Bunk beds are a great way to utilize small bedroom spaces for multiple kids, and kids seem to love them! But what parents may not love is the injury risk that comes with owning bunk beds. There is one primary question parents and first-time bunk bed owners usually ask – how do they prevent the bunk beds from tipping over?
So, how do you prevent bunk beds from tipping over? There are 21 easy ways to prevent a bunk bed from tipping over, which are:
- Do not build your own bunk bed.
- Attach the bunk bed’s frame to the wall.
- Secure the ladder to the bed frame.
- Attach the proper guardrails.
- Check all the attachments.
- Buy the proper mattress size.
- Place the bunk bed in the corner of the room.
- Establish a “no horseplaying” rule.
- Check the weight capacities.
- Only allow older children on the bunk bed.
- Have a nightlight nearby.
- Stay up to date on recalls.
- Never hang any loose items over the bunk bed.
- Give the top bunk owner plenty of headspace.
- Keep the humidity levels at a minimum.
- Add extra support slabs to the top mattress.
- Create support beams for the bedframe.
- Add angle braces to the legs.
- Make sure you have lateral force support.
- Tighten all screws and bolts every six months.
- Replace stripped screws and bolts as needed.
Be sure to read on to find out how you can utilize these 21 tips and safety guidelines to help prevent any bunk bed from tipping over!
21 Ways to Prevent Bunk Beds from Tipping Over
Although there is a risk of a bunk bed tipping over, a parent can take a few proactive measures to ensure this does not happen. This is mainly done by adding support to the bunk bed, but it can also come in the form of other upkeeping tasks.
There are four main ways to prevent a bunk bed from tipping over. They are done through:
- Construction – The building of the bunk beds.
- Safety – Rules and general guidelines that should always be followed.
- Add-ons – Any extra materials or methods that add to the integrity of the bunk bed.
- Upkeeping – The bi-yearly overview and check-ins for all the bunk bed parts.
By following the tips listed below for each category, you can help ensure the safety of your children by preventing a bunk bed from tipping over.
The first step in preventing a bunk bed from tipping over is to ensure that the bunk bed is sturdy and has a durable bed frame. This can be done through a few different measures, which are easy enough for any beginner to follow.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, here are the six best ways to prevent bunk beds from tipping over:
- Do not build your own bunk bed – Unless you have extensive experience in building, it is highly recommended that you purchase bunk beds from a reputable dealer rather than building them yourself. This extends out to DIY kits of bunk beds, as some of these designs may not be up to the current safety guidelines.
- Attach the bunk bed’s frame to the wall – In the same manner that you would screw the back of a dresser into the wall to prevent it from falling over, you can do the same for the bunk bed’s frame. Be sure to use screws or nails that are long enough to go through the entire width of the frame and into the wall a minimum of two inches.
- It should be noted that this will help add some structure to the bunk bed, but it will not stop the entire thing from tipping over if there is excessive horseplay.
- Secure the ladder to the bed frame – As with the bed frame being attached to the wall, you should secure the ladder to the bed frame. This should keep the ladder from swaying as children climb up and down it. This swaying motion can lead to tipping over if the child is continuously grabbing at it to stay still.
- Attach the proper guardrails – Most store-bought bunk beds should come with guardrails as an attachment. Be sure to use them for both mattresses (top and bottom). The guardrails should also meet the minimum requirements:
- Gaps of no more than 3.5” to prevent strangulation.
- Extends a minimum of 5” above the mattress to help prevent rolling off during sleep.
- Guardrails on both sides of the mattress (right and left).
- Check all the attachments – For some bunk beds, they will come with guardrails on the north- and south-facing sides. These guardrails can sometimes have too large of a gap between them where small children can get their arms or hands stuck. Some older bunk bed models may still use basic hooks to keep them in place. It is best to remove these old hooks and replace them with bolts or screws for added support.
