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How To Build A Camper Van Bed Frame (Step-by-Step)

Get detailed, step-by-step, instructions for how to build your own sturdy, comfortable bed in your camper van. DIY tips & product advice.

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How-To-Build-A-Camper-Van-Bed-Frame

Sleep. It’s what we do for roughly a third of our lives. Therefore, building a good bed in your van should be a top priority. Whether you’re looking for camper bed design inspiration or need  detailed information for how to build a camper van bed frame, this post has got you covered.

Some of the best sleep in our lives has come while living in our camper and we believe our van’s foam mattress plays a huge part in our sleep quality. Further below, we’ll talk about our mattress and why we think it’s the best option on the market today.

“If you’re ready, let’s get to it!

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    Not what you need? Check out our “DIY Camper Furniture” page for more similar content.

    Step 1:

    Plan Your Bed Frame Dimensions

    Before you begin buying the materials and hammering together your bed, it’s a good idea to plan ahead and design the bed floor plan either on paper or on your computer.

    Creating a dimensional plan is a critical first step because it helps to ensure that:

    • Your bed is the correct size for your body.
    • All the products you want (i.e. water tanks, electrical) fit under your bed.
    • Mistakes and errors will be held to a minimum.

    We used Adobe Illustrator, but you can use any free software (like MS Paint). Just make sure all your shapes and lines are proportionally consistent.

    Our Camper Van Bed Frame Floor Plan Diagram

    Camper Van Bed Frame Floor Plan Diagram
    Digital floor plan of our camper van bed frame area

    The above image is a bird’s eye view of our bed frame layout (shaded in LIGHT BLUE). In our design sketch, we made sure our bed frame was able to comfortably fit our:

    • Inverter (TAN)
    • Three batteries (YELLOW)
    • Fresh water tank (DARK BLUE)

    It’s a good idea to make sure you have accurate dimension information for the products you want to fit under your van’s bed frame. For many of our products, we found the dimensions on their Amazon product page.

    Want to learn to create your own camper floor plan for free? Read our step-by-step post: How To Design Your Own Conversion Van Layout

    Step 2:

    Build The Camper Bed Frame

    See the similarity in shape between our digital bed plan and our actual bed frame?

    Building The Foundation Layer

    We used 2″x2″ wood beams to build the foundation of our camper van’s bed frame.

    First, we laid the 2×2 beams on the floor to match the exact dimensions of our digital floor plan. We then fixed these beams, with strong wood screws, to the floor of the van.

    When selecting the proper screw length here, be sure to add together the thickness of the wood beam, the floor, and the plywood subfloor. The screw should ideally reach into the subfloor for the best grip.

    Building Up From The Foundation Layer

    Next, with the  foundation set, we built upwards. Using a combination of 2×4 wood beams, wood glue, AND strong L-brackets we created vertical vertices

    Lastly, we laid 2×2 beams on top of the 2×4 pieces to create the top layer of our bed frame.

    Build A Van Bed Frame - Wood Beams and Brackets

    Above you can see how we used a combination of wood beams and metal brackets to create the frame of our bench and bed system.

    DIY Tip: To create strong 90-degree joints, we recommend purchasing sturdy L-brackets. This reinforces the wood joints to better withstand bumpy drives and when jumping around on the bed

    L-Brackets For Bed Frame

    Step 3:

    Add Paneling To The Bed Frame

    With our van’s bed frame installed, we added the paneling to the bed frame.

    Cutout Plywood Panels

    To do this, we first measured the dimensions of every side of our van bed frame and cut out the corresponding sizes on ½” birch plywood.

    DIY Tip: While birch plywood quality at hardware stores is sufficient, look for higher quality “Baltic Birch” plywood at your local lumber yard. It’ll be stronger and less prone to warping.

    Attach Plywood Panels

    To fix the plywood panels to our bed frame, we countersunk flat-head wood screws into the plywood and used spackling to hide the screws from view.

    Materials List

    Product

    Purpose

    How To Buy

    #10 Flat Head Screw

    Screws walls to furring strip. Flat head ideal to hide screw head in the plywood wall.

    Countersink Drill Bit

    Allows you to hide flat head screws in plywood wall.

    Spackling

    Hides flat head screws from sight.

    Making A Top Lid For Storage

    For our top panels, we wanted to be able to lift the panels to access our storage area inside the benches. 

    Because of this, we did NOT screw the top plywood panels to the bench frame.

