How to Build a Bunk Bed Ladder

Building a ladder for a bunk bed can seem like a daunting task, but with the right materials and tools, it’s easier than you think. Having a ladder provides safe and easy access to the top bunk, making bedtime and wakeup much more convenient. In this guide, we’ll walk through the entire process of constructing a sturdy, safe bunk bed ladder step-by-step.

Gather the Necessary Materials

Before starting any DIY build, it’s important to gather all the materials you’ll need ahead of time. Building a bunk bed ladder requires just a few key supplies:

  • Wood boards – You’ll need enough 2×4 or 2×6 boards to construct the ladder sides and steps. Pine or poplar boards are inexpensive options.
  • Wood screws – 1 to 2 inches in length, with hex heads. Make sure to get countersunk holes for a flush finish.
  • Sandpaper – A coarse grit like 60-80 will smooth the boards quickly. You’ll also need a fine grit like 120-150 for the final smoothing.
  • Wood glue, wood filler, primer/paint, or stain – To finish the ladder and achieve the desired look.
  • Power drill, drill bits, saw, sanding block, clamps, tape measure, level, square, pencil.

Before purchasing supplies, measure the height of your bunk bed and the width inside the bed frame where the ladder will attach. Buy boards long enough to achieve the total ladder height needed. For stability, the width of the ladder should be 16-18 inches.

Cut the Side Boards to Length

The two vertical boards that form the sides of the ladder will connect the top and bottom. Cut these to the exact height needed:

  • Measure from the floor to the top mattress support. Deduct 3-4 inches if you want space between the top bunk and ladder.
  • Cut two boards to this length with a handsaw or miter saw. Cut the ends square for stability.
  • Double check the length by placing the cut boards vertically in the bunk bed frame. They should not quite touch the top bunk.

Add Steps Between the Side Boards

The horizontal boards connecting the two sides will act as steps. Space these out evenly:

  • For comfortable 10-12 inch deep steps, cut boards to this depth. The wider the steps, the more stable and easy to use the ladder will be.
  • Mark and cut notches out of the sides of the boards to fit around the side boards. This helps hold the step boards in place.
  • Drill pilot holes and construct each step one at a time. Apply wood glue on the joints, clamp in place, then screw through the side boards into each end of the step board.
  • Make sure the steps are parallel with equal spacing in between. Measure diagonals to ensure the ladder is perfectly square.
  • Repeat to add all step boards working from the bottom up. Use scrap boards clamped across for temporary supports if needed.

Attach the Ladder to the Bed Frame

With the main ladder structure complete, next is securing it safely and permanently in the bed frame:

  • Set the ladder in place and mark where the side boards contact the frame.
  • Remove the ladder and drill pilot holes in the bed frame at the marked locations.
  • Apply wood glue to the back edges of the side boards. Set the ladder in place.
  • Screw through the bed frame into the ladder sides using 2-3 inch screws. This will firmly attach the ladder.
  • Check for stability by putting your weight on the steps and shaking the ladder. It shouldn’t wobble or detach.

Add Finishing Touches

To complete the DIY bunk bed ladder:

  • Use coarse sandpaper to smooth any rough edges on the wood boards. Round over sharp corners and edges for safety.
  • Vacuum sawdust then wipe down with a tack cloth. Apply wood filler to any holes or imperfections. Let dry completely.
  • Sand again lightly with fine grit sandpaper for a smooth finish. Vacuum and wipe clean again.
  • Finish as desired, either by painting, staining, or using a clear sealer like polyurethane. Follow directions for application and drying time.
  • Consider adding carpet treads, grip tape, or other textured materials on the steps for traction. Only use child-safe, non-toxic products.
  • Attach hand rails if desired for additional safety and ease of climbing. Make sure they are firmly secured.
  • Have your child test out the finished ladder before putting the bed into full use. Make any adjustments needed.

And that’s it! With a sturdy homemade ladder in place, bunk beds can now be safely accessed and enjoyed. Just take care to periodically check that all screws remain tight and secured. Happy bedtime climbing!

Frequently Asked Questions About Building a Bunk Bed Ladder

Constructing a ladder for your bunk bed might seem difficult, but these helpful responses to common questions can guide you through the process smoothly.

What are the standard dimensions for a bunk bed ladder?

The ideal width for a bunk bed ladder is 16-18 inches wide. This provides enough space for children to comfortably climb yet still fit within most bunk bed frames. The step depth should be around 10-12 inches deep. The overall height is determined by measuring from floor to mattress and deducting 3-4 inches if desired.

What type of wood should I use to build the ladder?

Pine and poplar are inexpensive wood options perfect for a bunk bed ladder. Look for straight, knot-free boards in standard dimensions of 2×4 or 2×6 inches. Avoid warped boards or wood with lots of imperfections.

How far apart should the steps be spaced?

For comfortable and safe spacing, position the horizontal step boards 12 inches apart measured from edge to edge. Smaller children may need narrower spacing of 10 inches or less. Just make sure spacing is uniform from top to bottom.