- Buy the proper mattress size – For the most part, bunk beds come in three sizes: twin, extra-long, and full. Regardless of the frame size that the bunk bed may claim it is, be sure to measure the exact size for the mattress you need. Far too often, there is a gap between the mattress and actual frame, which can lead to children getting their arms stuck or even fractured if they do so in their sleep. You want the mattress to be tight against the perimeter of the bed frame with no gaps on the sides or near the headboard or footboard.
No matter how many support systems you add, the best way to prevent a bunk bed from tipping over will always be to teach the kids that they should not be playing on or around the bunk bed.
While bunk beds are popular amongst children, they can quickly become a safety hazard if not accurately assessed. There are a few common injuries that can occur with a bunk bed over than it tipping over, such as:
- Lacerations (cuts and scratches)
- Skull fractures
To help reduce the risk of injury, here are nine tips from Nationwide Children you should follow:
- Place the bunk bed in the corner of the room – To help add some support to the bunk bed structure, be sure to place it in the corner of the room. That way, it will have two walls on its sides to lean up against.
- Establish a “no horseplaying” rule – The primary reason a bunk bed tips over is from excessive rocking because of children playing on or around the bed frame. Prevent this by creating an official “no horseplaying” rule for the bunk bed as a whole.
- Check the weight capacities – Although the bunk bed might be able to handle your children’s weight, siblings or friends may add too much weight to the bed frame and cause a tipping issue. Be sure to check the bunk bed’s weight capacity and adhere to its guidelines.
- Only allow older children on the bunk bed – Most injuries that occur around bunk beds happen to children who are younger than six years old. To help keep everyone safe, no one under the age of six should be sleeping in bunk beds.
- Have a nightlight nearby – To help prevent the kids from slipping off the ladder in the middle of the night, try having a nightlight near the bunk bed. The closer the light can shine to the ladder, the better.
- Stay up to date on recalls – A bunk bed can only be as safe as the foundation itself. Be sure to stay up to date on any recalls that may have occurred before purchasing your bunk bed. It is also a good idea to keep looking for any updates even after it is built. You can find official recalls on products from the Federal Recalls website.
- Never hang any loose items over the bunk bed – Loose sleeves, belts, scarves, or even ropes should never be slung over a bunk bed. They can quickly become a risk for suffocation as children can wrap themselves up in them as they sleep.
- Give the top bunk owner plenty of headspace – Be sure to check that whoever has the top bunk has enough room between the top of their head and the ceiling. The easiest way to check for this is to have them sit straight up and measure the distance between the top of their head and the ceiling.
- If possible, they should be able to put their entire arm up and not be able to touch the ceiling. However, if space is limited, there should be at least six inches between the top of their head and the ceiling.
- Keep the humidity levels at a minimum – If your bunk bed’s frame is made of wooden materials, there is a good chance that extra humidity levels can cause swelling. This can weaken the integrity of the structure over time. Keeping a dehumidifier/humidifier (depending on your environment) running in the room can help reduce this risk.
Although bunk beds can tip over, there are a few add-ons that you can attach to a bunk bed’s frame to give it even more support. Though these add-ons are not necessary to have on every bunk bed, they do reduce the risk of it tipping over.
As stated before, you should not build your own bunk bed; however, you are highly encouraged to add extra support beams to an already established bed frame. From a subreddit dedicated to woodworking and homemade crafts, builders from around the world give these pieces of advice when it comes to adding support to a bunk bed:
- Add extra support slabs to the top mattress – Not only is tipping over a concern for parents with rambunctious children, but there is also a risk of the top bunk falling from too much jumping. To help prevent that and the risk of tipping from the unbalanced weight, try adding extra wooden slabs underneath the top mattress for added support.
- Create support beams for the bedframe – Running from the horizontal supports to the vertical supports, you can add extra support beams in a triangle fashion to reduce the risk of tipping over the bunk bed.
- Add angle braces to the legs – At a 45-degree angle, add some plywood braces (in a triangle fashion) to the legs of the bunk bed. You want them to connect the bottom of the mattress frame to the vertical legs of the bed frame itself.
