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Old 05-12-2014, 08:44 PM   #1
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365SAQ folding bunk to bench conversion

Thought I'd post this out there for anyone to comment on, and also to give ideas if anyone else is interested. I will post pics as this transformation starts.

We have 3 kids (2 and one on the way) and as I look into the future, not even knowing how long we'll have this camper, I can't see the kids bringing more then 1 friend each camping. The fold down bunk has some serious limitations. Many have commented that it struggles to support much weight and have modded it with a kick stand, it holds the bathroom door from even opening 50%, and then it's got that ridiculous angle that you have to work with sheets, and it cuts the headroom down substantially. Today while planning out how to build a ladder for the top bunk (as we get ready to move one child up to the top) I was wrestling with the angle of the ladder due to how far that folding bunk protrudes into the room when lowered. I decided, I'm converting it to a "bench / couch"

I should mention right away, I don't want to destroy the folding bunk. Someday I will be selling or trading in this unit and I want to include it either by dismantling my conversion or by including both. I will remove the folding bunk at the piano hinge (utilizing the hinge for the new conversion) and storing the folding bunk and the mattress in a safe place in the house.

I took the wood off the top bunk to inspect how it was constructed knowing the folding bunk would more or less be constructed the same. 1.5" aluminum square tubing, 1/8" thick walls. I called around and found a 21' piece for $48.00 I called several welders and found someone who would give me a bid to weld this tubing of $120.00 I measured our dinning room chair in the Sierra and found the seat bottom to be 17" deep. With that measurement I began planning out the bench. The built-in footing for the folding bunk is right at 17". I decided I'd want a back on this bench to make it more like a couch, so I decided I'd like it to be 20" deep. That means the new bench will cantilever out about 3.75" I know it will support the weight much better now. The door to the bathroom will open almost 90% of the way now. I took the aluminum tubing to the welder and he's making a platform 73" wide by 10.75" deep outside dimensions He's putting 3 crossbars at about 16" each I wanted one at every 12" but he said it would be overkill and more weight (in comparison, this is still one more brace then the top bunk I looked at). I will bolt that back up to the piano hinge. I bought a piece of 4x8 sheet of cherry colored paneling from my camper dealer for $35.00 It was hard to get them to understand it didn't need to be an exact match from Forest River (freight alone was almost 100 bucks) and they had something in stock that's close enough. Remember, you'll almost never see the wood anyway. I found an upholstery shop that will make two cushions, with 2" high density foam, wrapped in a tan vinyl. He's going to make a back for it as well. The cushions will be a total of 74" x 20" and the back will be 74" x 17".

Once it's all finished I will have about $450.00 into this mod. A little more then I would probably like to spend, but we'll have some useful space, somewhere the kids can sit and watch a movie on a rainy day, or read a book before bedtime and I can still sleep 7 kids back there assuming two on the larger 3 bunks.

I will post pictures as it all comes together.
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Old 05-13-2014, 05:17 PM   #2
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Thanks for the write up. Pics would be greatly appreciated. Did you make you ladder from PVC or wood?

Monty
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Old 05-13-2014, 07:11 PM   #3
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Will do. The metal is being welded, the cushions are being created so nothing is changed yet, but I will take pictures as it transforms and as I get pieces back. I'll make sure to take a picture of the welded structure before I cover it in the wall board so everyone can see what was done. Hope to have some parts by next week.
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Old 05-17-2014, 05:04 AM   #4
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I love the idea! Pls send pics.

Also, what did ur research for the ladder yield? I need to build/buy one for the rear bunks. My daughter doesn't take kindly to her younger brother jumping down while she is sleeping!!!

No matter the cost, keeping a 16 year old girl in good graces has infinite value!
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Old 05-17-2014, 11:09 AM   #5
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I am interested to see the pictures of this... We currently leave ours folded up to keep it out of the way. I was thinking on our last trip I could do something to better use that space.
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Old 05-17-2014, 11:54 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jrobichaud View Post
I love the idea! Pls send pics.

Also, what did ur research for the ladder yield? I need to build/buy one for the rear bunks. My daughter doesn't take kindly to her younger brother jumping down while she is sleeping!!!

No matter the cost, keeping a 16 year old girl in good graces has infinite value!
I will try to post some pics of my ladder construction this week. My buddy bought a surveyor and his did not have a ladder either. I began using the material list he came up with. I bought 1X3 solid oak boards from local hardware store. I set one board up against the top bunk and moved it in and out until it was at an angle I thought was about right. Then I placed a small level on the carpet against that board and drew a line. This is where I will cut the 1X3 and it will give in the perfect angle for the ladder. I am making it 12" wide and the steps 10-11 inches each. I might adjust that some once I get it all cut out and determine how tall the ladder will be. I will stain with Minwax Cherry stain, and put on several coats of polly. I'm not 100% sure how I will attach it at the top yet, I have some ideas, but will try a few things first to find the best idea. The ladder will be removal able and will store on the bed when we travel. I am building a safety rail as well, about 58" long and will attach with larger "L" brackets to the aluminum structure under the bunked. I will post pictures of that as well. I bought (4) 6' pieces and 1 10' piece all for about 40 bucks.
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Old 05-24-2014, 07:20 PM   #7
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Here's some pics of the ladder and saftey rail. Both made from 1x3 oak, stained with Minwax Cherry. Stain was applied twice, and left on for more then 15 minutes each time. Still not as dark as I wanted, but was getting tired of waiting.

Rail is 58" long. Supported at 18" and 56" on center. It's 13.75" tall because the left over from the ladder. I bought 6' pieces and after cutting the ladder out was left over with 13.75" pieces.
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Old 05-24-2014, 08:50 PM   #8
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That looks fantastic.
Can you show pictures on how you fastened the rail to the bunks?
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Old 05-25-2014, 01:38 AM   #9
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Yes, I will take some pics, but I can also tell you, I used 2" tall "L" brackets, they were about 1" wide. 3 screws in each side. I use 1" self tapping #8 screws to go into the alluminum frame below. The rail is fairly strudy. If a kid kicks it, it might bend. My thought is I'm just trying to prevent them from falling over, I think if they hit it in their sleep, they'll roll the other way. If someone wants to make it even more sturdy, you could place a small block on the left side by the bathroom, and tie it back in to the side of the slidout.

The ladder I just used "L" brackets, and bent them to hold the ladder from sliding away. Doesn't need to hold much weight, as the weight is directed to the floor.
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Old 05-25-2014, 03:22 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cmptrkd View Post
Yes, I will take some pics, but I can also tell you, I used 2" tall "L" brackets, they were about 1" wide. 3 screws in each side. I use 1" self tapping #8 screws to go into the alluminum frame below. The rail is fairly strudy. If a kid kicks it, it might bend. My thought is I'm just trying to prevent them from falling over, I think if they hit it in their sleep, they'll roll the other way. If someone wants to make it even more sturdy, you could place a small block on the left side by the bathroom, and tie it back in to the side of the slidout.

The ladder I just used "L" brackets, and bent them to hold the ladder from sliding away. Doesn't need to hold much weight, as the weight is directed to the floor.
Ah, no need to take pictures of an L bracket
thanks for the info.
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