Introduction: DIY Platform Bed and Mattress Substitute - Out-Of-The-Box, Portable, Lightweight, Inexpensive

Ever needed to lug a mattress, a box spring or a heavy, clunky wooden or metal bed up or down a few flights of stairs or load it into a car or van? Or worried about having to throw away an otherwise perfectly usable and expensive mattress / box springs because of bedbugs?

Your bed and mattress (plus the box-spring) are probably one of the biggest headaches come time to move - especially if you're on your own.

I wanted a portable, lightweight and inexpensive complete bedding solution that I could take apart and put back together at will, and whose individual pieces I could carry in my car when I move. A raised air bed seemed like the perfect one-stop solution - till they started devoloping leaks after just a few months, leading me to finally give up on them. So I went back to looking for the two separate main components - a portable, lightweight platform bed (eliminates the need for a box spring) and an equally portable and lightweight mattress that could preferably be rolled-up or folded for easy transportation.

1) For the platform bed, I did find a few metal bed frames that seemed at least somewhat portable - for $109 for example, but found them too heavy and unwieldy. I didn't think they would fit in my car when moving, and in addition, I thought the steel edges would tear up my planned improvised mattress out of several sleeping bags. After a lot of research, I came up with a platform bed substitute that is working well for me. The items are easily available at a standard, international chain (IKEA) and each individual piece weighs just 10 lb and measures (as packaged) 22" W x 2.125" H x 33.125" L. You need no tools to assemble it, it gives you plenty of storage space hidden from view underneath, and your improvised platform bed costs (as of 05/26/10) just about $96.

2) For the mattress substitute, I thought of this inexpensive DIY solution using easily available standard components (a few sleeping bags and a zippered mattress cover) that obviously requires no tools or any kind of workmanship - and it's working great for just $84.

So this improvised queen bed and mattress, put together pretty much out-of-the-box from standard, widely available components, add up to all of $180!

Step 1: Buy 12 Side Tables and Assemble Each

For a queen bed, buy 12 "LACK" side tables from IKEA - ($7.99 each as of 05/26/10). Each individual piece weighs just 10 lb and measures (as packaged) 22" W x 2.125" H x 33.125" L. Though made of particleboard and therefore extremely light, I was told each table can support the weight of one adult standing on it. I was able to load and fit all twelve packages into my subcompact quite easily.

Assemble each of the 12 tables for the queen bed by attaching the four legs to the table top with the help of the four screws supplied. The screw is pointed at both ends and there are markings on the underside of the table top and each leg showing where each screw goes in. You don't even need a screw driver as the leg itself acts as one. Assembling each table took me less than 15 minutes.

Step 2: Arrange the Side Tables Side-By-Side

Arrange the twelve tables side-by-side - three on one side, four on the other.  Each table is 21.625" x 21.625" so the final dimension of your platform bed will be 86.5" x 64.875" - which is slightly bigger than a standard queen size mattress of 80" x 60" but once the bed sheets and covers are on the mattress, I haven't found it to be a problem.

I thought I might need to duct tape or otherwise tie the tables together but haven't needed to do it - the tables totally stay in place on their own.

That's it for the first part - you now have your platform bed for less than $100, pretty much off-the-shelf,  with plenty of storage space hidden from view underneath - that you can take apart and move (even up and down flights of stairs) all by yourself at any time. And you never messed with tape measures, hacksaws, clamps, drills and hammers in your garage, got your hands dirty or broke a sweat - did you?

Next comes putting together your own, similarly off-the shelf, portable mattress.

Step 3: Buy Eight Inexpensive Sleeping Bags and One Zippered Mattress Cover

All you need for your mattress substitute are eight sleeping bags and one zippered vinyl / cotton mattress cover.

You can use as many or as few sleeping bags as you like - I bought eight 33" x 75" sleeping bags from Wal-Mart for $9 each (as of 05/26/10) -

The only other item I am using is a queen-size zippered vinyl mattress cover I found at Target for $11.99 (as of 05/26/10) - . You could just as well use a zippered cotton mattress cover for a comparable price.

Step 4: Insert Sleeping Bags Into Zippered Mattress Cover

Just insert the sleeping bags (without folding and zipping up each of them in order to get the maximum width of 2x33" = 66") into the mattress cover one on top of the other.  I found that I can easily creep into the cover myself once all the sleeping bags have been inserted in order to smoothen out the contents inside and make sure that they are lying flat on top of each other.

Step 5: Zip Up the Mattress Cover and Your Portable Mattress-Substitute Is Ready

Finally, just zip up the mattress cover, and voilà - you've created your own inexpensive, portable, lightweight, machine-washable mattress-substitute for around $84 using out of the box materials easily available at your neighborhood stores. (OK - the mattress cover may not be machine washable if it's vinyl - but if you use a zippered cotton mattress cover instead, that would make the cover machine-washable as well).

Note: Obviously, you may use as many or as few sleeping bags as you like - as long as they fit inside one mattress cover. You may even use more than one of these mattress substitutes - all depending on what gives you the right amount of comfort.

Step 6: Final Comments

So now you have your platform bed and mattress substitute - making for a complete portable, lightweight and inexpensive bedding solution for around $180.  

You will notice that as mentioned before, each square side table is 21.625" x 21.625" so the final dimension of your platform bed will be 86.5" x 64.875" - which is slightly bigger than a standard queen size mattress of 80" x 60". However, once the bed sheets and covers are on the bed, no one, including yourself, will ever know!!