DIY

How to Build a Bunk Bed Ladder

I recently designed and built a custom built-in bunk bed for my nephew. I pretty much had complete freedom over the design, but he did have a few requests. He wanted it to be green, have built-in shelves, lights, and a desk. And of course a ladder – maybe one of the most important features of a bunk bed.

In this tutorial, I’m going to show you exactly how I built this bunk bed ladder.

Before we get started, if you want to build a bunk bed like this one, you’re in luck! I created easy-to-follow printable plans for the entire build. You can grab them here:

Materials and Tools

  • Finish Nailer
  • Miter Saw
  • Table Saw
  • Tape Measurer
  • Wood Glue
  • Wood Stain
  • Sand Paper
  • Wood Filler
  • 1 1/4″ Finish Nails

Wood

  • (2) 1×4 x 6ft poplar
  • (1) 1×6 x 8ft poplar

Step 1: Determine the Height of the Ladder

Before actually starting the build, I determined how tall the ladder needed to be. Of course, this all depends on the height of the top bunk. The one I built for my nephews has a height of 60 1/2″.

I also needed to decide how much of an angle I wanted the ladder to lean. I ended up going with a 15-degree angle. This seemed like a good amount to make it easy enough to climb and keep it out of the bathroom doorway that is right beside the bunk bed.

Step 2: Make the Side Rails for the Ladder

First, I cut two pieces of the 1×4 to 62 inches in length with a 15 degree angle on each end.

Then I used a jigsaw to cut in a straight line from point b to point a.

Next, I determined how many steps the ladder needed and how much space between each one. I decided to go with 5 steps. To determine the space in between, I multiplied 5 times 3/4″ (the thickness of each step). Then I subtracted that number from the overall length of the rail and divided by 6 (the number of spaces). This came out to about 9 3/4″.

I Cut a scrap piece of 1×4 to this length with each end cut on a 15-degree angle. Then used it as a template to mark where each step would be.

Once I had all of the steps marked on both rails, I used a router (set on 1/2″ depth) to cut our notches inside of the step marks.

Step 3: Add the Ladder Steps

Using a table saw, I rip cut the piece of 1×6 to 4″ in width. Then cut it into five 15″ long pieces. After I had all of the steps cut, I added some wood glue to each of the notches on both rails.

Then I placed each step into one of the bunk bed ladder rails.

On the backside of the ladder, I made sure that the top edge of the steps was flush with the rails. This created a little more overhang on the front.

I placed the other rail and then used 1 1/4″ finish nails to secure the steps to the rails.

Finally, I cut a piece of 1×4 to 14 inches in length and rip cut it to 2 1/2 inches wide. Then I nailed and glued it between the very top of the two rails as shown below.

This gave me a place to nail the ladder to the bunk bed.

Step 4: Fill Holes & Stain

Once I had the ladder built, I filled all the nail holes with wood filler. After letting the wood filler dry, I used fine sandpaper to go over the entire ladder and soften the corners and sharp edges.

Then using a clean cloth, I stained the entire ladder with Minwax Rustic Oak.

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4 Comments

  • Reply Brenda

    what height did you hang the lights in the bunks??

    November 5, 2020 at 4:58 pm
    • Reply Henry

      Hi Brenda. On this bed, we hung the bottom light about 39″ from the floor and the top light about 29″ from the floor of the top bunk.

      November 6, 2020 at 1:14 pm
  • Reply Tracy

    The bed is awesome and just what we’re looking for. What do you estimate the supplies cost?
    Thanks.

    November 6, 2020 at 2:23 pm
    • Reply Henry

      Thanks. All of the materials were probably around $1k.

      November 6, 2020 at 10:49 pm

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