Platform Bed Installation

Last Updated: June 22, 2022

Platform Bed Installation

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Our Ford Transit DIY camper van conversion is built mostly around the mountain bikes, and the platform bed is no exception. We wanted a permanent raised bed above the “garage” (over the bikes and other stuff); no need to fold/unfold the bed at night & it creates a lot of storage room under the bed.

To provide enough clearance for the mountain bikes, there is 40″ height between the floor and the lower frame of the bed (but 36″ is actually probably enough. Check with your own mountain bikes!).

ford-transit-camper-van-rv-mountain-bike-clearance

The platform bed is 76″ long x 72″ wide. We have a 5″ thick foam mattress (full size: 74″ x 54″); the unused portion of the platform will be used for storage cabinets (faroutride.com/bedroom-storage).

We were quite aggressive with the width of the platform: it is wider than the floor and the frames above, so we’re up for some challenges when we will build the walls! But this way, the living space is maximized.

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To maximize the living space between the bed and the driver & passenger seats, we installed the platform bed the most rearward as possible. It leaves 80″ of usable space for the kitchen and the “living room”.

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TIME SPENT ON THE JOB: 16-20 hours

TOTAL COST : $220-300 USD

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click a product link and buy anything from the merchant (Amazon, eBay, etc.) we will receive a commission fee. The price you pay remains the same, affiliate link or not.

Portrait-FarOutRide-Van

MATERIAL:


Go Pro (An alternative to DIY)

If you’d rather be assembling and skip the building part, or if you’re in the market for pro-looking aluminum gear, there are a few options to consider:

Transit van Bed System Flatline Van Co Aluminum
Transit bed system (features, install, etc.) on FlatlineVanCo.com
Sprinter van Bed System Flatline Van Co Aluminum
Sprinter bed system (features, install, etc.) on FlatlineVanCo.com
hanging-solo-stowaway-bed-aluminum-transit-sprinter-promaster-van
Stowaway bed (adult/kid) on FlatlineVanCo.com

Disclaimer

We’re not woodworkers. We’re not well equipped in tools. So this is not a “How-To”.  This is just how we did it with our limited knowledge & limited access to appropriate tools. There are probably standards, but we’re probably not following them. That being said, we’re very satisfied with the final result, and we are proud of what we accomplished!

First of all, this is what we have in mind
van-layout-3d
Our actual layout,  for now… interactive 3D model is here

 

Alright now, let’s install a bed in our van!

Legs

The platform bed legs are made of 1″ thick Baltic birch plywood. The legs are really stiff; there is no flex at all (¾” thick Baltic birch would probably have been enough). Each leg is attached to the van frame by two fasteners that are screwed into Cross Nuts (Buy from Amazon) (see our post about Cross Nuts here).

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Squeaks Eliminator 2000

To ensure there will be no squeak at all, wood must never be in contact with metal. We therefore left a gap between the legs and the van walls; the gap is created by the Crossnut flange and two fender washers (Buy from Amazon).

bed-installation-van-conversion-4-squeaks-eliminator

 

Horizontal Frames

Each pair of legs are connected by an horizontal frame. Horizontal frames will increase “lateral” stiffness (left to right) and provide “vertical” stiffness to support our weight; having a stiff frame allowed us to reduce the platform thickness (we used 3/8″ thick Baltic birch plywood) and shaved some weight.

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The horizontal frames are a composition of a 5/8″ x 4″ frame and a 5/8″ x 2″ frame. We found this arrangement to provide plenty of stiffness for our need; there is barely any deflection when we hop on the bed.

bed-installation-van-conversion-12-ps

 

There is an additional frame in the back of the van. There is not much load here so we started with one 5/8″ thick x 2″ height, but to get the stiffness we wanted it finally ended with three 5/8″ thick x 2″ height glued together.

img_20161028_175711
Squeaks Eliminator 3000

Relative movement between components produces squeaks. Even where you think there is no movement…

Therefore, we screwed & glued every wood frame together (the platform is not glued to the frames because we want it to be removable). The glue provides the bonding, the screws hold everything together while the glue cures (the screws could be avoided if we had fancy woodworking tools!).

