How to Build Modern Bunk Beds

Monday, October 24, 2016 -
How to build modern bunk beds. Use FREE building plans to make a set of bunk beds with minimalist design.

*This post is sponsored by PureBond Hardwood Plywood and contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own and remain uninfluenced. 

I am a twin mama. I have 7-year old identical boys. I kinda sorta decorated their room when I built their first "big boy" beds four years ago. Needless to say, their space is in MAJOR need of a makeover! I've started working on a new bedroom design and the first step was to build new bunk beds. 

Although I love our house, the bedrooms are tiny! Like 10' x 10'. I previously stuffed two twin farmhouse beds into their bedroom, which left them with like 12 square feet of ground to play on. I hesitated to resort to the bunk bed option because every bunk bed design I had seen either was not my style, or was built-in. I ADORE build-in bunk beds, but since we know we won't be living in this house forever, built-ins aren't a good choice for us. 

I started searching for modern bunk bed inspiration. Once I found the "Perch" bed by Oeuf, I knew I had my design. 

Knowing my children will sleep every night in this bed, I instantly chose formaldehyde free plywood. I emailed my friends over at PureBond Plywood and took the PureBond Pledge. 

I swear I'm not one of "those" parents. I don't shop at Whole Food and my kids have never worn knee pads. But if I have the option to keep toxic chemicals which have been proven to cause serious health concerns away from my family, I'll take it. Most of you can find PureBond plywood at your local Home Depot. Unfortunately, that's not the case in Arizona, but it is available at many hardwood suppliers close by. 

I really love that exposed plywood edge look that's popular right now, so I chose to build my bed with Europly in maple. Europly plywood is made from several thin sheets of wood pressed together, giving the edges that gorgeous detail. It was seriously the prettiest plywood I have every worked with!

Materials List:
  • (2) 4' x 8' x 3/4" PureBond® Hardwood Plywood sheet
  • (1) 2' x 4' x 3/4" PureBond® Hardwood Plywood sheet
  • (11) 2 x 2 pine studs
  • (3) 1 x 4 x 96" board
  • (2) iron-on edge banding
  • 1-1/4" pocket hole screws
  • 2" wood screws
  • 2-1/2" wood screws
  • wood glue
  • screw head caps
  • pocket hole plugs
  • circular saw
  • jigsaw
  • Kreg Jig®
  • power drill
  • edge banding trimmer

Cut list:
  • (8) 3/4" plywood @ 65" x 10" (cut into leg pattern)
  • (2) 3/4" plywood @ 12-1/4" x 76-1/2" (EB)
  • (2) 3/4" plywood @ 12-1/4" 39" (EB)
  • (2) 3/4" plywood @ 8" x 56-1/2" 
  • (2) 3/4" plywood @ 8" x 22" 
  • (1) 3/4" plywood @ 40-1/2" x 20" (EB)
  • (1) 3/4" plywood @ 6" x 40-1/2" (EB)
  • (2) 3/4" plywood @ 6" x 75" (EB)
  • (2) 2 x 2 @ 76-1/2"
  • (2) 2 x 2 @ 75"
  • (26) 2 x 2 @ 36"
  • (2) 1 x 4 @ 72" (cut into pattern)
  • (4) 1 x 4 @ 20"

1. The first step is to cut all your pieces down to size. The pieces marked (EB) in the cut list above will need wood veneer edge banding applied to at least one exposed edge.  It's a good idea to paint each component separately before assembly. 

I would recommend starting by cutting out the eight leg panels. 

Use a circular saw to cut all the straight line and a jigsaw for the curves. 

I used a paint can lid to create my curved lines, but you could get fancy and use a compass if you have one. 

2. Once the panels are cut, drill 3/4" pocket holes along the straight edge of four of the panels. Make sure to flip two of the panels the opposite direction when you drill your holes, or else all your legs with face the same direction.

Attach pairs of leg panels together, using wood glue and 1-1/4" pocket hole screws, creating four finished legs. 

3. Drill 3/4" pocket holes on both ends of each 8" x 22" panel. Attach a panel between two legs, using 1-1/4" pocket hole screws. 

4. Attach 8" x 56-1/2" side rails to the remaining edges of the legs, through more pocket holes and screws. 

Since I designed this bed to be taken apart and moved, at this point I chose to label the pieces. Using a sharpie marker, I wrote a little letter on the inside of each joint. When it's time to reassemble the bed, all I have to do is match up letters and I can be sure everything will line up okay. 

5. Apply iron-on edge banding to the exposed edges of the remaining plywood pieces and trim off the excess. 

6. Use a jigsaw to cut a large notch to make it easier to climb into the top bunk. On one 76-1/2" x 12-1/4" side skirt, measure 6" from the end. Cut a 20" x 6" notch with rounded corners. 

Place the upper side skirts within the frame, leaving 6" of the skirt sticking up above. There should be a 1-1/2" gap between the bottom of the skirt and the bottom edge of the side frame rails. Screw upper side skirts in place, using 1-1/4" screws. If you keep the screws low enough, they won't be seen with the mattress in place. 

7. Drill 3/4" pocket holes on both end of 12-1/4" x 39" upper end skirts. Slide the end skirts between the side panels and make sure the top edges are flush. Secure to the frame with 1-1/4" screws. 

8. Measure 12" from the bottom of each leg and make a mark on the inside face. To make your life easier, I would really consider cutting four, 12" spacer blocks. Place the 20" x 40-1/2" headboard on top of the spacer blocks, and attach to the legs using 1-1/4" screws. 

