{ Our Playroom Makeover-Part 2 The Building }

After all of The Planning, I was ready to get started building on these lofts. I had draw out the plans, including exactly how much wood I would need for each step of the way and had purchased the first amount of wood. My brother Mitch was going to be here visiting for Thanksgiving weekend so my goal was to have the lofts rough box shape attached to the walls by the time he left. That gave us about 3 day to work on it. I did an awful lot of research on how to build these lofts. After looking at multiple plans and about a thousand pictures of different styles of railings and stairs and the ceilings for underneath, I came up with a set of plans that would be best for us. In the end I am not sure it’s the “right way”, but it seemed to be an engineeringly sound way, a way that gave it the best amount of safety you could have for a loft, and was the way that we intended it to look aesthetically. I was a little frustrated when I was looking for plans at the lack of detailed instructions on how to go about this, so I decided that I better write down the way that I did it, so if I ever what to try to attempt this again I will have some detailed instructions to remind me.

We started by officially closing down the playroom. When the kids all came home from school one day, the playroom was officially closed until Christmas. We put up wrapping paper covering the French doors on both sides of the door and then hung a sheet for extra protection from any little kid sized invaders. They were super curious but didn’t peek. We had moved the TV out to the hallway media area just outside the door so they wouldn’t have to miss out on all our Christmas time movies, and were in earshot as I would be working some days. We would rotate out the toys to play with in the hallway area, and then they would knock when they wanted more. It’s funny how after a month of doing that  it became such a smooth working system you would of thought that’s how it was always done. It’s makes me laugh now to have been a fly on the wall watching all that craziness.

Materials for Step 1

4-2x8 8ft in length

2-2x8 12ft in length cut in half for a total of four pieces

6-2x4 10ft in length cut in half for a total of 12 pieces that would go inside of the outer “box” we made

1 box (100 count)-4inch lag bolts to attach 2x8’s and 2x4’s together and attach the loft to the wall. We used 64 total for this step for both lofts-8 for the corners and 24 for attaching the 2x4’s.

Step 1-Building the loft base

For the first part of this project I started by attaching together the 2x8’s to make a basic box shape. I used two lag bolts per corner to attach them together. After I had finished one of the boxes I realized a mistake I had already made. I knew that I wanted to add some trim around the outer edges later (you can see it on one of the later pictures), but I had not countersunk the screws so that the trim would lay flat on it. I tried to unscrew them, but they were in too tight. The ones that would eventually be facing the wall wouldn’t be a problem, but the outer two sides I would have to adjust on the trim later to make it fit.

Playroom Building-2

When I made the second box I made sure that I used a large 1inch paddle bit to drill a countersunk hole first that went down just enough for the head of the lag screw to be flush with the wood, and then used a regular sized bit to drill all of the way through the rest of the wood. After I had both boxes assembled I was ready to fit the 2x4’s inside of the box to give it more support. I had planned for there to be six supports in each box. As I researched what a normal spacing of floor joists were, and how big our lofts were, six seamed to be a good amount. I’m sure by some standards it was overkill-I think many things we ended up doing were, but we didn’t want to take any chances of it not being sturdy enough to hold a good amount of weight. I used the same 4inch bolts to attach the 2x4’s to the main frame. My brother asked why I didn’t just use wood screws to attach these. On some plans that I had found they had all used the bolts for the main frame and the 2x4’s as well. I basically just went with their plans and figured extra strength was probably not a bad thing. It was more expensive for the lag bolts as opposed to just wood screws, but for a project this big it was small change to pay for safety.I finished up almost all of this part of the building by Wednesday night, and then our drill burnt out. It was one that we had had for almost 10 years so it had gotten some good use, but we were left with no tools to use all of Thanksgiving the next day. It was probably for the better-we were able to just spend a whole day relaxing and talking and eating.

The kids think it’s funny in the picture above that Aaron is just watching me do all the work. Truth be told I LOVE doing all the work. I don’t get too much time to do anything that “hobbylike” for me, so when I have a chance to I get a little bossy and stingy with the work. It really is so relaxing for me to create things, and I love just having Aaron there to keep me company though he claims that I never let him watch me do anything. He may be partly right =) He and Mitch just let me do my thing, and helped with their muscle power when I needed it. In the end we were all super glad that we were all there-there was something that we each had overlooked at one time or another, so it turned out we were a pretty good team. Aaron just humored me and let me do the power tool part and he did the engineering part, and Mitch-well he did all the scary parts like getting under the loft to screw in bolts to the wall when Aaron and I were too chicken too. Thanks Mitch, you’re our hero=). He also helped Aaron with all the heavy lifting a 7 month pregnant woman can’t do (though I tried hard because I really don’t like to ask for help), and helped us think though all our plans thoroughly. And really most importantly he and Aaron kept me company while I had a little building fun.

