evenly. Be sure to put two of the stems at either end of the loft.
The best way I found to attach the stem was to put two lag screws running through the cross-stalk running at a slight angle into the stem. That's two lag screws everywhere a stem attaches to a stalk, and it's holding together well so far. I'll let you know if there's ever a me-shaped hole in anything....

(this next bit is talking about the picture, ok?)
Remember how I don't really know how to do anything? When I built this, I didn't realize I needed two more floor supports at the ends of the loft, which is why there's only two there. I put in my floor supports way later. Don't make my mistakes, man!

Step 15: Inter-stem Supports

Hooray! We're going to use the last piece of lumber. You should have one stem left over
What's going to happen in the next few steps is that we'll put the plywood on top of the floor supports.
As I'm writing this, I just realized that I laid my plywood the stupid way, which is why I had to put in these supports.

Here's what I did--
I laid my plywood parallel to the floor supports, rather than perpendicular to them. This left an edge of the plywood unsupported, so I had to put in extra braces.

Check out the picture. If you can, do it the right way, but it'll work fine either way, just a little more work for you if you did what I did.

Now that I think back, I think I put up my plywood the stupid way because I didn't have room to rotate it to the smart direction inside my apartment.

OK, this step has been long and rambly, but it's kinda important. To keep your rapt attention, I'll split it up and put the rest of it on the next step. That's a trick some writers use*, where they start a sentence at the end of one chapter, and finish it at the beginning of another.

*actually, no one does that

Step 16: More About the Inter-stem Supports

OK, you've now heard my tale of folly. Here I'll tell you what I did to put in my inter-stem supports, but you don't have to do this if you're running the plywood perpendicular to the floor supports. Of course, it doesn't hurt....

So, measure the distance in between the two center-ish floor supports. The drawing below will hopefully clarify

I attached these by putting a single lag screw straight through the two stems, wherever they meet together. It holds pretty well so far. Yes, it's not fully constrained, and the inter-stem supports could conceivably rotate, but I didn't have any more lag screws, and the plywood will fully constrain it when we put it on.

Are you done?

and yeah, I know there's plywood in the picture, and you haven't done plywood yet. I forgot to take a picture of this step before I put on the plywood, mainly because I put on the plywood before I realized I needed to do this. waddayagonnado?

Step 17: Go Get the Plywood

It's so much cooler to bring back plywood on a bike. I built a cheap bike trailer out of conduit that let me do just that. I even made an instructable on it. Check it out!
For those of you who are adventurous enough to try biking back plywood, I found that if you take along two C-clamps, clamp the two plywood sheets together, and then attach the clamps to your bike frame with inner tubes, the plywood hold on pretty well. I also ran an inner tube around the plywood and trailer, to keep the plywood from blowing around.

I'm pretty sure that the line between cute and stupid lies between towing this trailer with a normal bike, and towing it with a tall bike. I crossed it. EIT!

Step 18: Wrangle the Plywood

This is really hard to do, especially if it's just you. If you need a hand, walk around your neighborhood, knock on the door of someone you haven't met yet, and ask them cheerfully if they want to do some menial labor. I did this, and met Diego, who's a cool astronomy student from Chile.

Anyway, we wrestled the plywood up my stairs, and into my apartment. The room I'm putting the loft in is about exactly the size of the loft, so getting the plywood onto the loft was hard. I ended up taking out one of the floor supports, and we wrangled it up through the inside of the loft.

Put both sheets up on the floor supports, and don't worry that they don't both fit. Just stack them on top of eachother for now, or better yet, just make them overlap. We'll fix the fitting problem in the next step

Step 19: The Last Time You'll Ever Use a Circ Saw

So, now you want to wrangle the plywood some more, so that it covers as much of the floor as you want it to. Make sure the plywood sheets overlap in the center, and then take a writing device and mark the overlap on one of the sheets.

Now, kinda shove or tilt the unmarked sheet out of the way. Make sure it's stable, because you're about to climb up and saw stuff, and you don't want it sliding into you while you're sawing.

Now, I climbed onto the loft, being sure to stay on the supports, and circsawed the marked sheet along the line I marked. This was probably way more dangerous than it should have been. The prudent reader will take the plywood off of the loft, set it up on sawhorses, and cut it in a safe and sane manner.

Anyway, now that you've cut up one of the sheets, they should fit flushly on your floor supports.
Are you excited? You're almost done!

Right after I took this picture was when I realized I needed those inter-stem braces. See how the plywood's drooping here? yuck!

Step 20: Drive, Baby, Drive!

grab that pack of drywall screws and a bit driver for your drill and climb up on top of the beast.
Make sure your plywood floor is aligned the way you want, and then crawl around screwing the plywood to the floor supports everywhere you can. This will (a) hold the plywood onto the loft, which is kinda crucial, and (b) fix any warps that your wood has. Mine was really warped, and now it's as flat as a plateau in kansas.
The hardest part here is figuring out where the supports are underneath the plywood. I just kinda guessed, missed a few times, and then usually got it right. You could probably measure and stuff, if you're into that kinda thing.

Step 21: Admire Your Gorgeous Hunka Loft

Isn't that cool?
Put some stuff on top of it and move on in!

here's a joke:

What do you call a man in the middle of the ocean with no arms or legs?


Step 22: Clean Up

Borrow your neighbor's vacuum to clean up. Return it, and explain that you're concerned about the amount of human blood you found inside it. Give her a book with this cover to help her out.

Anyway, you're done! Hooray! A wonderful loft in 22 steps.

Happy dwelling!

Alex Hornstein

Step 23: Shameless Plug

I hope you liked this instructable. If you like this, or other instructables that I've done, email me to let me know at
Also, (this is the shameless bit) you should check out some of the project kits I'm selling at
This is something I started to support my building habit. I'll be adding more kits as time goes on. In general, I spend every penny I make on projects (or traveling to cool places), and if you help me out by giving me more pennies, you'll get a kit (duh) and also more cool projects in the future, which I'm very happy to post on instructables for your building pleasure.
Maybe I'm way off base here. If so, email me and tell me that, too.

Happy happy,