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!).
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.
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”.
TIME SPENT ON THE JOB: 16-20 hours
TOTAL COST : $220-300 USD
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- 1x 1″ thick, 5’x5′ Baltic birch plywood ($40)
- 1x 5/8″ thick, 4’x8′ Baltic birch plywood ($48)
- 2x 3/8″ thick, 4’x8′ Baltic birch plywood ($70)
- ~60x 1/4 fender washer (Buy from Amazon)
- ~10x 1/4-20, .280 Steel Cross Nut Prebulbed (Buy from Amazon)
- many 1/4-20 bolts, various lengths (Buy from Amazon)
- M8 bolts for existing threaded holes in Transit ($10)
- many #4 wood screw 1″ length ($5)
- Titebond III Wood Glue (Buy from Amazon)
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:
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
Alright now, let’s install a bed in our van!
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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!).
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.
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:
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.