Adding A Bed To Gidget

When planning out our van build we knew we didn’t want to have to make the bed every night. We also wanted plenty of storage space under the bed and in overhead cabinets. A platform bed was really the only option.

To save space we decided to install it width wise in the back of the van. In the side cutouts of the van, there was exactly enough room to install a full size mattress.

Adding a bed to Gidget

Bed finished and Tricia testing it out

Parts 

  • Casper Full Size Mattress – $750
  • 2 2″x6″x8′ pieces of Douglas Fir wood for supports – $9.78
  • 6 2″x3″ pieces of Douglas Fir wood for slats – $12
  • 2 11/32″ AC exterior plywood – $41.46
  • 2 0.625″x5.375″x96″ pieces of Red wood for edge trim – $38.40
  • White wash semi-transparent exterior wood stain – $37.96
  • Pre-Bulbed 1/4-20 .280 Grip Plus Nuts – $55.86

Tools

Video

Instructions

After making a few rough sketches we purchased all the wood we thought we would need. 2×3’s for slats, 2×6’s to mount to the van frame, and some plywood for the top of the platform.

sketch of bed supports

Sketching out potential support structure

sketch of bed supports

Side sketch of planned supports and bolts. We ended up only using the 2″x6″.

Wood gathered

Hardware store wood haul

To support the 2×6 at the rear edge we installed pre-bulbed plusnuts into the existing holes.

Plus nut install

Matt installing a plusnut.

plus nut installed

Installed plusnut at rear of van to support the end of the 2×6.

Figuring out the bolt locations on the wood was the hardest part. We must have make a 1000 measurements and installed and removed the 2×6 about a dozen times to get it right.

Once we figured out the bolt locations we drilled the holes and used a spade bit so the bolt heads would sit flush.

2x6 installed

2×6 support test fit.

The second side was easier since we had a template from the first side. Thankfully the bolt locations on both sides are identical.

Installing 2x6

Test fitting the passenger side 2×6.

Attachment points

2×6 showing the various attachment points.

Before we mounted the 2x6s for good, we sanded them and applied a layer of wood stain for protection.

stained support installed

Support stained and installed in van

After mounting the support pieces we measured and cut 2x3s for the bed supports. 6 seemed like enough to prevent any sagging of the bed.

2x3 slats

Test fitting the slats.

Bed slats from rear

Bed slats installed looking from the back of the van.

Because van bodies flex while driving we decided to only screw down the passenger side of the 2x3s and let the driver side float.

Screwed in slats

Slats screwed into bed frame

On the driver side we screwed in blocks between the slats so that they could move and flex as needed. The 2×3 slats are not screwed in.

Blocks for slats

Test fitting the blocks between the 2×3 bed slats.

Blocks screwed in

Pre-drilling holes for the blocks.

We cut 2 pieces of plywood as the base of the bed. We decided to install the seam closer to where our feet would be. Our mattress is plenty thick to not feel it.

Plywood fit up

Clamping the plywood down to the bed base before we screw it down.

Plywood being secured

Plywood being screwed into bed slats.

We then installed an edge on the bed to prevent the mattress from moving. We used a 0.625×5.375 piece of redwood and screwed it into the 2×3 slats.

Adding the edge

Adding the edge to the bed frame.

edging installed

Edges installed on the bed frame.

Before installing the wood pieces they were all sanded using an orbital sander and stained.

Wood staining

Staining pieces of wood.

It was now time to install the mattress and test it out. We choose a memory foam so that it could be squeezed into the allowed space. After lots of research we settled on a Casper.

bed box

Ready to install mattress.

mattress installed

The installed bed all made up.

Installing the bed width wise saves us almost 2 feet of space in the galley and living room. But it’s a tight squeeze between the 2 walls of the van and doesn’t allow any room to hang a foot or hand off the mattress. We plan on doing a few test nights to make sure that we can sleep this way.

Another thing we need to figure out is how to cover the insulation. We can’t really put wood paneling up as the mattress needs all the space it can get.

We are happy with how it turned out except when driving. Every little bump in the road results in a squeak. It kind of sounds like the metal is flexing where the wood attaches. Maybe we should have put something like felt in between the metal walls and the 2×6 wood? Or maybe we need to take some of the load off of the van walls with a support in the middle of the platform? We’re going to do some experiments to see if we can get the noise down.

Update 2016-07-04: We fixed the squeaks with felt

Adding a bed to Gidget allows us to nap whenever and wherever we want

Laying in the bed for the first time.

13 Comments

  1. Reply
    Jack and Kathleen June 13, 2016

    Hello to you two we are also converting a transit to a weekend camper for my wife and I, our project is similar but our van was a 12 passenger diesel van so I have removed all the seats and interior panels to insulate with the 3M thinsulate we bought from Hein (lots of bandaids required) as you have except we have windows so it will be less insulation than your project and harder to cool. I have purchased a very small 4400 BTU heat pump which is used for marine use and will install a heat exchanger in the front to remove heat from the water jacketed condenser. i’ve been experimenting with this unit in the garage running off 4 T-105 batteries and a 1500W inverter and found the fan for the heat exchanger draws as much current as the heat pump alone so I’ll put a pulse width modulator on that fan in order to slow the fan down. We also installed the Maxxair roof fan. Really enjoying your blog!

    Jack and Kathleen

    • Reply
      Matt June 16, 2016

      Thanks for the kind words. Looking forward to seeing your build out.

  2. Reply
    John Hefley August 22, 2016

    Greatly appreciate the details like nut and bolt sized to attach furring strips. I just purchased a Ford Transit, and look forward to using your site as a resource. Thank you.

  3. Reply
    TS December 29, 2016

    Awesome blog! I am planning a similar build right now and wondering how you have liked sleeping lengthwise across the van?

    • Reply
      Matt January 2, 2017

      It is okay, not great. It would be doable if we had to do it but once we installed our bench seat we realized we had just enough room to rotate the bed and it now goes parallel with the van.

  4. Reply
    Rebecca Cunningham January 17, 2017

    Do you like the mattress? I am looking at various options to replace the queen pillowtop I have in my short school bus. It is bulky and heavy.

    • Reply
      Matt January 17, 2017

      So far it’s pretty good. But our number of nights on it is in single digits so we might not be the best people to ask.

  5. Reply
    Tom April 13, 2017

    I’m debating which way to orient the bed and wondering how tall are you?
    I’m 5.9 and we’re putting a window in one side of the back panel so I don’t know if the Full Size bed will still fit the width of the van.
    Any thoughts on whether the Full Size bed would fit width wise with a window installed?
    Thanks.

    • Reply
      Matt April 13, 2017

      I’m 5’11 and a full size bed width wise will fit. Not sure how a window will impact it. Ultimately we reorder the bed to go lengthwise since this post as we had some extra room and it’s more comfortable.

  6. Reply
    Blumenthal September 15, 2017

    What did you use for your plus nut installment? We noticed you are not using a manufactured tool. Any resources would be great!

  7. Reply
    Matt September 24, 2017

    We are using this tool fro Jay-Cee http://amzn.to/2wLi6Px

  8. Reply
    Alex October 31, 2017

    With the bed in this sideways configuration do you know how much usable space was between it and the front seats for a counter or bench?

    • Reply
      Matt November 1, 2017

      It depends on how you measure it but our counter is 46.5″. I would say you have between 45″ and 50″ of usable space depending on how far back you like your seats.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *