View Single Post
Old 06-01-2010, 07:09 PM   #219
Ran D. St. Clair
Senior Member
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 212

Bunk Bed Questions

I thought I would share some real time thoughts and ask for inputs on bunk bed design.

I have a rough plan, but as I approach a particular sub-project like bunk bed installation, I like to think through the design in more detail, and try to avoid creating problems for myself. I am at that point now on the bunk bed design. I am solid on the concept of using bunk beds, not drop down beds, fold up beds or any sort of convertible bed. I want the beds to be available for use on a moments notice, and I need 2 of them.

I have a limited ceiling height, 73” or 6’1” which is fine for me since I am only 5’9” and my son is 5’10’ or possibly 5’11” when he stands tall (which he rarely does).

I have mostly been thinking about the ergonomics of the bed, how it is used, and what is acceptable in terms of comfort. For example, it would be nice to be able to sit up straight when in bed, if for no other reason than to avoid smacking your head if you forget where you are and sit up quickly. It’s also nice to be able to sit up to take a drink, and sometimes when reading or watching TV to be able shift positions and sit upright for a little while. Given the limited ceiling height, that implies that the bottom bunk needs to be near the floor, but placing the mattress directly on the floor is a little awkward when getting out of bed, so the question arises, what is the lowest bottom bunk height that is acceptable?

Beyond sitting in the bed, there is the issue of sitting on the edge of the bed. That usually involves leaning forward and can be done comfortably (for a limited period of time) with your head outside of the sleeping area, meaning the upper bunk can be as low as just above your shoulders. Even if you want the upper bunk to be higher to allow for sitting in the bed, it allows for the possibility of a valance which can sit in front of a curtain rod to provide some privacy in the sleeping area. On the other hand, you still need to be able to lean back to lie down and you have to duck under the valance. Since the pivot point is your butt, which is about 8” inside the mattress edge, you need less clearance at the valance than under the rest of the bed to complete the maneuver. You can also lean sideways and back, which takes less vertical space, but requires more horizontal space.

In order to make sure my design wasn’t going to have me cracking my head on a daily basis I mocked up an entry frame on one of my existing beds. I was also able to mock up a partial ceiling to represent the upper bunk and get a feel for the head clearance as well.

It turns out that having the bed base (under the mattress) at 12” (above the floor) is a comfortably low height for the lower bunk bed, but I decided to “stretch it” just a bit to 8” in order to gain an additional inch of head clearance when sitting in the bed. My sitting head room of 31” above the bed base is marginally acceptable. All of this assumes a 6” thick foam mattress. I can’t sit bolt upright but I can sit comfortably upright.

The sit and roll back maneuver is no problem even with a 2” valance. You just duck your head as you roll back. Rolling back and sideways provides even more room, as there is no practical problem with the entry way width. Sitting on the edge of the (lower) bed is no problem at all except that the 8” bed base is a little low. It makes standing up a little more difficult, but it is not a problem, at least not at my current age and physical condition.

I ultimately decided that a valance to cover a curtain rod is unnecessary. Likewise a curtain rod is unnecessary. The “curtain rod” can be nothing more than a piece of bungee that stretches across and hooks on the far side of the opening. When not in use it can hook on the near side of the opening. The cloth curtain would have a tube sewn in to go over the bungee and would “scrunch” when the bungee is not stretched. Some light will get in at the upper edge but I don’t think that will matter. If I ultimately don’t like it, I can change it since it is not structural.

Getting in and out of the upper bunk is a little harder to mock up, but it is a fairly low upper bunk so I think my son can figure it out. I am a little concerned that he will smack his head against the ceiling as he levers himself out with his arms. I also expect that there will be a loud thump when he hits the floor. Heaven help him if he steps on me in the lower bunk when getting in or out. From what I recall of bunk beds when I was a kid, getting into the upper bunk is no problem. You just step on the edge of the lower bunk and dive in, or if you are an exuberant teenager you just jump and dive in. The outer rail of the bunk beds will be 2” by 1/8” steel L channel so I don’t think it will break, or even bend much.

Making up the bed is a whole other list of issues. I am not at all worried about the bed being “pretty” but I don’t want to wake up and be fighting with a random tangle of sheets trying to avoid this or that sticking out and getting cold. Most beds are much easier to make if you can walk around them and get access from all sides, with the possible exception of the head of the bed. In my case the mattress will be trapped within walls on most sides, and the only place you can walk, or kneel, is at the entry way on one side. The only way to make the bed is to crawl on the bed which is a pain. I am working on ways to mitigate the problem though.

The bottom fitted sheet is no big problem as you can hook it over the two far corners of the mattress and then stretch it out as you back out of the bed. Hooking it over the two near (side) corners is a slight hassle, but you can lift the mattress corner and bend it to you, then lay it back down again. Simple foam mattresses are light (and surprisingly comfortable in my experience). The remaining sheets, blankets, comforters, etc. are more problematic. Tucking them under the mattress doesn’t work well as they are hard to get positioned properly and tend to pull out, especially with a light foam mattress.

I have come up with all kinds of ideas, including sewing the bedding together, partially fitted upper sheets, zipper bags, Velcro, etc. They all have issues of one sort or another that I don’t like. The one idea that I think might be worth a try involves “buttons”. The “buttons” would be ¾” washers mounted on a short ¼” standoff, and screwed into the wall about half way down between the mattress and the outer wall. There would be at least two buttons at the foot of the bed and 3 or more buttons along the far wall. The flat sheet, blanket, Comforter, etc, would all have matching button holes sewed into the outer edge.

To make the bed you start with the fitted sheet as per normal. Then you crawl in with the flat sheet, hook it on the buttons and then stretch it out as you back out. Do the same with the blanket, comforter, etc. for as many layers as you want. I am concerned that the sheets will tear at the button holes, so I would fold them double, or even triple before sewing in the button holes. It’s a bit of a pain to have the sheets customized but it’s a simple job for anyone with a modern sewing machine. I like that the bedding can all be separated and washed normally. I also like that you can easily fold it back, or lie on top of it as you may wish.

It remains to be seen how all this will work out but there is nothing irreversible about it so the risk is low.

I can’t possibly be the first person to tackle these issues, so what have you all seen or done along these lines?
Ran D. St. Clair is offline   Reply With Quote