- Make sure you have lateral force support – In the most basic sense, these are the cross beams that form an “X” shape between two pieces of support. It will help prevent wobbling and add even more support to the bunk bed. Connect two pieces of wood from one corner of the top bunk’s frame to the opposite corner of the bottom bunk’s frame in an “X” formation. If you do not have access to lumber, you can use rope or bungee cords for a quick fix; however, be sure they are incredibly taut to reduce the risk of suffocation from a child rolling into it while they sleep.
As an extra add-on for bunk beds, consider this convenient shelving unit:
It is a shelving system that connects to the bunk bed; however, it is an excellent investment if you are looking to open up some space around the room without having to risk the bunk bed tipping over. The shelves are sturdy enough to stand on their own and add a little extra support to the bunk bed itself.
While you can take as many preventative steps as possible to make the bunk bed and surrounding area safer, it can only go as far as how sturdy the bunk bed’s screws are. To prevent a bunk bed from tipping over or causing any other injury, the bedframe needs to be sturdy with strong enough screws and bolts.
According to Lanh Ma, a home repair expert from Hunker, here are the two best habits to get into for upkeeping a bunk bed:
- Tighten all screws and bolts every six months – Bolts, screws, and even nails should be retightened and checked for any looseness once every six months. For added security, try to replace all of these once every two years or as needed based on activity levels.
- Note: If your children do play on or around the bunk bed (despite your warnings), you may need to increase this habit to once every three months.
- Replace stripped screws and bolts as needed – During one of these inspections, if you find a stripped screw or bolt, replace it immediately! A stripped screw or bolt cannot secure itself to another piece of wood and will cause shakiness.
Can Bunk Beds Tip Over?
Yes, bunk beds can tip over if they are not secured or built correctly. This is especially true for bunk beds that are for small children as they tend to bounce around. Ironically enough, most bunk beds that tip over can occur when the children are fully grown adults.
However, according to Consumer Reports, a little over half (50.9%) of bunk bed injuries come from school housing that had bunk beds for young adults (anywhere between the ages of 18 to 21). This means that bunk beds can (and do) tip over, even if small children are not romping around on them.
Some of the most common reasons why a bunk bed may tip over from being misused are:
- Someone jumping off the top bunk to the floor.
- Someone trying to hang off the edge of the top bunk.
- Uneven weight on one side of the bunk bed, especially if the bunk bed is not positioned into the corner of the room.
- Someone rolling over the edge while they sleep.
- Pulling on the ladder with too much force.
As for the integrity of the bunk bed itself, a bunk bed that has a weak support system is far more likely to tip over than a sturdy bunk bed. One of the quickest ways to test if a bunk bed has a higher likelihood of tipping over is to shake the bed frame lightly. If it starts to wobble, then it needs more support before someone can safely sleep in it. If it stays sturdy, then you should be okay with it.
What is the Chance of a Bunk Bed Tipping Over?
The danger that can come from a bunk bed that tips over can be severe, especially with smaller children that may not have the strength to push a mattress off themselves. Although the horror stories of children getting severely injured from bunk beds may be a cautionary tale, it does not happen as often as you may think.
According to Science Daily, there are an average of 36,000 injuries related to bunk beds each year; however, most if not all of these injuries could have been avoided. Most of the injuries involving a bunk bed were nothing more than scrapes and bruises from children jumping off the top bunk onto the floor. Again, this means that these minor injuries caused around a bunk bed could have been easily avoided with proper explanation of the risks to the children.
The numbers should also be taken with a grain of salt as the “36,000” average number was found from a study ranging over 16 years and included ages 0-21. These numbers were also collected between the years 1990 and 2005, and since then, more safety guidelines have been placed for bunk beds. For example, the minimum height of the guardrails for bunk beds has been increased to the five-inch mark since 2005.
General Rules for Bunk Bed Safety
There are many ways to prevent a bunk bed from tipping over and causing serious injury. These can come from the actual building of the bunk bed to how the users are taught safety around the bunk bed. However, there are also a few rules that should be followed before you even start to build or place a bunk bed in a room.
According to Home Guides, here are some of the general rules when it comes to placing a bunk bed:
- Never place a bunk bed under a ceiling fan.