On the opposite end, place the 6" x 40-1/2" lower end skirt on the spacer blocks and attach to the legs using 1-1/4" screws. 

9. Align the lower side skirts between the end and the headboard and secure in place using 1-1/4" screws. 

10. Create the upper and lower mattress support frames. The upper frame uses 76-1/2" long side rails and the lower uses 75" rails. 

For the both frames, space thirteen, 36" long 2 x 2 studs, 4-3/4" apart. Pre-drill through the side rails and into the ends of each rung. Attach rungs to side rails using two, 2-1/2" wood screws. 

11. Slide the mattress support frames into place, flush with the bottom edge of the side skirts. Secure using 2" screws between each rung. 

12. With the bed constructed, you can start to assemble the ladder. 

Cut the bottom edge 10 degrees off of square. Measure 60-3/4" on the inside edge. Draw a 10 degree angle up from that point. Create a 3/4" x 4-1/2" triangular notch. Use a jigsaw to cut out the notch and round the top of the board. 

13. Start measuring from the bottom, and space each step 14" apart. Pre-drill two holes through the sides, into the ends of each step. Attach using 2-1/2" screws. 

14. Next, place the ladder against the front, upper side skirt. Pre-drill through the backside and into the ladder. Secure in place, using 2" screws. 

15. The last step of the build is to hide all the evidence. I love screw head covers! I used them on my floating bathroom shelf  and modern curtain rods. I tapped one over each visible screw head, making the whole piece look much more finished. 

To hide the pocket holes on the inside of the bunk bed legs and upper skirts, I ordered plastic pocket hole plugs. The plastic type are removable, so I can pull them out when I need to disassemble the bed. They aren't a perfect fit, but they sure look better than a bunch of gaping holes. 

And here is the final look! 

Look at that gorgeous maple! I love the contrast of the blonde wood against the white. 

 Even though the bunk bed has that minimalist look that I love, it's actually very sturdy.

Like I mentioned, I've started my boy's room makeover and their new bed is the centerpiece. They LOVE it! In fact, they insisted on me taking a photo with them climbing the ladder. Aren't they handsome?

Are you ready to build you own modern bunk beds? Take the PureBond Pledge and pin the image below to save the idea for later!

FREE building plans tutorial modern DIY bunk beds

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  1. This is AMAZING! I also love the look of this bed, but the price - not so much. I think we will give this a try with your detailed instructions. One question, in the picture it looks like there are a number of small white lines on the inside of the legs, is this the white plastic screw hole covers? Thanks!

    1. Thank you! The oval shaped lines on the inside of the legs are the plastic pocket hole plugs. They are actually an almond color, which is noticeabe in real life but not too distracting.

  2. So my buddy and I are about to start on this project but we have a question about the proper dimensions of the top mattress support frame. The instructions show it being 76.5x39" and tying in between the white painted side skirts and head/footboards. By my calculations, the space between the side skirts is 39" but the space between the white head/footboards is 75" This would make the top and bottom mattress support frames the identical. It seems to me that either the top frame needs to be 75"x39" and fit between the white painted side skirts and head/footboards OR it needs to be 76.5"x40.5" and fit between the outer natural wood legs and side rail frame, just under that white inner frame. I drew it out 3 times to be sure. Am I missing something in my analysis? At any rate, our plan is to build the legs and side rails first and then measure that space before we cut the mattress support frame. Thanks for doing the real work of figuring this out and documenting the instructions. We are excited to get started!

    1. Hi Chris! You are absolutely correct. Thank you for catching my mistake! The outer dimensions of the top bunk support should be 76-1/2" x 40-1/2" and the bottom bunk support should be 75" x 39". The sketch of the supports reflects the difference in length, but not width. I'll fix that. You will need thirteen, 36" rungs and thirteen, 37-1/2" rungs. Good luck with the build! Let me know if you have any other questions. I would love to see photos when you're done.

    2. Another good point you mentioned; Definitely build the outer frame and measure before building the support frames, just to be sure.

  3. One of the issues that people who bought the original Perch bed have run into is that the wood squeaks, as it flexes and rubs together. Have you found that to be an issue?

    1. Oh yeah, please comment on this! Is squeaking an issue?

    2. We built this bed using Elisha's build plan in early 2017 and have not noticed speaking (almost a year later), though our kids are little so don't weight much. When I climb the ladder to the top bunk there is a bit of creaking on the ladder treads but not from the bed. We did opt to use some large felt pad protectors between the mattress support and the inner frame of the bed.

  4. Does the two bed separate and function alone like the original?

  5. Replies
    1. White Ultra-Cover from Rustoleum

  6. Absolutely love the design. Just had a question about the cut list. I'm trying to diagram all the long cuts onto two sheets of plywood, and I'm coming up short. Do you happen to have a diagram of the cuts and how they fit? Between the legs, side rails and skirts, I'm seeing some 11' of cuts longer than 48", but only have 8' between the two sheets. Let me know if I'm missing something, or if I need a third sheet of plywood.

    1. Definitely had the same issue. Wish I'd have just bought a third sheet.

  7. I know this will differ a bit depending on where you're located, but do you remember approximately how much it cost to build this?

  8. Great job! I've been wanting to build this but with a study space underneath, the plans are very helpful. I am thinking about putting the pocket holes on the back of the back legs? They would be less visible, then leave the front ones where they are.

  9. Amazing! Slightly off-topic...will you please share your rug source! Love this combo!

  10. Hello - Just wodering how this bed held up over the years? Was it plenty strong without needing to use glue for the pocket hole joints? Thanks! Looking to build it this weekend


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