So, it’s been about a year since I’ve written a D.I.Y. Dad Project blog post. I have built several things since then, but not much for my kids (besides a couple of wooden targets for Noah’s Nerf guns. I have built steps, tables, and stools beside our hot tub. I’ve built a massive work table that houses my table saw and miter saw. I’ve also built a bar for my in-laws, a mobile stand for my router table and bandsaw, a chair, and a cutting board (among other things). I’ve gained valuable experience and have generally tried something new and continued learning with each additional project. My woodworking adventure is almost two years old now. I have mostly learned through watching YouTube videos. I have gotten new tools and taught myself largely through just trying new things. It’s been frustrating at times, but mostly a lot of fun and rewarding.a gun wall that holds Noah’s many Nerf guns and a large princess castle for my daughter’s Barbies. I have tried to come up with more ideas for things to build for my kids, but haven’t come up with too much so far. I ask Noah and Charlotte periodically if they can think of anything I can build for them and usually they have no ideas or else they suggest I build them something ridiculous that I know I can’t do. However, there was one thing Noah asked me to build him recently.
I’m not certain where or how Noah even got the idea, but he wanted me to build him a bunk bed. Now, I could have shot down his idea immediately, but I gave it some thought. I told him we wouldn’t get rid of his current bed, because it is a nice full-size bed that we bought when we moved in to our house less than two years ago. I decided that (as long as my wife was on board) I could conceivably build a bunk above Noah’s bed. I didn’t think it made sense to try to build a bunk directly above his bed in the traditional sense, where the top bunk is in the same spot as the bottom one, just directly above it. Instead I thought I could build a large platform above his bed in more of a perpendicular way. So, if you were looking down on the bed from the ceiling it would be like a large “T.” You’ll soon see what I mean.
I drew up a couple of ideas and Ashley was fine with me building a bunk for Noah as long as it didn’t hurt his current bed and didn’t attach to the wall. I planned on building it sturdy enough so that it wouldn’t have to be screwed into the wall. I started sketching out more detailed plans. One of my favorite things about building things is designing them and then seeing them end up the way I planned.
The primary part of my design was having the upper bunk be one very large platform. Basically, to make things quick and easy I wanted it be the size of one full sheet of plywood (four feet wide and eight feet long). From there I had to determine a way to support the platform, make four strong and stable legs, come up with at least one way to get up to it, and a railing to keep kids from falling out of it.
I designed a large frame of 2×4’s and 2×6’s to support the plywood with four two-sided legs holding the whole thing up. I would also attach support braces connecting the legs at the floor for increased stability. I also planned on making a ladder for one side, but was unsure of what to do on the opposite side. After I finished designing the whole thing I figured out just how much wood I would have to get and made my shopping list.
A few days later our whole family made a morning trip to Lowes. Noah and Charlotte both like riding on the metal carts with the wood. By the time I collected all the wood there was no room left for the kids.
The next day Ashley and her mom were out with our kids for much of the afternoon while I was at home watching the Buffalo Bills game. I decided to try to get started on Noah’s bunkbed while trying to watch the game. I normally do all of my building in my basement workshop, but I thought it would be too difficult to move the parts upstairs after assembly, so I cleared off the carpet in the playroom and began to lay the frame out on the floor. I soon realized I had to place some scrap plywood under the pieces of wood I was fastening or else they came out uneven because of the carpet. Thankfully I figured that out quickly. I built a frame just over eight feet long and four feet wide so the sheet of plywood would fit on top of it. I used 2×6’s on the outside and 2×4’s like rafters supporting between the 2×6’s.
I then moved the frame into Noah’s room and balanced it on top of two of the legs and screwed them together. Before things got too messy I covered Noah’s bed with a tarp to protect it from sawdust. Then I slowly and carefully picked up the entire thing and leaned it against the other two legs that I previously set against his bedroom wall. That worked better and easier than I expected. Then I made sure everything was level before fastening the frame to the other two legs. Once I had the frame suspended above the four 2×6 legs I attached four 2×4’s perpendicularly to make the legs considerably stronger.
Meanwhile I was still trying to watch the Bills game in my bedroom. I mostly worked on the bunk bed during halftime and commercial breaks. Once the game ended I cut pieces for the railing and attached them as well.
A few days later I got back to work on the bunk bed. I built a ladder made out of 2x4s on one side of the bed. I wanted to have something on the other side of the bunk to reach the floor, too, but I wasn’t sure what. Noah originally wanted a slide. Then he wanted a cargo net. He also considered a fireman’s pole. I tried to brainstorm with him to come up with something I could build. We came up with something I would call a climbing pole. It is two 2x4s screwed together with wood blocks evenly spaced up the sides that he can use his hands and feet on to climb to the top bunk. I anchored it to the lower frame I made as well as the top bunk to insure it was very sturdy.
Once that was done I just had to finish the partial railings on the sides, while leaving space to get to the climbing pole on one side and the ladder on the other. Then Ashley helped me lift the big sheet of plywood up and over the main railing and on top of the main frame. Then I cut some other 2x4s down to stretch between the back and side legs, which made the whole thing as stable as possible. I even added a brace between the back legs that stretched beneath the bed, making it virtually impossible for the bunk to tip over. That was the last step.
Noah likes his bunk bed and has enjoyed filling it with stuffed animals and toys. He has spent more time playing up there than sleeping so far. I’m happy with how it turned out and I know Noah really likes it, which is what matters most.