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We used #4 screws (1″ length) (Buy from Amazon) and Titebond III Waterproof Wood Glue (Buy from Amazon):

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The Platform

We used two 3/8″ thick, 4′ wide x 8′ long, Baltic birch plywood sheets. We trimmed the sheets to get the bed width and length we wanted (72″ x 75″) and fastened them using 1/4″ flat head bolts, nuts, and fender washers that we countersunk.

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nice & smooth

 

We then protected the wood with Danish Oil (Buy on Amazon) and added decorative frame at the back & front end (the frame is attached to the platform bed with L corner braces). Here is the final result:

Faroutride Kitchen 2

FarOutRide Garage Van Conversion

ON SECOND THOUGHT…

Hey, it’s us from the future! After 4 years of Vanlife, the platform bed is doing great; nothing to report! That includes two full winters of chasing the snow for skiing (faroutride.com/winter-vanlife) and we didn’t get mold or anything, thanks to our air heater that keeps us warm and DRY (air moisture is around 35-40% during winter!).

If there is ONE thing we could change, we would lower the platform to around 36″ (instead of 40″) above the floor, to increase the clearance above the bed.

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About us


NICE TO MEET YOU.

About-Us-Narrow

Hello! We’re Isabelle and Antoine 🙂 In 2017, we sold our house (and everything in it), quit our engineering careers, and moved into our self-built campervan. Every day is an opportunity for a new adventure; we’re chasing our dreams, and hopefully it inspires others to do the same!

39 thoughts on “Platform Bed Installation”

  1. Hi! Thanks a lot for these amazingly detailed blogs, it is helping us a lot with our own van conversion!
    Regarding the squeaks, since you mentioned in this post that “wood should never be in contact with metal” my significant other seems to think that even using small metal L-brackets is a no-go because it will produce squeaking. I took your post to mean “wood should never be in contact with the metal body of the van”. Do you have some insight that will put this argument to bed? 🙂

    Reply
    • The only squeaks we can hear come from wood on wood that are not fixed together. The L-brackets don’t move at all, they don’t make any sound.

      Reply
  2. First, thanks for this awesome details resource. I am building a ProMaster and will install a horizontal bed rail to the horizontal beam on each side of the van. Wanting to avoid squeaks as well. My thought was to use rivnuts and a strip of EZ-Cool between the van beam and 2×4″ bed rail as a thermal break and to help prevent squeaks. You see any issues with this plan?

    Reply
  3. Hi guys!
    Is there any particular reason why you chose to use plywood for the legs and not regular lumber?
    Thanks for the explanation!

    Reply
    • We like to work with baltic birch, because it’s more dense (better grip for screws) and it’s more straight (small dimensions lumber tend to be warped). That’s pretty much it!

      Reply
  4. Amazingly Great – build and articles.

    As a racing vehicle designer – I am seriously impressed with your well thought out, deftly executed and thorough, clear explanations.

    Three Cheers,
    -Dashing Dave

    Reply
    • We’re both 5’8″. We never considered sleeping sideways as we wanted to have storage beside the bed. So we never tried it even when the storage wasn’t build…

      Reply
  5. My bed is 60×74 and sideways. I used toggle bolts to secure 2×4’s to the side walls of the van – three on each side, then 2×4’s across from side to side. I also put 2 2×4 (about 28″ each) between the cross members for added rigidity. 1/2″ MDF on top with 1.5″ wood screws, and it is SOLID. I cut the MDF a quarter inch short on either side so as to avoid it squeaking/rubbing against the van frame, although the 2×4’s secured with toggle bolts are rock solid. Highly recommend as a cheaper adaptation of these guys’ awesome model.

    Reply
    • Hey NGS!! Do you have any pictures and/or further information about what you did? I’m literally doing the same thing in my extended Transit right now:) Trying to visualize it. Maybe it would depend on the type of van you have and where you can place the bolts, in terms of height, relative to the bed height you want?

      So you used toggle bolts to secure the 2x4s that run across (side to side) also, correct? And where did you place the two other 2x4s beneath the cross members?

      A part of me wonders if it would work to go a little thinner than the 4in, to save weight.

      Also: I noticed that you sleep sideways- Do you have side flares? 🙂 Or a Promaster?

      Thanks so much!!!!!! Any info is sooo much appreciated.

      Reply
  6. Hi Antoine!!! My build is coming along great thanks to Isabelle and yourself! Can’t thank you enough. Question on the thickness of the Baltic. My local lumber yard doesn’t have 3/8″ or 5/8″ – 4×8. They do however have plenty of 1/2″… (realizing it’s only an 1/8″ either way) do you think there is any scenario where this wouldn’t be a suitable replacement?

