How can I brace a loft bed in between two walls?
October 11, 2011 11:55 PM   Subscribe

How can I brace a loft bed in between two walls to stop it moving back and forth during vigorous nocturnal activity?

I bought a loft bed a few months ago. It's metal-framed and fairly sturdy -- much more so than an IKEA Tromso or the like. The problem is that it's very noisy and rocks back and forth. Especially when, um, I have company.
Now my room is quite small and I had an idea of bracing it between two walls. If I put it in the middle, there would be about half a metre between it and the walls on either side. Is there some sort of "reverse clamp" or bracing device, perhaps that worked a bit like a car jack, that I could use to sandwich it inbetween the two walls and stop the accursed rocking? Ideas/advice/alternatives welcome!
posted by mandrake to Home & Garden (22 answers total)
One of the best solutions to this problem I have seen is to get two rolls of duct tape, preferably about half used, and sort of SMUSH them into 0 shapes rather than o shapes, and jam them between the walls and the frame. This creates a springy, but strong, shim between the bed frame and the walls.
posted by strixus at 12:12 AM on October 12, 2011

It sounds like the space (half a metre) is too big for the duct tape solution.

What about the pull-up bars designed for using in doorways? I think they work by expanding on springs to jam themselves into the space.
posted by lollusc at 12:44 AM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

The "reverse clamp" you're looking for is probably a "spreader", like this. (Image shows it in "clamp" configuration; you move an end piece to change it to a spreader.) You might try picking up two or four of those and seeing how well they work. If they don't work for this purpose, they're surprisingly handy to just have around.
posted by hades at 1:53 AM on October 12, 2011

Any springy thing is going to tend to fall out. I think the most feasible solution is to anchor the bed to the wall i.e. screw the frame to the studs in the wall. If you pit the bed in a corner, probably two screws (one for each wall) would be enough.
posted by at 1:59 AM on October 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Build some blocking with 2x4s out from one wall, to stop the shaking back and forth? And grease the squeaky joints or springs to help with the noise?
posted by salvia at 2:04 AM on October 12, 2011

There are a variety of wall anchors made for earthquake-proofing furniture. Something like that would probably work.
posted by twblalock at 2:04 AM on October 12, 2011

Nthing the brace it to a wall. Preferably two screws on each wall. You should use wall anchors rated for at least 100 lbs.
posted by Nackt at 4:11 AM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Will oil stop the noise? You surely have some handy in this location.
posted by bleeb at 5:42 AM on October 12, 2011

Move said nocturnal activities to floor?
posted by beagle at 5:53 AM on October 12, 2011

Custom build some shelves to put on either side of the bed. You can make them the exact width that you need, to brace the bed, and get some bonus shelving. You could also put the bed against one wall and have a meter-wide shelf (or even a drawer chest) on the other side.
posted by oddman at 6:45 AM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Squeaking is movement between two surfaces. One issue -- the frame is metal, and at the forces it is dealing with, it isn't stretching one bit, so all of that motion is transmitted to the joints, which move, and squeak.

Limiting the movement of the joint would theoretically help, but I think you'll find that, short of bonding them (welding or brazing) them, you'll not have much success. Fixing to the wall might help, but the force is going to tranfer through the frame, through those joints, and to the anchors, and if they're not tight enough, it'll still make noise.

What I'd do is gasket the joints. Get something thin, stiff and plastic (I mean that in the property, not material, sense.) A sheet of stiff vinyl would probably be fine, a sheet of PTFE (teflon) would be ideal. Cut gaskets to fit between the joints, poke holes for the bolts, and redo the joints with the gaskets in between. Tighten up well, and check them in a couple of days.

This should eliminate the metal-to-metal source of noise. I don't think oil would work long -- if it's making that much noise, then there's a lot of movement, and the oil would rapidly displace. A very thick grease would last longer, but seriously, this is a bed, do you want it dripping oil or grease? (Worse, oil/grease will collect dirt....)
posted by eriko at 6:54 AM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Our kids have a bunk bed and a loft bed from oploftbeds. The "op" stands for "orgasm proof," though we haven't told our 4, 7 and 10-year-olds that. These are wooden beds made of plywood and 4x4s but they really do not move--I weigh almost 300 pounds and the beds barely shift a micron when I climb into them. I mention it because you included "alternatives" in your question, and in case anyone else comes along looking for a loft they can have vigorous sex in.
posted by not that girl at 7:08 AM on October 12, 2011

I had this problem in college. My dad fixed it* by building extensions from the top bunk pillars to the ceiling. The extensions were made from 4x4's (that could be safely cut down to the size of your bed pillars), with a bolt/plate extension at the top that formed a pressure plate. The assembly was, top to bottom:

Carpet buffer (to avoid damaging the ceiling)
4x4" steel plate
Nut sized to allow bolt to pass through untouched - to keep the bolt centered on the plate
1/2" bolt
1/2" nut, seated in
Hole just big enough and deep enough to press-fit the nut
Clearance shaft for remainder of bolt
4x4 pillar
Top bed
Bottom bed

I could swing like Tarzan from that thing, without budging it. Now, ceilings were concrete affairs in that dorm, but as long as you locate the pressure plates under ceiling rafters (use a stud finder), you'll be good to go for non-Tarzan fucktivities.

