Sunday 25 August 2013

DIY Ikea Murphy Bed

Hi All

My wife found a DIY ikea bed made by Herbie (link) and a 2nd version made by Jerry (link).  Thanks to those two for the great sites!  Needless to say, the project was born for our house.

A few changes --

  1. Our room was smaller and we couldn't fit the extra two Pax cabinets on the outside.  This required changes to structure. With no side cabinets, the side of the main cabinet is not supported.  I added vertical supports (3/4" melamine) along the full length of the cabinet and bolted them to the wall.  
  2. Another change was that my toe kick had to be structural in nature to support the bottom corners. 
  3. I had to shorten the cabinet by 2" to fit underneath a trim strip at the top of my wall -- note, we cut this from the bottom of the panel, it seems to work.  Make sure to check clearances!  You still need the door to be flush with the top, but not hit the floor if you cut too much off.
  4. I have big baseboards and trim -- I cut a profile out from the side panels so that that cabinet would sit flush with the wall.

I was worried that the single thickness of the side panel wouldn't be enough, but so far it seems to be okay.

My photos show the build process with a little bit of detail.  I'm happy to add more if asked. For reference I basically followed Herbie's site and Jerry's site. (link)  (link)

1. - The trim profile I cut.  This was painful as I didn't have the proper tools (pipe cleaners are not wonderful for holding a profile).  At Lee Valley I found this PVC Trim Gauge AFTER I cut the profile.  Oh well.  I cut the profile with a jig saw.

2.  I had to cut quite a few lengths of melamine to make the horizontal ledger board and vertical support beams.  The sheets are too heavy for a table saw, especially without extension rollers which I don't have.  I use a long straight board as a guide for my skill saw.  I masking taped the cut line as well as the sled on the saw so it wouldn't scratch the melamine.

I used 4" wide strips.  For my saw, it's roughly 4.5" from the edge to the guide as there is a 1.5" offset from the sled edge to the blade.  With a sliding ruler, it's easy to set the width one and quickly make long accurate cuts.

3.  The setup just before cutting.

 4.  Starting the cut.

5.  Supporting the back once the melamine starts to sag.  Note, do not pinch the blade here if you do this, open the cut a bit, then clamp.  Alternately, get helper to help.

6.  I fastened the horizontal ledger board ahead of time to the top panel.  I used these 70mm knock down bolts from Lee Valley (link).   I made the top panel pretty much exactly like Herbie.  I used 3/4" melamine.  Attached the ledger board to the cabinet meant that I didn't need anti-tip brackets, the ledger was bolted directly to the wall and serves that purpose.

7.  I made a nice jig to set the bolt location.  I spent 10 minutes on this, and saved hours over the course of the project!

8.  Top panel with bolts installed.  For the top, I didn't countersink the bolts since you won't see them.  For the side vertical supports I countersunk and covered the bolt holes (later photos).

9.  Here is the partially built cabinet in the room.  You can see the installed horizontal ledger board.

10.  Here is one vertical support being installed.

11.  The bolt holes are countersunk with a small forstner bit, and later covered.  I used white PVC screw covers from Lee Valley (link).

12.  You can see the two vertical supports added.  I was really worried about the side panels when they weren't supported.  I had visions of standing this up and the legs splaying out sideways and breaking the connection at the top panel.  You can see a temporary brace I used to help support the bottom of the cabinet.

13.  Cabinet tipped up.  Yes, that light is in the way...  This was most definitely a two person job, likely even three person.  I had a really strong guy help out.  Without him, three people would probably have been needed.

14.  The cabinet placed against the wall.  For bolting to the wall, I used 3" toggle bolts with large washers.  It's not super pretty, but I couldn't fathom drilling anchors and moving the whole cabinet back and forth, or lining up holes / etc.  I drilled a hole directly through the melamine and into the wall.  From there, the toggle bolt was pushed through and bolted.

15.  Here you can see the profile I cut out for the cabinet to fit against the trim.  Also you can see that I had the pleasure of cutting out a section of corner round for the murphy bed frame.  I put the murphy bed frame on heavy duty felt pads to protect the floor.

16.  Murphy bed frame installed.  You can see the toggle bolts securing the supports to the wall.

17.  The toe kick was fabricated from two 3" strips of 5/8" plywood, laminated with carpenters glue and screws.   I let the glue dry overnight. I sanded out the mill marks and finished the front face of the plywood. I used a spackle compound to help smooth out the rough plywood.  It needed to be quite smooth to match the gloss melamine.  Note that I did this before attaching the top piece.

18.  I used dowels and glue to secure the top melamine piece.

19.  Lots of clamps needed....   After drying, I primed with a primer/sealer to help block knot bleed though, and two coats of paint.