What is the strongest way to attach the steps to the side boards?

Using wood glue along with screws gives the strongest bond. Apply wood glue to the joints, clamp the pieces together tightly, then drill pilot holes and drive screws through the side boards into each end of the step boards.

How do I securely attach the ladder to the bed frame?

After test fitting, mark attachment points on the frame. Drill pilot holes then screw through the frame into the back edges of the ladder side boards using 2-3 inch screws. This creates a sturdy permanent bond.

How can I ensure the ladder is safely constructed?

Check for wobble by shaking the ladder and putting your weight on the steps. Measure diagonals to verify the ladder is square. Round over any sharp edges and corners. Finally, have your child test the finished ladder before use.

Should I paint, stain, or seal the wood?

Bunk bed ladders take abuse, so a painted, stained, or sealed finish is best to protect from wear. Use child-safe paints or stains. A polyurethane sealer adds protection. Add textured tread strips on steps for traction.

Is it safe to have an attached ladder instead of one that detaches?

Permanently attached ladders are safe and standard as long as they are firmly secured into the bed frame. Detachable ladders can be knocked loose and should only be used with adult supervision.

How can I tell if it’s time to replace an existing bunk bed ladder?

Look for loose, cracked, or split wood, loose screws, missing fasteners, lack of rigidity, bends in the sides, wear on treads, or other signs of deterioration. Replace immediately if structural integrity seems compromised.

Selecting the Right Wood for a Sturdy Bunk Bed Ladder

Choosing appropriate wood is the first step in constructing a bunk bed ladder that can handle years of climbing and play. The key is finding an affordable option that is structurally sound.

Pine is the most common choice for bunk bed ladder projects. The wood is widely available, relatively inexpensive, and typically has few knots or defects. Pine has a good strength-to-weight ratio while being easy to work with using basic tools. Popular varieties like whitewood, yellow pine, and pine boards sell in standard 2×4 or 2×6 dimensions perfect for ladder sides and steps.

Poplar is another great choice. It has a straight, uniform grain that makes attaching steps simpler. Poplar takes stain evenly, doesn’t splinter badly, and resists warping. The soft wood cuts smoothly and drills easily without splitting. Poplar can be slightly pricier than pine but is still budget-friendly.

Stay away from weaker softwoods like fir or cedar that have excessive knots and density variations that make construction challenging. Hardwoods like oak and maple are very sturdy but difficult for amateur DIY cuts and drilling. They can split easily unless pre-drilled carefully. Hardwoods also cost significantly more than pine or poplar.

No matter which affordable wood you select, be sure the boards are straight and free of major imperfections that could compromise the ladder. Visually inspect boards and run your hands along them to check. Avoid warped, crooked, or knotted sections. Select the cleanest, straightest grained pieces for the two side supports since they handle all the weight and stress. The step boards can have a few more minor defects without sacrificing strength.

Using quality pine, poplar, or other straight-grained softwood will result in a bunk bed ladder that supports activity and lasts for years to come. Match the wood to your DIY capabilities and budget while following construction methods for a safe ladder kids can enjoy.

How to Cut Ladder Side Boards to Precise Lengths

When building a bunk bed ladder, accurately cutting the two vertical side boards is crucial. These form the supportive structure that will securely connect to upper and lower bunk bed frames. Taking time to measure meticulously and cut side boards to exact lengths will ensure a stable finished ladder.

Start by carefully measuring from floor to mattress support in the bed frame. It’s easiest to remove the mattresses first for unobstructed measuring. Use a steel tape measure and record the height. Then deduct 3 or 4 inches if you prefer some space between the top bunk platform and ladder.

Cut a small piece of scrap to test-fit into the bed frame area where you plan to install the ladder. Check that the width allows it to fit properly without excess wobble. Adjust your side board width if needed.

Measure the cut scrap against one end of a board to mark your required length. Use a miter saw, circular saw or handsaw to cut the board to length. Clamp a straightedge guide in place first for the most accurate cut. Cut slowly and smoothly.

Flip the board and repeat on the other end to ensure both ends are perfectly square. Test-fit the cut side board in the bed frame. Double check your measurements and make any length adjustments. Repeat the same measuring, marking and cutting process to cut the second side board.

With two matching side boards cut to precise lengths, you’re ready to add steps and construct the ladder. Taking the time to measure and cut the sides accurately will establish the foundation for a bunk bed ladder that fits right and functions securely. Don’t rush this key first step.

Attaching the Bunk Bed Ladder Securely to the Bed Frame

Once the main ladder structure is built, the final crucial step is securely attaching it to the top and bottom bed frames. This permanantly bonds the ladder in place for safe climbing and years of use.

Start by test fitting the finished ladder in position. Have a helper hold it plumb and centered while you mark where the sides contact the frame. Make marks at the top and bottom of each side board.

Remove the ladder and drill pilot holes at the marked locations. On metal bed frames, use a drill bit suitable for metal. For wooden frames, drill 1/8″ pilot holes for screws.

