How to extend some wooden bed legs by 12-16"?
September 12, 2018 6:02 PM   Subscribe

I've got a great bed frame that I like a lot, but it's quite low. I'd like to raise it by a foot or so and put some rolling storage under there. Unfortunately it seems like every bed riser out there is incredibly ugly or only "rises" a couple inches! I want to extend the wooden legs with... well, more wood. But how?

My idea is basically to put a foot of 4x4 underneath each leg so they're standing end-to-end, and then attach them along a corner with some kind of corner tie. Amazingly, I can't seem to find others who have done this. Difficulty level: the bed legs are 4 1/16" across, non-standard! I figure that's ok, they don't have to match perfectly.

You can see the general shape of things here (don't worry about those things not aligning on the corner - it's solid.) Beautiful MSPaint illustration there too. I just want those stubbly little legs to be longer. (There's a center post too that I'd extend)

It seems simple but I figured I should ask before attempting anything. Would it work to attach the 4x4s to the bed legs with ties like this or this? I'd leave the spare space on the outside angle so it sort of steps in.

Suggestions, criticisms, links welcome! I'm very much an amateur but this seemed possible to do with absolutely minimal tools and cost.
posted by BlackLeotardFront to Home & Garden (14 answers total)
It might be okay, but any lateral load going from left to right (in your illustration) will put forces that will want to bend the corner tie. If you have a lot of, ahem, vigorous lateral loads on your bed, you might want to try to attach the corner braces on two opposing corners by shimming the wood on one side.

On another note, Etsy is a great way to get semi-custom woodworking done for reliable prices. I've had great luck reaching out to fabricators on Etsy that make existing products, and asking them to tweak the dimensions / alter something, and it's been great because it fits within their workflow and is relatively inexpensive.

So: you could order this and ask for a custom order for 4-1/6". Alternately, you could order steel hairpin legs to your desired high and ask the seller/fabricator if the mounting plate could be made to fit 4"x4".
posted by suedehead at 6:20 PM on September 12, 2018

Here’s a bed riser on Etsy that goes up to 9”. Might be worth contacting them to see if they’d go to 12”. Seems like not a bad match for your bed.
posted by Kriesa at 6:30 PM on September 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

4x4 posts as in your sketch should be fine. They are actually 3.5 x 3.5, so as you suggested, you could offset them in on the two outside faces so that they are flush on the two inside faces. Then you would just use two flat plates like this on the hidden, inside faces. I would use screws. You don't have to put a screw in every hole in the plate. Just enough that it feels solid.

I wouldn't trust just one of those angled joist hangers at one inside corner (but it might work!). I think you are on the right track. Just figure out what type of Simpson bracket works for you.

The toughest part will be getting good square cuts on your 4 x 4s. You might have Home Depot cut them for you on their radial arm saw for a few bucks.
posted by JackFlash at 7:03 PM on September 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

Thanks for the input. Yes, I was worried that it might be vulnerable to any sideways movement. Perhaps I can do flat plates instead, I suppose the right angle ones aren't actually necessary. I'll check out what's available at my Lowe's or HD in person. Good point on the 4x4 cuts. They need to be absolutely flat, don't they.

Those risers aren't bad but the tall ones are like $50 each! Whew! The hairpin legs are actually quite cool, I'll do that if I can't figure out a wood solution. The bedroom is really wood-heavy so I'd like to stick to that, but if it gives me problems that's a great backup, and pretty affordable too.

Is it surprising to anyone else that this isn't like a standard crafting project? I felt like I'd be running into tutorials by the dozen on how to attach a bit of wood end to end to lengthen a table or bed leg.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 8:48 PM on September 12, 2018

A Concrete Pier Block would be an ugly but robust ~9" riser. I'd drill & dowel the bed leg to the riser (glue only in the riser) to keep the bed from sliding off. Also put 4 cork or felt feet on each riser to protect the floor (maybe contact cement or shoe goo instead of the pressure sensitive adhesive that comes on the feet). Making them pretty will be the tricky part.
posted by tinker at 9:56 PM on September 12, 2018

You're planning to buy four 12" 4x4s and attach them to the existing legs.

Why not buy four 20" 4x4s and replace the existing legs?

That would be far stronger, look better, and be easier to do.

Plus you could use some combination of the existing legs for the center post.
posted by jamjam at 10:00 PM on September 12, 2018 [13 favorites]

The existing legs might have some connection hardware that could be hard to transfer or duplicate. My thought was to do the 4x4 thing, but sheath the whole thing with more wood, possibly drilling and bolting through the existing legs to deal with the lateral movement problem.
posted by rhizome at 11:26 PM on September 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you really wanted to keep it as wood, I’d make a large dowel connection.

