How to Build a Loft Bed Part 1 of 2

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If you had—or wanted—a loft bed back in college or in your first apartment, then this is a project you’re going to like. But your kids will probably like it more because it’s cool, fun, and their friends probably won’t have one.


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If you had—or wanted—a loft bed back in college or in your first apartment, then this is a project you’re going to like. But your kids will probably like it more because it’s cool, fun, and their friends probably won’t have one.
This loft bed is designed to open up floor space usually consumed by a bed. It also provides a location underneath it for a kid or kids to play, do activities or set up a desk. And, it because it ties in with the wall,
it can work for kids of all ages.
Because you can tie into the wall, this loft bed probably has a little more oomph than the one you might have built with your old roommate. And, a built-in safety rail adds an extra layer of protection for younger kids. While you can make the bed to your own specifications following the techniques below, the bed design here is based on a twin-sized mattress, which is 39" x 75".
The outside dimensions of the bed frame are 48 3/4" x 80", which allows room up top for books, a drink, and a little extra room for the bedding to drape when the bed is made. Your little princess or prince will love climbing the ladder to get in bed.
Safety Note: Never attach hooks or handles to the loft bed and do not hang items from it, including rope and belts. Children can catch themselves on these items when playing or in the event that an accidental fall occurs.
From: Complete Guide to Custom Shelves & Built-Ins, 978-1-58923-303-4

What You'll Need


Miter saw
Table saw
Circular saw
Stud finder
Tape measure
Nail set
Pneumatic nailer/compressor
Router and bits
Carpenter’s square
Shooting board or straightedge


(2) 3/4" x 4 x 8 ft. maple plywood
(6) 1 x 2 x 8 ft. maple
(4) 1 x 6 x 8 ft. maple
(3) 2 x 2 x 8 ft. pine
Brass screws with grommet washers
Deck screws
Trim head wood screws
Finishing materials

Cutting List

Box front
3⁄4 x 8 x 80"
Maple plywood

Box end–left
3⁄4 x 8 x 48"
Maple plywood

Box back
3⁄4 x 5 3⁄4 x 78 1⁄2"
Maple plywood

Box end–right
3⁄4 x 5 3⁄4 x 48
Maple plywood

Box bottom
3⁄4 x 48 x 80"
Maple plywood

Box/rail cap–front
3⁄4 x 1 1⁄2 x 80"
1 x 2 maple

Box cap–end
3⁄4 x 1 1⁄2 x 48"
1 x 2 maple

Box cap–back
3⁄4 x 1 1⁄2 x 78 1⁄2
1 x 2 maple

Rail cap–end
3⁄4 x 1 1⁄2 x 30 1⁄4
1 x 2 maple

Rail post
3⁄4 x 1 1⁄2 x 4
1 x 2 maple

Ladder leg–short
3⁄4 x 5 1⁄2 x 59 1⁄2"
1 x 6 maple

Ladder leg–long
3⁄4 x 5 1⁄2 x 79 1⁄4"
1 x 6 maple

Ladder rung
3⁄4 x 1 1⁄2 x 24
1 x 2 maple

Ladder filler
3⁄4 x 5 1⁄2 x 6 1⁄2"
1 x 6 maple

Ladder filler
3⁄4 x 5 1⁄2 x 10 1⁄2"
1 x 6 maple

Ladder filler
3⁄4 x 5 1⁄2 x 3 1⁄2
1 x 6 maple

1 1⁄2 x 1 1⁄2 x 79 1⁄4
2 x 2 maple (or pine)

1 1⁄2 x 1 1⁄2 x 45
2 x 2 maple (or pine)


Step 1

Lay Out the Wall Cleats

Determine the length, width, and location of the bed frame. Plan your layout so that once the mattress is in, you have 4" to 6" all the way around it inside the mattress box, providing room for bedding and other things. Mark a level line on both walls at the bottom of the mattress box.

