The Balcony Bed

I’ve actually had this project 98% completed for months now, but I was dreading the last step (freehand pillowcase sewing) and I kept putting it off. Even though I wasn’t happy with the state, it didn’t keep almost every single person who has come by my house from almost immediately telling me they wanted us to go hangout up on the balcony bed! But since I kept putting off the last, that meant I couldn’t post the final product! But I FINALLY overcame my fears and just did it. I’m now a happier crafter without it hanging over my head!

I have a beautiful, 8×13 balcony off my bedroom at the new place that sat empty while I decided what was going to be done up there. I love to sit outside and read – or just be! – but I’m reluctant to do that on my groundfloor patio. All my neighbors can see me sitting there, I have to interact with them, and there are constantly people walking by with their dogs so I really only sit outside when I have friends over. I was pretty unimpressed with the super boring outdoor pallet bed ideas I was seeing on Pinterest, until I found the holy grail of pallet beds.  I am not joking when I say I was so obsessed with starting this project that I read the directions so many times in anticipation I didn’t even need to read them while I was building.

This post is going to much more indepth than my previous posts have been because although the directions from Prudent Baby are wonderful, they’re not really that accurate. And it’s misleading. This project isn’t going to cost you $60 like she made it seem – it’s going to cost around $500-600. Preach. But building the frame is probably the easiet thing you’ll ever do. If you follow these directions it should only take you about half a day (if that). It took me two days because I had to go to Lowe’s like 4 times in 3 days to get the right bolts (partially because of the bad directions and partially because of bad help at Lowe’s).

What You Will Need:

  • 2 standard sized pallets (48×40). Try to make sure they line up well, you’ll see what I mean in a little. You can find them anywhere. Walmart throws them behind their buildings, grocery stores get deliveries on Tuesdays and Thursdays and would probably help you out if you asked, Craiglist “Free” section has them all the time, they’re everywhere. I “reclaimed” one that had been sitting next to the recycling bin at my office and asked a manager at Lowe’s if I could take one that was on their floor when I went to get all my necessities.
  • Twin mattress (39×75) – I bought this foam mattress [link] which is smaller than the one Prudent Baby bought, but also$100 less.
  • Waterproof mattress cover – I bought one on Amazon, but you can get them at Target too. Prudent Baby bought one that keeps bed bugs away too but, eh, this was $10. There is a link on her site for the mattress and cover she bought.
  • 5 casters (wheels). I used the 4 inch casters that Prudent Baby used and I don’t know if they need to be that big. I would recommend going down to 3 inch casters because they are cheaper and the planks of my pallet were hardly wider than my casters, so the holes I drilled were quite close to the edge and I was worried about splitting the wood.
  • 3 – 3/8×3.5 inch or 5/16×3.5 inch galvanized bolts. This is where Prudent Baby’s directions started letting me down. If you look at them, Prudent Baby tells you to buy 3/4×3 inch bolts. Wait, what?! Now if you’re not familiar with hardware, that’s an issue for 2 reasons: 1. That is ridiculously thick. It will split your wood. 2. Lowe’s doesn’t even carry anything that big! I used my own “judgement” and got 1/2×3 inch bolts but I don’t think they need to be that thick, and I also would recommend a little more length than just 3 inches (thus the 3.5).
  • 3 – 3/8 or 5/16 washers
  • 3 – 3/8 or 5/16 split lock washers
  • 3 – 3/8 or 5/16 hex nuts
  • 20 – 1/4x 1.5 inch bolts to screw on your casters. Prudent Baby suggested 3/4×2 bolts for the casters. C’MON! WHAT?! This is even more ridiculous because the holes on the casters are so small!!! I follwed the length and got 1/4×2 inch bolts but this time around they’re actually a little too long.
  • 20 – 1/4 hex nuts
  • 20 – 1/4×1.5 inch wood screws (you can get a little box of them)
  • 4 – 1/2 inch pipe elbows
  • 4 – 1/2 inch flanges
  • 4 – 1/2 inch x 18 inch long pipes
  • 2 – 1/2 inch x 22 or 24 inch long pipes. I used 24 inch because that’s what Lowe’s had.
  • Sheet and pillows!

First thing to do is cut your pallet down to size. Each pallet should be 40×40 once cut, so with a jigsaw cut down the side that was originally 48 inches or so. I had my friend help me with that part since I hadn’t bought my own jigsaw yet. But make sure you keep the extra pieces!!

Extra pieces holding down the tarp

Extra pieces holding down the tarp

Prudent Baby sanded down her pallets, but why waste the time? The mattress is going to completely cover the pallets anyways. No one is going to see them or be touching them. So I skipped that part. I did put a coat of polyurethane on the pallets, though, because they’re going to be outside. I had some left over from refinishing the patio table (see: The Basement Beauty), so I just quickly brushed it on with a regular paintbrush.

photo 1-2

Now things got harder here. As you can see in the picture above, because I cut the ends off to get them to the right size, I’m missing a slat on the bottom that would be additional support. Since it’s a support for the back of the pallet I wanted to take a slat from the extra pieces, remove them from the extra, and reattach them to the main pallet. I chose which side of the extra piece was going to go back on the pallet and broke apart the opposite side. There are links on Pintrest for how you can easily take apart pallets, but who has time to read all that when you’re already on a roll? What I did was beat the crap out of the pre-determind “demo side” of the extra piece with my boots and a hammer. I think my neighbors might be afraid of me now after how hard I went to town on these pieces of wood. Once I had the slat free I then nailed it back onto the main pallet. I had to take a minute to figure out how I was going to reattach the slat onto one of the pallets, though, because it has cut-outs on the side panels that I didn’t notice when I brought it home from the office. I decided the best way to reassemble it was to try to get the slat as far back on the level part without risking it breaking off but still be able to disperse any weight put onto the frame. It wasn’t going to look pretty or even, but it’s the bottom anyways.