Maybe use a 1” spade bit and a 1” wooden dowel/rod. Drill a 2” hole on the bottom of the leg and the top of the 4x4 riser, making sure both holes are dead center (best done with a drill press). Hammer a 4” long piece of dowel into the riser, and hammer the riser into the leg. Use wood glue on all surfaces, clamp or put weight on it.
posted by suedehead at 11:35 PM on September 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

I with agree with jamjam that replacing the whole leg would likely be easier.

However, when I had to attach two bits of furniture leg together like that (I wanted them shorter, but they were fancy turned legs so I had to removal a middle section to make it look right), I used square metal rods/dowels up the middle of the leg. This is going to resist weight and shearing forces better than a wooden dowel, plus the fact it was square stopped the leg from wanting to twist around. This is a bit more work because it requires chiselling out the corners after drilling the hole, but has resulted in a very, very firm set of legs. You could also run a bolt up from the bottom of the leg.
posted by stillnocturnal at 2:10 AM on September 13, 2018

Is it surprising to anyone else that this isn't like a standard crafting project? I felt like I'd be running into tutorials by the dozen on how to attach a bit of wood end to end to lengthen a table or bed leg.

It's not a standard DIY thing because it's notoriously difficult to do in a way that offers any structural integrity. The metal straps won't do it. Dowels could work but they'd have to be rather long and large in diameter, and it would require probably 4 per leg. Getting them all to line up simultaneously without special equipment (a drill press at the very least) would be almost impossible.

Replacing the legs entirely is by far the best solution, though in your particular case I can't tell whether the original legs are glued on which would present another obstacle. Also worth noting is that regardless of the strength of the longer/lengthened leg itself, horizontal/racking loads are going to exert a lot more torque on the corner joint between the horizontal boards of the frame, so make sure the angle iron and bolts making that connection are very robust.
posted by jon1270 at 5:36 AM on September 13, 2018 [4 favorites]

Replacing the legs looks like the best (and easiest) approach to me.

My thought was to do the 4x4 thing, but sheath the whole thing with more wood, possibly drilling and bolting through the existing legs to deal with the lateral movement problem.

If replacing the legs is impossible/impractical, then this would be my suggestion.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:03 AM on September 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

If that were my bed and I couldn't just replace the legs, I'd be fabricating hollow box extensions from 1" thick planks for the existing stub legs to fit snugly into the top of, so that the weight of the bed frame rails was borne directly by the new box legs and the existing legs got relegated to just being locators. The outside surfaces of the box extensions would then end up flush with the outside of the rails rather than lined up on their insides as at present, making the whole design look kind of deliberate instead of kind of hacked together.
posted by flabdablet at 7:21 AM on September 13, 2018 [4 favorites]

Unfortunately the legs are attached pretty securely to the corners. I'm not confident I could detach and put on new ones.

I don't have access to a drill press (or rather, would have to disassemble the bed and bring it into the shop to use it) so I think the dowel option, while sensible, is out if I wanted to do it right. The box extension thing is a good possibility, but I think it would also be relatively easy to try the 4x4 + plate thing (shouldn't run me more than $40 and a couple hours) and see how it feels. If it doesn't work out, the box extension won't rely on any of that and would hide any unsightly holes I made.

Good point on the increased load on the existing corner connections. I'll pop some corner braces on there.

I'll leave this question open for now so feel free to add your thoughts! I intend to do this within the next week or two so I'll update for the curious if I actually do anything.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 11:29 AM on September 13, 2018

The main issue I can foresee with the corner tie design is that with just one tie on each leg, it provides very little real resistance to forces that tend to bend the leg toward the tie, and those ties are basically just sheet metal and not very stiff. With 12-16" of leg below the joint, it wouldn't take much of an enthusiastic leap onto the bed from the side for those forces, as seen by the legs on the far side of the bed from the leap, to be quite considerable.

Just think of the amount of torque that you know you can apply using a 12" spanner, and imagine applying it by kicking the end of the spanner hard.

A corner tie will do a reasonable job of resisting forces that try to pull the joint apart along the length of the tie. So to get decent strength out of an end-to-end joint based on corner ties, you'd want a tie on at least two diagonally opposed corners of the leg. Four would be better. But if you do that, it's going to look fugly as well as requiring you to shave the
4116" leg down to match the thickness of your extension piece.

Fabricating hollow box leg extensions say 18" tall from 1" boards will give you legs with an aspect ratio of slightly under 3:1 which should work out fairly stable, especially if you glue and possibly even dowel the top end of the two outside box walls to the bed rails.
posted by flabdablet at 5:17 AM on September 14, 2018

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