Pine Bunk Bed




Introduction: Pine Bunk Bed

I've always wanted to dive into a project building something with wood, and this year I got the chance when our kids needed a bunk bed! I found this other instructable project after searching, and decided to dive in:

My guide is an unofficial supplement to the above with clarifications/corrections and things I learned, so you should read that first.

Note that I am completely inexperienced working with wood, so you should definitely do what I did... check what you read against other sources and get good advice ;)

Step 1: Materials & Tools


NOTE: I'd advise getting the materials for each step once you get to that step if you are a beginner like me. Buying the stuff without fully understanding what I'd do with it led to a lot of extra trips to return and buy new stuff, and each step can be a 1 to 3 weekends of work (at least it was for me).

Lesson #1: Get good wood
First and biggest lesson I learned: get some decent wood, and don't go to your local "despot" to get it. Go to an actual lumberyard for the wood. I didn't do this, I used construction grade pine wood from the Home Depot, and it worked out ok, but I ran into all manner of trouble with extra sanding and cracked and warped boards.

2" x 6" x 8' and 1" x 6" x 8' Boards (14 and 9 of them)
Get an extra one of each of these, especially if you want a railing for the bottom like on mine. That would be a total of 14of the 2" x 6" and 9 of the 1" x 6". This came out to be about $80 for me, not $50 as in the other guide.

2" x 2" x 8' Boards - (4 of them) - These boards will be what the mattresses sit on top of.

4' x 8' x 1/4" or 5/8" Plywoodfor beds to sit on (2 sheets) - "The Valiant" has good info on plywood in his guide which you should read, but I'd suggest waiting to buy this until the very end. Why? So that when everything is assembled, you can check the width of the finished beds, and have the lumber yard cut it to size for you. Saves some work. I accidentally skipped using 1x6's as supports and just got thicker plywood (5/8") which is quite sturdy and working well.

3/8" Lag Screw/Bolt - (20 of them plus washersto match my setup, 18 if no rail on the bottom)
I bought the 5/16" then returned them later after reading up about recommendations for soft wood. Google for more info, but I personally ended up getting 3/8" lag bolts and went with a 1/4" bit for the pilot hole (you'll need a 3/8" bit for the upper shaft of the lag bit though too. More on that later).

5/16" Hex Machine Screw - (2 that are 3", and 2 that are 4"; for the lower bunk safety rail)

2" Screws (not 1.5", 1 lb of them) - for attaching 2" x 2" boards to 2" x 6" boards. Actual width of wood is 1.5", so 2" will work.

2" Finishing Nails (1 lb should be just enough) - or brad nails if you have a fancy brad/nail gun. In which case I'm jealous of you.

Titebond Polyurethane Glue (not wood glue) - A comment in the other thread goes into this, but poly'ed boards do not glue well. I used this stuff and it worked pretty well, but ideally you want to glue wood that doesn't have poly on it. Apparently sanding each board where you are gluing would be ideal. Honestly, this could probably be skipped, it's not load bearing.

Metal Doweling Rod - 5/16" if you can find it, I used 3/8" and it worked fine. Total length of 12" needed.

Sandpaper - If you took my advice and got decent wood, this step may not be as painful for you. You could hopefully do a pack of 100 grit and a a pack of 220 grit. I needed a pack of 60, 2 of 100, and 2 of 220. More on this later.

Stain - Two 946 ml tins- The pine wood I had soaked this stuff up like you wouldn't believe. I got Varathane's Golden Mahogany premium wood stain, which is oil-based.

Finish - Polyurethane - Three 946 ml tins- The pine wood I had soaked this stuff up like you wouldn't believe. I got Varathane's Satin Polyurethane that was water-based (quick dry times!)

Tack Cloth


Paint Thinner

Materials Total: $230 to $270 - biggest contributors being the wood/plywood at almost $130, then the stain/poly at about $60-$80.

The other guide might lead you to believe that you don't need much for tools, but... well, ya do.


Speed Square- I fell in love with this tool, it is SO handy and I used it throughout much of the project. Search youtube for videos about it, it has many great uses.

Measuring tape - yup.

Saw - you could have the lumber yard guys cut your wood, but honestly for a project this size, you should have this.Besides, it's super fun.

Hacksaw/Dremel - for cutting the metal doweling to size. Dremel is way more fun.

Metal File - after cutting the metal doweling, you'll want to make it less sharp and scary.

