Extra beds can be hard to round up whenever guests visit or when your child has a friend sleep over for the night. Air beds, Murphy beds, daybeds, foam mattresses, and rollaway beds do have their place. But a trundle bed helps you offer the guest the comfort of a real bed, with the convenience of being able to keep the bed completely hidden the rest of the time.
A DIY trundle bed can be built fairly quickly and at a lower cost than buying a traditional bed. This trundle bed can be assembled in just a day or two. All materials except for one may be purchased at your local home center. That remaining item is a bunkie board, which can be found online or at furniture stores.
What Is a Trundle Bed?
A trundle bed is a small, low bed that fits under the main bed. Handles on the room side of the trundle bed allow the user to slide the bed completely out from under the larger main bed. Casters or furniture slides provide for smooth movement in and out.
Trundle beds consist of a mattress resting on top of a stiff base. For DIY trundle beds, the base may be constructed of either a bunkie board or a sheet of 3/4-inch plywood. A bunkie board—a pre-built stiffening slat system about 2 inches high—works best because it is perfectly sized for the space and is already covered in stitch bond fabric material. When space is tight or money is an issue, use plywood.
Equipment / Tools
- Circular saw
- Cordless drill
- Tape measure
- Staple gun
- Bunkie board sized to the main bed
- Cabinet handle
- 6 casters (non-revolving)
- Fabric of your choice (the bed size, plus 1-foot on all sides)
- 4 plastic corner guards (for the plywood version)
- 1 3/4-inch thick plywood, 4-foot by 8-foot (alternative to a bunkie board)
If Using a Bunkie Board
A bunkie board ensures a cleaner look for your trundle bed, plus the pull-out handle fits perfectly on the leading edge of the bunkie board. One downside, though, is that the bunkie board adds about 1 1/4 inches to the total height of the trundle bed—important if space is at a premium.
Measure the Space For the Trundle Bed
Normally, bunkie boards are designed to fit within the main bed's bed frame: the same length and width as the bed's foundation or box spring. This means that the bunkie board should fit perfectly under the bed, clearing all of the main bed's four legs.
Verify this by measuring the length and width between the legs of the bed. Use these measurements when purchasing the bunkie board. Also, measure the clearance room under the main bed.
Cover With Fabric (Optional)
If the bunkie board is covered with fabric that you find agreeable, you may skip this step. Otherwise, wrap the fabric over the bunkie board and staple it under the board.
Add the Casters
With the cordless drill, add the six casters to the bottom of the bunkie board using the provided screws. As long as the slats are firmly attached to the perimeter, you should attach the casters to the slats, not the perimeter. This gives you more room to attach the casters, plus it lets the bunkie board remain lower to the ground.
Make sure that the casters are positioned so that the bed will roll sideways.
Add the Handle
Attach the cabinet handle to the front edge of the bunkie board. With the cordless drill, drill holes of the width specified by the instructions (some handles come with paper templates, as well). Then, screw the handle into place.
Place the Mattress
Put the mattress on top of the bunkie board, then slide the trundle bed under the main bed.
If Using 3/4-Inch Plywood
Using 3/4-inch plywood as a base helps to control costs. Plywood, too, can speed up assembly when time is short since most home centers carry this product. Plywood is preferred when vertical space below the main bed is exceptionally short.
Measure the Space For the Plywood Base
Under the main bed, measure the length and width between the legs. Also, measure the clearance room under the main bed.
Cut the Plywood
With the circular saw, cut the 3/4-inch plywood to the size previously determined. Roughly sand off the most prominent splinters, if any.
Smooth the Corners
Attach the plastic corner guards to all four corners of the board. This will prevent the corners from tearing through the fabric.
Cover the Plywood in Fabric
Turn the plywood upside-down and lay it over the fabric. Wrap the fabric around the board so that it overlaps the edges by about 1 foot. Staple it down.
Attach the Casters
Screw the six caster wheels sideways to the bottom of the board. If height is at a premium, substitute furniture sliders for the casters.
Attach the Handle
Screws cannot be fastened into the edge of plywood as the wood will split. Instead, attach the cabinet handle facing upward and about 1/2-inch away from the edge.
Place the Mattress
Put the mattress on top of the plywood base, just behind the cabinet handle. Slide the trundle bed under the main bed.
Tips For Building Your Trundle Bed
- Keep height in mind at all times. The entire trundle bed, casters included, needs to clear a space of just 8 to 12 inches for most beds.
- If you need extra vertical clearance, replace the casters with hard plastic or Teflon (but not felt) furniture sliders. This will buy you as much as an extra inch.
- Sturdy plastic bed risers can be added under the legs of the main bed. This adds another 2 inches to 4 inches of vertical clearance for the trundle bed.
- When buying fabric to cover the bunkie board or plywood, avoid smooth fabrics as these will cause the mattress to slide off the base. Rougher fabrics grip the mattress better.
- Attaching an optional skirt to the main bed helps to hide the trundle bed when closed.