How to Make Offset Built in Bunk Beds with Ladder and Guard Rails

I recently finished making offset built-in bunk beds for Lucy and Jack. The room they share isn't huge, so I was hoping to pack as much storage into the bunk beds as possible. One of my goals was to eliminate the need for dressers so that they could have more space to play.

Bunk Bed Sketch Plans

Offset Bunk Beds Overview

The "bottom bunk" is on the left side. It has three sections that can hold two drawers each.

Next to the bottom bunk is a taller structure that:

  1. Packs a LOT of storage (six more drawers! The bottom two are 28" deep, and the others are 24" deep)
  2. Provides some support for the "top bunk" above

On the other side of the "dresser" is empty storage space that will be hidden with a shaker style door.

 

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What Supplies Do I need to Make Offset Built-in Bunk Beds?

Materials

Lumber

  • 2x4s for the frame of the beds (this frame was built from 19 of them!)
  • 1x3 for the bottom trim + vertical trim between the drawers
  • 1x6 for the top bunk trim
  • 3/4" mdf sheets for the bed base
  • 3/4" plywood for the drawers and drawer faces
  • 1/4" plywood or hardboard for the drawer bottoms
  • 1/2" plywood to enclose the center dresser
  • 2x2 for guard rails and ladder (I trimmed down some repurposed oak on my bandsaw)

Hardware

Finishing Supplies

  • Oil-Based Primer
  • Paint
  • Matte Polyurethane

 

Overview

  • The entire frame is constructed with 2x4 lumber, joined with pocket holes and screws.
  • After putting them into place in the room, the separate pieces (bottom bunk, top bunk, center dresser) are joined to one another with screws
  • The top bunk is supported by the tall "dresser" and is also secured to the wall with heavy duty Spax screws through the studs.
  • I added trim to the frame with a nail gun and 16 gauge nails
  • Guard rails and ladder are attached to the bed from inside the bed so that the screws aren't visible

 

How I Made Offset Built-In Bunk Beds

Bottom Bunk

I started by building the frame for the bottom bunk. The standard size of a twin mattress is 38x75", so I made the frame just slightly larger (39x75").

Build two identical pieces for the frame of the bottom bunk.

Built in Bunk Beds with Drawers Base Frame
Built in Bunk Beds with Drawers Two Base Frames
Pocket Hole Construction Offset Bunk Beds

These small 2x4 pieces serve two purposes. They act as supports, and they also divide the frame into three sections for drawers. The drawer slides are screwed directly into these small 2x4 supports.

How to Build a Frame for Built in Bunk Beds
Completed Frame for Bottom Bunk with Drawers

After building the drawer boxes I moved the bed frame into the room. Remove the trim from the wall so the frame can be pushed directly against the wall.

Making Drawers for Built in Bunk Beds

Built-In Bunk Beds : Center Section

Next, I started building the frame of the tall, center dresser.

Build Center Section for Built in Offset Bunk Beds
Build Center Drawer Section for Built in Offset Bunk Beds
Bunk Bed Center Support Structure

At this point I screwed drawer fronts onto the drawers of the bottom bunk (attached with screws from inside the drawer). I placed a scrap piece of 1x3 trim along the bottom to make sure the drawer fronts were installed at the correct height.

Add Faces to Bed Drawer Fronts

Built-In Bunk Beds : Top Bunk

Next, I built a frame for the top bunk.

Top Bunk Frame
Making Top Bunk Level

Fix Top Bunk to Wall

Locate the studs in the wall where the top bunk will be.

How to Securely Attach Bunk Bed to Wall

I used these Spax powerlags to attach the top bunk to the wall through the studs.

Spax Screws to Attach Bunk Beds Securely to Walls
How to Securely Attach Bunk Bed to Wall with Spax Screws

Book Nook

I decided midway through this project to add a little "book nook" in the empty space behind the drawers of the dresser. I made a support from 2x4s to attach to the inside of the dresser.

Support for Book Nook in Bunk Beds
Placement of Book Nook in Bunk Beds
Build a Book Nook in Bunk Beds

The book nook is screwed onto the 2x4 support it rests on. (In case you're wondering about the scrap of plywood next to it . . . I put that there as a way to ensure the book nook would be flush with the plywood that I'd soon be attaching to the sides.)