    Instead, we attached these top-facing panels to the bed frame using hinges and gas struts.

    Although gas struts are optional, they really work well to keep your lid open while putting items in and out of storage.

    Materials List

    Product

    Purpose

    How To Buy

    Hinge

    Allows for lid to be opened and closed.

    Gas Strut

    Keeps lid in open position.

    Step 4:

    Painting The Bed Frame

    With all the plywood panels set up, you can finally start the painting process.

    Sand The Plywood Panels

    We used an electric sander to sand our plywood panels twice over.

    DIP Tip: Sanding is a dirty business. Wear a high quality filtered mask. This mask is also useful when painting to filter out harmful chemicals and smells.

    Time To Paint!

    Van Bed After Adding Primer Paint

    To keep our van interior color scheme consistent, we painted our camper bed an off-white color, the same color as our van walls.

    In total, we gave our camper bed 4 coats of paint:

    • Two coats of anti-mold primer
    • Two coats of paint

    Step 5:

    Build The Table (Center Of Bed)

    Camper Van Bed and Living Space

    At this point, we only have a U-shaped bed/bench system installed. We need to fill the middle gap to properly sleep on our camper van bed at night.

    That’s where the center table comes in.

    During the day, we use this table to eat and work on. But at night, we lower the table top so that it becomes flush with the van bed frame.

    Select & Prepare Table Top Material

    We selected a ¾” Walnut plywood board for our table top material. But you can also use solid wood, if you prefer.

    We measured the dimensions of the empty middle space and cut the corresponding dimensions on the walnut plywood board.

    We chose to ‘beautify’ our walnut table top in the following 3 ways:

    1. Add walnut edge banding on the plywood edges.
    2. Sand plywood board with 120-grit sandpaper.
    3. Add several layers of tung oil (with applicator) for waterproof resistance.

    Add The Table Hardware

    The swivel table system, which we purchased directly from Lagun USA, makes it super easy to rotate and move the tabletop around so that it’s never in our way. This makes it a great option for RVs and vans with limited interior space to move around.

    Best of all, with this particular swivel table design, the table top can be easily removed and set down to be a part of our bed frame.

    Lagun Swivel Table

    Add Bed Rails For Table To Sit On During 'Bed Mode'

    When assembling the bed at night, the table top will need to sit on rails to support the table. Without the rails, the table top would simply fall through to the floor.

    For the material, we selected ½” x ½” wood sticks.

    With a combination of wood glue and countersunk flat head screws, we affixed these sticks ¾” from the top of our bed/bench frame, since our table top plywood is ¾” thick.

    Step 6:

    Making Cushion Covers & Mattress

    Van Interior - Working Space

    Now that the bed frame is finished, it’s time to start making cushion covers. Unless you enjoy sitting and sleeping on stiff plywood boards!

    We cover all you need to know about cushions and mattress selection below:

    Additional Resources

    Essential Products & Tools

    • Saw: Though we prefer a table saw for perfect straight cuts, a simple jig saw and large framing square would do just fine.
    • Drill: Self-explanatory. Lots of screws to drill in to build a van bed. 
    • Sander: Useful just before the painting stage to smooth out the plywood panels.
    • L-Brackets: Used to fortify the van bed frame and decrease wobbling.
    • Hinges: Great to use if you plan to have storage space under your camper bed.
    • Gas Struts: A good idea to have to help prop open the bed storage lid doors.
    • Swivel Table Hardware: A must have. We’ve firm believers that a swivel table is the best type of table to have in an RV and/or camper.
    • Electric Carving Knife: For cutting the foam mattress.

    Camper Van Bed Conversion Video

    Watch our video above to see, in action, how we convert our back benches into a bed.

    The video is in Japanese, so you may want to turn on English captions.

    Recommend Sites

    Van Flares: Want a slightly wider van so you can sleep sideways? This company installs flares on the rear sides of van conversions so you can build a bed lengthwise. Very useful and great for space efficiency.

    Useful 3D Model: This blog post contains useful information on constructing a camper bed frame. But even more useful is the 3D bed model that they created, making it easy to construct a similar bed frame for your van.

    Conclusion

    We hope you learned a thing (or two!) about our campervan bed construction and that it inspires you to do the same.

    To read more great campervan build articles, head back to our DIY Campervan Build Guide.

    If you’re interested to learn how we build other interior furniture, you can read:

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