How Can I Make a Cheap Bed Frame? Free, $100, $50 Options


My antique bed had old sagging springs that made it seem that I was sleeping in a hammock. An update was needed and I am cheap. I learned many options for updating and building new through research and many years in construction.

You can make a cheap bed frame with a saw, hammer or drill, nails and screws, 2×4 lumber, and plywood. These designs and steps are for beds with box spring and mattress only. Costs to build are free, $50, and $100 and require no previous carpentry skills.

Under $100

You can build a foundation for box spring using wood, a renewable resource rather than metal. According to the University of Massachusetts The embodied energy (EE) of concrete, which is the highest, is 12.5MJ/kg EE, steel is 10.5MJ/kg EE and the lowest is wood with 2.00MJ/kg EE. (Hsu, 2010) when referencing building materials.

So if you also care for the environment you should consider building with as much wood as possible. The below video is pretty decent showing the steps to build with a $110 budget, and this was a couple of years ago.

I save money and reduce the environmental impact by making the legs with wood.

So rather than using nine metal pipes at $5 for $45 and 18(!) metal floor bases, which are about $7.35 each for a total of 132.30 plus tax in the below video. You are already at almost $200 with two items.

You could purchase pine spindle legs for about $4.50 each for a total of $27 plus tax. One for each corner (well, 6″ back from the corners) and two for the 2×4 foundation member (back 16″ – 18″ from the top and bottom).

Simply drill a hole into the bottom of the foundation and screw in the threaded leg until it is flush.

Under $50

If you already have a mattress or want to save money by not buying a box spring, you can build a platform foundation. This is the most common style of frame these days as the old school box spring and box spring bed frame sales fade.

This is likely due to this design costing more money and who wants to carry a non-flexible box spring upstairs and around corners! You can make a very sturdy platform with only:

  • 2″ x 4″ x 8′
  • 1″ x 4″ x 8′
  • 1″ wood dowels
  • wood glue
  • drill
  • saw
  • jigsaw (a saw and sandpaper can work if you don’t have a jigsaw)
  • sandpaper (80 – 120 grit)

Below is a good step by step video that shows how to make a twin platform that is low to the ground.

The design can be modified for a higher bed by moving the two dowels towards the center of the and making the legs longer.

The benefit of this leg design is that it is very strong and sturdy and easy to build. This design could also work for a full and queen size bed too if the wood dowel size is increased to 1.5″ or use a 0.75 – 1″ steel rod.

Rebar would work too and it is available at most hardware stores and at a reasonable price. The slats have to be made with 2″ x 4″ lumber rather than the 1″ x 4″.

Free

There are many things that you can use if you don’t have a bed frame including two or four pallets, which you should be able to find for free. Many companies stack these up near their garbage dumpsters hoping someone like you will take them away.

beautiful pallet bed

Clean the pallets and sand the edges and the top to prevent damage to the box spring or the mattress.

If you have a box spring you will only need two pallets and if you only have a mattress you may want four pallets to elevate the top of the bed.

Fasten together with brackets and screws from your local hardware store and attach the pallets together.

TIP: If you want a free option to fasten the pallets together you can go to your local hardware store and ask the guys or gals in the lumber yard for scrap metal banding strips.

These strips bind pallets of lumber together and are discarded, but it is like trying to get slinky in a bin. So the staff will be happy to give you as much as you need.

man working on pallet foundation

Assuming you have a few nails and a hammer around the house you can fasten the pallets together by nailing the bands to the pallets.

For more detailed information please see our article How to Build a Pallet Bed Press here.

How Can I Make My Bed Higher?

You can make your bed higher with a little lumber and a saw. Maybe you don’t need to build a completely new bed frame, perhaps you can modify your existing one to save money and time. If you have a bed frame built for a box spring then the process is quite simple:

  1. Purchase three 2″ x 4″ x 10′ lumber.
  2. Purchase one 1/2″ plywood (not OSB as it can damage the box spring and your shins. It is like rubbing against a porcupine along the edge).
  3. Purchase 1.75″ – 2″ wood screws (preferably the washer style for kitchen cabinets).
  4. Cut the 2″ x 4″ lumber to fit in the width of the bed frame. If you have a queen or smaller frame you will get two boards out of each 10′ length.
  5. Place the boards in the bed frame on their edge starting with the two ends (head and foot of bed).
  6. Place the remaining four boards evening in the remaining space.
  7. Cut the plywood to length. Use the leftover pieces to finish the uncovered section.
  8. If you don’t want to cut plywood, or cannot get plywood delivered, or just simply do not want to work with plywood you can simply use 1″ x 4″ lumber and cover the perimeter of the frame.

    The box spring only has a perimeter frame so this is adequate if using a box spring.

This process will make your bed higher by four inches. If you want it higher you can substitute 2″ x 6″ or even 2″ x 8″ lumber for a higher bed.

If you want to make a platform bed higher the process is similar to the above except for:

  • You will need to make a box. In the previous process, the lumber sat in angle iron to prevent movement.
  • Cut your 2″ x 4″ lumber 3″ shorter than the width.
  • Fasten the east and west side frame lumber to the head and foot lumber. This is your box.
  • Place the box on the foundation to elevate your work (use the bed frame as a workbench).
  • Evenly space the lumber within the box and fasten with regular 3″ wood screws.
  • Place plywood (not OSB) on top and fasten with washer screws to the frame.

This raises the bed by four inches. If you want it less high you can use 2″ x 2″ or 2″ x 3″ lumber to reduce the height of the bed.

Scott Boyd

A semi-retired workaholic in Thailand is a challenge. It is too hot to keep building adobe and earthbag buildings so a new project was needed. I became interested in bed frames after purchasing a bamboo bed frame from a local supplier here and I learned there is little information about them on the Internet. So now I spend my days researching, testing, and reporting my findings to help others while having an occasional beer and istening to 60s and 70s B side rock, blues, and much more.

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