Materials for Step 2

4-4x8ft plywood 19/32inch thick cut down to size

2 1/2 inch wood screws (2 boxes)-to attach the plywood to the base

Playroom Building-13

Step 2-Attaching the plywood floor

We had big plans for going out early on Friday morning to try and hit some Black Friday deals and score ourselves a new drill, and Mitch wanted a sander to finish a project he was working on too (it’s by the bed that Aaron is sitting on in the picture above). We ended up staying up way too late talking though so when our alarms went off at 6am, we promptly both decided to snooze them indefinitely. I did want a little vacation too and sleeping in doesn’t happen too often around here. Mitch got up earlier than me on Friday and picked up a new drill for us along with his sander and some materials for his project.

I continued to finish attaching the 2x4’s and then we flipped over each box so we could attach the plywood to the top. We had assembled the boxes upside down so that we could lay the 2x4’s flush at the bottom (we laid it on a scrap piece of wood so we wouldn’t get carpet stuck in between the wood) rather than having to hold the 2x4’s up at the top of the box while screwing them in and hope that they would all be even. We don’t own a circular saw, so had Lowe’s cut down the plywood sheets to size for us. I waited to go buy the plywood until I was finished with Step 1 so that I could measure one more time and get the measured exact. I had figured out the measurements on paper, but after having the actual wood together I wanted to be sure that our dimensions were accurate with the slight differences that wood sometimes has in it. We attached the plywood with 2 1/2inch screws around the edge every foot or so and then a couple into each crossways 2x4. In the picture above you can see where we ended up having to add some 2x4 pieces cut shorter so that where the two pieces of plywood met they would have something to be screwed down into.

Materials for Step 3

2-4x4 8ft in length for corner support of loft

6-2x4 8ft in length to help support the loft as we lifted it up and screwed it into the wall. We ended up using these for later in the project so they were not a waste.

39-4inch lag bolts. We ended up having to go purchase a few more bolts than the initial 100 pack after seeing exactly how many we would need to attach the lofts into the wall.

Step 3-Attaching the loft to the wall

The next step was by far the hardest part of this whole thing and the one that I was super worried about. I think I had dreams of our whole house collapsing because we had attached these lofts into the studs and they broke them and the playroom started crumbling down. Crazy, I know. Almost every single loft I found online was solely supported by one pole on one side, with the rest of the loft securely attached to the wall. It was what set apart the lofts that looked built in and those that looked a little “homemade” for that lack of a better word. I wanted our loft to look like it was part of the house when we had it built. Our best option for the one leg wonder was a 4x4 pole. Our selection of this 4x4 is one thing I would do differently in the future. Those that had used a pressure treated 4x4 (which is all we could find) had mentioned that over time as it dried it could warp a bit and end up twisted a little. We didn’t really have a better option because we couldn’t find any regular 4x4’s at any place in town, but after we added the additional square column around it and it has had a few months to really dry out, I have noticed that one of the poles looks a little crooked and the other pole had a screw that seems to be popping out as the 4x4 is twisting. Live and learn I guess. I’m sure no one would notice but me, but it’s enough that next time I would do it different. When I think of how heavy that loft was to lift up, it’s amazing that just one pole can support it, but it does.

One thing that I am glad that I did when we built our house was to take pictures of almost all of the rooms before it was dry walled. Why I did that, at the time I wasn’t sure, but I was sure that it would come in handy later for something. This time it proved to be right. We were able to look at the pictures and figure out exactly where the studs were. With something as heavy as these, I wanted to make sure we weren’t just guessing where we thought the studs were, we needed them to be in the middle of the studs. We lucked out and above the toy closet was a header so along the whole length where we needed to bolt the loft into we knew was in a solid piece of wood. The other studs we were able to locate through the picture and from the attic above. We ended up putting in 19 bolts on this toy closet side loft. Overkill maybe, but secure for sure. We have had around 500lbs of teenagers up there before and not a budge. Now, I’m sure if they decided to jump up and down on it that may be another story, but for now after four months it’s not going anywhere.

