Modified and Expanded Loft Bed, Shelves, and Desk

Submitted by mickelsn on Mon, 11/25/2019 - 20:09

My daughter desperately needed a new loft bed for her small bedroom as she became a teenager. After looking a long time, I finally decided to   take the plunge and make something custom after we couldn’t find a bed that met her needs (she’s VERY tall for her age). Thank you for posting the loft bed and bookshelf plans to this site, as they were great to work from and customize! This is my first woodworking project of any kind, and it came out great with these plans.

We followed the Loft Bed and Loft Bed Bookshelf plans pretty closely, but we did make some changes as we went...

First, we tweaked the guard rail design to make it removable by adding back vertical posts. This way, the front and back posts slide over the front rail and it no longer needs to be screwed in place. This is a nice tight grip for safety, but it’s much easier to make the bed by removing the guard rail and dealing with the mattress. If you do this, just make sure the back vertical posts are shorter than the front ones to make room for the cleats and slats on the inside of the rail! This also means the top of the rail is made with a 1x3 instead of the 1x2 in the instructions.

We also decided to use a vertical ladder design rather than an angled ladder. We did this for space considerations in the room; it’s a bit harder to get up the ladder, but not that much. This also helped avoid any weird angle cuts with my basic tools. We also made the ladder about 3” wider than the one called for in the plans.

One of my favorite features was adding a 3/4” plywood “ceiling” above the desk. We did this by moving the long side cleats upward by 3/4” of an inch in the plans, and using pocket holes roughly every 10 inches around the perimeter of the plywood. We used this to hide the bottom of the mattress and all the bedding from view when sitting at the desk. It also provides for LED strip lighting above the desk, which is installed by routing out a pathway in the board and installing the lights within an aluminum channel for heat dissipation and to allow installation of a plastic diffuser over the lights. The wiring for the lights lives in the ~1.5” gap between the board and the slats thanks to the 1 x 2 cleats.

In the shelving, we made the upper shelf in the wide bookcase adjustable with the help of a Kreg shelf pin jig. We also ordered a 3/8” tempered glass shelf for this area to let more of the LED light strip we installed in the top of this shelf shine down as well. Again, this was installed in a routed-out pathway that holds an aluminum channel, and the wiring goes up through both the bookcase top and the plywood bed “ceiling” panel to join into the power. We got the strip lights, aluminum channel with diffusers, power supply, and controller from Amazon.

To get power to the LED lights, I routed out a channel for 5-conductor wire in the middle board of a rear leg assembly. Before gluing up the leg, I coated the wire with silicone spray to avoid the glue adhering to it so I could slide the wire around as needed. With a little bit of chiseling, this wire is able to come out of the slide-in joints for the upper and lower wide rails on the back of the bed. On the top, these wires go into a splitter and then to the two sets of LED light strips. On the bottom, the wires to into the LED controller which is mounted to a scrap board along with the power supply that stands on end in the 3/4” gap between the back side wall of the bookshelf and the bottom bed rail.

We created a custom-designed file drawer unit as the pedestal for the desk opposite the wide bookshelf. This was modeled roughly after Ikea Alex drawers with three narrow drawers and one file drawer. The carcass is about 14 1/2” wide by 21 3/4” deep by 29 1/4” tall and made of 3/4” plywood. The drawer boxes are approximately 12” wide by 20” long made of 1/2” plywood with 3/4” plywood fronts. We used full-extension soft-close drawer slides and positioned the cabinet so they have nearly full extension behind the ladder. Four wooden dowels are used on the top corners to align and secure this end of the desk surface.

Speaking of the desk, it is a piece of 3/4” plywood approximately 24” deep by 64” long. One end rests on the file drawer cabinet, and the other end is flush with the middle shelf of the bookcase and attached using two 6” by 5” 14-gauge galvanized T-straps usually used in framing applications. These are screwed upwards into the bottom of the desk and shelf from below, and are holding up quite well. This avoids the need for desk legs by the bookshelf.

We then adapted the techniques used for the wide bookshelf to build a narrow bookcase (79” tall, 14 1/2” wide) out of two more 10-foot long 1x12 boards. This bookcase sits between the end of the bed and the corner of the room to finish out the look and provide more storage. The top, middle, and bottom shelves are fixed and there are a total of four adjustable shelves (two in the top half, two in the bottom half). We also cut a door and installed it using a pair of full-overlay euro hinges. With these dimensions, the tall bookcase is also capable of working with 11” x 11” x 11” storage cubes just like the wide bookshelf.

The finishing touch was to create a shelf that attaches to the guard rail and provides a place for my daughter’s alarm clock to sit and be within easy reach. This shelf is made around a piece of the scrap 3/4” plywood that is approximately 21” long and 9” deep. I used leftover 1x3 pine that I glued and nailed to the outside perimeter of the plywood flush with the bottom to hide the layers in the plywood while providing walls around the shelf. I also glued and screwed another 1x3 piece to the front of the plywood, this time flush with the top, as the first piece of a U-shaped grip to slide over the top of the guard rail. Another 1x3 scrap was then positioned, glued, and brad nailed to this front piece to finish the grip. I then cut a triangular piece of wood from a 1x6 to provide additional support under the shelf against one of the vertical pieces of the guard rail. This piece is held in place with counter-sunk screws that go through the top of the plywood shelf down into E-Z Lok threaded inserts in the top of the triangular wood support. The whole shelf assembly is only attached to the guard rail so that I can still easily remove the rail to change bedding on the mattress.

The whole project is constructed out of Home Depot select pine boards and birch plywood. Throughout construction, I used a 3/16” round-over bit in a router to eliminate sharp corners pretty much everywhere on the bed itself (legs, rails, ladder, etc.). I didn’t use this on the bookshelves, the file drawers, or the desk. Edge banding was used to hide any exposed plywood edges. I used 200-grit sanding discs and an orbital sander to sand the various pieces during construction and before finishing. The entire thing is finished with two or three coats of Minwax Polycrylic water-based polyurethane, sanding between coats, which gives this a nice smooth finish and lets the richness of the wood grain come through.

Hopefully the pictures I’ve posted can help understand the write-up on modifications to the project. I enjoyed building this a lot, and my daughter really loves what this did to her room to make it much more usable! That was worth all the effort and time right there.

Ana, thanks a million for the plans!!

Estimated Cost
$750 in materials for wood, LED lighting, tempered glass shelf, etc.
Estimated Time Investment
Week Long Project (20 Hours or More)
Type of Wood
Select Pine Boards; Birch Plywood (3/4”, 1/2”, and 1/8”)
Finish Used
Minwax Polycrylic, Satin finish. Used Shur-Line 3.5” x 7” White Fiber pads to apply on most flat surfaces, with foam brushes to get into corners and apply to edges. For complex pieces like the ladder and guard rail, used Minwax Polycrylic Satin spray. Sanded between coats with 320-grit sandpaper in all cases. Used two coats when doing pad application; four coats when doing spray application.
Recommended Skill Level

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