Palm Sander - There is a lot of sanding. A LOT. Unlike above items, it's not fun.

Drill - If you don't have one already, you probably should rethink doing this project.

Safety Glasses - Really needed for the sanding.

Dust Mask - Again, sanding requires it.

Ear protection - Much of these tools make a lot of noise and they WILL damage your ears if you don't protect them. Buy an extra set or two of these and the above two items for any helpers you have.

Paint Brush and rags - both are for applying for the stain.

Foam brushes - For the polyurethane. You could use a high quality brush too, but I found these worked really well.

Clamps - particularly needed if you go with the glue. It's not noted in the guide, but you MUST clamp if you are gluing.

Hammer and Nail Set - If you don't have a nail gun.


Sawhorses - I got by using my garbage and recycling cans, a ladder, shelving, and an old table, but ended up borrowing these from a friend. Man they make things easier.

Shop vac - There will be clean-up to do!

Knee Pads - When it comes time to do the hammering, unless you have a big work bench or a nail gun, you'll be on the ground quite a bit.


Router - for rounding the edges of the wood, not required, you can just sand them too.

Nail/Brad Gun

Drill Press - Would make some of the holes much more precise, but there are ways to do it by hand if done carefully.

Step 2: Cut the Boards!


  • A saw
  • Speed square
  • Measuring Tape
  • Safety Glasses + Ear Protection

I put all of the cuts in the picture, reference that!

A few notes:

  • I cut the 1x6's shorter so that the bunk bed wouldn't be quite as close to the ceiling fan in our kids room. Something to consider, and if it's not an issue, go for the longer lengths in the other instructable.
  • I didn't realize until writing this guide that I was supposed to have the 1x6 of 38" to be mattress supports in addition to the plywood. This makes sense, though the plywood I went with is very sturdy without these boards. Still, I'd suggest doing it with the 1x6's and thinner plywood... See this step in The Valiant's guide Step 3 for a lot of good info on plywood

Step 3: Sanding


  • Sandpaper
  • Palm Sander
  • Safety Glasses + Dust Mask + Ear Protection
  • Shop vac/something to cleanup

This took me forever, even with a palm sander. As noted in the materials section, get some good wood and this will hopefully be a lot less painful, but I was sanding out tons of marks from the lumber yard, knots, cracks, and all manner of annoyances. The 1x6's I got were higher quality and needed minimum sanding until they were ready. So yeah, it makes a difference.

Note that the 2x2's will be under each mattress, so personally I didn't do as much with them and it worked out fine.

Reference The Valiant's guide Step 4 for good advice on how to progress through sanding, and make sure to sand with the grain!

Other Tips:

  • Do this in the driveway or you'll have sawdust covering EVERYTHING in your garage!

Step 4: Staining


  • Stain (duh)
  • Paint brush/Rags
  • Rags/Tack Cloth
  • Fans + Well ventilated area!
  • Paint Thinner for cleanup

Way more fun! Grab the kids for this step, they can make a mess on the boards that aren't as visible and will have contributed to the project ;)

My recommendation here differs from The Valiant a bit after doing a lot of reading and trial/error, but whatever you do, read the can as it has good tips for application. Here is what I did:

1. Get rid of sawdust: Use a compressor/shop vac to get rid of the dust, then wipe it down with a dry cloth, and use a tack cloth (if needed) to get the last bit removed.

2. Wood Conditioner: For wood like pine, this could be a good idea. Use a test board to see how the stain applies! Conditioner will ensure it applies with consistency. I personally thought the wood looked fine without it, so I skipped it. If you use it: brush it on or with a cloth liberally in direction of the grain, let it sit for 5 to 15 minutes, then wipe off the excess, no need to sand after. Then wait 2 hours to apply stain.

3. Shake the can! Shake the can and use a stir stick to get rid of any gunk on the bottom of the can. You can even have the store use a paint shaker to get a good mix before leaving, which is a good idea.

4. Stain Application: Lie the wood flat and slop it on! No need to be too careful here, just apply with a brush (or cloth) against the grain and get it to soak in anywhere from a minute to 10 minutes depending on how dark you want it (test test test), then wipe off the excess with a cloth with the grain.


  • Mix the can every 15 minutes or so to keep the pigment even.
  • We put two layers on to get nice looking color in the wood and it dries pretty quick so you can plan to get a row done all at once pretty much.


