Built: loft bed with a desk and some cool lighting

I had a couple months off this summer and after doing some camping with the family, I got bored sitting around with nothing to do and figured that it was time to graduate the 10 year old from the Ikea Kura (that we got for him probably 7 years ago) to something that would give him an area to work on homework, hang out with friends a little bit and generally last until he’s 15(?) or whatever age boys demand a regular bed. Actually, now that I remember it, my wife figured it was time for him to get a new bed and wanted to buy this loft bed on Ikea:


which is relatively cheap ($149 plus $99 for the desk top) and would probably work but then, again, I was bored. I did a couple of Google searches for “diy loft bed” and came across this one:


which looked easy, really sturdy, had storage for Legos (if you buy the Ikea stuff) and didn’t look very complicated to build. I got clearance from the CEO and started getting ready a week or so ago.

The plans (PDF) are really well done (includes a materials list and a cut list) and since I had the time, I figured I’d traipse on over to this wood store in Portland (which I had discovered via a friend) to buy the wood for the bed. I arrived there thinking (naively) that it would be like Home Depot, where you buy 2x4x8’s and you’re on your merry way. Turns out there’s this whole world of stuff I still have to learn (nominal wood measurements vs. actual right?) and that the plans I had in hand (along with 3 kids) would not quickly convert to the correct cut list so I had to abandon the plan of getting the wood from there, although wow, cool store. Some day I hope to be doing fine wood working with beautiful wood and have a workshop like this but for now… it’s wood from Home Depot. A couple hours later (after naps and stuff), I ended up at Home Depot and purchased the following list of goods (including the price here because it’s interesting to see how it all adds up compared to what you’d get from Ikea):

  • 7 2x6x10 doug fir: $36.26
  • 1 2x6x8 doug fir: $4.14
  • 5 2x4x8 doug fir: $13.70
  • 1 2x2x10 cedar: $6.77
  • 2 2x2x8 cedar: $11.94
  • 8 1x3x10 poplar board: $114.08
  • 3/4″ 4×8 birch plywood: $49.98
  • 3 Kreg 2.5′ coarse screws – 50ct: $14.91
  • 2′ wood screws – 1lb: $5.98
  • Kreg 1.25′ fine screws – 100pk: $3.97
  • Clear Finishing Gel: $9.99
  • Birch Edge Banding: $13.99
  • Norton 220′ grit sandpaper: $4.99
  • 120 grit disc sandpaper – 15ct: $9.97

so all in, about $300 and it’ll easily handle all three boys as they grow up. Weirdly, and I’m sure this is something I should have thought differently about, the two most expensive pieces / purchases were the poplar boards which ultimately are the mattress slats and probably didn’t need to be poplar and the plywood for the desktop, which I had to buy an entire piece of when I only need 1/3 of the board. I kept the entire board though because I figured I could make a couple more tables in a year or so when the younger dudes need tables / desks in their room. Not sure if there’s something cheaper than poplar for the mattress slats, but those turned out to be about 30% of the total cost, which seems absurd.

Worth noting: I had never done pocket holes, so I also needed to buy a Kreg Jig R3 Pocket Hole System, which added $39.97 to the total cost but wasn’t necessarily “materials” so I won’t count it here.

Anyway, everything went together relatively quickly and then there was the lull of needing to stain / seal the bed, which naturally gives you a couple days to wait around but I got it done Sunday afternoon with Grandpa (who came over to help assemble the pieces up in my son’s room) and it’s worked out really really nicely. A couple of the comments I read on the blog post above said that the bed was wobbly but for whatever reason, the bed as I put it together is unbelievably solid, I can climb up it (185 pounds) and it barely wiggles. Pocket holes make for some really tight joints.

The desk was also relatively simple to put together, I did make it a bit smaller than was spec’ed in the plans so that there’d be more room to maneuver around and after doing a little bit of reading on finishing plywood tables, I visited the Rockler Woodworking store here in Beaverton and bought some birch edge banding, which I think ironed and sanded on and that gave the desk a really nice finish (and I learned something in the process). We’ll see how long the banding lasts but it was amazing to see how the iron + a bit of sanding makes it look like a finished piece and not just a piece of plywood.

I ended up buying an RGB LED Strip Light Kit on Amazon to put some fun light underneath the bed so that my son could do homework and do Lego stuff on the desk, which is both practical (it’s relatively well lit now) and fun (he could have a disco party in his room now). Pictures of the bed:

and the desk:

and the lights:

Last, I bought a mattress on Amazon after remembering and re-reading Jason Kottke’s post on mattresses and how they’re a ripoff and ended up buying this one on Amazon, which has worked out well for the couple days that we’ve had it and feels much nicer than anything we’ve purchased previously at Ikea (and we slept on Ikea mattresses while we lived in England last year so I have experience). Also, $99, can’t beat that for a kids mattress.

Other stuff:

4 thoughts on “Built: loft bed with a desk and some cool lighting”

  1. it looks very nice and do you think it can be converted to make it fit a full size mattress? if so do you know the extra dimensions?

  2. Poplar was an expensive choice for slats. Furring strips can be found at Lowe’s and Home Depot and run $1.78 each for 1”x3”x8’ so may have to buy a couple more with not being 10’ long and are just pine.

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