Step 2

Build the Mattress Box - Step 1

The mattress box is fabricated from 3/4" thick maple plywood, which creates a clean, modern look once installed and finished. Maple is also a very stable material that delivers dependable mechanical connections for assembly. And, because we can make panels larger than with dimensional lumber, we create a nest for the mattress to set inside that results in a curb that will help keep children safe at night. The box should be assembled as completely as possible on the ground (in your shop) and then hoisted into position on the wall cleats when you’ve taken it as far as it makes sense to go. The two sides of the box that face out into the room are wider than the two that go against the walls because the room-side of the box needs to conceal the cleats that support the plywood box bottom. These cleats (the room side ones) are attached to the frame first and the other two are attached to the walls first. The plywood bottom is butted against the room sides of the box frame, and is flush with the outside edges of the wall sides of the frame. The top edges of the box are covered with 1 x 2 maple on-edge, which also serves as the bottom rail of the railing on the room sides.

Step 3

Build the Mattress Box - Step 2

Rip-cut the four box frame sides from 3/4" maple plywood, using a tablesaw or a circular saw and straightedge cutting guide. Note that the two frame sides that go against the wall are 2 1/4" narrower than the ones facing the room.

Step 4

Build the Mattress Box - Step 3

The fastener scheme we chose for this bed is to tack the parts together with glue and pneumatic nails, then reinforce with brass screws and grommet-style washers once things are squared up (the brass screws only need to be used on visible surfaces). Join the corners of the box with glue and screws. The two exposed sides should conceal the end grain of the side they’re attached to. Work on a large, flat surface with the box sides upside-down so their top edges are even.

Step 5

Build the Mattress Box - Step 4

Cut the cleats to length from 2 x 2 pine stock. Attach cleats to the bottom inside faces of the exposed box sides, flush with the bottom edges of the box. Use glue and brass wood screws driven at 8" intervals to secure the cleats.

Step 6

Build the Mattress Box - Step 5

Once the cleats are in place, cut the mattress box bottom to size and attach it to the cleats that are connected to the room sides of the box. Drive 2" deck screws through the plywood bottom and into the cleats, spaced no more than 12" apart. At the wall-sides of the box, the plywood bottom should be flush with the outside edges of the box. Also drive 2" deck or wallboard screws into the plywood box edges on this side.
Cut 3 2 x 2 stiffeners and position them on the undersides of the plywood. The ends should be flush against the room side cleat. Tack in place and then attach by driving screws through the top of the plywood.

Step 7

Build the Mattress Box - Step 6

Run the top edges of the 1 x 2 maple stock for the railing and edge caps parts through a router table fitted with a 1/4" roundover bit. Cut the box caps, cap rails and rail posts to length (use a stop block on your power miter saw to make uniform length pieces). Attach the 1 x 2 caps to the back edge and right end (the wall sides) with glue and finish nails (drill pilot hole for the finish nails if hand-driving them). Before attaching the front and left side box caps, lay out positions for the railing posts according to the diagram on page 95. For best accuracy, gang-mark the post locations on the rail caps and box caps.

Step 8

Build the Mattress Box - Step 7

Attach each post to the box caps at marked locations, using glue and two 3" deck screws or wood screws driven up through pilot holes in the box cap and into the bottom ends of the posts. Then, attach the box caps with attached posts to the front and left sides of the mattress box, using glue and 3" trim-head wood screws driven down through the top edges of the box caps and into the box at 12" intervals.
Next, attach the railing caps to the tops of the railing posts with glue and trimhead wood screws driven down through the rail caps and into the posts. Make sure the posts are aligned with the reference lines you marked for their positions. Finish-sand the mattress box (you may want to back out the screws a ways to get underneath the grommets). It’s best to wait until all parts are built so you can apply finish at the same time

Step 9

Adding a Ceiling

The bottom edges of the front side and left end of the mattress box are still exposed plywood edge grain. There are a couple of ways of dealing with this. One is to conceal the edges with heat-activated maple veneer tape. Or, you can tack on additional strips of maple 1 x 2. But we chose to create a “ceiling” for the area underneath the loft bed by attaching a sheet of tempered 1/4" hardboard to the underside of the box.



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