Make sure to treat the brushes well so you can use them in the future! I found these two articles helpful here, or just search online if the links die. I made the mistake of not doing this and ruined a good $15 brush.

Step 5: Sealing


  • Polyurethane
  • Bristle Brush/Foam Brushes
  • Rags/Tack Cloth
  • Fans + Well-ventilated area!

I broke this into a separate step cause there's no way you'll do staining and sealing in a single day. Just saying.

Here's a nice guide to the difference between oil and water based Poly:

I followed The Valiant's advice more closely on this, here is what I did:

1. Prep and Clean: Lay the boards out flat again and wipe them down with a dust free cloth/tack cloth, and make sure to have a lot of good light shining at angles on the wood so you can see your progress. Then get comfortable!

2. Stir gently: You really don't want bubbles on this step, so stir gently, and no shaking the can.

3. Application:

  1. Use either a high quality bristle brush, or find some well reviewed foam brushes, which I found worked quite well and were cheap and disposable too.
  2. Apply with the grain... you want to apply it fairly thinly, and don't hit the same spot with more than a couple brush strokes. Too many brush strokes will cause the water to evaporate more quickly, making the stain dry with brush marks in it.
  3. Don't worry if the coat is uneven! It doesn't need to be perfect because the poly is self-leveling and should level out just fine. However, DO watch for drips on the sides of the boards, as that will be a problem otherwise.
  4. I would hit the top and sides of the boards with the first coat, then flip it and hit the bottom and sides again.

4. Sanding: For a really smooth finish, you'll want to lightly sand with 320 grit sandpaper between quotes. But honestly this is a rugged bunk bed, so this is optional here. As The Valiant notes, a little grit gives the kids a better grip too.

5. Repeat Application: You'll want at least two coats, and three is even better. That said, I did two with a slightly thicker second coat, and decided it was good enough. Time will tell, but the best practice seems to be 3 coats.

6. Cleanup: Follow the same articles from the previous step to make sure the brushes last a long time.

Step 6: Building the Frame!


  • 2" Screws
  • 2" Finishing Nails
  • Poly glue if you'll use it
  • Speed Square
  • Measuring tape
  • Drill
  • Hammer
  • Nail Set
  • Ear Protection
  • Clamps
  • Knee Pads

The Valiant's guide step 6 is really helpful here, so use that, and I'll just add some things below that I learned.

Tips when assembling the ends of the beds:

  • Knee pads are nice to have when you don't have a nail gun. You can see in the picture the homemade ones I threw together at the last minute ;)
  • For spacing between the boards (see picture), get them evenly space with a tape measure on the first set, then make a template with a scrap piece of wood (or cardboard) that you can use to quickly space the boards as you go forward. Without a nail gun, you'll be re-spacing them constantly.
  • You'll put 4 nails into every intersection on both sides. I put mine in about an inch from each side.
  • Watch for knots! Putting a nail through a knot will likely result in a bent nail ;)
  • I mentioned this before, but I don't think the Poly Glue is necessary at all and it actually caused me some trouble: you are supposed to clamp the boards if you use it, and I didn't realize this. So after I finished gluing/nailing (all in one step) and laid the bunk ends vertically, I came back the next day to find that the glue had dripped down onto the wood in places. I had to sand the glue off and in some places re-stain and re-seal it. Huge pain.
  • The nail set is used for putting the head of the finishing nail below the surface of the wood, which is what I'm doing in the picture. It is alsoVERY loud, so you'll want ear protection. You can choose to go back and putty these later, but I think it's a nice rustic look as-is.

Tips for the side rails:

  • Finish the bunk ends, then do some measuring! Before attaching the 2x2's to the 2x6's, take some time to do some calculations. Here's why: You'll have boards and maybe plywood on top of the 2x2's, then the mattress. Depending on the thickness of the mattress, the safety rail might end up too high! I didn't check this and ended up having to add another set of 2x2's on top of the first set in order to make the bed high enough so that the safety rail would actually help.
    • Long story short, you'll likely want the 2x2's placed in about the middle of the 2x6's, or higher, for the safety rail to be at the right height, but you'll want to measure it out with your mattress.
  • Again, the poly glue is unnecessary I think. Skip it.
  • Worth repeating from the other guide: Use pilot holes or the 2x2's will split when you drill them.

