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How to Build a Loft Bed in an Afternoon (and on the Cheap)

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Here’s how to build a loft bed and have it finished by the time you’re ready to fall asleep tonight. Why would you want to do such a thing? Because a loft bed is the ideal solution for bedrooms that lack square footage but have high ceilings. The bed is suspended several feet above the floor, giving you enough floor space to fit a desk, dresser, or reading nook, all in one room.

Don’t panic if you’re not exactly a professional carpenter. If you have a modest grasp of how to use a drill and saw, some patience, and a decent amount of ambition, this DIY project is quite achievable, according to J.B. Sassano, president of Mr. Handyman. These step-by-step instructions will guide you through building a loft bed in an afternoon.

Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 3.51.11 PM
A loft bed with a high back shelf and side ladder. The rectangles indicate areas you’ll be building.

Tools and materials

  • Saw that cuts at right angles
  • C-clamps to hold wood in place
  • Hammer
  • Wrench to tighten bolts
  • Measuring tape
  • Power drill and bits
  • Twin-size mattress
  • 1 sheet of 4 by 8¾” plywood (get it precut at the lumber yard to 39 inches by 75 inches)
  • 12 2-x-6’s
  •  6 2-x-4’s
  • 16 3/8″ carriage bolt washers and nuts
  • 1 pack of 3½” wood screws


Tip: If you don’t like the look of bare wood, stain or paint all of your wood before building.

Step 1. Measure and cut the wood

Cut all of the wood before you start building, to streamline your process. As a rule of thumb, measure your wood twice so you’ll only need to cut once. From the lumber you bought (the 2-x-6’s and the 2-x-4’s), you will need to cut the following lengths:


  • Short front and back support: two pieces measuring 39½”
  • Long side top support: two pieces measuring 72½”
  • Shelf: one piece measuring 78½”
  • Wall-facing (long) legs: 4 pieces measuring 81½”
  • Front-facing (short) legs: 4 pieces measuring 71½”



  • Long side wall-facing bottom support: one piece measuring 74″
  • Ladder pieces: four pieces measuring 42½”

Step 2. Build the bed legs

Grab two of your 81½-inch 2-x-6 piece legs, as well as your drill, a 1/8-inch drill bit, and a screwdriver bit. Line up the legs, making sure they are flush.

how to build a loft bed
Use a scrap of wood to keep the legs in place.

Drill a pilot hole in the end and then drill in a 2½-inch wood screw. Next, move about a foot up the board and drill/screw again, while keeping the boards flush. Repeat until you reach the end of the leg. Repeat the entire process with the two other 81½-inch boards and four 71½-inch legs.

how to build a loft bed
Drill the screw into your pilot hole.

how to build a loft bed
Repeat the pilot hole and screw process until you reach the end of each board.

Step 3. Install side supports

Lay down the two legs—a long one and a short one—so they’re parallel. Note: The short leg will eventually face out, and the long leg will be toward the wall for your shelf. Measure 54 inches from the bottom of both of legs, making a line. Put a 39½-inch 2-x-6 on the inside of the legs, lining up the bottom of the 2-x-6 with your 54-inch mark on your leg. Drill pilot holes and then drill in the 2½-inch wood screws on both sides, about a half-inch from the top and bottom of the 2-x-6 (each side should have two screws). You’ll repeat the entire process with your other set of short and tall legs.

how to build a loft bed
Carefully mark where your side support will go.

Now it’s time to attach the long 72½-inch 2-x-6 side support boards. Set the two legs in the corner of the room—tallest leg toward the wall—and use the clamps to attach the long side supports. Drill pilot holes and add two wood screws, about half an inch from the top and bottom of the 2-x-6.

When that’s done, drill two 3/8-inch-wide holes in each end of where the legs and side support meets, so that it goes through the legs. Now you can put in the bolts, hammering them in from the outside of the bed in. You’ll add a washer and nut to each one. Tighten the nuts with a wrench, but be careful not to crack the wood.

how to build a loft bed
C-clamps hold the supports in place while you drill. The 2-x-6’s will act as support for your plywood platform.

how to build a loft bed
Use a 3/8-inch drill bit to make a pilot hole for your carriage bolt.

Step 4. Bottom support

Bottom support will stabilize the loft. First support the short side. Measure 17 inches from the bottom on the inside of the legs, on the opposite side of where you want the ladder. Line a 39½-inch 2-x-6 piece up with the top of the 17-inch mark. Drill out your pilot hole and the drill in wood screws on each side.

Add bottom support to the long side. Measure 17 inches up on the long side with the tall legs, and secure it to the 74-inch 2-x-4 with C-clamps. Pilot your holes and drill in wood screws.

Step 5. Build a ladder

Now that your bed is up in the clouds, you need a ladder to get up to it. Measure up from the bottom of your remaining short side and mark 17-inch intervals. Add your 42½-inch 2-x-4’s at 17-inch intervals by piloting holes and securing with wood screws.

Step 6. Add the platform and shelf

Build your back shelf by taking your 78½-inch 2-x-6 and drilling it onto the top side of the long legs.

Now that your shelf and supports are done, your loft frame should be strong enough for you to place the ¾-inch plywood platform on top. To finish, all you need to do is put the mattress on top.

A finished loft bed painted purple.
Voila! A finished loft bed. Purple paint job optional.


The post How to Build a Loft Bed in an Afternoon (and on the Cheap) appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

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