When room in your home is tight, it's natural to look toward a Murphy bed—also known as a wall bed—as a possible space-saving solution. Extended, these beds provide guests with a real mattress at regular bed height, not on the floor. When closed, these convertible wonders reclaim much-needed floor space. Even homes that have plenty of room can benefit from a Murphy bed.
Building a Basic Murphy Bed
The original Murphy beds used piston-lifts or torsion springs to aid with lowering and raising. Today, it is possible to purchase Murphy bed hardware kits that can be used with your own wall bed. While these hardware kits are valuable, generally they will raise the cost of your wall bed an additional $300 to $350, on average, beyond the cost of the bed itself.
An alternative is to create a hinged Murphy bed that requires a bit more strength for manual lowering and lifting, but dramatically reduces costs. Hinges hold the head of the bed in place, with extendable legs elevating the foot. The bed can be closed by one person.
Full-size mattresses are a standard 75 inches long by 53 inches wide. But thicknesses can vary —anywhere from 6 inches to 16 inches. Because the mattress is contained in a box, the mattress should rise about 2 to 4 inches higher than the side of the box. In this project, the sides of the box rise to 5 1/2 inches. Purchase the mattress accordingly.
Equipment / Tools
- Table saw
- Miter saw
- Speed Square
- Cordless drill
- Tape measure
- Laser level
- Cordless nailer
- 3 1/2-inch thick 4-foot by 8-foot plywood sheets, interior grade
- 2 6-inch by 8-foot by 1 inch select pine boards
- 2 6-inch by 6-foot by 1 inch select pine boards
- 3/8-inch screws
- 12 10-inch galvanized steel corner braces
- 3 two-by-fours, each 8 feet long
- 3-inch screws
- 2 door hinges
- 1-inch screws
- 4 3-inch lag bolts and washers
- 2 6-inch lag bolts
- 6 trim boards, 1-inch wide by 8-foot long
- 2 locking hinges
Build the Box for the Mattress
With the four pine boards, form a rectangle, or box, that will contain the mattress. Cut two of the boards to 76 inches long and another two boards to 55 inches long.
Butt the two short pieces at the very ends of the 76-inch pieces. Join with two screws per joint. Add the steel braces, two per corner, using the cordless drill and the 3/8-inch screws. Check for square with the Speed Square.
Add the Back to the Mattress Box
The back of the mattress box—which becomes the vertical wall cover of the Murphy bed when closed—is made of 1/2-inch plywood. On the table saw, rip two full sheets of 4-foot by 8-foot plywood width-wise to produce two pieces: one at 55 inches by 48 inches and another at 55 inches by 29 inches. Secure both in place width-wise on the back of the mattress box.
Add a Seaming Board
Rip a strip of 1/2-inch plywood 55 inches long and 4 inches wide. Place this board on the seam between the two sheets of plywood, on the inside of the mattress box. Screw into place on both sides of the seam.
Build the Bed Cabinet
The cabinet will be secured vertically to the wall and it will receive the mattress and mattress box when the unit is closed. Rip full sheets of plywood to produce two strips, each 96 inches long by 10 inches wide. Rip and then cut width-wise another board at 58 inches long by 10 inches wide.
Secure the three boards to form a U-shape, with the two long boards on each side and the short board on top. Use four of the corner braces and 3/8-inch screws to hold the boards together.
Secure the Bed Cabinet to the Wall
Place the cabinet against the wall. Square up the corners so that the two long sides of the cabinet are parallel. With the tape measure, measure the interior width of the cabinet—it should be 57 inches. Cut a two-by-four to this length. Secure the two-by-four to the wall at every stud location with 3-inch screws pre-drilled with pilot holes. This two-by-four should be leveled with the laser level at 14 inches high. Conclude by tacking the two sides of the cabinet to the ends of the two-by-four with two 1-inch screws.
Add a Front Board to the Cabinet
Similar to the last step, cut another two-by-four at 57 inches long, level it, and tack it into the interior of the cabinet at 14 inches high. Essentially, it parallels the rear two-by-four.
Cut a piece of plywood at 57 inches long by 10 inches wide and add it to the top of the two two-by-fours with 1-inch screws to create a shelf.
Add a Top Securing Board to the Cabinet Top
Cut another 57-inch long two-by-four and, similar to the lower back two-by-four, secure it about 6 feet high by tacking from each side with two screws. Bolt into place on the wall with 3-inch lag bolts and washers.
Add the Mattress Box to the Cabinet
Place the mattress in the mattress box, then the box in the cabinet in a vertical position. Mark a line along the back of the cabinet box on the shelf created in the previous step. This will be the hinge point. Remove the mattress and mattress box. Return the box to the cabinet directly on that line and mount the two hinges at that spot.
Face the Bottom of the Cabinet
Cut a piece of 1/2-inch plywood 57 inches long and 14 inches wide and use this to face the bottom of the bed cabinet.
Create Locks For the Bed
When the bed is closed, it must be locked in place. Create locks by drilling a hole on each side of the bed cabinet at 6 feet high, each hole at 1/2-inch in diameter. Slightly angle the holes downward to prevent the bolts from accidentally slipping out. Slide the 6-inch lag bolts into the two holes to hold the bed in place when upright.
Add Trim to the Bed and Cabinet
Cut trim to size and nail into place on the bed cabinet (with the bed closed) with the cordless. Use trim around the edges and especially be sure to run a strip of trim across the horizontal seam on the front of the bed.
Add Front Legs to the Bed
Cut off two pieces of 14-inch two-by-fours to serve as the legs. Attach to the bottom of the foot of the bed with the locking hinges.