How can I buy or make a comfortable double bed for little cash?
June 5, 2013 12:00 AM   Subscribe

I rent a bedroom in a shared house, and my bed belongs to the room. It sucks and I need a new one. It's a double, but I have room to go bigger if it's not a big price upgrade. The new mattress should be fairly firm, but thick enough and squishy enough that I can lie on my side comfortably. The bedframe can be very minimal, but it should also be high, a meter or more elevated for storage purposes. It must not wobble.

It also needs to be under $250 in total. I want to be able to leave it behind when I go, and not feel too bad if that's less than a year away.
posted by 4th number to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
$250 for both a mattress and a bedframe with specific storage options?

Probably not going to happen unless:

1. You spend the $250 on an Ikea mattress and the wood to build a frame yourself. This will probably mean buying the absolute worst Ikea mattress unless you already own the wood and supplies for the frame. Even if you can spend the whole $250 on the mattress, that's still not a very nice mattress. Does anyone at the shared house do woodworking? Could you trade a bedframe for something valuable to that person?

2. You buy a secondhand mattress and frame on craigslist and just hope really hard they're not infested with bed bugs. And good luck finding a frame to fit your specifications.

3. You ignore the storage requirements and just buy a cheap futon or maybe just a mattress on the floor. I've also heard of people making rustic bed frames from shipping pallets, but I think you'd have a hard time reconciling that with your storage needs.
posted by Sara C. at 12:10 AM on June 5, 2013

What's the bed you have currently like? Is it possible you could sell it for funds, or re-use/re-cycle it as part of the new bed?
posted by jacalata at 12:23 AM on June 5, 2013

I built a frame for a housemate's double mattress once. She had a futon mattress, but no frame, for some reason. I used about $80 of Home Depot lumber and hardware, which was more than sufficient. HD did all the cuts. We just had to get it home and drill. It was 2x4s for the frame and slats every 6-12". 4x4s for the legs. It ended up as very, very sturdy.

Do you have experience in carpentry? My "skills" came from just working in school theater productions, which was enough to know how to build a flat (simple guide here, more extensive training here).
posted by knile at 12:41 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I was considering foam on top of plywood. I think you can buy an X by Y slab of 6-inch foam of the right kind, if you know what that is.

I can build things with tools, which seems like the best option.

The current bed is trash. Old metal frame, box spring, and a completely shot mattress.
posted by 4th number at 12:45 AM on June 5, 2013

The ikea mattresses go all the way down to like 99. Get the $200 one, a memory foam mattress topper, and a free metal bed frame on Craigslist. Get some 1x2s and make some slats.

I used this setup for years. Totally fine.
posted by emptythought at 1:14 AM on June 5, 2013

Sawhorse brackets turn 2x4's into very study sawhorses, and you can make them whatever height or width you wish. If you got crazy enough, you could just put together something out of a bunch of custom-sized sawhorses and some 2x4 top/cross braces. Then, if you get a fancier bed later - you'll have lumber you can use for something else! It will leava a nice open space underneath, too.

Downside- the splay of the sawhorse legs might be in the way -- but maybe you could make it work.

Do take the time to sand indoor sawhorses. No need to get splinters.

Avoid plywood. Most plywood has very toxic glues (especially furniture plywood - some exterior plywood uses better adhesives, but it's hard to find). You'll be right next to it for several hours every single night. Every week of every month of every year. Plus, it will sag and be hideous -- worse than sawhorses, in my opinion.
posted by amtho at 1:23 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you like to build things with wood and will want to make wide flat things, look into getting a biscuit joiner. You can thank me later.
posted by amtho at 1:26 AM on June 5, 2013

Best answer: Oh, i missed the height bit. My plan still applies when it comes to the mattress bit, i used the same mattress and topper at the next place i moved after i had it for a while... but then i needed a high frame like you wanted to store things underneath(and keep the mice out of my bed after waking up to one being in my hair, eek, i hated that place)

I got a set of wood slats from an old bed frame for free. Width doesn't matter! anything the size of mattress you have or bigger works. you're going to lay them on TOP of the frame you build, not catch them by the edges like most frames would. Then, i built a simple [=] type rectangle out of 2x4s, then i screwed 4 on as legs. Then i added 8 diagonal "gusset" pieces from leftover wood, which i let go almost all the way down to the floor to prevent flex.

This bed frame cost approx $40(you'd need less wood! mine was over 4 feet tall, like 1.5 meters and i overbuilt the SHIT out of it). It shouldn't wobble, and you can get a bed skirt if you want to hide a bit of how it looks. Personally, i goodwill'd a set of nice long curtains and put them up around the thing(mounted on the ceiling) which made it look like a 4-poster bed from the outside.

I built this entirely with the cheapest $3 keyhole type saw from the hardware store and a $8.99 goodwill power drill + a box of the cheapest 3in phillips wood screws, and a single drillbit which was the correct size to predrill for them. You also need a measuring tape, and some kind of pen/pencil/sharpee. A C-clamp of some kind would help for keeping the pilot holes aligned, but i was cheap/lazy/broke and would simply predrill one hole, hold it by hand, screw it in, then use that one screwed down point as a "clamp" to drill and screw the rest. Overdo it, do 3 screws at each joint.

Oh, you might also need a vacuum. You'll need to do everything but the sawing in the bedroom itself or you wont be able to get the thing in(unless you have french doors into the room from the exterior, or something) and the drilling will make a bit of sawdust.