- Never place the bunk bed near a window.
- Avoid bunk beds that have corner posts on the headboard or footboard.
By following these three simple rules, you can help prevent most major injuries from occurring around the bunk bed.
Recommended Bunk Beds
Although there are plenty of ways to increase the safety of a bunk bed and reduce the risk of it tipping over, you still need a sturdy bunk bed frame for the foundation. Without this, there are no improvements that can be made to protect users from tipping over.
To help with the search for the perfect bunk bed that will reduce the risk of tipping over, here are five recommended bunk beds for different age groups. Although you can buy a bunk bed based on age, it is recommended that you purchase bunk beds based on the user’s size and mattress needs.
Bunk Beds for Small Children
In the case of bunk beds, “small children” means any child that is at least six years old. Any child that is under six years old should not be sleeping in a bunk bed, even if accompanied by an adult. These recommended bunk beds are great buys because they are easy to assemble and meet the current safety guidelines.
For bunk beds that will not easily tip over, here are the top five recommendations:
- Storkcraft Caribou Solid Hardwood Twin Bunk Bed, Gray Twin Bunk Beds for Kids with Ladder and Safety Rail
- Max & Lily Twin over Twin Low Bunk Bed, White
- Solid Wood Twin Bunk Beds for Kids Toddlers Twin Over Twin Bunk Bed Frame with Built-in Ladders, Gray Bunk
- Donco Kids Deer Blind Bunk Loft Bed, Twin/Twin, Light Grey
- DHP Miles Twin Metal Bunk Bed, Kid’s Bedroom, Space-Saving Design, Blue, Twin/Twin
Bunk Beds for Teenagers
Teenagers can get lots of use from bunk beds since they clear up extra space in their room for desks and other furniture they have collected throughout the years. However, teenagers are more likely to take higher risks and need a bunk bed that can handle more daring actions. These recommended bunk beds are perfect for teenagers as they do not have a “child” design look to them, and they can still handle higher levels of activity.
For bunk beds that will not easily tip over for teenagers, here are the top five recommendations:
- Bedz King Bunk Beds Twin over Full Mission Style with End Ladder and a Twin Trundle, Cappuccino
- Full Over Full Bunk Bed for Kids Teens, Detachable Wood Full Bunk Bed Frame with Trundle
- Harper and Bright Designs Twin-Over-Twin Trundle Bunk Bed with Storage Drawers (White)
- Walker Edison Furniture Company Modern Metal Pipe Twin Over Futon Bunk Kids Bed Bedroom Storage Guard Rail Ladder, Black
- Dorel Living Brady Solid Wood Bunk Beds Twin Over Full with Ladder and Guard Rail, Black
Bunk Beds for Young Adults
Whether they are moving back into your home, or they are off to an unfurnished college dorm or apartment for the first time, you want to make sure that the bunk bed for a young adult can handle their needs. As a study from the US National Library of Medicine found, young adults between the ages of 18-24 are the second-highest age range that has injuries from bunk beds.
For bunk beds perfect for young adults on their own for the first time, here are the top five recommendations:
- Novogratz Maxwell Twin/Twin Metal Bunk Bed, Sturdy Metal Frame with Ladder and Safety Rails, Navy Blue
- DHP Studio Loft Bunk Bed Over Desk and Bookcase with Metal Frame, Gray, Twin
- Twin Workstation Loft Bed Black
- Dorel Living Brady Solid Wood Bunk Beds Twin Over Full with Ladder and Guard Rail, Espresso
- Walker Edison Furniture Company Classic Wood Twin Low Loft Bunk Kids Bed Bedroom with Guard Rail and Ladder Easy Assembly, White
Bunk beds can be a fantastic resource for not only children but for anyone of any age! The main concern when it comes to bunk beds is whether they can tip over. Although it is a risk that should be taken seriously, it is something that can be easily avoided with proper care and understanding.
If the bunk bed users understand that they can’t romp around on the bunk bed and you reinforce any support beams and safety features, there should be little to no risk of a bunk bed tipping over.