    As always, many thanks and a Happy New Year to you and yours!

    Best

    Reply
    • We have a little more than 34″ from the platform to the roof. We recently changed our mattress for a bigger one, and it is now too tight 🙁 So if you can lower your platform, do it!

      Reply
  7. What tool did you use to countersink those plywood sheets for the washer/bolt?
    Is that a router of some sort, or a different technique?
    Thanks!

    Reply
  8. With current Baltic Birch prices/general lumber prices so high (I was quoted $105 for 1/2″ (12mm) 4’x8′ sheet), do you have any alternative recommendations for wood? Thanks!

    Reply
  9. Have you had any problems with mold on the back of the mattress ?I’ve heard this is a common issue with beds directly on services with no ventilation.

    Reply
    • I am also curious about this. Our bed is the same design and we are still doing our van conversion, but are concerned with mold underneath the mattress. At the same time, we’re not keen on drilling a bunch of holes into our plywood platform!

      Reply
      • We never had issues with the plywood platform. Most likely because we always keep the van warm and DRY with the Webasto (a non-vented heater such as a Mr. Buddy would DEFINITELY create mold issues). Also, the space under the bed is open and accessible from our living space; temperature is indeed colder than the rest of the van, but not as much as in other vans with closed design.

        Reply
  10. Hello,

    Wondering how long you cut your horizontal frames (the 5/8″ x 4″ and a 5/8″ x 2″ frame) to in order to ensure the proper gap between each support/leg and the van walls? Also, do the two fender washers fill the remaining gap between the van walls and the supports/legs such that torquing the bolts causes the legs to come into contact with the fender washers?

    Thanks!

    Reply
  11. Love your articles!
    I recomand to drill a lot of holes in the bad platform to let matress breath. It does a great job and benefit your sleep comfort!

    Reply
  12. hi Antoine; Wondering if now after 6months (Mike’s question about under mattress moisture) you’ve anything to add to your reply ? Thanks Grayham

    Reply
  13. Hi Antoine, I can’t tell in any of your pictures if you added wood paneling under your bed (garage). I’m assuming no since it’s not visible and could be considered dead weight adding paneling to cover the insulation. Thanks for your help.

    Reply
    • Barbara, the pre-installed threaded holes in the Ford Transit take M8 bolts. In addition, there are a number of holes in the roof supports and walls that are M8 (instead of 1/4-20 like most of the holes). I installed M8 rivnuts on several of those holes (especially on the roof ribs). Hope that helps.

      Reply
      • To be more specific for others, the pre-threaded holes in the Transit are M8 x 1.25. Accidentally bought 1.00, and had to run back to the store!

        Reply
  14. Hi, Getting there! ready to start on the bed platform. thanks for all your help. i am a little confused, looking at your diagrams, it appears that the upright legs are 5’8″x4″, and then a horizontal 2″x4″ connecting the legs side to side. Yet your second diagram shows a combo..2″ by4″ in vertical position as crossbeams and you say 5/8×4′ horizontal between these 2’X4″? So, are the 24 raised to be flush with the 5″8 horizontal and the the plywood lays flat and is attached to the 5’8″x4″?
    As always, thanks and enjoy the ride..and now stay safe.
    Barbara

    Reply
  15. Would it be possible to use Baltic birch 3/4” for the vertical and horizontal frames or is Russian birch vital for the horizontal frame?

    Reply
  16. Have you guys experienced any issues with mildew developing beneath your mattress? I’ve read in multiple forums that if you do not have some sort of airflow between the mattress and the platform that bacteria will begin to grow. Some people drill holes or cut channels. Wondering what your thoughts are on this. Thanks!
    -Mike

    Reply
  17. First I would like to thank you for all the info you post. They are really helpful .
    My question is how do you make sure the bed platform is leveled ? Also, do you have inside dimensions of the
    2020 Awd Ford transit (crew van, RWB, mid roof). I would like to build a bed behind the second row seat and wonder how big of the bed I can get?
    Thank you so much
    Tin nguyen

    Reply
    • To make sure the bed is leveled, all of our “legs” are exactly the same length.
      Don’t have the dimensions for the van you mentioned, sorry!

      Happy new year!

      Reply

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