The following guest article comes from Tom Dudeck. He enjoys woodworking, college sports, and currently works for campusloftbeds.com. Thanks, Tom!

So, you have moved into your dorm room, unpacked your belongings and suddenly it hits you that there isn’t as much space as you thought in your room. Then your roommate shows up, and it only gets worse! So how do you get the most out of space in your cramped dorm room? Build a loft bed, of course! This article will go over the general do’s and dont’s of loft bed construction and design to make sure your bed building experience is a smooth one.

Better Check the Rules

Before you start, it is best to check with your college’s housing authority. Many dorms have strict requirements for what you can and cannot build. Some schools even require students to submit forms and preliminary plans. While some of the requirements may seem a little over the top, they are what separate you from your loft bed, so you might as well follow them.

Some popular residence hall requirements include: clearance between bed and ceiling, leg size, and cross-bracing requirements. It is also important during this stage to think about what you want your loft bed to do. Are you going to store things under it? Are you going to put a couch below it? Is it a jam space for your band? Once you have a general opinion of what the loft will be used for, you are ready to create a plan.

Creating a Plan

Before you begin building, it is best to have a plan. Your plan can be fairly basic, but there are a few items to pay attention to. To begin with, it is important to understand lumber dimensions. Lumber is dimensioned in nominal dimensions. This means that the dimensions of lumber are not their actual dimensions. So for instance, a 2×4 is really 1 ½” x 3 ½” in size. To view actual dimensions for a variety of different lumber sizes, see this lumber dimension chart.

When creating your plan, pay particular attention to connections. Whenever possible, use bolted connections. Wood screws often do not provide a rigid enough connection that is needed to provide
stability. I would recommend using a 1/4″ carriage bolt as a minimum, but preferably a 3/8″ bolt at each connection. The great thing about bolts is that the entire bed can be dismantled at the end of the year and re-assembled the next year. If you are unsure where to begin, some excellent loft bed plans can be purchased online for just a few dollars.

Wood Design

Designing wood is a fairly difficult task. Instead of going through the rigorous process of design, some general rules of thumb can be used for your design. The first rule to remember is that even the softest of woods (e.g. Southern Pine) can carry a fairly substantial load. It is often unnecessary to design the loft out of anything than a wood such as Southern Pine.

Most of the members that make up the bed can be constructed from 2×6 dimension lumber. This includes legs, stringers, and any lateral braces. Minor members that make up the loft such as ladder rungs and any railings can be 2×4′s or smaller. Lateral stability is a huge problem with loft beds. This is the beds inability to stop movement from side to side and forwards and backwards.

The side sway problem can be solved by notching the legs. To solve the problem of sway along the length of the bed a lateral brace needs to be added. This can be added in the form of cross bracing or a member attached along the back of the bed. The lower the member is on the legs the more it will inhibit sway. Both the notches and lateral brace can be seen in the picture below.

Loft Bed Leg Detail
Purchasing a Loft Bed Kit Online

If you are confused on where to begin or think the whole construction bit is over your head? There are a variety of vendors online who will sell you a prefabricated loft bed kit. Buying a loft bed online can be a great solution if you consider the cost of the materials for a loft bed are about $100. Shipping is rather affordable as well and can be delivered straight to your dorm room!