In Search of a Better Bunk Bed

If your bunk beds stick out into the room, you’ll need an additional 2-by-3 support hung from the ceiling, and additional guardrails, too. But I discourage you from sticking the beds into the room “barracks style.” Kids feel much safer having a wall on one side so they can’t be “snuck up on.” More important, it frees up a lot of floor space for sitting or playing in the middle of the room. Windows? Just put guardrails in front of them. If you’re designing a new cabin, have separate slider windows (sideways) for the top and bottom bunks. Not enough wall space? If you’re going to stick a bunk out into the room, why not do it twice and put them back-to-back (see photo). By putting sheets of plywood in between, you save all the extra space between beds, again creating much-needed floor space.

Finally, if you’re smart, you’ll do all the finishing on the beds before you bring them to the cabin. That includes giving them a coat of a golden-oak urethane stain (nothing too dark so it doesn’t show when it starts to wear). Another trick is to paint both sides of the OSB with dark-brown porch paint. For the bottom side, it prevents graffiti because what camper will write his or her name if no one will see it? For the topside, it prevents mildew and stains from a “liquid accident.” (Back when I was a counselor, we called them “Midnight Sailors!”)

Gary Forster is the Camping Specialist for the YMCA of the United States, and holds a degree in architecture from Kent State University. Reach him via e-mail at

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