Example of why it was hard to line up the bottom pieces. Make sure you get coordinating pallets!!

Example of why it was hard to line up the bottom pieces. Make sure you get coordinating pallets!!

I took the pallets up to the balcony to assemble it. I measured the inside panel of each pallet for 3 holes, one close to the front, one in the middle, and one close to the back. These are the holes that you will use for your 3/8×3.5 or 5/16×3.5 bolt to join the two pallets together so make sure you are measuring the sides that will be joining. With your drill, use the drill bit that corresponds to your bolt  (I used my 1/2 inch bit) and drill a hole on each mark on both pallets. Fingers crossed you measured right! You don’t want your frame to be all akimbo. Put your bolt through the pallets. Then add your washer, then split lock washer, then the hex nut. Screw the nut on with a wrench so it’s super tight. Your pallets should be pretty solid now.

Next add your casters to the bottom side. I didn’t do too much by way of measuring for this one. The bottom was inevitably going to be funky because of my odd back-slat that didn’t match up, so I wasn’t going to kill myself over it. Place your casters where you want them, mark the wood, drill your pilot holes with the corresponding drill bit, then put your 1/4×1.5 bolts through the each of the holes so the head will be facing the ground. Screw the corresponding 1/4 hex nut on. Do the fifth wheel in the center. I have 4 locking casters and the center is just normal.

You can also see how I chose to line up the extra pieces that I reattached to the main pallets.

You can also see how I chose to line up the extra pieces that I reattached to the main pallets.

You’re almost done! This part was kind of tricky though. The reason I say you should make sure your pallets are similar in shape and line up well is mostly for this step. Lining up the arms of your frame can be hard if the slats of your pallet don’t line up well  – like mine don’t. Just like with the wheels, I knew there wasn’t anything I could do to make things perfectly even so I didn’t sweat it too much. I really freestyled this one. Despite my inner-perfectionist crying, I didn’t even break out the level. I’m sure you can figure out a way to measure your own arms so that they’re perfect 🙂 I first assembled the arm, lightly screwed it into the flange, and then placed the full thing on the pallet. I moved it around a bunch of times to get it to where it looked even, where the flange was pretty much fully on the slat, and would line up with the other arm. Then I marked the holes, drilled the pilot, and screwed in the wood screws. Don’t tighten the screws all the way down until you have all the screws in to make sure you don’t mess up/cover any of the holes. Then on the next side line it up with the arm that’s completed and repeat.

photo 1-1

See how the slats don’t line up for the flanges to be symmetrical?

And voila! The frame is done!! Not much to look at really, but the best is yet to come.

photo 3-2

Now for the decorative pieces part. This all about personal style and taste. I wanted this space to be distinctly me, something that could be cozy and intimate, but at the same time not oozing romance (I could be out there with my dad, and that would be weird). I bought the mattress of Amazon and it came quite quickly! I had also already spent enough money on this project to the point that I was pretty reluctant to spend even more on fancy pillows. Prudent Baby went to West Elm. I went to Target and Bed Bath & Beyond. The thought ocurred to me that if I buy a twin bedding package (fitted sheet, top sheet, pillow cases) I can sew the extra top sheet and pillow cases into pillow slip-covers; but that also meant I could buy the cheapest pillows no matter if they didn’t match or were ugly. Unfortunately, the big pillows for the back were preeeetttyyy expensive since nothing was the right size. I found white cube-ish shaped pillows that were perfect so I went with those.

Almost done! Happy, but not completely satisfied.

Almost done! Happy, but not completely satisfied.

However, since they’re cube shaped I was unsure of how to sew cases for them! This is the part I stalled on. I am not a proficient sewer in the least. However, with some intense research and a little can-do attitude I cowgirled up and got it done! Post to come on how I made the cases. 🙂



It looked great with white pillows but now that everything matches I can’t tell you how happy this makes me! I can’t can’t can’t wait for fall weather to be up there with my favorite big blanket, the lights I’m going to hang, and a cuddle buddy!!

One response

  1. FYI: There are 40″ x 40″ pallets out there.
    This looks like a wonderful idea, but please remember that pallets are not built as furniture. They are made with rough-finished planks that aren’t smooth and sanded, and may have splinters and rusted nails. They’re often thrown or dropped, thus may have broken pieces. In addition, pallets are used and re-used until they’re too broken up to be used again. And you never know what those pallets have transported – it might have been reams of clean printer paper, but could just as well have been drums of toxic chemicals.

    For the amount of work required to choose and prep the pallets, it might be easier just to build a base from new, clean wood!

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