How to Make a Murphy Bed Detailed Guide


This is a super fun project that maximizes the space in your house while also increasing its value if and when you sell and move on.

These are incredible space savers and can turn any room into a more functional multi-purpose room.

Anyone can learn how to make your own Murphy Bed with:

  1. a few tools including a saw, drill, and hammer.
  2. Nails or screws.
  3. a good plan.
  4. A $100 budget for lumber, plywood, and paint or stain.
  5. Space in the garage, bedroom, or outside during nice weather.
  6. Long screws to fasten legs to frame or build hanging system for the wall.

Two DIY Options

There are two methods to make your own Murphy bed; With a hinge kit and without. If you want to save money and build one without the hinge hardware kit please see the next FAQ. You will learn both below so that you can choose the method that is best for you.

Making one using a hinge kit is easier and a little more expensive than going without a kit. Kits are available for $250+ and can save you time and effort with your build.

I researched and watched all the available videos that show the steps and I have some recommendations below for the ones that show easy to follow steps.

I will include Lori Wall Bed’s model. It is a complete kit including precut lumber with no mechanical devices.

It has an amazing buyer rating with more than 500 reviews so I thought that I should include it here.

No cutting of lumber is needed. Just a drill. But at $1,099 it isn’t a cheap DIY project. The below video is 30:52 minutes long and very easy to follow.

It also has a 92.4% like to dislike ratio with more than 8,870 ratings.

A DIY option using a hinge kit from a seller such as Amazon plus lumber, fastened, and paint or stain costs $700 if you have your own mattress.

The hinge kit costs about $300 including shipping and the wood and supplies cost about $400 according to DIY Pete in the below video.

Below is a pretty cool design that I like, but I am not sure of the cost. I would guess similar to the project above.

Pros:

  • Storage cabinets under the day time cabinet.
  • It is off the floor about 12″ so if there are items in a small room that need to be kicked somewhere while sleeping you have plenty of space underneath.
  • The 2” x 4” lumber legs lock when extended prior to lowering.
  • Seat belts are used to fasten the mattress to the platform to prevent it from joining the bobsled team and sliding into the abyss when putting it up for the day.

    Seat belts are cheap at your local car junkyard or you can spring for new ones at any auto parts store.

Cons:

  • If you are vertically challenged you will need a bench to reach the legs to extend them before lowering. Or a broom handle or something similar.
  • The lumber legs look like crap hanging on a wall all alone. I am sure a creative person with decorating skills can come up with a solution.
  • I am not sure I am sold on the idea of using a seat belt to fasten the mattress to the platform. Thoughts???

How do You Make a Murphy Bed Without a Kit?

You can make one without a hinge kit to save money and build an amazing project that you can be proud of.

Hinge kits cost $250 – $300 including shipping so you can save a chunk of change for something more important, like beer, a new tool, kitchen appliances.

Or do the smart thing and invest it (I rarely do the smart thing… hello beer).

I included a few YouTube videos that I found helpful and I hope that you do too.

In this video, by DIY Creators he built an excellent wood-framed without the hardware kit.

He used two boat seat swivel bases that only cost $7 each at Home Depot. The design included:

  • 12” thick mattress
  • Removable headboard (awesome to prevent pillows and people from falling down the hole)
  • Two end tables with four built-in drawers (two per side)
  • Four shelves

The below video by Justin Built is the same project as the above video, but it has a few more details that may help you with your project.

The below video by DIYTyler is another design that features three floating shelves in day mode. And they are also used as the legs for support in night mode.

He also offers a few downloadable plans in the description area.

His constant promoting of products and affiliate links is annoying, but the content is worth watching.

The project below is a horizontal bed by TheIdeaBox that cost less than $100.

How do You Secure a Murphy Bed to the Wall?

You can fasten it to a wall through lumber or plywood used for the cabinet that hides during the day.

Wood screws are fastened through the cabinet lumber and drywall and into the wood studs in the wall cavity.