*Well, he was doing it for safety reasons, because it wobbled when I climbed in.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:10 AM on October 12, 2011

Oops - the oversized nut was welded to the steel pressure plate center.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:10 AM on October 12, 2011

BTW, hades' link shows a spreader that will not work.

These loosen under vibration. They're fairly useless therefore for clamping things on drill press plates, tablesaws, and, in your case, rhythmic workout tables.

If you go that route, pick a spreader that relies on a screw nut threaded bar, and loctite it down.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:14 AM on October 12, 2011

When I ran in to this problem, I pushed the bed's base as close as I could get it to one of the walls, then flexed the top of it as far as I could away from that same wall and put something (much like the duct tape solution above) between it and the wall.

The idea is that the padding device keeps the bed from going one way and the natural tension in the bed keeps it from going the other.

My bed (and this solution) endured a great deal of vigor without much issue.
posted by milqman at 1:32 PM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wow. I didn't expect so many answers! Perhaps this is more common a problem than I thought...

A few things:

1. I'm renting. There have been a few suggestions that involve bolting the bed to the walls (or ceiling!) but I don't think my landlord would appreciate this.

2. The padding device (as suggested by strixus and milqman) is kinda what I have been trying. It's not that effective, though, because there is a skirting board that runs along the walls a few inches above the ground, and also a protruding window sill on one wall. So it's hard to squeeze the bed into a corner like that.

3. The spreader option seems the most appealing, and I found a pretty cheap set ( @IAmBroom: is there no way to "vibration-proof" these sorts of spreader? If not, could you link to the sort that I should get?

4. The shelves/blocking suggested by oddman/salvia would probably be the best option, because I had the idea of putting shelves/bookcases along the head and foot of the bed anyway. Unfortunately, my time (and diy ability) is limited. I could make it a project, but something for the short-term would be ideal.

I have a feeling there's still some oddball, genius idea out there that could fix this... but thanks for all the help so far!
posted by mandrake at 5:40 PM on October 12, 2011

Hmm. You say it's fairly sturdy, yet rocks back and forth. To me, this suggests that it has too much flexibility.

The first thing I'd look at is the bespoke connectors. Do they need tightening? Are the fasteners (say, a carriage bolt) too small for the hole they pass through? If so, you can probably get something functionally identical (maybe a little less aesthetically pleasing) at a hardware store. Maybe they get loose? You can get thread-locking bolts, or use thread adhesive.

The second thing, if all that is working as well as it could be, is upgrading the bracing on your bed frame, to have the result of stiffening it. This can be done several different ways, but you would have to find some way to fasten the braces to your frame, and that could potentially actually weaken it. You would want a cross brace of metal stiff enough to make a difference and you'd need to drill some fairly substantial holes for the fasteners. It would almost certainly reduce the rocking motion, though.

Finally, if you do this, it's possible that all you'll end up doing is transferring the motion, friction, and noise to the feet of the bed. If so there are rubber furniture pads that will give you some relief in that regard.

In any event, I'd look at ways to reduce the bed making noise before I'd look at ways to hold the bed in place.
posted by dhartung at 11:53 PM on October 12, 2011

Threaded versions aren't easy to find, which makes sense, as threaded rods are much more expensive. They appear in C-clamp configurations (which are unfortunately only useful for compression), but rarely in spreaders.

Here's a variation (a "pony bar clamp") that may work better. It locks with multiple steel plates biting into the edge of the bar, instead of plastic. Don't know if it's more vibe-resistant, but it makes sense it would be. However, tightening the structure could be an issue...

Here's another idea, which looks fairly ideal, but could be more expensive.

Don't know any way to make the plastic ones resist vibe-loosening. Even if it was a permanent change, ruining them, I'd have chosen to do so at some point in the past while working on a saw or drill press!
posted by IAmBroom at 1:55 PM on October 13, 2011

For what it's worth, I just took apart an Irwin Quick-Grip clamp like the one I linked to, and its clamping mechanism is exactly the same as the pony bar clamp IAmBroom linked to -- multiple steel plates biting into the edge of a steel bar (photo). The body of the clamp is plastic, yes, but the clamping parts are metal. I don't know if this is the case with the Shop Fox one I linked to originally, and I've never used a quick-clamp on a vibrating surface, so I'll defer to IAmBroom's apparent experience there.
posted by hades at 12:38 AM on October 18, 2011

And by "exactly the same" I mean that the clamping mechanism in the grip of the quick-clamp is the same as the stopping mechanism in the pony clamp. The quick-clamp just reverses which piece is fixed and which moves -- instead of having one end fixed by multiple metal plates and the other end provide clamping force with a screw, the quick-clamp has one end fixed with a bolt and the other end provides clamping force via multiple metal plates. That said, I'd probably go for the pipe clamp over the bar clamp in this application too.
posted by hades at 12:47 AM on October 18, 2011

Thanks, hades; I've never explored inside one. Makes sense.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:35 AM on October 18, 2011

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