Bunk Bed vs. Trundle Bed: The Difference & Why it Matters


Bunk beds and trundle beds are both ideal for adding additional sleeping spots to a room. They can be especially helpful if the space is tight. The idea behind both styles is to create extra bed space by stacking beds, and to avoid taking up any more floor space.

But what’s the difference between a bunk bed and a trundle bed? And why does it matter? The difference matters because the design and amount of space needed for each is not the same. Bunk beds are built vertically, while trundles can be hidden when not in use.

Are you hoping to design a space that allows room for more people to sleep, and you’re not sure whether to go with a trundle bed, or bunk beds? Then this is the article for you. Or are you just curious about the differences in bunk beds and trundle beds? This is the article for you, too. Keep reading to find out more on bunk beds vs. trundle beds, and why the difference… actually makes a difference. 

Bunk Beds vs. Trundle Beds… What are They?

As we already mentioned, both bed types are intended to be used in a room where multiple people sleep. They’re both great for this purpose, but which one you choose depends on how exactly you plan to use it. To nail down your choice, first let’s get a better picture of bunk beds and trundle beds, individually. 

Bunk Beds 

Once upon a time, these beds served a single purpose: to fit as many sleeping people in one room as possible. Bunk beds have been around for ages. There is actual evidence of bunk beds being used in ancient Egypt. So, we know they must be good for something, if they’ve been around for that long. 

Today, bunk beds come in just about any shape or color and can be customized to fit any space. Today’s bunk beds can serve as a design piece and aren’t just used for their functionality. Although, they’re still great for their original purpose, too. 

Styles of Bunk Beds

Up until recently, most bunk beds stuck to the traditional stacking method of one twin frame on top of the other. Occasionally, a double bed could be found as the first level of the bunk. But this definitely wasn’t the norm. And, sometimes, if someone was feeling extra creative, they’d go with the design of stacking the frames perpendicular to one another. Now, finding bunk beds to fit your overall design vision is easier than ever. Here are a few of the more popular styles that you’ll find on the market.

Standard 

These are made from either wood or metal and follow the traditional stacking layout. Again, most of the time it’s just two twin sized frames, although sometimes a full size mattress is on the bottom. In most cases, these beds can be separated, and used individually, as well as bunked. 

Built Ins

These are especially trendy right now, and rightfully so. There’s so much room for customization in creating built in bunks. They’re definitely meant to be the focal point of any room. Children and grown-ups alike can use built in bunks, as long as they’re sized appropriately. Built in bunks are usually made from wood, and just like the name suggests, they’re actually built into a room. 

Futon

Futon bunk beds are ideal for anyone that wants to have an added spot to sleep on occasion but doesn’t want to sacrifice any potential seating space. This style of bunk bed has a twin mattress on top, and a futon built into the bottom part of the frame. These are perfect for any room that’s used for sleeping, and just hanging out. 

L-Shaped

The perpendicular bunks that we noted earlier as one of the only ways that bunk beds could once be customized, are still very popular today. This design allows for additional space underneath the top bunk, for something like a bedside table or a desk for anyone sleeping below. Many of these designs come with built in dressers, too. 

Triple… or Even Quadruple

Depending on the size of who the bunks are intended for, and the room where the bunks will go, a stack that’s three deep can be accommodated. This particular style works well with built ins, because they often need to be customized a bit more. If the beds are for children, then it’s possible that four beds will be able to fit comfortably. 

Novelty Designs

Another recent trend in bunk beds has become novelty designs, or the idea of making bunk beds appear to be something else. This is a little harder to find at a big box furniture store, and usually has to be custom made, but they’re still very popular, nonetheless. Here are a few examples of some of the latest and greatest novelty bunk beds:

  • Tree house
  • Castle
  • Ships
  • Studies
  • Forts

Pros and Cons of Bunk Beds

All things come with pluses and minuses. It’s important to outline these when making a decision, to help pinpoint what will work for you, and what won’t. We’ll start with the pros first.

