When it comes to mattress support, slatted platforms are probably your best option. But that’s not to say that the style doesn’t have shortcomings. The slats under your mattress or box spring might bend over time or even slip and fall to the floor. Therefore, learning how to make bed slats stronger is in your best interest.
After all, who wants to experience the dread that comes with feeling their bed buckle under their weight? So let’s see what you can do to protect yourself against that sensation. And before we dive into it, let’s talk about what makes slats different from other kinds of mattress platforms.
Types of Bed Frame Platforms
If you’ve ever looked into buying a new bed frame, you’ll have noticed that many of them are just simple rectangles with legs. These basic styles can usually be upgraded with headboards and footboards. In the higher price categories, those elements are usually expected. But manufacturers often leave the choice of mattress platforms to the consumers.
At most, they might provide the inner rails that will hold up the platform. But the exact style of support you need will depend on the kind of mattress you want. So let’s take a second to talk about the most common kinds of platforms.
Solid platforms are usually just basic MDF boards that fit inside the bed frame to provide firm support for the mattress. Unlike the next bed frame style on this list, solid platforms don’t require consumers to use a box spring. If they still want to achieve a certain height, there are other ways to do so.
Basic Frame With a Center Beam
If you have a box spring under your mattress, your bed frame probably isn’t providing much support. But by redistributing the weight you put on your mattress across a larger surface, a box spring functions similarly to a solid platform or slats. That means that you don’t actually need much support from the platform itself.
These kinds of bed styles usually have a single supportive beam connecting the middle of one side of the bed to the other. That essentially holds up the middle of your box spring, preventing it from sagging. However, when it comes to wider beds, the manufacturers might include additional legs as well.
Of course, many manufacturers reinforce these kinds of bed frames by adding two more beams on either side of the central one. Any more, and you’ll have slats. After all, a bed frame has to have at least five evenly spaced-out planks to be classified as having a slatted platform.
Solid or Sprung Slats
The number of slats you have in a platform will ultimately depend on the width of the planks. There should be no more than three inches of space between each slat. But really, the closer the slats are to each other, the stronger the platform will be. So you’ll want to take that into account if you’re looking to build your slatted platform from scratch.
Additionally, you should consider the amount of support you’re looking to get. As previously established, these kinds of platforms can be used with or without a box spring. So you could use them to construct a low-profile bed if you just plop a mattress directly over the slats. In that case, though, you might consider getting sprung slats rather than solid ones.
While solid slats are basic, flat planks, usually made of pine, sprung slats are curved to provide softer support. Unlike solid slats, which connect the two longer sides of the bed, sprung slats often connect to a central beam. Because of that, sprung slats might cause a ridge in the middle of the mattress. If you’re wondering what kind of slats are best for you, check out this video.
Notably, solid slats can also be positioned lengthwise, connecting the headboard to the footboard. To do that, they need to be supported by center beams from below. Still, it’s good to know that the option exists. But with all that in mind, let’s talk about how you can strengthen your bed slats.
Quick and Easy Ways to Make Bed Slats Stronger
The amount of time you have to invest in this project will ultimately depend on the current state of your bed slats. So let’s see your options.
Put a Box Spring or Some Plywood Over the Slats
If you’re currently sleeping with your mattress directly on the slats, you might want to bring in a short box spring or even some thick plywood. Adding that kind of layer into the mix should redistribute the weight you put on the mattress across the slats, making them less likely to bend or slip.
You can even screw or nail the plywood to the bed frame and the slats for additional support. Just keep in mind that it’ll have to be at least three-quarters of an inch thick to withstand the impact.
Secure the Slats to the Bed Frame
Since we’re already talking about using screws and nails, you might want to consider securing the slats to the bed. Drilling two screws through either end of each slat should do the trick. Of course, slats can be damaging enough to your mattress without any metal bits sticking out. With that in mind, you might want to countersink the screws or nails you use into the wood.
Alternatively, you can simply glue the slats to the supportive rails on the inner sides of the bed frame. Doing so should prevent the slats from moving around as well as reduce sagging. But if that is a big issue, you might also have to add some kind of central support.
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Use Slat Spacers
If you don’t want to permanently affix the slats to your bed frame for some reason, there are less invasive ways to prevent them from shifting. For example, you can install spacers between each plank.
Just get some planks that are about as thick as your slats and as wide as the side rails that hold them. Once you have that, cut them into pieces that are as long as the space you want between your slats. In the end, you’ll have a bunch of spacers that are about 1.25 inches wide (the standard width of side rails), two or three inches long, and three-quarters of an inch thick.
