Loft Bed Plans - Lumber & Hardware
The good news about building a loft bed is that you don't necessarily have to be a woodworker to build a project like this. Depending on how complex you want to get, some beds can be built using simple 2x4 lumber and a few pieces of plywood. However, going easy on lumber costs doesn't mean going easy on safety. People can get hurt on a loft bed that is poorly constructed. That's why I like to take the money I'll save on wood and put it into some better hardware. More on that later.
With most loft bed plans, the bulk of the project is constructing the legs and rails (the side sections that hold the corners together). We could certainly join all the pieces together with heavy-duty woodscrews and gorilla glue. That would give us an incredibly strong and safe frame. However, that would somewhat defeat one of the nicer features of a loft bed: the ability to take it apart and put it back together again. So the challenge will always be to find a type of construction and joinery that is strong and durable, yet easy to disassemble.
I've found that 3/8" carriage bolts with matching washers and nuts do a nice job in both these regards. They're plenty strong to keep 1x8 sides rails, for example, firmly mounted to a pair of 2x4s at each leg. Even with lots of bumping and shaking, these carriage bolts will hold their ground. And even if things start to loosen up over time, a quick turn with a wrench will tighten everything back up like new. Don't worry that part of the bolt has a square shape (just under the round head). This will compress nicely into the soft dimensional lumber we're using and add a little more stability to the joint.
Family Fun Magazine Plans
Aside from the goofy title of their website and magazine, these loft bed plans are a pretty decent set of instructions - not to mention that they're free. The drawings give you a nice, quick overview of how the bed goes together - which is always nice when you're starting from scratch. It also fits the bill for simple construction, using 2x4s, 2x8s, and plywood. And to avoid having to use expensive tools for the joinery, the Family Fun style is to make wood joints by sandwiching boards on top of one another, which creates the necessary notches and recessed areas for making two boards come together in a snug union, Everything else pretty much goes together with full-lap joinery, which simply means you slap two boards on top of each other and nail or screw then together.
More about the drawings - they're nice, easy-to-understand illlustrations. Can't say as much about the text that goes along. Which puzzles me a little about almost all instructions that I try to read. Does anyone really follow along, word by word, with this stuff? I'm not sure what kind of brain can keep up with this kind of writing. It's like trying to read a legal contract. Sure, all the details are probably there somewhere, and in a court of law it would probably hold its ground. But all I want to do is build a loft bed. So I have to assume that most people (like me) just stumble through the pictures and hope there's nothing they missed in the fine print. Oh well.
Overall, the loft bed plans from Family Fun (did I mention that's a ridiculous name?) will give you a pretty good idea about how to go about building the project. And keep in mind that with any project plan, you don't always have to follow the instructions letter by letter. Just get a basic idea of how the joinery works (to maintain strength and stability) and then improvise your own design.
PlansNOW Loft Bed Plans
If you've given up on the so-called free loft bed plans spread all over the Web (like I have) you're next stop should probably be at PlansNOW. You'll pay about $10 for the download, but this is a pretty extensive set of instructions (compared to the freebies) that attempt to cover all the woodworking challenges you'll face with this type of project. Notice I used the word "woodworking" because these are not the down-and-dirty plans I talk about elsewhere that call for 2x4s and nails. PlansNOW is primarily geared toward woodworkers who have some fairly sophisticated tools in the shop (things like wood planers, drill presses, and router tables). If these are the kinds of tools you're coming to the table with, then definitely check out the selection of loft bed plans and bunk bed plans here.
As with most woodworking plans, there's no need to think you have to follow the plan exactly. That's usually too difficult anyway, because most plans having a lot of tedious explanations in the text that don't really help get you through the project (ie; section "a" is connected by way of section 3-B via left rail "b" connected to...). Those kinds of instructions don't help me much, and so I do what I think most DIY builders do...just look at the drawings and come up with my own dimensions.
The nice thing you'll find with PlansNOW are some fairly decent photos to go along with the project plan. That's a big help if you're more a visual-oriented person like me (who isn't visually oriented, anyway?). Even if you get hung up with the explanations, you can always take a close look at the photos to see how everything goes together. PlansNOW also includes shop tips and techniques, which often include some type of shortcut or quickie method that the editors discovered while they were actually building the project. Those kinds of tips are extremely helpful when taking on a project like this. No need to spend entire weekend trying to solve a woodworking problem on your own. If there's something tricky going in the project's joinery that you should know about, PlansNOW is pretty good at letting you know before hand.
The more critical choice in hardware for loft bed plans will be finding something to support the plywood board that supports the mattress. This can be a little more tricky, since this part of the bed will have to stand up to the weight of whomever is lying the mattress, and maybe a couple other small bodies jumping up and down at the same time.
My first choice in hardware for supporting the plywood is 1 -1/2" angle iron, mounted along the inside of each rail. You'll need to get the type with holes along the length of the strip, which give you something to drive your woodscrews through. If you're building a typical twin-mattress sized bed, that means getting a 72" strip for each side, and a 36" strip for each end. Once you get over the sticker shock for this kind of hardware (about $50 for all four pieces) I think you'll sleep better at night knowing there's no chance of that mattress board falling through the frame.
3 Tools, 3 Boards, 3 Steps