Introduction: Fold Down Baby Changing Table From Swedish Space Saving Table
I made this 4 years ago when my daughter was due to come home from hospital. I took it down today as nappy days are well and truly behind us now. I thought back to putting it up and how useful it was for quite a long time.
This is far from an original idea but when I was looking to build this table I remember worrying that a lot of the plans looked quite flimsy so I thought I'd add this here for any other parents thinking about how to get a baby changing table into a small bathroom.
1. Wall mounted fold down table.
I used Norbo from IKEA https://www.ikea.com/gb/en/p/norbo-wall-mounted-drop-leaf-table-birch-80091713/ , but as baby changing mats come in all different sizes the main thing is to get a table that fits your changing mat lengthwise and has the fold down part of the table that's a bit wider than the mat.
2. Changing mat
3. Self adhesive velcro strips (I bought extra strong ones but I'm not convinced they were any stronger than normal ones)
4. Metal cavity anchors (because I was attaching it to internal hollow walls. I'd never used these before and I struggled so I'll include a step on how they work)
5. Counter flap catch
6. Timber plank (I used 20x45mm pine, one piece 395mm long for the batten and the other piece 45mm for the spacer)
7. Screws (I only used these for the timber batten and the block for the catch, but if you've got solid walls you could happily use wallplugs and screws for the whole thing)
8. Nylon webbing strapping and buckle
9. Drill and drill bits
11. Pen (to dismantle then use to mark drill holes on the wall through the pre drilled holes in the table because pencils are always too fat)
12. Spirit level
13. Towel rail
14. Undercoat and topcoat in the same colour as the woodwork in your bathroom
15. Sewing machine (if you don't have one see step 7 for an alternative idea)
Step 1: Changing the Table From Fold Down to Fold Up
You could simply follow the assembly instructions and have a fold up table. However you need 2 hands to fold the table up and you need to bend over to an awkward angle to fish the folding leg out. Neither of these things are especially fun or possible while holding a poopy baby. Also when it was folded away the changing mat would be on the outside.
Instead, I made up the table following the instructions up to the point where you add the table flap. To identify where to put the holes for the hinge screws I simply used a small drill bit to extend the pilot holes go all the way through the timber. I used a drill bit with the same diameter as the existing hole (6mm I think) and it was very simple.
You do end up with 6 tiny holes on the outside which are visible when the flap is up, but the alternative (flipping the top over so I could use the existing hinge holes and moving the bracing to the other side) seemed a lot of effort for very little gain. Plus if we ever wanted to change this back to a desk (not in the bathroom obviously) the way I did it means you'd be able to do that.
Step 2: Measuring Up to Attach Table to Wall
How high the table should be is based on your heigh and your family. We are all pretty short so the holes I drilled were 80cm from the floor. That made the top just under 85cm high. The other consideration here is how close to the corner you can go. If your walls are not all at tidy 90° angles then you will need to leave a little gap in the corner so that when the table goes up and down it doesn't scrape against the wall. Don't leave too much gap or the table won't rest on the batten firmly. I left about 6mm.
Once you've worked out how far you need to make the table from the corner take the table flap off as it is easier to handle the table without it.
There's probably a more efficient way to do this step but what we did was
- Have one of us hold the table against the wall and the other say higher or lower
- When we were happy with the height I lightly drew a line (in pencil) along the top of the table on the wall
- Used a spirit level to draw a level straight line over the light line
- One person held the table in place on the level line (remembering to leave a little gap in the corner) and the other used the middle of a biro to mark the drill holes into the wall through the holes in the timber
Step 3: Attaching the Table to the Wall
If you have a nice brick wall then drill some holes, pop in some Rawl plugs and feel smug.
If you are trying to attach the baby changing unit onto a hollow internal wall then you'll need to use cavity anchors. If there's a stud you could use for one of your screws then I'd recommend using a wood screw on that one.
The technique for inserting cavity anchors is quite straight forward, but I didn't understand how they worked or what I was trying to achieve so this took some trial and error, which hopefully you can skip.
To insert a cavity anchor:
- Drill a hole big enough to comfortably push the anchor through
- Push the anchor into the hole, checking it's nice and square to the front
- The screw will already be inserted in the anchor, turn it and keep turning it until it stops being easy. At this point the anchor is in the wall and it will be quite firm
- Unscrew the screw and you'll find you've got a threaded hole embedded in the wall
- Now you can use the screw to attach the table using the pre drilled holes in the table
If you're someone who needs to know how things work take a look at the diagram I've drawn out.
Step 4: Attaching the Changing Mat to the Table
One of the things that concerned me about other people's designs for folding baby changing tables was that the mat wasn't attached to the table. It just seemed like asking for everything and everyone to slip off the table.
