Sofa Bed Build – Camper Van Build 5

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The single most important decision to make during a van build is the orientation of the bed. Sure the ceiling and wall paneling makes it look nice, but where you place the bed dictates the rest of the floor-plan. Will you build the bed cross-wise along the back of the van or length-wise along the driver’s side of the van?

Pros and Cons – Bed Types

The cross-wise bed is probably the most popular, the easiest to build and the most logical. This type of bed runs along the back of the van from driver’s side to passenger’s side. It normally uses up the full width of the van. If built up off the floor, it provides you with a huge storage area under the bed. This bed type also leaves a large area between the bed and the driver’s area to build something else or to just have an open area.

The only real negative of the cross-wise bed type is the limited length of the bed based on the width of your van. I would recommend this bed type as the number 1 choice if you can lay head to toe in between the van walls, even if you have to sleep at a diagonal. The extra storage space is could be very valuable.

The length-wise bed is the type of bed I ended up choosing because the Astro van just can’t accommodate someone over 6 ft tall in a cross-wise bed type setup. The benefits – I can stretch out. That’s about it for the positives over the cross-wise bed. The negatives – it should be a sofa/bed combo to save room, which can be a hassle. Not nearly as much storage as the cross-wise bed.

Will Burson of made a video about the differences between cross-wise VS length-wise van beds. It’s worth a look. He makes a drawing and to me it’s funny how messy the drawing ends up towards the end of the video. 🙂

So, if you have the choice, go cross-wise. It’s truly the best choice, but I’m gonna make the length-wise bed work for me and you can too – well, if you want.

Ok, enough trying to talk you out of a sofa bed build like mine, let’s get into this started.

Tools and Supplies Needed

  1. Measuring Tape
  2. Pencil
  3. 1X4 White Pine Boards (framing)
  4. 1X2 Slats
  5. A few 2X4s
  6. Circular Saw or Table Saw
  7. Sand Paper or Power Sander
  8. Power Drill
  9. Lots of Wood Screws (length & weight will vary)
  10. Phillips Screwdriver
  11. Hinges
  12. Brackets
  13. Foam
  14. Cloth Material

Astro Camper Van Sofa Bed Build

This part of the build was a surprise for me. I showed up at my Dad’s place one afternoon and it turned out that he had been busy. Yeah, busy taking the lead in the bed build and getting the hardest part done while I was out of town. Thanks Dad!

Watch Build 5 Video – Sofa Bed Build

Since I didn’t actually build this bed, I will explain it the best I can. I did provide my Dad with some videos to give him an idea of what I wanted in a bed build. Ha! Did my part. 🙂

Well, my Dad’s first step was to lay out the wood needed for the sofa bed build and figure out how the sofa to bed conversion was going to work. He had a basic grasp of the concept, but without detailed plans, you sort of have to wing it and see how it all goes together. Below is a picture my Dad took during the initial build:

Sofa Bed Build Phase 1

Dad assembling the bed

Notice in the picture above that he has the 1×4 White Pine boards as the frame and he is using the 1×2 slats to build the support for the cushions and pullout bed area.

Below is another picture my Dad took while testing out how the pullout bed would work:

Sofa Bed Build Pullout

My Dad testing the pullout bed

Unfortunately, that is about all I have in the way of build pictures for this bed. I can assure you, there was plenty of board cutting, lots of sanding and probably 100 screws used to assemble the frame and pullout bed.

From this point forward, I will be explaining how we put it all together when I showed up. This was basically the framing of the under bed storage and legs to hold up the bed.

We first added a support board along the driver’s side wall, just below the last wall plank from the previous post. This board was just about touching the insulation on the wheel well, so we knew the bed height would at least 10 inches high, not including cushions. The height of the bed is important because it determines how much storage you have and how much head room you have available.

