Wednesday, September 18, 2013

How To Install A Futon In A RV Bunkhouse

One day Misty told me she had a great idea for the RV bunkhouse.  She said that we should install a futon to replace the bottom bunk so that the kids would have a bigger sleeping area.

So after thinking on it for awhile, I came up with the idea of installing a futon to replace the bottom bunk in the bunkhouse!  This way the kids would have a larger sleeping area that could be stowed easily when we put in the slides.  

I'm not sure how I come up with these great ideas?  They just seem to come to me somehow.
Original bunk with the mattress removed.
After measuring the area and looking up futons on-line, I determined that there was enough room to install one.  I figured that I would use some type of drawer slider to enable the bed to slide in and out, but had to abandon that idea once I got started.

I went to our local Walmart which had a Mainstays Metal Arm Futon on display that I could get measurements from.  After I measured the frame length, width, and height, I decided to buy it.
Futon I purchased at Walmart to install in the RV bunkhouse.
I went with their cheapest one since the dimensions were just about perfect to fit in the bunkhouse space. Also since I knew I would really only be using the back panel, seat panel, and mattress I did not want to pay for wood arms or anything.

After buying the futon I went to Lowe's and bought some drawer slides to mount it with.  The ones I purchased were the 16 inch ones that are rated to hold up to 100 pounds.  (The results are not in yet, but I am considering upgrading to a larger slide like a 22 inch that can hold 200+ pounds now.  The kids are being a lot rougher on the current slides than I anticipated.) 

Since the bed was really only for the kids, I figured the slides would support them fine.  Misty and I would probably never be sleeping on it anyway and even if we did, I think it would support Misty if she slept on the extended side.
Drawer slide I bought at Lowe's.
After buying the futon I put the seat and back panels together and made sure they fit in the bunk area.  
Fitting the right side of the futon panels to make sure they fit.
Fitting the left side of the futon panels to make sure they fit.
I laid out both panels as if the futon was folded out to get my marks for the slides.  The main thing here was to ensure that the back panel had room to lay down flat.  

I then marked the panel along with the bunkhouse where the slides would go.  I also figured out how thick of a spacer I would need to make up the difference from the length of the seat panel.
Figuring out where to mount the right side slide.
Figuring out where to mount the left side slide.
Next I had to attach the slides to the seat panel.  To do that I used a level to make sure the slides were level and marked my holes.  I then drilled them out using an 1/8 bit and attached with metal screws. 
Using level to make sure the slide attachment is level.
Slide attached to right side of seat panel.
On the left side I used a piece of the oak sub-board to space the slide out about 1/4 inch to enable the slide to get past the bunkhouse trim.  I also used the same type of sub-board to put the hinge up approximately 1/4 inch off of the bunk base.
Attaching slide to left side of the bunkhouse wall.
I attached the right side drawer slide to the bunkhouse walls using a spacer board to get the correct distance between the slides, ensuring that they were also level.  The spacer ended up being a 1 x 2 inch board 30 inches long.

I used the same piece of oak sub-board to put the slide up above the bunk base on the right side too approximately 1/4 inch.  That left enough clearance for the futon seat and back panels to slide in and out.
Attaching slide to the right side of the bunkhouse wall.
Originally, I wanted to keep the hinges that came with the futon, so that the seat and back panels were hinged and would make it easier to slide in and out.  Unfortunately the hinges were too wide and interfered with the slides so I had to think of something else.

My next solution was to buy some slimmer hinges, but they too were hitting the slides, so I had to do something else.  If I could have found some flip hinges that had the hinge on the back rather than on the side, I could have made that work and one day will, but for now I improvised. 
Seat panel and slides fully connected so that it will slide in and out.
Using zip ties that I had left over from installing the heater ducts in my old house, I fastened the back and seat panels together.  It is not a perfect solution, but will work until I get the hinges I want.

As you can see the bed lays out perfectly and gives the kids almost twice the sleeping room.
Using zip ties to hold the back and seat panels together.
Right side view of zip ties used to keep the panels together.
Left side view of zip ties used to keep the panels together.
We are very happy with the modification and think it has really helped improve the kids sleeping arrangements.  We have the queen sized sleeper sofa that we use, but it is a little bit harder to set up than our new futon. 

