How To Build A Pull Out Slat Bed For Van

Looking to build a spacing saving pull out slat bed for van?  I searched Pinterest and Google images to learn how to build a pull out slat bed for less than $100 using 2″x2″s for the frames and and 1″x3″ pine slats for the sleeping portion.  I have limited construction and engineering skills and I understand many people reading this post are in the same boat.

My family of 4 sleeps comfortably in our van.  In less than 5 minutes, we are ready to sleep anywhere.  Our gear is stored under 2 beds.  The front passenger area boasts a 2 person slide out slat bed and the rear sleeps 2 on a plywood platform bed.  Space is a premium and we use everything and waste nothing.

You can build this bed with standard lumber, a circular saw, electric drill, and a tape measure. 

5 Reasons Why You Need A Sliding Slat Bed For Your Van

  1. Light weight.
  2. Abundant storage under the bed.
  3. Easy to slide in and out. Slides back in place in seconds.
  4. Inexpensive to make. 
  5. Easy To Build For Non-skilled People.

Van campers and van dwellers prefer convenience over luxury and don’t want to fumble with folding out the bed or cot when it’s time to sleep.  We want beds that are ready to sleep in at a moments notice. 

Inserting a decent folding mattress  over the slats makes a comfortable bed.  Slats provide better air circulation for keeping your bedding fresh.

Sliding Slat Bed in Traveling Mode

The sliding pull out bed is ingenious.  We use it for our traveling table and storing gear underneath.  Expensive built in beds rarely have the storage capacity of this simplistic minimalist design.

Below is the slat bed fully extended.

Pullout Slat Bed For Van in Travel Sleeping Mode


Slat Bed Deploys in 60 Seconds

My slat bed design uses the Ford OEM factory seats for supporting the slide out section.  As seen below, the bed frame rests on the bench seat of my Ford E350 van.  The bed is supported with scrap foam wedged in-between the bed frame and bench seat.

My funds are tight and I don’t have $75,000 to spend on a Sportsmobile camping van.  Everything is minimalist by design.

This is my son Josiah resting on 4″ of firm foam on top of the deployed bed.  The slats are hardly noticeable.

Amazing Storage Under Bed

I built the sliding slat bed to fit our Coleman cooler and ARB fridge freezer.  Everything has a place in our van.  I like everything easily accessible.

Building Materials For Sliding Slat Bed For Van

  • 1” x 3”  pine wood or white wood slats.
  • 2” x 2” or 2″x4″ pine wood for frame.
  • #8 wood screws.
  • Nylock nuts.
  • Flat washers.
  • Titebond II water resistant wood glue.

Construction Tools For Sliding Slat Bed

Sliding Pull Out Slat Bed Plans

You don’t need blue prints or 3d modeling.  Keep it simple.  I looked at photos on Google images Pinterest and figured out it by trial and error. It took me a while understand how the 2 frames worked together.

Everything slides and stops on the stationary frame. I constructed the first frame and laid out the slats similar to child building a project with Lego toys. I used MS Publisher and sketched out this design for my slat bed.

Cheap RV Living has excellent 2 dimension drawings.  I used these plans for the 2 separate slide out frames.

Dimensions For A Sliding Slat Bed For Van

Every van has different configurations and needs.  I chose 2×2’s for building the frame.  It’s light weight and inexpensive.  2″x 2″ s provides amazing storage space under the bed.  

If your construction skills are as limited as mine, find a local handy man to build the bed and show him the pictures on this post.  This bed can be built in less than 2 hours by a skilled work worker.  I built it over the course of several weekends in my spare time.

Rockler sells Posilock folding table leg clamps that easily attach to 2×2’s.   

The first frame was built using two 66″ lengths of 2″x2″s together with two 26″ 2″x2″s end pieces.  

I placed 1″x 3″ slats over the frame making the sleeping platform.

 I drilled pilot and clearance holes attaching the wood peices.  Wood glue sealed the deal.  Most people don’t consider glue as important. If you make the bed as light as this design, glue will make it stronger.

The second frame was built with one 64″ length of 2″x 2″ and another 62″ length of 2″x 2″ acting as stop on the first frame.  

How To Build A Sliding Slat Bed For Van

To help you visualize the slat bed design, look down at your two hands near each other with your palms facing up in your fingers spread apart. Slide your fingers together and pull apart. This is how that works.

With this design, you’re building two separate beds. The first bed will have four legs that are stationary. The other bed will have legs on each end of the bed while sharing the center support legs of the first bed.  The second bed rests in between the slats of the first bed. 

On the first frame (immovable) lay the first slot on the left end of the bed and after making sure it’s square, drill your pilot hole and clearance holes. Screw the slat into the wood frame.

Next, place a yardstick or something thin next to this last and lay down the slat for the sliding bed. Do not screw this. Take a second yardstick in place on the other side of this slat. Lay down the next slat and screw this into the first bed. Repeat this until you reach the end of the first bed.  

If you did your math correctly, you will reach the end of the first bed the last slat in the proper place.  

The space between each slat must be large enough for the slats to slide without hitting each other.   If the gap is too thin, the sliding portion of the bed will not move. I used thinner slats on the end of my bed in order to have the last slat align properly.

Building The Sliding Frame

Begin building your second bed frame by interlacing the slats and screwing them in 1 at a time to the 2 frame rails until you reach the end.  This frame slides on top of the first frame.  The frame rail stops against the the first frame.

Building Tips

Clearance holes ensures the two materials are pulled up tight when they’re screwed together. Without a clearance hole, as you tighten the screw in, a gap develops in between that does not close no matter how deeply you bury the screw head! The piece of timber you are fixing should not be gripped by the screws threads – the screw should pass straight through it until the head pulls it towards the piece being fixed to.

The first and second frame are not attached.  The second frame slides through the first frame and is secured by attaching a smaller length of 2″x 2″ that fits inside the first frame to the alternating slats.


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