20.  Finished toe kick.

21.  For the foundation, I used 5/8" plywood.  It was two pieces of plywood 36.5 x 53.5 (for a double).
I didn't want to buy an extra sheet, so I ended up actually joining two pieces for (dowels + glue) for one of the pieces.  Those blocks are temporary while the glue dried.

22.  One foundation piece with the notch cut for the spring bar.  Notch dimensions from the murphy bed website (website or PDF manual).  I should have rounded the corners a bit, especially the corners at the end of the foundation.  Our mattress was a tiny bit smaller than the foundation, and the sharp corners are perfect shin bone height.

 23.  We covered the foundation, here is one of the them covered.

24.  Foundations installed on the murphy bed frame.

25.  The final product.  We're quite happy and my mother in law arrives in 15 minutes to try it out!

26.  Inside view, a few lights from Ikea added for guests.

27.  All done.

Any comments or questions?  I'd love to hear them!  Don't forget to check out a few more of my renos here:


  1. Congratulation Paul on your build. The project really turned out great! You introduced many creative ideas that I'm sure will help others. Great job! - Jerry

  2. Nice work! So glad to see the Ikea Murphy Bed revolution continuing!

  3. Thank you for posting this! We have the same space restrictions as you (including having to cut down the Pax cabinets by a couple of inches) so I am really grateful for this!

    1. No problem, hope it helps! If you have any questions along the feel free to post them. When cutting the down the cabinets, you can only cut so far before the door is too big for the cabinet (assuming you want it flush with the top panel). I ended up cutting around 1.5" off, that left approximately 1" between the floor and the door, with the door still flush to the top.

  4. Hi Paul, I'm in canada and was wondering where you ordered your Murphy frame and foundation. Also, are you able to do a supply and budget breakdown? Thanks!

    1. I'm located in Ottawa, we got our Murphy bed locally here:

      For the foundation we just used straight up plywood, I believe 1/2" thickness.

      I don't think I'll be able to find my supply breakdown anywhere. It was a while ago and done on paper (meaning it's likely long lost).

    2. Ahh, for the supply list I recall that I copied Jerry's list almost 100%. I had to add stuff like doweling kits or some tools I didn't own. I don't recall adding anything critical to the list. I do have a decent wood working shop at home (albeit messy), so didn't need to buy things like clamps, wood glue, etc.

  5. Followed the trail, starting at IkeaFans where "newfangled" posted his Pax Murphy bed (and wrote an Instructable) then to Bernie, next Jerry then to you!
    I appreciate your making the effort and taking the time to post - your version fits the smaller wall space I have. Luckily I have a friend to help as most of us aren't equipped with your woodworking shop. Thanks to you my Murphy bed will be a reality, not just a pipe dream!

    1. Hope it helps! At first I was worried about the strength of the sides since there is only one large piece of laminate (the original design has the bed cabinet sides supported with the side cabinets). So far so good, it's holding up and I've had a few comments from people who have said the sides seems to be pretty strong.

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  7. Hello again Paul! It’s Kathryn from 2013... We are now building our second one of these in our rental unit 5 years later. Medium-ish snag: the Pax frames are now built out of about 80% cardboard on the inside. I am positive when we did this 5 years ago it was pure mdf. This made it tricky because in addition to cutting off height (again) we also cut off depth from the back (again) so the cabinet depth is about 17”. The cardboard we discovered at the back made it impossible to do the ledger boards as described in your tutorial - grrrrrrrrr. The only actual wood (fiber board really) is found under he rows of predrilled holes. So what we did was glue and screw a 4” width of mdf to reinforce things back there, then we added your ledger boards to that. It appears sturdy enough... time will tell. I don’t feel great hanging bifold doors off the cardboard frame but hopefully it’s fine! In Herbie’s design, the strength comes from the other Pax cabinets so I doubt it would make a difference if you had the space... anyway! Just wanted to share that in case it helps someone! Also FYI this one was built in Canada and the other was in the US so perhaps IKEA Canada just does it differently. It’s getting to the point now that there is so much customization it would probably be just as easy to buy mdf for the sides and just figure out on our own where the hinge holes go vs spending $125 on a Pax cabinet for hacking-up purposes that is basically just cardboard.

    1. Thanks for the update! My build is old for sure, but when I did it IKEA Canada Pax items had zero cardboard inside. That's too bad to hear but glad you were able to overcome! :)

  8. Good afternoon Paul,

    I love the cabinet design and am looking to build. Do you have any details on your design/plans for the doors?


    1. Hi Tom; the doors were stock from IKEA, we took 4 skinny doors, and created 2 larger doors. Each larger door was created by adding a long ~ 60" "piano hinge" to fasten 2 skinny doors together. In the last photo on the right you see the door, that's actually 2 skinny doors folded in the open position.