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Lumber & Composites

Bed frame for camper van - build or buy?

Hello all,

I just discovered Home Depot had a forum & thought it might be a good place to ask this. I tried a search but couldn't find an answer for my particular situation.


I'm in the process of converting a passenger van into a camper for some extended traveling. I was going to buy one of those steel bed frames that eliminate the need for a box spring, and could still do that; I'm just not sure I'll be able to figure out how to put it together. It occurred to me that it might be cheaper and simpler to get some wood and make a frame. I'm just not sure I can manage it.


Right now I have two questions:

1) What would be the simplest way to make one of these? I've seen instructions for platform beds but I'd need to have open space under the frame to accomodate the wheel well and also allow for whatever storage I can manage there.

2) What would I need for a twin size frame like this? Plywood/something else, 2x4s, nails/glue, tools, etc.?


You can probably tell by my questions that I'm not much of a DIYer; I do make things but they tend to be more along the line of jewelry or socks :). I do have some basic tools but the only power tool I have is a drill. I'm also limited in both workspace - I live in an apartment (although I'm thinking the bed would have to be built *in* the van) - and physical strength. Oh, and also funds (so I can't pay someone to do this for me).


I think if I could get all the wood cut at the store that would be a good start; I'm just not sure where to go from there. It sounds simple enough but recent experience dealing with flooring, carpet, etc. has proven that perhaps I may be overestimating how easy this could be.


So - any ideas or suggestions you might have would be greatly appreciated. I'd like to get this decided in the next few days.


Thanks in advance for your help.



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Posted 2011-12-09T05:35:35+0000  by MargaretA MargaretA

Hello Meg,


Welcome to the community.


Converting your van into a camper will save you a lot of money on hotels bills.


I think I would take on the project myself and build it out of wood. The framing would be made out of 2 x 4 and the top would be out of ½”- ¾” plywood. I would put it all together with 3” screws. That way if you ever want to disassemble it you will be able to easily. You can use a Phillips bit in your drill to screw all of the screws in and get all of the wood cut at your local Home Depot as you mentioned.


I would build the 2 side frames first and then add the middle supports once you have it all inside the van. Once you have the entire frame built you can add the top. It might be easier to make it in 2 pieces. Just make sure to modify the frame work to support where they join.


In the drawing that I did I have a middle support. That is where I would separate the top pieces. I would have the front piece screwed down and the back piece on hinges. You can cut an oblong hole it so that you can get your hand in it to lift it. Cover the edges with varnish or even duct tape so you don’t get splinters.

Van bed frame.png


I would leave the front open so you could store thing there.


I borrowed the hinge idea from one of the other members. Vermonster was asking how to build a tall platform bed that he could have storage and also a mini fridge under it. Here is a link to the post that I put together for that question. Yours might be fairly close to that just with a couple of tweaks.


If a regular mattress doesn’t fit in your space than you can make a foam mattress. I made one for my RV upper bunk and it works great. Just a little food for thought.:smileywink:


Well I think this should get you heading the right direction for your new travel camper bed.


Let me know if you have any other questions. I would love to help.






Posted 2011-12-09T22:32:05+0000  by Christine_HD_OC

Thank you for answering, shecandoit22. I'm wondering, though, if there's another design I could use; this one wouldn't work in my van because there isn't enough floor space. Just making the template for cutting the padding and carpet was a real challenge; it's like there's an "obstacle course" on the floor! Wheel wells, back heater, below-floor battery compartment (which I hope to reuse for a new battery)... The back area is slightly less than 6' x 12' - but not on the floor. (If you'd like to see a pic of the template I'll try to post one here so you can see what I have to work with.)


The gist of this is, a bed like the one in your diagram won't work. I was thinking of something more like a low table, with legs and a top.The frame I was going to buy has 14" of clearance which would just about make it above the wheel wells; they're about 12" high but I need to insulate that bare metal with something (I'm thinking of using some of the padding or carpet pieces I cut off). So, the legs would have to be maybe 15" or 16" long. That doesn't sound like a lot to me and the piece on top would be only twin size, which I think is 39x75. I'm just not sure it would be sturdy enough.


About the mattress - I've thought about making one but I think it would be cheaper to buy. I used to work in a store that sold foam slabs and they were really expensive. A quick check online last week confirmed that prices haven't really changed. I'm on a very limited budget here. I also have very little time; I'm leaving at the end of the month and there's a lot to do before then. If I build anything it has to be quick and simple.


I hope that helps explain things better, but please let me know if you need any more information. And thanks again for your suggestions.



Posted 2011-12-10T04:14:18+0000  by MargaretA

pictures and the model/year of the van would help tremendously

Posted 2011-12-10T17:22:52+0000  by Paul

Definitely post some pictures of the space where you need to build and/or like Paul said the model of the camper.  The more information you can provide the better.  You added the dimensions of the wheel wells but what of the other dimensions.  Both Shecandoit22 and Paul are great at making easy to follow plans in Google Sketchup (honestly they do some amazing stuff) and I'm always up for helping with a troublesome problem.  I hope you get back to us soon and I'm sure we can come up with a viable solution.




Posted 2011-12-11T18:34:36+0000  by Chris_HD_ATL

I apologize for the delay, everyone; I've had a lot of trouble logging in to this forum and couldn't post anything until now.


I've decided not to build the bed at this point. I'm going to use my current futon frame instead. Right now it's too low to go over the wheel wells - which is the main reason I was thinking I needed something else - but I discovered there are things called risers that go under furniture legs to raise them by 3-4". That should be enough to get the frame to fit.


Thank you all for your answers. I'll be back in touch if I decide to do this project in the future.



Posted 2011-12-12T04:22:35+0000  by MargaretA

I have rebuilt one before. There a a few resources available on how to do it. I went with the murphy bed idea. Bed Build Here and Build Your own Murphy Bed

Posted 2013-02-11T19:53:07+0000  by curioushandyman




Over the last 40 years I have owned and remodeled several vans and motorhomes. My first was a Ford Econoline in the rear of which I built bunks for my family of four. They were basically boxes made of 3/4 inch plywood. Plywood is light, strong and easy to work with.


I have attached a sketch of what basically the bunk would look like: basically a box with partitions underneath to accept normal plastic storage boxes.


I have not included dimensions as this depends largely on the space available. I assume that the bed will also function as seating space too, so the height should be adjusted to your comfortable sitting height when the mattress is on top. I would suggest using standard 4 inch foam as the mattress. Home Depot carries such abunk size foam block and even has a standard cover for it.


After you have your dimensions, Home Depot can cut the basic pieces on their panel saw. Assembly is just screws into the plywood. This is very basic, but strong construction. A few pieces of "screen molding" will dress up the raw edges. I have indicated that you will need a border board which is slightly raised to keep the mattress from siding around during travel. However, don't put this board so high as that it cuts into your legs when sitting on the bunk.


Hope this has helped.

Posted 2013-02-13T23:56:45+0000  by ordjen

I will try to load that image again:

Posted 2013-02-14T00:10:19+0000  by ordjen
WOW Margaret!

Thanks for sharing your renovations.

And, I'm never surprise when Ordjen contributes about one of his many projects.

Since the thread covers renovating vans, I thought you might find this thread interesting:

Posted 2015-06-11T20:51:27+0000  by Pat_HD_ATL
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