Playroom framing-4

The other loft didn’t have a header, but we were able to find all of the studs and put 20 lag bolts into studs to secure it. I was just so grateful for those pictures-it saved us a ton of time locating studs and gave me a lot of piece of mind knowing that those things were attached absolutely secure.

Playroom framing-5

Here are a few pictures after they were attached to the walls. Hopefully I can explain how we got them there somewhat clearly. We laid the boxes on their side with the plywood side facing the wall. We attached the 4x4 permanent piece of wood with 5 lag bolts. Two from each side being careful to avoid the bolts that were already in there holding the box together, and one lag bolt down through the top. After that we attached two 2x4’s that were 8ft in length together temporarily with wood screws to make them be temporary poles for the three other corners. All of this was done while the box was on it’s side. The next part was a bit of trial and error. In hindsight we should have probably rallied some more help, but as three independent people we thought we could do it ourselves. The second loft was so much easier after a little practice on the first one. This is what ended up working-Aaron and Mitch each took a corner that was nearest to the wall and started to lift it up in the air. I was at the two corners that were closest to the French doors. I would run between the two corners and scoot in the 2x4’s and 4x4 as they would lift up. If the 2x4’s just drug along they would start to bend and break at where they were secured to the loft. Once we had the loft set in the corner the weight of it almost kept it tight against the wall-I think that is probably why from an engineering stand point this design of one major post and the rest of the loft secured to the wall works. We were then able to use the 4inch lag screws and attach each loft to the wall. The one on the left took 20 bolts and the one on the right took 19-overkill maybe, but we were glad we had studs available and could secure it so well.

Playroom Building-3

Playroom Building-4

Aaron testing it out-once we were up there we realized how tall it really was-without the railing it was a little bit scary. I began to doubt if my kids would even want to go up there, but at this point it was a little too late to turn back. Luckily, once we got the railing built and attached it didn’t seem scary-still high enough up to seem pretty cool, but not as scary. You can get an idea of the head room available up there. It’s not a ton for an adult standing straight up, but for kids and teenagers it works great.

Playroom Building-6

Aaron working his mathematical magic while he explains something to us about the set up up there. I was happy to have both lofts officially attached to the walls by the end of the weekend. After that I knew that I would be able to finish the rest by myself with Aaron’s help for a few things. It felt so good to have what looked like two lofts in the works. I was pretty proud of us and what we had accomplished so far. At this point the kids obviously knew that we were building something for their surprise because we were just so loud with all of the tools. It still amazes me though that they didn’t try to come in and peak at what we were making-even the little boys. When the cousins arrived a few days before Christmas they even announced that they couldn’t come in because there were Christmas presents in there.

Playroom Building-9

Materials for Step 4

8-1x5 1/2inch primed white boards 8ft in length for columns

8-1x1 1/2inch primed white boards for trim around edges of loft

1-1x2 1/2inch primed white board for trim

1-1x4 board for trim around the top of columns

1-1x7inch primed white boards for trim along bottom of column

Other trim pieces for around column bottom and around edge of ceiling planking

2inch screws (50 count/1box)-used to screw the column together

Step 4-Building columns and attaching planking for ceiling underneath the loft

I knew that there were several things that we would need to rent a nail gun for. I tried to get things to a point where we would have to only rent it for one day. We needed it to attach the plank ceiling to the underside of the loft and to attach the trim around the poles and edges of the loft. I spent Monday building the two columns that would surround the 4x4’s of each loft. It would offer a bit more support and mimic in part all the molding that is in the rest of our house. I wanted these lofts to look as if there were part of the original house and I love how the columns turned out. I used the preprimed boards to create a box and then simply attached it to the 4x4 on two sides.

  Playroom Building-14Playroom Building-16 

For the trim I just attached various widths of primed 1x2’s and other trim molding. In the spots where I wasn’t able to countersink in the bolts when I attached the box frame together, I had to use a countersink bit and basically carve out the back of the piece of molding so it would lay flat. I wanted the underside of the loft to have a very finished look to it, so we found some tongue and grove planking at Lowes. They came 8? to a pack, and we ended up using exactly 3 packs per loft-six packs total. They were pretty easy to install, but it was definitely a two person job-so Aaron was happy when I actually let him help=). I would cut the boards to length and help hold while he would nail them in. I found a tutorial after the fact that shot the nail in at an angle right through the grove so that they wouldn’t have to fill so many nail holes. We had shot right through the top which turned out to be hundreds of nail holes to fill and sand. Great tip for next time though. One other thing that I would do different was that we had the 2x4’s to attach the boards to in the middle area, but on the edges there wasn’t. They fit pretty snug, but it would have been a good idea on the shorter 5ft length ends to have attached a 1x2 strip of wood so that we would have something at each end of the planks to secure it to-hopefully that makes sense. I loved how nice everything looked once the planks were up and the poles were finished out with molding. I put some molding around the edges of the planking so that it had a nice finished edge and covered up any gaps that were left.

