How to build a platform bed

January 21, 2008 by  
Filed under DIY Projects, Top Posts

A few months ago Heather and I had finally had enough of our old, lumpy bed. I was waking up with back pain so bad I had trouble getting into my car and we both were getting lousy sleep. I got out the measuring tape and found my side of the bed dipped 2 inches from the foot to the middle and Heather’s side was worse. After talking it over we decided if we were getting a new mattress we might as well upgrade to a king size.

King size is pricey and we didn’t want to spend the money on a bed frame that wasn’t going to match our dressers so we looked into platform beds. I found a few plans online, but the basic design was so simple that I decided to just wing it and make my own plans using standard construction lumber. We made the trip to our local furniture store and fell in love with a foam mattress. We placed our order, took some measurements and after Thanksgiving I built our new bed in a busy afternoon. Here’s how I did it.

First the materials

  • 2 x 4 x 96 – 10 pieces ($2.11 ea)
  • 2 x 10 x 8 – 6 pieces ($7.99 ea)
  • 3/4 x 49 x 97 MDF – 2 pieces ($22.99)
  • deck screws
  • wood glue (optional)

The tools

  • miter saw
  • circular saw
  • power drill/driver

My basic idea was to build 2 frames and stack them on top of each other. The framing is much like framing a wall. The bottom is smaller so you don’t stub your toes (like kitchen cabinets) and taller (so the bed fits over our radiator and flush to the wall – no headboard!). I topped it all off with the MDF. Here’s the step by step photos.

Platform bed base
For my base I used 2x10s. This gave me enough height to get my second tier over the radiator and allow us to push the bed flush to the wall so we didn’t need a headboard. In retrospect, 2x8s would have been better. The foam mattress was thicker than we expected and our bed is slightly taller than our old standard height bed.To determine the dimensions I added 1 inch to the height and width of the mattress we purchased. I then subtracted 12 inches from each dimension to give us the inset to protect our toes and enough space for the radiator to do its thing.For example a standard King size mattress is 80 x 76. The bottom frame would be 69 x 65. There is a lot of room for adjustment her since you never see this layer. The important thing is that your frame is level.All lumber was screwed together using some old 2 1/2″ deck screws. I drilled pilot holes to prevent splitting and used a little wood glue to create a strong bond.
Platform bed base
Next I used my scrap pieces of 2×10 to create blocking. This prevents my frame from twisting over time as the wood dries. This is the same technique used in floor joists.Make sure to offset them like I did so you are able to screw in from both sides. No exact science here, just make sure they fit tightly in the spaces. This might have been overkill, but I figured it was better to overbuild with an extra $20 of lumber than take the bed apart later and fix it.
Platform bed second tier
For the top layer I used 2x4s. I followed the same strategy, but this layer will be slightly larger than the mattress. Once again I screwed and glued everything taking care to keep everything square and level. This layer is very visible so take the time to do it right.
Platform bed assembly
Next I placed the top layer on top of the bottom and centered it. I toenailed the top layer into the bottom at all intersections with the deck screws (remember to drill those pilot holes first).When I was done I was surprised just how solid the hole thing was. Ethan immediately declared it was a pirate ship and start climbing all over.
Platform bed finished
The last step was attaching the mdf to the top. I had these pre-cut at Lowes. Their sheet cutter is more accurate than I can be with a circular saw and it saves me time. I attached these with 2 inch deck screws about every 12-16 inches. Overkill again.The end result isn’t very glamorous, but I plan on using the scrap MDF to side the upper tier of the bed and create a lip to keep the bed in place. This is why I made the platform slightly larger – to give us room to put the sheets on when the lip is in place.There you have it. The sturdiest bed you’ve ever seen for about $100 and an afternoon. I was worried it might tilt when you sat on a corner, but it does not budge at all. It is HEAVY and will need to be taken apart if it every needs to leave the room.
Jamie also loved playing in the framing. There is plenty of room for adding storage, but we decided against it. We were more interested in having a bed where toys, tissues, dog hair, dishes, etc could NOT get lost underneath.
There was one frantic step I did not photograph. Notice the open framing in this picture. If I left it this way it would be possible for someone to reach into the framing from below and deposit something INTO the bed frame. To prevent this I used some scrap MDF and plywood to block all the spaces between the outer edges of the top and bottom frames.In a couple places, however, I screwed the plywood over the bottom frame, but left an opening. This created a hidden shelf. I have one on my side of the bed where I keep a book and my book light. One at the bottom of the bed is used by kids as a cave where their toy frogs live.

We’ve been very happy with the end result. The bed frame is incredibly solid and our new mattress is wonderful! My back aches are completely gone and we are sleeping so much better. Feel free to post any questions on the bed and I’ll help where I can. I also plan to post an update after I get the sideboards on and the whole thing painted.

*Here is a post about the twin beds I made for the boys.

UPDATE from the wife on 3/11/10!: Well its over 2 years since this post was written and the bed is still the same as the 5th picture (except there is a mattress on it). John and I both have a problem with completely finishing any project! I always get him started on something new and I think he gets bored once its functionally finished. This post is probably our most viewed of all time but  if you are at our blog anyway you should click on the home and see what contests we may have going on right now (we typically have 1 or 2 great giveaways)!

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