Dear James: We a have small storage room behind the utility room. My son wants to convert it into his own bedroom. With its limited space, I feel a loft bed would be best. Please give me some building tips. — Shana G.
Dear Shana: A loft bed would be ideal for your son’s storage/bedroom. If you are feeling really energetic, you can build cabinets and drawers under the bed. You will be surprised how much free space there will be by having a loft bed raised up from the floor.
In order to provide maximum living space, make the mattress platform as high as possible while providing adequate headroom. Three feet of headroom should be adequate. When someone is startled from sleep, they may sit up quickly without thinking about headroom — thud!
A mattress on a rigid piece of plywood is much more firm than when it is on top of box spring. Put his current mattress on the floor and let him try it for a couple of nights before you go to the trouble of building the loft bed.
Assuming he tried out the floor and liked it, let’s get started on the loft bed. The simplest design is a plywood-covered frame suspended between 4×4 posts. If you would like to get a little fancier, consider building the mattress frame so that the mattress is recessed down in it.
A standard twin-size mattress is about 38 inches wide by 76 inches long, but measure the mattress to be safe. Make the frame one-half inch bigger all around than the mattress to allow for just a little wiggle room. Do not make it too big or he will surely bruise his shins on the hard edge that extends out.
First, make the mattress frame using standard 2×6 lumber. Assuming that your son has a standard mattress, the size of the finished frame will be 39 by 77 inches. Use nails or screws to assemble the 2×6 frame pieces. The plywood cover will provide plenty of rigidity for it.
Make the plywood cover with 3/4-inch thick A/C plywood. To make this simple without measuring, line up a 4 x 8 ft. sheet of plywood on one corner of the frame. Nail or screw it to the frame. A fastener every 8 to 10 inches should be adequate. Saw the plywood along the other two sides so they are flush with the frame.
Now get out the calculator. Measure the thickness of the mattress and the height of the ceiling over the bed. Subtract 36 inches (headroom) plus the thickness of the mattress from the height of the room. This will give you the proper distance from the floor to the top of the bed frame.
For an 8-foot ceiling and a 9-inch thick mattress, this will be 51 inches. Lay four 4 x 4-inch x 8-foot posts side by side on the floor. Push them up against a wall so that they are all even. Measure 51 inches from the wall and mark each one with a square.
Measure up two more feet and cut off the excess. This allows about two feet of post to stick up above the bed. It is attractive and provides a place to hold when getting in and out of the bed. Bevel off the sides of the top ends for a more decorative look. Adding a headboard later also helps.
Lay out the 4 x 4 posts on the floor. Set the frame up on its edge on top of the posts at the 41-inch mark that you made. Drill holes and assemble it with 3/8 lag bolts. Attach the other two posts and have your son help you to tilt it up. Attach a small ladder at one end.