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We built a “full” size (54” x 75”) bed in our van conversion with vertical support legs bolted to rivets in the van wall. The bed frame is fixed, but the platform is de-mountable so that we have the option to haul large cargo. We love how simple this bed design was to build! Cross beams are the Ikea Skorva product, which is extendable to accommodate different bed widths and latches onto brackets. We can just lift the Ikea beams off the brackets, which means the bed is very easily removable. A 5/8 inch plywood sheet with slats cut for ventilation is attached to the brackets and serves as the bed platform.
Kevin is 6’ 1” and after much consternation it was decided that it was not feasible/worth the sacrifices to build a side to side bed. The Transit is 77” wide at its absolute max, without any insulation or wall material.
Our bed is front to back, and does not occupy the full width of the van. There are 15” deep cabinets that occupy the remaining width to the driver side wall. We have a full size mattress, dimensions 54” x 75”. The mattress overhangs the plywood on the long sides, but it’s not noticeable.
The mattress was notched to fit around the back door pillar, so that the mattress extends to a few inches from the back door. Shorter Nadia sleeps on this side!
We tried to make the bed as high off the ground as possible while still allowing Kevin to sit upright without hitting the ceiling (accounting for 5” mattress height).
With everything installed though, we could have made the bed a couple inches higher. The plywood is 34-3/4” from the ground, but because the Ikea beams are 2-¼” tall, the lowest clearance is 32.5”. Good thing we won’t be hauling mountain bikes (which are usually taller).. our bouldering pads will fit just fine under there!
The frame consists of a long 2×2 which the Skorva brackets are attached to, supported by three 2x4s. These supports aren’t “legs” because they don’t touch the ground, instead they are bolted to rivets in the van wall. We are going to call them legs anyways! The legs were placed based on the available rivets and each leg is long enough so it can be fastened by two bolts. The correct bolt length needs to be selected based on the depth of the material being fastened. For a 2×4, which is 1.5″ deep, a 2.5 inch bolt is used.
The 2×2 extends to the front of the mattress. This will give us something in the future to attach cabinets or a curtain to. At the back, the 2×2 meets the back van column at the rear door. The plywood bed platform will extend about 6” farther back to the door.
The weight from the bed is all transferring downwards, so instead of using pocket screws, we connected the horizontal 2×2 to the legs with corner braces/L brackets. This adds additional horizontal support to the 2×2, which initially receives the weight load.
Building the frame is one of the simplest woodworking projects in the van! The driver and passenger sides are identical. Simply cut the 2×2 and 2x4s to the designed lengths, and attach to each other using wood glue first, then the corner braces.
We used 1-¼” washer head cabinet screws for the corner braces which is longest that can be used since the wood is 1.5”. Cabinet screws are good for this because are designed to bear heavy weight, and the washer head maximizes the surface area of the screw that is compressing the corner brace.
We now need to drill holes in the legs for the bolts. The bolts need to hit the rivets perfectly straight; they cannot come at an angle. Placing these holes was not precise, but fortunately we can oversize the holes since the width of the washer will still hold the wood. We started with 5/16” holes (slightly larger than the 1/4″ bolts), then oversized if the hole was misaligned.
The thickness of the material being bolted (1.5” for our legs) determines the length of the bolt used. In this case it was a 2.5” length bolt, 1/4-20. We bought a big pack of these specific bolts because we are bolting lots of 1.5” thick wood to the van.
A single 4×8 plywood sheet (5/8″) serves as the platform. After parking our van outside the store and bringing out different thickness plywood to the van and laying on them, we settled on 5/8” as the thinnest plywood that is rigid enough for our bed platform.
The plywood is bolted in the four corners to the Skorva beams so that the platform stays fixed. There were two existing holes, and two holes we drilled out with a 1/4” bit. The metal beams are pretty thick so be sure to use a quality drill bit for this one. It’s also advisable to use cutting oil, which acts as a lubricant, to extend the life of the drill bit.
We can use elevator bolts (surprisingly expensive) or ¼-20 carriage bolts (more common, so less expensive). It’s convenient to use the same bolt threading as elsewhere in the van (1/4-20, which is the threading of the rivnuts), and the carriage bolt’s rounded head makes it sit flush enough.
The plywood needs ventilation or else our body warmth and mattress moisture may create mold. Using a table saw, we cut slats out of the center of the plywood for breathing (visible on picture at beginning of post). There’s also the added benefit of a weight reduction.
After doing this, we realized the slat placement was a dumb mistake! The slats should have been cut so that the holes were above where the middle Skorva beam is, so there is support. Where we cut them means there are holes in the plywood away from a bracket support! Fortunately, we’ve heard no squeaks or scary “cracking” sounds.
Finally, to protect the wood further, we sealed it with polyurethane.
We sincerely hope this information is helpful on your build journey! This post contains affiliate links that may earn us a commission if a product is purchased. But, we always strive for the reuse and repurpose of materials – so before buying from our links, check Craigslist or an equivalent. A creative use of a recycled material is a special additional to your van (and your wallet)!
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