The answer was self adhesive velcro strips. Velcro is really strong against a sideways force like a wriggly baby, but easy to pull off if you pull straight up.
- I worked out about where the mat needed to go and held it in place while I closed and opened the table a few times to make sure I was happy.
- I cut and stuck the rough side of the velcro to the table (it's also repositionable within reason if you're a little out) in a U shape underneath where the foam border/bumper of the changing mat would go.
- I cut the corresponding lengths in the soft side of the velcro and attached it to the rough side.
- I took the backing off the velcro
- I carefully placed the changing mat into place
It's important to attach the rough velcro to the table and the soft velcro to the mat because then if you need to use the mat somewhere else like a relative's house at Christmas the (soft) velcro won't attach itself to your relative's lovely carpet like the rough velcro would.
Step 5: Adding a Batten for Extra Strength
Although my baby was very small I was still worried about her getting massive and bouncy and pulling the table off the wall so I added a wooden batten to support the table when it's in use.
- Before adding the batten screw the table flap back onto the table and put it up and down a few times to check nothing is sticking.
- I had some left over timber that I used. It was 20x45mm and I cut it to 395mm long because the wall the batten is attached to is actually a fitted cupboard and that's how wide it was, but the batten could be up to 52 cm long if your wall was longer.
- I drilled holes through the batten then held it in place against the wall under the table and marked the drill holes through the holes in the timber.
- Using a spirit level I adjusted the marks to be a bit less wonky
- What you are screwing into will determine how to attach the batten. I was a lot less paranoid about this than the table as the force on it seems to be quite even so I used self boring wood screws (because I was attaching to wood) but Rawl plugs and screws or wall anchors would be better on different walls.
I had an idea that I'd put hooks for towels on the batten but I found a better solution later, though if you have older (but still small) children it might be nice to add some hooks and double this up as a rack for small towels.
Step 6: Adding a Catch to Hold the Table Up
Another thing I didn't like in the plans I'd seen was that there was nothing holding the table up other than it being slightly lent against the wall. I don't know if I just bought an especially deep changing mat or if other people just don't bump into things but it was clear that I needed to find a way to hold the table up.
It took me longer than it should've done to realise that what I needed was a counter flap catch like they use in pubs/bars to hold up the counter flap.
- I used a timber block as a spacer as without it the counter catch wouldn't catch the table.
- I attached the catch to the spacer and positioned it on the wall.
- I marked the top and side of the block on the wall
- I drilled a hole in the spacer then held it up to the guides I'd marked on the wall.
- I marked the drill hole position on the wall through the hole in the timber
- Attach the spacer to the wall using Rawl plugs and screws, woodscrews or yet more cavity anchors.
- Screw the counter catch into the spacer
Quite quickly I had an issue where the counter catch spacer started twisting so I stuck a nail in to stop it moving and getting loose. It's not the most elegant solution but it does work.
Step 7: Adding a Strap
At first we didn't have a strap, but babies get wrigglier and bigger and they have straps on the tables in public toilets so I thought why not?
I got the nylon webbing and clip from a fabric shop.
I sewed the webbing at the buckle end but used a one half of the clip into the strap and at the clip end I just used an adjustable strap buckle at the other end (so I could increase the strap size as my kid got bigger) and it worked fine, so you could probably do that at both ends.
When you cut the webbing to length use a lighter to seal the end otherwise it will fray.
The strap needs to be threaded through the gap between the hinges (easiest done by putting one end on and threading the other end through).
Step 8: (Optional) Adding a Towel Rail
As I said before I intended to add hooks to the batten for towels but I ended up changing the plan, firstly because the batten was too low for a towel rail for adults and secondly because I wanted access to the towel when the table was down. Also, thirdly when the table is folded up it's a large block of brown timber and doesn't fit in with anything in my bathroom. Having a towel hung up breaks up the colour block.
To attach the towel rail you'll need to:
- Fold the table up
- Measure up where to drill for the rail near the top of the timber. It needs to be at the top so the towel doesn't get in the way of the folding parts and it's at the front when the table is down.
- Drill pilot holes (use tape to mark the right depth so you don't go through the other side of the table top) for your rail
- Screw the rail on - they all come with instructions so I'm sure you can follow them.
The bonus of a towel rail is that it also holds the strap out of the way when the table is folded up.
Step 9: Add a Baby
That's it. As I said before, this is not an original idea but I hope you enjoy the many safety features I've added to my design.
One final tip I learnt today taking the fishing changing table down is that to remove the wall anchors you have to pull off the front (I pulled one side of with the claw hammer then wiggled the other side back and forward into it snapped) then push the rest of the anchor in so it falls into the wall cavity. My daughter actually pushed them in for me with her ideally sized 4 year olds fingers.