The bed in our camper van conversion is fixed but the platform is de-mountable. Why? When we temporarily remove the bed we can haul large cargo. Yes, we can help you move!

The bed’s legs are bolted to plusnuts in the van wall (what’s a plusnut? Read about plusnut’s strength in a van build). We researched a lot of designs, and we love how simple this bed design was to build!

The cross beams are the Ikea Skorva product. It’s extendable to accommodate different bed widths (this is super helpful) and latches onto brackets. We can just lift the Ikea beams off the brackets, which means the bed is easily removable. A 5/8 inch plywood sheet with slats cut for ventilation is attached to the brackets and serves as the bed platform.

bed-platform

We gave a lot of thought to building the front-to-back versus side-to-side. Kevin is 6’ 1” and we decided it was not feasible/worth the sacrifices for side-to-side. 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.

We did ourselves a favor and chose a nice comfortable mattress. Sleep time is not something to skimp on!

We need a comfy mattress!

mattress-for-van

5-inch Gel Memory Foam Mattress

We chose a 5” memory foam mattress and it’s really comfortable and quite affordable! Not too firm, not too soft. For us, 5″ strikes the correct balance between comfort and height. We’ve slept on our mattress down to 15F degrees and it stays pleasant and cozy. It weighs 25 pounds and is easily movable.

Height of the Bed

We tried to make the bed as high off the ground to maximize storage space underneath it. The measurement also allows 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!
van-bed-height

Designing the Bed Frame

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 plusnuts in the van wall. We are going to call them legs anyways! The legs were placed based on the available plusnuts 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.

plusnut use in camper van

Heard of plusnuts? They provide a very strong fastening point in existing holes in the van, minimizing the need to drill holes and risk rust. Read More >

The weight from the bed is all transferring downwards. Instead of using pocket screws, we connected the horizontal 2×2 to the legs with big 3″ corner braces. This adds additional horizontal support to the 2×2, which receives the weight load.

van-build-structure

Building the Bed Frame

 building-bed-frame-van-conversion-jointsBuilding the frame is one of the simplest woodworking projects in the van! The driver and passenger sides are identical. The 2x4s do not reach the floor. They are long enough to be fastened with plusnuts to two bolts each.

The 2×2 and 2x4s are joined with wood glue then 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 they are designed to bear heavy weight. The washer head maximizes the surface area of the screw that is compressing the corner brace.

Bolting the Bed Frame to the Van

van-bed-frame-enlarging-holeWe now need to drill holes in the legs for the bolts. The bolts need to hit the plusnuts perfectly straight. They cannot come at an angle (read more in our Guide to Using Plusnuts). Placing these holes is tricky. 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.

Assembling the Plywood Bed Platform

Thickness of Plywood for the Van Bed

A single 4×8 plywood sheet (5/8″) serves as the platform. We parked outside Lowe’s and brought out different thickness plywood to the van and laid on them. Yeah, we’re those people. We settled on 5/8” as the thinnest plywood that is rigid enough for our bed platform.

van-bed-mounting

The plywood is bolted in four places 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 used flat head carriage bolts (also known as elevator bolts). It’s convenient to use the same bolt threading as other bolts in the van (1/4-20, which is the threading of the plusnuts).

Cutting Ventilation Slats

The plywood bed needs ventilation. Human body warmth and mattress moisture may create mold. Using a table saw, we cut slats out of the center of the plywood (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 ventilation slats should have been made where the middle Skorva beam is, which provides 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.

The mattress was notched to fit around the back door pillar. The mattress extends to a few inches from the back door. Shorter Nadia sleeps on this side!

van-bed-notch

Finally, to protect the wood further, we sealed it with polyurethane.

van-bed-test-run

We sincerely hope this information is helpful on your build journey!

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