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 willburson.com 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
- Measuring Tape
- 1X4 White Pine Boards (framing)
- 1X2 Slats
- A few 2X4s
- Circular Saw or Table Saw
- Sand Paper or Power Sander
- Power Drill
- Lots of Wood Screws (length & weight will vary)
- Phillips Screwdriver
- 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:
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:
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:
The bed felt pretty secure against the wall, so we moved on to the support legs:
We used brackets to secure the sofa bed build to the floor:
Next, we added support legs for the bed when it pulls out and we enclosed the storage area using the pine planks:
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:
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.
Thanks for reading. Please leave questions, comments or ideas below in the comment area. Thanks!
Next up: The POWER CENTER – MUAHAHAHA!!!