Run a bead of construction adhesive or wood glue along the back edges of the ladder side boards. Then reposition the ladder, centering the boards over the drilled holes.

Add 2-3″ wood screws through the bed frame and into the side boards. Tighten screws firmly but not so much that they distort the wood.

Finish by having a helper shake the ladder vigorously to check for any movement, looseness or wobble. The ladder should remain solidly attached without detachment.

For added stability, use angle brackets at the joint of side boards and steps. Predrill then attach with short screws. Angle brackets can also attach bed frame and ladder together.

Follow safety guidelines and regularly inspect the ladder for secure attachment. Do not use a damaged or unstable ladder. With proper construction and attachment, your bunk bed ladder will safely serve its purpose for many years. Climb happily!

How to Add Traction Strips to Bunk Bed Ladder Steps

Bunk bed ladders are notorious for slippery steps that can lead to slips or falls. Thankfully, adding traction is an easy upgrade that can be done in just a few minutes with the right materials.

Look for tread strips, stair treads or anti-slip tape made specifically for wood stairs and ladders. These come in gritty textured vinyl or rubber with an adhesive backing. Purchase enough linear footage to apply a single tread strip centered across each ladder step.

Thoroughly clean each step with soap and water first, then let dry completely. This allows the adhesive to stick tightly.

Measure and cut each tread strip to match the depth of your ladder steps. Round off the edges for safety.

One at a time, remove the adhesive backing and carefully center and press the strips onto each step. Apply firm pressure for 30 seconds so the adhesive bonds tightly.

For best traction, use a textured tread pattern and position the strips so the textured side faces upward. The grittiness grabs and grips feet to prevent slips.

Consider adding extra strips toward the front edge of steps for small children who place only their toes on the ladder. This adds grip where they need it most.

Over time, inspect the tread strips for wear and replace as needed. Take care when cleaning the ladder to not peel up or damage the strips. Proper traction makes all the difference in bunk bed ladder safety and prevents accidents.

Supplies Needed to Build a Bunk Bed Ladder

Constructing a safe, sturdy ladder for your bunk bed is a straightforward DIY project using common materials and tools. Here’s an overview of everything you’ll need to get started:


  • 2×4 or 2×6 boards for side supports. Pine or poplar wood is affordable and suitably strong.
  • 1×4 boards for ladder steps. Cut to proper depth for comfort.
  • Purchase boards in lengths needed for measured bunk bed height.


  • 2-3″ wood screws with countersunk holes. Hex head for easy driving.
  • Wood glue or carpenter’s glue for bonds at joints.
  • 16-20 L-brackets. Provide lateral strength and stability.


  • Tape measure and level for precise measuring and cutting.
  • Saw or miter saw to cut boards to length.
  • Drill and drill bits to predrill holes for screws.
  • Wrench or screwdriver for driving screws.
  • Sandpaper and sanding block for smoothing.
  • Safety equipment – glasses, ear protection, etc.

Finish Materials:

  • Sandable wood primer, paint, or clear coat sealer.
  • Wood filler for patching imperfections.
  • Non-slip stair tread strips for traction.

With these basic supplies assembled ahead of time, you’ll have everything needed to cut, assemble, finish and install a bunk bed ladder for safe and easy access to the top bunk.

Safety Tips for Using a Bunk Bed Ladder

Bunk beds can bring more fun to a shared bedroom, but also require extra safety measures. Using caution with an attached ladder prevents hazardous falls and injuries. Follow these tips for safe bunk bed ladder use:

  • Only climb or descend facing the ladder. No jumping or skipping steps to avoid slips.
  • Keep both hands free. Don’t carry toys or other items when using the ladder.
  • Take one step at a time. Place feet completely on each step while climbing up or down.
  • Use slow movements. No rushing or racing others on the ladder.
  • Only one child on the ladder at a time. Wait your turn patiently.
  • Top step should not be used as storage. Keep free of objects that block safe access.
  • Verify ladder is always completely secured to the bed frame.
  • Periodically check for damaged, loose or missing hardware and repair immediately.
  • Add non-slip treads to steps if they become too slippery.
  • Install safety rails for toddlers and younger kids if possible.
  • No horseplay, shaking, or jumping on the ladder. Respect the equipment.
  • Turn on lights to avoid tripping in the dark. Grow lights can guide at night.
  • Adults should demonstrate proper use and spot first few times. Provide reminders.

The right bunk bed ladder and safe behavior ensures happy, injury-free climbing for kids!


Building a bunk bed ladder is an achievable DIY project that provides safe access to elevated beds. With proper planning, material selection, and construction techniques, you can create a ladder that securely serves your needs. Key steps include measuring precisely, choosing sturdy wood, cutting side boards squarely, attaching steps securely, and fastening the entire ladder snugly to bed frames. Adding traction strips, safety rails, or other features can customize your design further. While no manufactured ladder is maintenance-free, inspecting yours regularly and conducting repairs as needed will keep it functional for years to come. With patience and care taken during the building process, your homemade bunk bed ladder will become a beloved bedroom addition that both kids and parents appreciate.