That bed frame lasted the entire time i lived there through some serious er... stuff. It took 3 people to break it down when i moved out because it ended up being that strong. I will note that i built it entirely unassisted in two evenings. I could have done it in one if i had worked straight through from like returning from work time(6pm) to midnight or so.

If you're confused as to how to assemble/design it MeMail me and i'll MSpaint you up a diagram. I even searched through my phone to find a couple establishing shots of the design i'm talking about here, and amazingly i had a couple. One, Two. I wish they showed more detail of the design of the frame, but that was all i could find. As i said though, i could make a diagram if you like.

Oh, on preview one last thing i forgot was having a bed over a meter in the air SUCKED. i always had to have a chair, or the step stool you see in the photos, or something positioned to get in to it. You couldn't just waltz up and hop in without it being like a corgi trying to jump in to a lifted pickup truck; lots of scrambling and desperate pawing. If i did it over again i'd make it more like 0.75, or maybe 0.9 meters max. 1+ was rough.
posted by emptythought at 2:26 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Try these plans?
posted by lollusc at 2:28 AM on June 5, 2013

You might consider renting a bed from a rental furniture place. I don't know if all places offer this option, but back when I did it I was able to get a mattress and metal frame pretty cheaply.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 3:02 AM on June 5, 2013

You can buy bed risers to address the storage issue. We have them under our metal frame and it gives us tons of storage.
posted by gt2 at 3:27 AM on June 5, 2013

If you're in Massachusetts, Affordable Furniture To Go in Stoughton has cheap foam mattresses for well under IKEA's prices (and way better than the sub-$500 IKEA) -- I think under $150 if you just buy the mattress and don't get it delivered? It's not on their website, it's in the showroom -- it's one step up from buying 6" foam, and comparable in price. (I'm not saying this is a great mattress, but it's way better than IKEA's bargain stuff.)
posted by pie ninja at 4:11 AM on June 5, 2013

Best answer: Hi! We just did this, and you can do it for your budget.

2 x Expedit bookcases ($120)
1x Sultan Lade slatted bed base ($30)

That gives you an Expedit bed base you can actually take with you or easily sell on Cragistlist when you move, and you can get a mattress for $129 or a futon for $115. There is a LOT of storage under there, you have 18 inches of floor clearance.

Obviously, if you can score either bookcase or the bed slats off Craigslist, this becomes even better, but it is doable in a portable, storage-friendly way.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:46 AM on June 5, 2013 [7 favorites]

DarlingBri beat me to it. Was thinking exactly the same. Check out ikeahackers example 1 + example 2.
posted by travelwithcats at 6:21 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Is this too rough and ready for you?

I have also seen something similar done using Ikea Expedit bookcases and base. (on review what DarlingBri posted)

You can pick up cheap ass mattresses at one of those Mattress warehouses. It will not last you long, but it will buy you time to save up for a decent mattress.

Also a lot of college kids are finishing up now, contact your local college to see if there is any sort of big garage sale on. I live near Notre Dame and get to go to the "Old for Gold" sale every year, if you can fight off the crowds you can get a good deal if you don't mind a second hand bed or even just on the frame. In any case check out any sites for setting up Dorm rooms they are full of info on making cheap beds with storage space.
posted by wwax at 8:44 AM on June 5, 2013

Just wanted to recommend getting a mattress pad - maybe even now to extend the life of the crappy current mattress. I was sooooo happy when we got one. I felt like I was sleeping on a cloud.
posted by kat518 at 9:57 AM on June 5, 2013

My wife and I built a double bed and later upgraded to king-sized bed, both constructed just like knile suggested, using 2x4s, 4x4s, and slats. Our current mattress is a slab of foam from the Friendly Foam Shop. We added a dust cover for allergy reasons, which also helps a bit with protection and cleaning. We've slept on these beds for over a decade and are completely happy with them.
posted by mbrubeck at 10:45 AM on June 5, 2013

Check to see if you have a Cort Furniture Clearance Center near you. They're a furniture rental place, but they sell furniture once it's run through the rental cycle. If you go in and let them know what you're looking for, they can give you a call when it comes in. It's easily 65-75 percent off of retail most of the time. They are all over but they don't do much advertising -- worth searching out though.
posted by Ostara at 12:38 PM on June 5, 2013

Or, just go to the Sears Outlet and see if they have anything in your area in your price range. They list everything they have on line.

I had a very good experience buying my treadmill from them.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:39 PM on June 5, 2013

My recent mattress-shopping yielded the following:

1) Traditional mattress stores: There's not much in your price range I'd want to sleep on at regular mattress stores that sell spring mattress sets.

2) Ikea: The Ikea Hanestad mattress ($229) is great but was way too firm when I slept on it on the floor before I put it up on a bedframe with slats. I like firm but on a surface with *zero* give it's too firm. (It's fine with slats or a platform boxspring but it felt entirely different when it was on the floor for a week.) I have successfully slept on a cheaper Ikea foam mattress directly on the floor with no problem (for a year or more, actually.) I have also slept on cheaper Ikea foam mattresses on a boxspring and on a frame like the lycksele comfortably for extended lengths of time, though I enjoy having a spring mattress on a bed with slats more.

3) Memory foam: Memory foam isn't for everyone (I tried it out at some regular mattress stores and didn't care for it, personally.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 2:38 PM on June 5, 2013

You can buy bed risers to lift the existing bed up. Is there a box spring, and is it in okay shape? If it sags or you can see obvious valleys, put plywood over it. Then put an Ikea mattress on top. Also, freecycle and Craigslist are good places to pick up a used bed frame. Clean carefully for bedbugs.
posted by theora55 at 9:02 AM on June 6, 2013

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