Wall bed frames are fastened to the wall near the floor into the wall framing wood soleplate.

The screw locations should be predrilled with the same size wood drill bit to prevent the splitting of the lumber.

Splitting the lumber can weaken the structural integrity and its ability to hold the weight.

A minimum of 1.5” of the screw must penetrate the wood or steel stud and must be spaced not more than 12” apart vertically.

This is a general rule, but the depth of the screw fastener can be accurately calculated if you wish an exact answer. The formula is available here.

How do You Adjust a Murphy Bed Spring?

You adjust the spring by adding or subtracting springs on the top and bottom of the spring mechanism.

The below video shows how to adjust the springs.

TIP: Check out the video below where Murphy Bed Studios shows at minute 1:25 how to adjust the springs.

How do You Attach a Murphy Bed to a Mattress?

You can attach a mattress to the foundation with:

  • seat belts
  • cargo straps
  • Velcro straps at the foot and the head
  • folding metal leg bracket to pin the top of the mattress into place

Attach the belts, straps, or metal bracket to the head of the platform under the mattress using nails or screws with washers flush with material to prevent mattress damage.

pressed wood with fake veneer
Presswood with veneer for building paint free cabinets

How Much Does it Cost?

The cost to build your own custom model is $700.00 including shipping for the DIY hinge kit, lumber, and fasteners, and paint or stain.

DIY construction without the hinge kit costs $119.43 for a basic queen size.

A complete Lori kit including wood and everything needed for assembly costs $1,099.99 plus $99 shipping to the contiguous USA. No special tools or cutting is required.

quality plywood
3?4″ plywood

Table 1. Cost to Build a Murphy Bed

DIY with Hardware KitHardware kit$300 including shipping if purchased online

3/4” real plywood, lumber, fasteners, stain or paint$400 including tax at local hardware store

Total$700.00
DIY with complete kit with plywood and hardwareLori Queen as an example$1,099.00 plus $99 shipping to contiguous US and $349 to Canada

Queen Total$1,198 to US
$1,448 to Canada

Lori Twin$799.00

Twin Total$898 to US
$1,148 to Canada
DIY on the cheap with boat seat rotating bases for hingesPlywood, hinges, fasteners, stain or paint$119.43
Plywood
Plywood good one side for finished product that can be stained or painted. Mayple, brich, and other tpes of wood can make beautiful cabinets.

Is it Hard to Build?

Yes, it is hard to build one but anyone can do it with a good set of plans, a few tools, $80+ budget, and patience.

The builder needs to cut plywood and lumber, securely fasten wood together, accurately install hinge hardware, and attach to the bedroom wall.

There are designs that require more skills such as incorporating shelves and drawers.

There are also some designs that require much less skill and fewer tools.

This is an awesome project that increases the functionality of a bedroom or office and increases the value of the house too!

Many of these videos of people building their own are professional carpenters or experienced DIY’ers with a shop and all the tools and equipment to make the project easier for them.

But all of these can be built with only a few tools and little space is required when you work outside using a few cheap workbenches.

wood joists for bed

The most basic tools will work, it will just take longer. Even if you only have the tools listed below you can build an amazing Murphy bed:

  • Handsaw. Yup, it may seem hard to believe in these times of cordless wonder-tools that do everything imaginable.

    But the good ole handsaw still cuts plywood and lumber. I once helped a friend build a house without electricity. Cutting plywood lengthwise is no fun at all, but it just takes time.

    I pulled out a chainsaw and cut one piece plywood lengthwise in seconds. It was not perfectly straight of course haha, but it was only for roof sheathing so it was adequate.

    Unfortunately he was a little OCD so it did not meet his approval. This was about the time I retired from the project until the drywall stage.
  • Drill with wood drill bits and driver bits for screws. Electric, cordless, or brace and bit. I doubt anyone reading this knows what this is haha.

    Some weeks I spent several days drilling holes in wood framing in my early days working for the local telephone company. What a great workout.

    Canadians will need a Robertson #2 bit while Americans will need a #2 Philips.

