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DIY on a dime: How to make a toddler loft bed out of an old crib in 10 simple steps


Transform your old crib into a toddler loft bed with little more than you already have in your garage.

I’ve had lots of questions about how to make this toddler loft bed:


The short answer is this: I told my husband, “I’d like it cut about here and here, you know, sort-of like this, and then raise this part up to here and put a ladder hereknow what I mean?” I said.

And then he did it. (He’s clever like that.)

Not very technical, huh?

I’m very much a “winger” when it comes to design and DIY, and I often just like to figure things out as I go. Although Ryan’s more intentional (read: accurate) in his planning, he’s a little bit the same.

It usually goes something like this: I envision it, he makes it happen, I tweak it as we go, he finalizes and perfects it. Together we usually get it right.

I’m afraid I don’t have a step-by-step photos to share since we didn’t document the process, but since so many have asked I will do my best to explain how we—I mean, he—did it.

Please bear in mind that I have no idea about technical terms when it comes to building, so this is as fancy as it’s gonna get, folks.


10 simple steps to make your toddler loft bed:

1. Find a sturdy crib that you’re willing to modify. We got ours for free off of our local Freecycle network (and we were gifted a new mattress to go with it from Judah’s baby shower last year).


2. Remove the mattress base and relocate it to the height you want. This might be the highest setting you used when bubby was a newborn, or you might want to reposition it all together.


3. Take off one of the long edges of the crib and cut an opening for the ladder, about 2/3s of the way down. Use the extra part of the rail to finish off the new edge and then re-secure it to the rest of the bed.


4. Taking the left over crib slats, cut to the size you want in order to make the rungs for the ladder.

5. Measure two sturdy pieces of wood (we used pallet wood – also from Freecycle) to make the sides of the ladder for whatever height you cut your mattress base to. Then cut the bottom edge at a slight angle so it will rest flush on the floor when the ladder is leaned at a slight angle up against the bed.


6. Use a router to create grooves in the side of the ladder in the size and shape of the rungs. The tighter you can make the fit, the more secure the ladder will be.


7. Use wood glue to secure the rungs in place. If you need more security then screw or nail them together from the outside edges of the ladder to make it extra sturdy.

8. Cut a notch in the top of the ladder so that it will fit snuggly on the side of the bed. Secure it using wood glue and screws.


9. Get a metal angle brace to reinforce the end of new guard rail since this part of the bed will undergo a lot of pressure as your little one climbs up and down, holding onto it for balance. Secure it under the bed and on the back of the new section of rail.


10. Give the entire bed a fresh coat of paint. (Depending on the condition of your crib, you may need to sand it back before painting.)

Levi (our 2.5 year old) absolutely loves his new bed and it’s made the transition really easy. Judah (our 13 month old!!) absolutely loves it too. He’s quite the climber and has already figured out how to get both up and down it.

levi in toddler loft bed

It’s sturdy enough for me to crawl up there with the boys and read stories together before bed, and I’ve even seen Ryan perched on the end reading to Levi. I guess you could say we all really dig it.

For me, the cute-factor is one thing, but I especially love that it doesn’t take up extra room in the boys’ (already very full) shared bedroom. Not only has the bed’s footprint not changed, but we’ve created storage space for toys underneath. #winningallaround

Dear friends, if you decide to make a little toddler loft bed like this I hope your family enjoys it as much as we do!

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  • Reply Evelyn @ Smallish 3 December 2012 at 7:54 am

    I SO wish I had seen this 6 months ago. This raised toddler bed is EXACTLY what I was hoping to make for our two year old when his little brother came along. We live in a small space and were hoping to use what little space we have really count. At the time we couldn’t find any tutorials on what I had in my mind, but you totally brought it to life! We ended up just buying a regular toddler bed used and painting it, but that simple project was more than we bargained for!

    Thanks for sharing this. Now I’m going to be working on being content with the bed we made for our little dude…. :)

    • Reply Evelyn 29 April 2014 at 5:27 am

      It’s been a couple years since I saw this and commented. We have added two children to our little space and had to get creative with sleeping arrangements, so my husband made this toddler sized bunk bed set:

      I didn’t realize it, but we also have the same sheet set for our boys from Ikea. :) Still love your loft bed though!

      • Reply Adriel 5 May 2014 at 10:55 am

        Hi Evelyn. Your bunk beds are adorable!! We actually ended up making this into a bunk bed of sorts eventually too – just put Judah’s mattress on the floor under the bed. My oldest (who was 3) liked to sleep under the bed on the “bottom bunk” – not a ton of head space! – and my littlest (who was 2) slept on top. It worked a treat and was so easy and the tiniest of footprints – perfect for their small shared bedroom. :)
        Adriel recently posted..Love A Mama in Nepal by making clean birth kits this Mother’s DayMy Profile

  • Reply Jen 23 January 2013 at 9:31 am

    This is awesome! I think I’ll do the transition with the toddler bed lower then get the hubby to do this once I know the transition takes.