Install Book Nook in Bunk Beds

I also added some small corner braces to keep it in place. (You can see one of them at the bottom of the book nook.)

Back View of Book Nook Support for Built in Bunk Beds

Dresser Sides

I then attached 1/2" plywood to the sides of the dresser with screws from the back side. (I also ended up adding a few screws through the front.)

Attach Plywood Panel to Side of Bunk Bed
Attach Plywood Panel to Side of Bunk Bed with Countersunk Screws
Plywood Panel Sides DIY Offset Bunk Beds

After that I added plywood underneath the top bunk.

Plywood Panel Top DIY Offset Bunk Beds

Center Section Drawers

Next I started building drawers for the dresser. You can see that the drawer slides are attached directly to the 2x4 frame, as they were with the drawers in the bottom bunk.

DIY Bunk Beds with Lots of Drawers

Before screwing the drawer fronts on, I made sure all the pieces were firmly attached to each other with screws. (Tall dresser frame screwed to the bottom bunk frame as well as the top bunk frame.)

Building Offset Built in Bunk Beds

FINISHING

Prime, then paint!

Prime Offset Built in Bunk Beds
Paint Offset Built in Bunk Beds

Build a door to enclose the right storage area.

Large Door for Bunk Bed Side Compartment

Begin adding trim to the bed. I used 1x6 pieces to trim the top bunk, and 1x3 trim for mostly everything else. Make sure the trim on the beds goes at least 3/4" above the 2x4 frame so that it will hide the 3/4" mdf sheet that will eventually be placed on top.

Adding Trim to Built in Bunk Beds

Fill any holes after nailing the trim to the frame.

Filling Holes in Built in Bunk Beds

Last, you'll need to make a few guard rails and a ladder. I screwed all the pieces together, but first drilled a 3/8" hole to hide the screws with a 3/8" dowel.

Screw Guard Rails for Bunk Bed
Making Guard Rails for Bunk Bed
Making DIY Guard Rails for Bunk Bed
DIY Bunk Bed Guard Rail
Trim Dowel to Hide Screw in Rails for Bunk Bed
DIY Bunk Bed Guard Rail Dowel
Attaching DIY Bunk Bed Guard Rail to End
Screw to Attach DIY Bunk Bed Guard Rail to End

I attached the rails and the ladder to the bed with screws from the inside so that they're not visible.

Screws to Attach DIY Bunk Bed Guard Rail to End
Attaching Ladder to Built in Bunk Beds Spax Screws
Attaching Ladder to Built in Bunk Beds At Top_
Before DIY Fabric Feature Wall

After that I put mdf sheets (reused the ones from their old beds) onto the frame, brushed on two layers of polyurethane to protect the paint, covered the wall in fabric, added some solid brass drawer knobs, and finally, dropped their mattresses into place.

Finished Built-In Bunk Bed

The beds are far from perfect (!), but they are solid and LOVED by Lucy and Jack, so I am happy. 🙂

DIY Offset Built in Bunk Beds
DIY Built in Bunk Beds

For now this storage area hides a big bin of stuffed animals and a basket of dirty laundry. I'm thinking about adding a shelf along the back wall to place a bin of play-doh or legos.

Large Storage Area in Built in Bunk Beds
Laundry Basket Storage inside Built in Bunk Beds
DIY Ladder for Built in Bunk Beds_
Book Nook inside Built in Bunk Beds

Lucy and Jack both love the bunk bed's book nook.

Reading Area in Offset Bunk Beds
Climbing Ladder of Built in Bunk Beds
DIY Bunk Bed Ladder

All of their clothes fit in the bed's storage drawers! Goodwill is coming to collect their old dressers this week. 🙂

Storage Drawers in Built in Bunk Beds
Reading in DIY Offset Bunk Beds

1 Comment

  1. Melissa Woods on April 1, 2020 at 2:21 am

    Oh my gosh! I am beyond impressed!! I would absolutely love to have this in my home for my boys. Your style is beautiful!

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