    I don’t know who owns the patent for the Philips screws in the US but someone really needs to import the FAR superior Robertson (square) screws.

    Even in Thailand I can only get Philip screws and I curse them every single time I have to use one. Yes, every single time.

    I don’t mind Philip head drywall screws, but I would certainly prefer Robertson screws in Canada.
brace and bit
Brace and bit

Do Murphy Beds Have to be Attached to the Wall?

Yes, it has to be attached to the wall to prevent the entire structure from crashing onto the user when attempting to pull it down for use.

The cabinet that contains everything when not in use must be attached to the wall studs to securely hold the it against the wall.

The cabinets are built with plywood and lumber and fastened to the wall through the drywall and into the wood studs within the wall.

If you are in an apartment building your wall studs may be thin metal studs that will require many more fasteners that a wood-framed wall.

When it is not attached to the wall it can still be raised into its closed position and it may not even fall over during the day.

But as soon as it is pulled down and away from the wall for night time sleeping mode the bed and cabinet will crash down on the user.

Is It Worth The Effort?

They are worth it if in a number of situations, including:

  • Lack of space due to renting a sardine can of an apartment.
  • Living in a studio apartment.
  • Living at the office because you are a workaholic on salary (and really only making peanuts when you divide your NET salary after taxes by the 4,000 hours you work each year, like I did).
  • Rent room, house, or apartment out and want to increase the number of guests that you can accommodate (this was a big one for eight of us renting Airbnbs in England and Scotland on an incredible trip).
  • Making a multi-use room such as a current office. Add a one and one room becomes as effective as two rooms for sleeping capacity.

Should I Build a Wall or Murphy?

The difference between a wall bed and a Murphy bed is that one is a single contained unit with the “cabinet” built around everything. A wall frame is fastened to the wall at the floor into the bottom wall framing wood base plate.

Which one you should build depends on your needs.

When a wall is pulled away and down from the wall the entire structure goes horizontal to the floor with a bare wall exposed.

According to Wikipedia, William Murphy actually did not invent the concept of a “disappearing mattress”.

But he was the first to invent the hardware and counterbalancing design and applied for a patent on 1900-7-31, which can be seen here.

This design includes a separate cabinet that hides it when it is not in use and it provides support while firmly attached to the wall.

How Does it Stay Down?

A Murphy bed stays down with the use of a counterbalancing hinge system that still allows the weight to safely stay on the floor.

DIY
Many DIY projects do not incorporate the hinge kit and hardware due to the cost being on average $300 including shipping.

These designs often use boat swivel foundations or similar hinge systems so manual power is required to lift and position it into the wall cabinet.

A pin on each side of the cabinet near head height holds it safely in the vertical position.

aparrtment murphy bed

Counterbalancing Hinge Hardware

With a counterbalancing hinge system, the hardware is designed for reducing the effective weight when lifting it up to place into the wall cavity.

This allows even small folks like Granny (Beverly Hillbillies) to easily lift the it up and close it for the day.

And properly adjusted counterbalance hinges ensure that Granny won’t get launched and splatted against the wall like a fly with a large Granny swatter.

How Far Do they Stick Out From The Wall?

A Murphy bed sticks out from the wall 14” if it doesn’t have shelves under underneath. This is important to know before you start to build.

This allows for up to a 12” mattress and a little room for sheets and blankets if the user leaves that on while closed during the day.

Murphy beds with fixed legs that are used as shelves when closed typically stick out from the wall 23”.

If you are building your own you can make the depth what you wish as narrow as 8” for a frame and 4” foam mattress.

This is a fantastic design for small rooms with only occasional sleepers. A mattress this thin would be similar to one in a travel trailer.

If space is your biggest concern and the room is used for more than one purpose you may be able to incorporate the bottom into multi-purpose furniture such as a:

  • permanently mounted TV
  • fold out desk
  • fold out bench for seating
  • built-in toybox
  • built-in shelves and drawers with locking latches

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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