Right now since the kids are not that big, four of them can sleep easily on the futon if they put their heads toward the window, which leaves the top bunk open and then the sofa, which does not need pulled out now.
Futon fully extended with mattress.
The next morning all that has to be done is push the futon back in and the kids have a couch to sit on, all their own.  

One down side is that it covers up the window when pushed in, but that is really not that big of a deal.  Another down side is that it is harder to get into their cabinet or shelves since only the left side door can be opened when the futon is in the couch position.  But that is a small price to pay for more sleeping area.
Futon pushed back in.
We are sure there are probably better solutions or methods to increase the sleeping area in the bunkhouse, but we are very happy with the results.  It took about six hours of work and cost around $145.00 total with the major cost being the price of the futon.

Also you do not use any of the frame for the futon, so be prepared to either give it to someone or a local recycling center, which is what we did.  The left over piece of 1x2 wood I will keep though, since you never know what I may need it for in the future.
Left over parts from futon that we did not use.
I would not even want to guess how much it would cost if we had a professional do the work.  Sure the product would probably be more efficient or elegant, but we are happy with this simple fix.

So if you want a quick and easy way to increase your sleeping area in a bunkhouse on a Fleetwood Discovery 40G, you can do what we did and install a futon.

I may also have to add legs to fold out on the extended part of the futon, so that it can support more weight.  Even though I tell the kids not to roughhouse on it, kids will be kids and I am afraid that two or three of them jumping on it will exceed the 100 pound limit and make the slides fail.  As I mentioned earlier in this blog, I may also go with a bigger slide that can hold more weight, but will see what happens with the current ones over time.

I also realize that my instructions are not very detailed, so if you need more details, leave me a comment and I will tell you all that I know. (Which is not that much!)

All of my plans were in my head and the end product was completely different from my original concept of how I was going to do it.  

My original design include a slide out drawer that the futon would have been mounted on, but after fitting the futon panels, I determined there was not enough room for a drawer and the final solution was much easier.

We are so blessed in our fulltime RV lifestyle and pray that God keeps his blessings upon us and all of you too.  We accomplish something everyday and overcome any and all obstacles.

For with God nothing will be impossible.  (Luke 1:37)

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Don, Misty, and Kids...


  1. I am really very thankful to you for this pictures because it very difficult task to install a futon in bunk house but your pictures will really help me so thanks for this sharing.


    1. If you have not bought the drawer slides yet, get some that are rated for 200lbs or more. You can order them on-line. If you have already used the same type as me, then I would attach some legs to the front of the futon frame that fold out of the way when not deployed, to help support the front.

      I did not do that and after a month of the kids jumping up to the top bunk from the front corner, that slide could not handle the pressure and broke. Supporting the front of the futon eliminates that.

      I'm going to buy heaver drawer slides and put support on the front of the futon to, just to make sure.

      We can still use it as it, but I'm the one who has to pull the futon frame in and out, which becomes a pain. Once I fix it the kids will be able to do it themselves.

      Thanks for commenting and I hope your installation goes easy.


  2. I suppose this can also be done with a wooden futon body. There are many different types of futon mattresses available as well as futon covers that will allow you to decorate and match the way you want as well as getting the best comfort level from the mattress.

    1. Yes and it may be easier to work with. You could also use one of the 6" memory foam mattress which are more comfortable than the standard futon mattress. As long as it folds up so you can slide, you are good.


  3. My husband and I are trying to rearrange our living arrangements to accommodate our two children. Our RV is only 28' and we would like to use your idea to eliminate our big bed and gain a useful couch/bed up front instead. Could you possibly tell me what the exact width of the futon frame is without the handles or legs?

    1. I would, but I put the bunkhouse back to its original configuration after we bought two Ikea Holmsund sleeper sofas for the front room which gave us a lot more sleeping area for the kids.

      The futon frame is in our storage bin in WV while we are in NC.

      I switched the bunkhouse back after the drawer slides gave out for it. As I mention in an above comment, use slides that are rated for 200lbs or more so that they are rugged enough to support the weight.


  4. it is detail post about installing the futon thanks for sharing futon blog