Materials for Step 5

4-2x4 10ft in length for the sides of both ladders. I had originally thought I could use the 2x4’s we had purchased and used for extra support as we were attaching the loft to the wall, but hadn’t thought through that one good enough and realized with the angle that the ladder needed to be we would need ones that were slightly longer than 8ft

2-1x4 8ft in length for ladder rungs

2 1/2 inch screws (2 boxes)-to assembling ladder together and for the railings

Step 5-Building the loft ladders

Building the ladders was next. We used the 2x4’s at the 10ft length and cut them at angles on the top and bottom. We then used 1x4’s for the rungs of the ladders cut to 16inches wide. We bolted them to the loft from the back with the same 4inch lag bolts that we used for the rest of the loft. I ended up going back and covering up with wood filler all the other bolts, but I did leave the ladder ones exposed in case we needed to replace the ladders because of it braking. I attached the rungs with wood screws, but if I would do it again ( I may go back and redue this since I can unbolt the ladder) is to make a routered cut at each place that a rung is so the rung can slide into the 2x4 and then wood glue and screw it in. I think it will make for a much stronger ladder. We haven’t had too many problems, but we have had one rung break already that I need to replace. It had a little too much weight on it and I didn’t pre drill the holes so it created the wood to crack more easily.

Playroom Building-17

Materials for Step 6

8-1x4 8ft in length for railing top and bottom

20-2x2 8ft in length for railing spindles. Each pieces was cut down into 3 pieces for a total of about 60 pieces that were each 31inch in length. I cut them as I went along and ended up being able to return a few that we didn’t use.

Left over 2x4’s for newel posts

2 1/2 inch screws for attaching the posts to railing and railing to the plywood loft floor

Step 6-Building the railing

The railing was the last part of the building that needed to be done, and it took probably the longest because of all the angles. I don’t have a lot of pictures but when you see the final pictures you can see how the side railings all came together. I built two boxes that became the larger newel posts at the top of the ladder. We set them farther apart than the 16inch rung width just to give a little extra room when climbing up-a suggestion from Aaron that was much needed. It made a big difference in climbing in and out comfortably. The 1x4 on the front of the post was cut a little longer so that it overlapped the loft floor and we would be able to screw it into the front of the loft. I cut the remaining spindles to 31 inches and then sanded each one down individually to make them extra smooth. We basically used our staircase in our home as a model for how tall to make the railing and how far apart to place the spindles. I am not sure how lofts are treated during a home inspection, but we wanted to make sure that they were at least equal to our staircase should we ever move and they needed to be a specific height. That of course was second to just having it really high so that my little kids wouldn’t fall-something I worried about, but they really play so carefully up there and we are up in the playroom when the little boys play up there just to be extra careful. Getting the railing fitted against the ceiling on the side railings was the trickiest part. I basically had to make the entire railing and then slide it into place. It was super tricky and a tight fit. The top and bottom of the railing is made from 1x4’s and the spindles are 2x2’s that are predrilled and then screwed in from the bottom 1x4. That 1x4 was then screwed into the plywood loft base. We connected the top and bottom railing parts at the corners with flat metal plates on the underside and top of the railings. The railing is also screwed into studs at both sides. The picture below is when just the front railing was installed, I don’t have a before picture of the side railing before it was painted.

Playroom Building-18

Step 7-1000-Sanding and Painting

Okay so there wasn't that many more steps, but what was left was a lot of filling holes, sanding, caulking, painting with a primer, sanding again, wiping down and vacuuming everything really good, and then painting it a glossy white paint. It felt like about a thousand steps because it took so long. I was still painting up until the few hours before Christmas. I actually still need to go back and do another coat in some spots. Those railing spindles and ladder rungs took forever to paint, but in the end I was super happy with how it turned out. I still can’t quite believe that we built this. Aaron and I would just stand up there looking at it saying, “This is SO cool!” I am pretty sure that we were building this in part for ourselves as well to satisfy some childhood dream. Either way, it turned out pretty great, and come Christmas morning the kids were beside themselves with excitement.

No comments: