A lot of us don’t think too much about our beds and mattresses until they cause us discomfort, or we are looking for a replacement. But we really should. We spend at least 1/3 of our life in bed. Comfort, function, flexibility, value, and longevity are all important parts of our beds.
One area that many people don’t know too much about is bed slats, and how they compare to box springs. The two make up the most common type of under-mattress support mechanisms that integrate with bed frames. And are they each of distinct advantages and disadvantages. Learn more about bed slats in our guide!
The concept of a bed slat or bed slats is fairly straightforward – they are slats, or lengthwise pieces of material, usually wood, that run across the bed frame width-wise. They provide support and a platform on which the mattress can rest. The thickness of the slats, how many you need, what kind of wood they should be made from, and other factors can all vary how effective they are, and the overall feel to the mattress.
Slats are available in sizes consistent with regular bed sizes – twin bed slats, full bed slats, queen bed slats, king bed slats, and so on. They have to be sized properly to fit across the frame. Otherwise, they won’t serve any purpose or support the mattress – they’ll just fall to the floor.
Bed slats are the less common form of support for bedding, with the more common choice being the box spring. Box springs are large and bulky and tend to cost more as well. They add height to a bed, and have more spring and give to them. Slats, on the other hand, are simple and cost-effective. They don’t add any substantial height to a bed and tend to provide firmer support to the mattress. In addition to the mattress itself, the support mechanism – whether box spring or bed slats – can be an important consideration for a comfortable night’s sleep.
Bed slats can usually be purchased at furniture or bedding/mattress stores, though prices are often better from online retailers. Some popular choices of sites from which you can buy bed slats are highlighted below.
Online furniture and home furnishings retailer Wayfair offers competitive pricing, free shipping on large orders, and a wide range of choices of styles, colors, and brands for most home and furniture items. They’re a trusted name in online catalog shopping for this category.
Online discounter Amazon boasts a massive item catalog of everything “from A to Z.” Like most of the items they sell, they have bed slats that are sold directly through Amazon and fulfilled by them, as well as those from marketplace sellers who fulfill them directly to customers. A lot of choices and very competitive prices make Amazon the first choice for most any kind of online shopping today.
eBay is not just about selling your old collectibles or used items anymore. They have a full range of marketplace sellers who offer brand new merchandise, including overstocks and clearance from name-brand manufacturers. You can often find excellent markdowns and deals on brand new furniture and home goods items here, including bed slats. The selection is a bit more hit or miss, but the prices can’t be beaten in most cases.
Venerable retail giant Walmart has been expanding their online offerings over the last few years, to stay competitive with Amazon and other online retailers. Prices are reasonable, just like Walmart is known for, with a decent selection from their overall catalog as well. Choices may not be as numerous as Wayfair or IKEA, but there are still many options in most furniture categories, including bed slats.
IKEA is known for furniture (and meatballs), so it’s no surprise that the online site for this retailing giant has quite a diverse selection of bed slats and other bed-related furnishings. Prices can vary considerably, from very competitive to somewhat higher and more premium depending on the options you choose.
Almost all bed slats are made out of wood, of varying types, thicknesses, and cuts. Like most wood furniture items or accessories, the material itself can make a difference in terms of the function and feel of the product. Specifically, some of the most popular types of wood for bed slats to be made from, and their differences in durability and give/pliability are highlighted below.
Cheap softwood that won’t cost much but may require more material thickness or have too much give.
While a softwood, this is kind of a transitional option between softwoods and hardwoods, as it performs nearly as well as more expensive hardwood, but generally costs less.
Much more durable hardwood, with stronger support, more durability and stiffness. It does cost more, however.
A hardwood that is somewhere in between Yellow Pine and Red Oak in terms of stiffness/rigidity, bending strength, and cost. It’s also a great choice if you plan to paint (rather than stain) your bed slats.
Hickory is a good choice of hardwood that is roughly on par with Red Oak in performance and cost. It is also extremely light as a function of its strength to weight ratio.
The choice of using bed slats vs. a box spring is entirely up to you as a consumer. You may not need either if the particular bed frame or bed type comes with slats or a solid wooden platform already built in (common with bunk beds, certain types of platform beds, and in more institutional settings such as college dormitories). But if that is not the case for your particular bed, then bed slats may be a good option to try.
And for those who are thinking, “Hmm, maybe I should use both bed slats and a box spring…” think again. That doesn’t add additional support or function to the bed – only height. One or the other has to be used for actual support and load-bearing features.
Bed slats are not necessarily better or worse than a box spring setup. Some people prefer them, as they tend to make the mattress more rigid with less give and flex to it. Some like their beds lower to the ground, too, and therefore prefer bed slats over a box spring, as they add no height to the bed.
For others, bed slats simply don’t do the trick. If you need height to make getting in and out of bed easier, then a box spring is really the only choice. If you like your mattress to have more give and flex to it, then a box spring is also ideal. Depending on the size of bed and weight of occupants, bed slats may be impractical as they can be prone to breakage, whereas a box spring can take a lot more punishment.
Ultimately, the choice is yours to make, with box springs being more expensive, though the adage “you get what you pay for” definitely holds true. Many people swear by box springs and could never imagine using bed slats, and vice versa.
If you’ve never heard of or considered bed slats before, and are in need of a firmer sleeping experience, looking to have your bed closer to the ground, don’t like so much spring in the bed, or are in need of a cheap bed support option, then bed slats may be the perfect choice for you. They offer a number of advantages over the more-expensive box spring option.
At the same time, they’re not for everyone and simply won’t cut it for larger beds, those that are intended to bear a lot of weight, or for people who like their mattresses to have a lot of give and spring to them. But, with this guide, hopefully now you know the difference, and can test different options and ask questions when you next go shopping for a bed or mattress at the store or online.
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