Design & DIY

12 tips for building a bunkie

Bunkie Photo by Nadezhda Kharitonova/Shutterstock

Soon after we bought our cottage, it was obvious that we needed more sleeping space for guests. I had plenty of experience on smaller projects, but it was my first time making something I could walk around in (and therefore I got lots of advice from the local building department and from some seasoned pros). If you’re planning on DIY-ing a bunkie, here are 12 lessons I learned that any new bunkie-builder should keep in mind.

1. Build with rafters and a ridge beam instead of trusses. You’ll gain unobstructed storage space in the attic.

2. Use solid wood planks for the roof deck instead of plywood. They’re lighter and easier to haul up to the roof, and they look way nicer from the inside (especially when you’re lying on the bed looking up).

3. A 12/12 roof pitch (45° peak) is a little more difficult to build and shingle than the standard 12/6 pitch, but the steep slant looks awesome and sheds snow like a boss.

4. Asphalt shingles are cheaper than a metal roof, easy to install and repair, and they last forever (okay, 15 to 25 years).

5. Install a continuous ridge vent to prevent the attic from overheating. I like the mesh type that just rolls out along the ridge and is covered with shingles afterward.

6. I love Western red cedar siding. Make the dimensions of your building the same as common siding lengths, and you’ll have less cutting and joining to do. Open up all the bundles, and install from alternate piles to avoid patchy colour variations.

7. Scribing and cutting the deck boards to fit the uneven contours of surrounding rocks helps to visually anchor the building. It’s slower than trimming them straight but definitely worth the extra time.

8. Build your floor joists and decking perfectly level and square. That finished floor deck is a ready-made platform to lay out the roof rafters and build the walls.

9. Check the views from the windows as soon as the walls are up. Windows are much easier to move now rather than later.

10. Fixed windows (such as the ones beside doors) are easy to build in place and are much less expensive than operable windows. Use tempered glass in places that are easily bumped.

11. Vinyl windows are not as pretty as wood, but they’re a cinch to install, and they stand up great to weather. Look for the kind with an integrated brick moulding—this extra piece seals against the siding and eliminates the need for additional exterior trim.

12. Let there be light. Adding electricity will make your bunkie exponentially more comfortable. (Think: an outlet near the bed for a lamp and a clock.) Outdoor wiring must be UF (Underground Feeder) cable that is buried, encased in conduit, or both, depending on the application.

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