  • Reply Shara @ Palmettos and Pigtails 29 January 2013 at 7:33 am

    Thank you so much for this idea!! I’ve been scouring pinterest for ideas for an old crib we had and this would make the perfect “fort” in our playroom! I have slightly older kids, so I’m gonna make it a bit higher and create a reading nook underneath!

    • Reply Adriel Booker 2 February 2013 at 9:55 pm

      Great!! I was originally going to make that a reading nook, too. But then realized we needed the storage space for toys instead!!

      I hope it makes an adorable nook for your kiddos. They’ll probably love getting to play underneath it AND on top of it! So fun. :) Send me a pic when you’ve done it! Would love to see. x

  • Reply trina 22 March 2013 at 2:06 am

    Cute idea I am going to have my gusband do this to our daughters bed thanks

  • Reply Beth 25 March 2013 at 2:07 pm

    So cute! we have been putting our 2 year old twins back in their crib all night long and I am going to have to accept it is time to move to a toddler bed. My only problem is that we want to use their cribs as full size beds so I don’t want to cut up the footboard(front of bed)…. any thoughts on how to make a new front?

    • Reply Adriel Booker 28 March 2013 at 8:59 pm

      perhaps you could just take off the side completely then and buy those bed rails that you stick under the mattress of a “normal” bed. what do you think? then maybe use a pallet to make the ladder?

  • Reply Ryan 30 August 2013 at 3:19 pm

    Great use of the crib! Wish we had the tools to make it happen.

  • Reply melissa 18 January 2014 at 2:26 am

    Did your kids ever fall out of this?

  • Reply Anna Hald 2 April 2014 at 12:32 pm

    As I looked around oeven if you don’t own tools you can rent them the ones that I needed I could have probably rent it for under 40n the line for ideas ondon’t worry just rent them from a tool rental store the tools I needed I could have bought for under 40 toddler loft beds, I stumbled on yours! An awesomely creative, practical and all around great idea!! I procrastinated, thinking I need help, or tools.
    My husband and I pulled it off with a skill saw, a drill and some screws. ( 2 – 1×4 ) for the step latter. I admit it took longer than expected.. totally worth it though!
    Anyone can do this. if you need you can rent the tools. For a router and a skill saw it would have been under 40. We choose not to use the router and borrowed a skill saw.
    Thank you so much for having ideas and making them happen, but above all Thank YOU FOR SHARING them! YOU really are an inspiration!!!

    • Reply Adriel 3 April 2014 at 2:31 am

      Great Anna! So glad it worked out for you. Hope your little one loves it. Mine certainly have!

      Thanks for sharing your experience building it. I admit, I’m incredibly lucky to have a husband who has all the tools he needs and loves to build stuff. I have to resist giving him too many ideas or else he’d be in the shop forever. :)
      Adriel recently posted..The promise of Easter and meeting our little ones againMy Profile

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  • Reply jackie 4 August 2014 at 11:37 am

    Hi there, love this idea…wanting to try it out…bit just one how do too secure the new edge to the cut down slats?

  • Reply jackie 4 August 2014 at 11:39 am

    Hi there, love this idea and want to try it out. Just one question, how do you secure the new edge to the cut down slats? Thx so much

  • Reply Claudia 5 August 2014 at 4:22 pm

    I have a 18 month old baby who has been figuring out how to climb out of her bed I new it was time to make her crib into a toddler bed (our crib does all 3 infant, toddler and full size bed) but I wanted something creative and with purpose hint your method!!! I saw this on pintrest and couldn’t believe it I am decently going to tell my husband to do this thank you very much for the post!!!!!

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  • Reply Strphanie 19 January 2015 at 3:07 am

    I am just curious about the dimensions of the bed and I didn’t see it in your post (sorry if I’m not looking hard enough!). The current bed we have is too short and has a sleigh lip. We’ve found several cribs on Craigslist and freecycle, but it’s hard to judge from the pictures.

    Also – I had to chuckle when I read how you communicated your idea to your husband. I always tell my hubby that I am the idea haver and he is the carrier-outer. He may say, “What we’re you thinking about this?” My response is always “I haven’t thought that far – this is my idea.”

  • Reply Faith 4 February 2015 at 4:12 pm

    Can’t wait to get started on this, but not sure how to release the glue from the slats to cut them down. I would really appreciate knowing how your husband did it. Thanks.

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  • Reply Mikey 3 June 2015 at 6:24 am

    Total awesome idea. We have the same crib since my first was born!! Now I know exactly what I’ll be doing for his toodler bed!!

  • Reply Ramirez 7 June 2015 at 4:54 pm

    I really want to try this but I don’t understand a couple steps I don’t understand step 3 & 9 can you please help me !! I’m doing to by myself please help !!

  • Reply Shakeeka 16 November 2015 at 12:48 am

    My husband and I were brainstorming ways for our two year old to have a unique, big boy bed. We found a couple of things we liked on Pinterest. However, we wanted something to save space in his soon to be shared room now. We thought a toddler loft bed would be cool and was very surprised to see that someone had the steps online! Thank you! It made our project easier (took us a while though). Neither of us have much woodworking experience, but we completed it on yesterday, and our son immediately took a liking to it. I thought it would take a few days or weeks, but he slept in it last night. Thanks, again.

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