Once we were happy with the support board, we brought in the main bed piece, connected it to the wall with 2 hinges and added some temporary legs. We weren’t sure what we wanted to do with the legs, so we took it a step at a time. Below is what it looked like just after we attached it to the wall:

Sofa Bed Build - Attached

Pulling out the level after we just attached the bed to the wall

The bed felt pretty secure against the wall, so we moved on to the support legs:

Sofa Bed Build - support legs

Adding the support legs to the Sofa Bed

We used brackets to secure the sofa bed build to the floor:

Sofa Bed Build - brackets

Brackets screwed into our plywood floor to secure the bed

Next, we added support legs for the bed when it pulls out and we enclosed the storage area using the pine planks:

Sofa Bed Build - Finish

Finishing up the bed build

We ended up adding 4 support legs to the bed to make sure it was very sturdy. On the negative, these legs make it difficult to get into the storage, so more legs, more sturdy but less efficient. Speaking of the storage, here is a look at how the storage worked out a recent trip to Big Bend NP:

Sofa Bed Build - Storage

The hinges allow the bed to lift up to access storage

The cushions were made from 3″ firm foam with a 1″ soft topper foam. They were cut to my specified width and length and glued together. We later picked up the completed foam and some vinyl fabric and dropped it off to our upholster guy’s office. His team assembled the bed cushions together and my Dad picked it up. Later in the week, we tested out the new cushions for the first time.

Towards the end, we were rushing to get this bed project done, because I had a trip to Big Bend NP planned for the second week of June. Luckily, we got it all done and the bed has been great.

sofa bed from sliding door

A look at the bed from the sliding door

sofa bed from back door

A look at the bed from the back door

Sofa Bed Build - relaxing

Me chilling on the van sofa after completing the bed build

Thanks for reading. Please leave questions, comments or ideas below in the comment area. Thanks!


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6 Responses to Sofa Bed Build – Camper Van Build 5

  1. Mark September 6, 2015 at 2:50 PM #

    Thank you for the video. I only recently started thinking about getting a cargo van to convert for van dwelling and been researching on different sleeping situation. I am the kind of guy that hates taking up space.

    You made it easy for me to visualize how to maximize space with a “pull out” sleeping system. I was thinking something along that line if I don’t go with a hammock option. 🙂

    I’m curious to see what you think of the idea of having a “folding” bed, the kind that can be detached from the wall onto the top of the storage area. Kind of a murphy bed if you will. Is it too far fetched of a concept?

    BTW, I am new to the scene so allow me to say hello and thank you for setting up this site so I can learn more. I look forward to your other posts.

    • Troy Wiedeman September 7, 2015 at 6:37 AM #

      Hi Mark! Thanks for the kind words. I appreciate you checking out my blog and videos. The fold down bed would be a great concept to get the bed out of the way for larger storage items. I can see this method being used for mountain bikers. Fold the bed up, load all the gear/equipment, get to your destination, unload and fold down the bed. That could work well.

      I too am looking at the hammock option. My current pullout bed is only about the size of a twin bed, which is fine for me, but I hope to have friends and family make a few trips with me. I’m thinking a hammock may work as a second sleeping spot. We’ll see.

  2. Mark May 18, 2016 at 1:43 PM #

    Troy! Love the blog my friend. I too am a local Austinite and in process of finding a cargo van to convert. I like the sofa/bed concept b/c it keep the middle lane open if you want to get in or out from the back. I am thinking of doing small sofas on either side which fold down and then make a bed right in the middle. Question: where did you go to have the cushions vinyl wrapped? Was it expensive?

    • Troy Wiedeman May 18, 2016 at 2:44 PM #

      Hi Mark! Thanks for checking out the blog. I bought the foam from Capital City Upholstery. They allowed me in the back to lay on and try out a bunch of different levels of foam. I finally chose a 3 inch firm foam with a 1 inch soft topper. They glued them together and cut them to my specs and I picked the finished product up later.

      I found the vinyl at a Michael’s and had the cushions wrapped with vinyl at a local upholstery shop. I will need to look up the name of the shop and the costs and edit this comment when I find that info.

  3. Ennio July 1, 2016 at 10:21 PM #

    Love this concept I am building a camper and I am going to use this, I was wondering if you could take measurements and post them

    Best regards,

    • Troy Wiedeman July 3, 2016 at 7:26 AM #

      Hi Ennio, I didn’t post exact measurements for this build because it will vary based on the room you have in your van. For my bed, it is 72 inches long, 24 inches wide in sofa mode and 36 inches wide in bed mode. The frame is built off the height of the wheel well which is 10 inches in height. This could vary based on wheel well height or if you have more head room and you want to make more storage under the bed. Hope this helps. Thanks for checking out the blog.

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