When you have all the pieces you need, you can start putting your slats onto the rails one by one, separating them with the spacers as you go. When you’re happy with the way your slats look, apply some glue to the bottom of each spacer and press it back in place. You can also use clamps to hold the pieces in place.
If you don’t want to risk smearing glue on the slats, you can mark where your spacers should go with a pencil and remove the slats before you plop down the glued pieces. Alternatively — or additionally, you can screw the bits in place for additional security. When you finish installing the spacers and put the slats in, they’ll never slip and slide from their places.
Still, if this project seems too complicated, you can always buy some side rails with slat spacers. They should secure and strengthen the slats just as effectively as your DIY spacers would.
Add More Slats
Before installing the spacers, you might want to consider bringing the slats closer together. Remember, the more slats you have, the more stable the mattress platform will be. So reducing the gaps between the slats to add more should noticeably increase the amount of support you’re getting — particularly if your mattress is directly on the slats.
Now, you might have to do some math to figure out how many slats you need to add. First, you should measure your slats and figure out what kind of wood they’re made of. That’ll help you get matching planks. Additionally, if you want to keep the spacing even, you should get the inner measurements of your bed frame.
Once you have that number, you can figure out the total space you’ll have between the slats. First, multiply the number of slats you want to have by their width. Subtract that number from the length of the rail and divide it by the total number of slats plus two (the spaces between the last slats and the headboard or footboard). That will get you the exact width of the gaps you need if you want to make the spacing even.
Alternatively, if you have a number in mind for the gap width, you can work backward to figure out how many slats you need to add to the platform. For example, let’s say you want about an inch of space between your 3-inch wide slats on a 78-inch long rail. In that case, you could get 18 slats and use the remaining 24 inches of space to get 1.2 inches of space between each plank. And you can further reduce the number of slats you’ll need by using wider planks.
Reinforce the Supportive Center Beam
Before you look into replacing the slats you have, consider reinforcing them. At this point, you’ll probably be able to see if any of the slats have started sagging. You already know how to alleviate that issue by redistributing the weight on the planks. However, if you can’t fit more slats onto the inner rails, you can help the ones you have by providing central support.
You’ll just need a firm plank that’s about four inches wide and at least three support legs. Screw two of the legs onto either end of the plank and one in the middle. If you want the makeshift beam to be more stable, you can put the end legs a bit to the right, and the one in the center a to the right.
When you’re done making the beam, extend the legs to the height of your slats. Finally, take the slats out to position the beam in the middle of the bed frame before putting everything — including the mattress — back in. The middle of your bed should be much firmer than before.
Alternatively, you can always install the support legs directly onto the slats that need them. Just take the planks out and pop them back in place after screwing in the legs and extending them to the floor. That should prevent individual slats from further distortions.
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Get Thicker or Stronger Wooden Slats
If your bed slats have bent beyond repair, you should consider getting new ones. That’s where the measurements you took earlier should come in handy. But how can you make sure that the new slats won’t disappoint? Well, the first thing you should consider is the material they’re made of.
If you have wooden slats in your bed frame, chances are they’re made of pine wood. The grain of yellow pine makes it the most durable choice for slats because it won’t break under pressure. However, depending on the amount of weight you’re putting on your bed, you might find yourself looking for other options. For example, some people might prefer beech, birch, or oak planks.
Of course, the strength of your slats isn’t only determined by the kind of wood they’re made of. You have to take their dimensions into account too. As you can imagine, thicker slats are generally more durable than thinner ones.
Similarly, the width of the planks plays a huge part in their stability. After all, narrow boards are more likely to slip from the rails. So take all that into account when shopping for new slats.
Use Metal Slats Instead
Ultimately, while most people prefer wooden slats because of their flexibility, metal ones are better if you want to strengthen your bed frame. You can put metal slat boards in pretty much any kind of bed frame. You’ll just have to use precise measurements since you can’t trim these kinds of products as easily as you might do with wooden planks.
If you’re in the market for a completely new bed, basic platform frames with build-in metal slats are fairly affordable too. But remember: metal slats are usually narrower and more spaced out than wooden ones. So if you want to be able to put your mattress directly on top of your slats, you should add some cushioning. Putting a plywood board, a duvet, or a combination of the two over the metal slats should provide the support and softness you need.
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As you might have noticed, the purpose of most of these methods is to prevent slats from moving around. Moreover, keeping them from bending will ultimately make the bed frame much sturdier. With that in mind, there are several ways to approach this project.
On the one hand, you can attach the slats directly to the bed frame by nailing, screwing, or gluing them to the inner rails. Alternatively, you can install slat spacers to prevent them from inching off the rails. However, that won’t prevent the planks from sagging. To do that, you’ll have to create some kind of center support beam for the slats.