How to build a loft for your dorm room: Follow a plan, gather your supplies and stay safe

Lofted beds can make even the smallest dorm room feel like a palace. At most universities, there are loft-building services all over campus at the beginning of the semester. But if you don’t have the funds for that, learning how to build a loft for your dorm room is pretty easy. You can do it yourself with the help of a few extra hands and some lumber!

What you’ll need:

  • Lumber
  • Circular saw
  • Drill
  • Wood screws (or nuts and bolts for easier disassembly)
  • Sander
  • Tape measure
  • Stepladder

Expect to pay around $150 for wood. If you don’t have any of the tools, you might be able to borrow them from the front desk/reception area of your dorm. Many dorms will sign out tools like these free of charge. Of course, if it’s convenient, you can also ask friends or family members to loan you theirs.

Make a plan
Check with your residence hall on loft-building restrictions in dorm rooms. Some dormitories won’t allow it unless it’s done professionally, and some won’t allow it at all. Most will have safety restrictions in place to minimize injuries and shoddy construction.

There are several do-it-yourself dorm construction plans available at Ana-White or Ask the Builder, so you can choose the style you want and determine what’s going to work best for the size and shape of your room. You’ll need to factor in things like the size of your mattress and what type of furniture or belongings will be stored underneath the loft. You can also follow these instructions from DiggersList:

  1. Measure. The size of your bed, the height of your ceiling, the distance between the top of your head, and the bottom of your mattress when you are sitting up in bed. Also think about what you would put under your loft bed (e.g., a couch, a chest of drawers, a desk or general storage).
  2. Cut the plywood to fit your bed. Make it at least 3 inches longer and wider than your mattress.
  3. Cut all five 6-inch x 6-inch beams to length. For example, if you have a 10-foot ceiling you could cut the beams to 6 1/4 feet, place a 10-inch mattress on top, and still have 3 feet of headroom.
  4. Cut the 5-inch x 3/4-inch planks to length. On three sides these planks will be 12 inches shorter than the length of the plywood. On the fourth side, you’re going to build a ladder.
  5. From the additional 5-inch x 3/4-inch planks cut to length support braces. Though the plywood will hold most people’s weight, it’s always better to have a little extra support. Three should be plenty.
  6. You will have additional 5-inch x 3/4-inch pieces. Cut 6 to the same length (18 inches or so) and miter on both ends to 45 degrees. You will attach these to the beams and the plywood for even more support. Cut an additional six 3-inches x 24-inches for rungs for your ladder.
  7. Sand all surfaces.
  8. Stand the plywood on its longest edge. Lay the 6-inch x 6-inch edge of two beams against it. Attach the beams flush to the bottom and the outside of the plywood using at least 2 screws.
  9. Carefully stand the beams up. Make sure you support the plywood with one hand so that its weight won’t pull out the screws.
  10. Make your buddy hold the plywood aloft while you attach 2 more beams on the other side. Now you have what looks like a really high table.
  11. Attach the fifth beam 24 inches from the beam closest to where you want your ladder.
  12. Attach the 5-inch x 3/4-inch pieces flush with the outside edge of the legs.
  13. Attach support braces.
  14. Build your ladder. Space the 6 rungs evenly (if you need all six). Use at least 2 screws making sure they’re long enough to support your weight.
  15. Attach the mitered pieces. Place them directly behind the 5-inch x 3/4-inch planks. They will be set back 3/4 inch on the beams.
  16. Stain or paint.
  17. Toss your mattress up there, climb the ladder and enjoy a good night’s sleep. You’ve earned it.

Safety first
Even though you’re probably feeling invincible wielding a hammer, remember to remain level-headed. Whenever you’re using power tools or climbing up ladders to construct something, think of your safety first before proceeding. Always have a friend around—not only to give you a hand but also to spot you while you’re on top of a ladder or putting wood together with a drill. Gloves and safety goggles are an important investment when you’re working with lumber and sanding, as well. Loft injuries can fuel embarrassing stories well after your injuries have healed!

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