How To Build a Loft for Your Kids.
A Great Project
If you have a small bedroom and want to maximize your space, building a loft in your child's room can be a great project. They are surprisingly easy to do and can be completed in a weekend. You will be amazed at the ton of room that you gain by not having a bed on the floor plan. Didn't have one in college? Then the key to building one is planning. I am not talking about a glorified bunkbed, I am talking about a room defining space that will change your child's bedroom. This article will walk you through the process.
The key to preparation is looking at your room and figuring out what you have to work with. Do you have high ceilings? Is your closet internal or external?
Obviously, the higher your ceilings are the better your loft possibilities are. Standard 8 foot ceiling rooms are not conducive to building lofts. However in today's building market 10' and 12' ceilings are becoming more and more common.
Closets A room with a bumped out or external closet looks like this. It creates a natural ledge on the top of it and has some room from the ceiling. An internal closet is just that, it fits inside the internal dimensions of the room. The closet is a great point to use for stabilizing your loft, we will discuss that later. The example shown here is with an external closet, in my opinion it is just as easy to build one for both examples.
In the last part of the preparation phase you want to note the closet style so that you can plan your posts. In this example two of the main posts actually attach to the wall next to the closet. Internal closets loft styles are free standing.
The first step in building the loft is building the posts. Posts are easy to build and can be very simple in construction. If you have experience in woodworking, it will be even easier. All four posts can be built from two pieces of plywood. You will want to rip the plywood into four even strips of wood to build a hollow box. The diameter is up to you, but the bigger the posts the more stable the loft will be. I kept my posts fairly big around 8 inches square. Do yourself a favor and buy the cabinet grade plywood at Home Depot or Lowes. This grade costs about $40 per sheet but it is worth it when you go to finish the project. You will use simple butt joints and you can screw them together. Make sure you countersink the holes and then fill in the screws with either a plug or with wood filler. Take your time here, and sand them up real nice and clean. These posts are multifunctional, they will hold the electrical work that you run inside for the lights that shine up on the ceiling. When you are done with the posts paint them to your desired finish.
Bring the posts into the bedroom and put them in the approximate spots the will go to. You will then need to cut the two long support beams that connect to the posts. You can use any time of wood you like. If you are going for a rustic look, you can use 2"x6" lumber. Make sure you do not get the pressure treated variety. When you have the supports cut, sand them, and then finish them with paint. Bring the supports into the room and get ready to install them to the posts.
Attach to the Posts
This is really the trickiest part of the assembly since you will need some help holding the support up against the post. Use carriage bolts to bolt the support to the post. You may have to reach down into the post with your arm to attach the nut to the bolt. Once you have the main two supports bolted on, repeat the process with the two cross supports. You are basically building a big box, or something similar to a deck that would be outside your house.
Move Into Place
While the unit is still movable move the loft into the desired position. If you are going to attach it to the wall through a closet you would do that next. For mine I went and bought 14" carriage bolts and ran them through the loft post, through the wall and through a homemade washer. (A piece of wood)
Add the rest of the crossbar supports. As you add the supports the unit will get more stable. (and heavier) If your loft is free standing, use this time in the framing stage to access its stability. The bigger the posts are the more stable the loft. If it is not stable, add whatever bracing you need. (keep in mind the floor will add a lot of stability) The loft I made was 8 feet by 8 feet, so it was very stable because of the materials and the size of the unit.
Adding the floor to the loft is next. Simple sheets of plywood attach to the top of the supports. You can substitute MDF for the plywood. It is a much smoother surface and costs less than the ply. You won't have to do any sanding on MDF either. When you add the floor, make sure you countersink the screws so that they do not stick up. The floor will add considerable strength and stability to the unit.
Next build a custom ladder that you can paint to match the loft. Again the type of wood is your choice. We made ours out of 2 x 4's and custom cut it to fit the space we had. The strength of the ladder can easily hold an adult if you build it right.
Don't let any kids go up until you build the railing. The railing is very important and your wife won't probably let you build this project without one. Other parents will appreciate the railing too since their kids are going to be in the loft as well. These lofts are kid magnets, so make them safe. I made my railing a bit fancier since I had access to a router table. I ran the flat spindles on the router table with a roundover bit to make them round. This softens up the unit and makes it look more furniture like.
We put carpet up on the loft floor; it was quick and easy and cost about $25. Next we hoisted up the mattress. There is no need for a box spring, since the wood gives more than adequate support. If you have an external closet, you will have a natural ledge in which you can install a bookshelf or even a TV set. Ours had a TV and Xbox for our son and all his friends were in the loft.
The bottom of the floor is the perfect opportunity to finish off with some plywood to make a mini ceiling. In the ceiling you can recess some lights. This makes if more functional for the room and less dark.
I choose to use the hollow post design for running two light fixtures near the top of the loft to shine upwards onto the ceiling. Use the newer "green" Eco friendly light bulbs and you will not have to worry about excess heat from ordinary standard bulbs. You can run regular extension cord up from the bottom of the post by drilling a hole at the bottom and pulling the wire through.
I like to take the other two posts and put caps on them with a hinge on the inside. If you put a shelf in the inside while assembling the posts, it makes a great hiding place for kid things. From the outside it looks like an ordinary cap, kids love it.
You will find different customizations for your loft. All of them are super fun for the kids and a real accent to your home. If you use good quality materials you are really making furniture. Take your time and you will be glad you did. Young boys will think you are the best parent in the world for taking this project on!