Step 7: Prep for Assembly: Drilling


  • Doweling Rod + Metal file + Hacksaw/Dremel + Glasses + Mask
  • Speed Square
  • Measuring Tape
  • Drill
  • Clamps

Getting close now! The Valiant's guide step 7 is again quite helpful here, but there are a few worthwhile tips and clarifications:

Tips for cutting the doweling rod

  • Make sure to have someone take a picture if you use a dremel, because it looks really cool.
  • Use the metal file to round off the edges.

Tips for drilling

  • Hole separation distance: There's a mistake in The Valiant's guide that is pretty obvious: he drills the holes for the lag bolts 4.5cm apart, not inches. With the larger bolts I was using, I placed mine 6.5cm apart instead... they felt too close otherwise
  • Hole Position: I had to drill my holes closer to the edge of the bunk bed ends, such that the outer edge of the 2x6 side rails were flush with the edge of the bunk bed ends. This was needed to fit the mattress I got, so watch for that!
  • Template 1: Cut a slice of a 2x6 to use as a consistent template for these two holes! This makes quick work of marking where to drill, you can see the one I made in picture 2. I'm just marking the wood there, not drilling the hole, because...
  • Template 2: If you don't have a drill press, make another template so your holes are straight! Use a block of wood and carefully drill a perfectly perpendicular hole (using the speed square) through it, and you can then use that to quickly drill all of the other holes. You can see mine in picture 3... I glued two blocks of wood together to get a nice thick guide, and I additionally used the speed square to keep it all level.
  • Bit size: If you go with the 3/8" lag bolts like I did, you'll have two bits to use: a 1/4" pilot hole you'll make into the long side rails, and a 3/8" bit you'll use on the bunk ends for the upper shaft to fit. Because it's hard to match everything perfectly, I had to come back and "loosen" the holes a bit in the bunk ends to give me some breathing room. This was a minor issue, but something to watch for.
  • Marking depth: Instead of marking the bit with a marker, use some tape, or a Bit Depth Stopper if you want to get fancy. In either case, it saves a lot of time. As noted in the other guide, mark it such that the drill just pops out the other end. Using the drill template and this method ensured that I got basically zero splintering.
  • Back it out frequently: Backing out the drill frequently will ensure heat does not build up too much and cause you to have to press too hard and pop out the other side.

Notes for bottom bunk safety rail

  • You can drill the safety rail now too, though I did it after assembly
  • I just eye-balled the places to drill the side rail: I put the two 3" machine screws (5/16" size) in the corners at the top (see the finished picture at the beginning of the guide), and the two 4" machine screws were put through all the way through the 2x2s so that they'd be below the mattress and not snag it.
  • I cut the 3" screws down to size until I could fit acorn nuts over them... they'll leave a mark if the kids run into them, but at least it won't snag their clothes ;)

Step 8: Assembly!


  • Lag Screws
  • Drill
  • A helper!

The Valiant's guide step 8 is once again very helpful! I'll just note a couple things:

  • Definitely assemble in the bedroom as this thing is huge.
  • It is also very heavy, so have someone handy to help while you drill in the lag screws.

I also recommend the floor mat for some appropriately crafted message (picture 2).

Happy bunking!

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    7 Discussions


    5 years ago

    I'm starting this project tomorrow and I've thoroughly read your and valients instructables. I'm going with his design and your stain. But I was thinking of using wood glue and staining after assembly. I know it will be tough. I'm having my brother in law help and he also has all tools needed for the job. Not sure about a nail gun though. I'm an automotive technician and he runs a body shop, so I know we both have the skills for such a job. Hopefully it doesn't take as long as I think it might. I'll keep you updated!


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Nice, good luck to you! Hopefully you can enjoy the process and not get too bogged down :)


    5 years ago

    I'm starting on my kids bunk bed tomorrow morning. I've thoroughly read your and valients insructables


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Nice work! I also had a blast putting together Valiant's modular bunkbeds. You added some very good points, and I can't stress enough the value of a nail gun...


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you! Oh man, a nail gun would be so nice...

    Dustin Rogers
    Dustin Rogers

    5 years ago

    Great job and kudos for tackling such a big job for a first project. Most people start with a birdhouse. They turned out great. Love the makeshift knee pads too.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! It was (mostly) a lot of fun, so I'm looking forward to the next project :)

    Those knee-pads worked for a day, but I was feeling it on day 2!