Pros
  • Bunk beds work great for rooms with limited space, when you’re trying to keep as much floor space available for other things, like children’s rooms. 
  • There are bunk beds available to suit all budgets.
  • Sizes of bunk beds vary, so they’re not just for children. Bunk beds are great for rooms that need to sleep multiple teenagers or adults. 
  • Many bunk bed units come with built in storage, such as dressers or even desks, which helps to free up even more space. 
  • They look great! Bunk beds can be customized to fit any style and even be a design element if that’s your thing. 
Cons
  • The issue of someone waking up to hit their head on either the ceiling or the bed above is an ongoing challenge for anyone that sleeps in a bunk bed, especially if they’re not used to it. 
  • Sleeping on the top bunk is all fun and games until someone has to get up in the night to use the restroom or get a drink. It’s hard for the person to get down from the top bunk, and equally hard for the person below to stay asleep through all of the movement. 
  • Top bunk is always fun for some but climbing up and down a ladder or stairs to get to bed each night can get old after a while. For some, this can even be dangerous. 
  • Getting a child (or adult, for that matter) to make their bed after sleeping in the top bunk is a chore, because the actual making of the bed is such a chore. 

Trundle Beds

The general concept behind trundle beds is still to maximize sleeping spaces, while minimizing the use of floor space. But, the principle behind a trundle bed is that they can easily come and go as needed. Trundle beds take advantage of the empty space under a bed, where an extra frame and mattress can be easily accessed when necessary. 

Like bunk beds, trundle beds have come a long way in their overall aesthetic, and now can lend themselves to any space, instead of being solely functional. Trundle beds used to be crafted from a basic metal structure, usually with wheels to make it easy to slide back into position. 

Styles of Trundle Beds

Some trundle beds were even constructed to be more like a drawer, again with wheels on the bottom, that pulled out from underneath a bed. This style was usually made of wood. 

Also, most traditional trundle beds once used a specialty mattress that was a little bit smaller than a twin. Depending on where the bed was stored, there would be enough room for an actual twin mattress. 

Now, trundle beds are used for many different spaces, not just reserved for guest rooms or children’s rooms, as they once were. The convenient slide-out trundle beds can now be made to fit just about anywhere that you want to stash one. Move over sleeper sofas, trundle beds are the new and improved hidden sleep space. 

Drawer or Pull Out

Trundle bed mattresses can be stored in a drawer or pull out as it’s sometimes called. Just like it sounds, the mattress is inside of a frame that’s on wheels, making it easy to slide under a piece of furniture for storage when it’s not being used.

Living spaces in homes, vacation rentals, and even hotel rooms frequently make use of these, because pull out trundles can go under different kinds of furniture. Of course, many beds have enough room for trundle drawers. But, there are even many furniture companies that build trundle drawers underneath sofas. 

Pop Up 

This design follows the more traditional style of trundle bed, with the idea that it can collapse, then pop up when needed. There are also traditionally wheels on the bottom of the frame, so access is made easier. 

Pop up frames are made of metal. They have latches on the sides, and when these are released, the bed springs up so it’s not resting on the ground. It’s usually about the same height as the bed that it fits under. If there are wheels attached to the frame, they’ll typically have locks that can be engaged so the bed doesn’t roll away while it’s being used. 

Folding 

A fold up, or folding trundle is also commonly called a roll-away bed. Some of the more standard varieties of these resemble more of a cot, but they’re still considered trundles.

One style of folding trundles slides under a bed, or other storage space, and lies flat. There are legs that fold up underneath the frame part that features slats or springs and holds the mattress. 

Another type of folding trundle is the kind that’s used often in hotels. It’s a metal frame that folds in half with the help of springs. It also has casters, so it can be easily rolled in and out of spaces when needed. These trundles are the ones that are usually called roll away trundles. 

Pros and Cons of Trundle Beds

And now for the good and the bad. As usual, there’s pros and cons to this style of bed too. Since we started with pros for bunk beds, we’ll do the same here, just for the sake of routine.

Pros
  • Basic trundle beds are a very inexpensive way of adding additional sleeping room.
  • Trundle beds are really easy to make, since they just slide in and out from underneath another piece of furniture. 
  • Since trundle beds are hidden unless they’re being used, nobody really knows they’re there, so they don’t have to be made to look nice every day. 
  • For smaller rooms, trundle beds are ideal because they make use of a space that’s often underutilized, if it’s even being used at all. 
  • Again, they’re easily concealed and can be made to look like part of the furniture, no matter what your style of furniture might be. 
  • Trundle beds aren’t permanent, so when you’re done with it or no longer want it, you’re able to sell it or donate it. It’s not forever a part of your room. 
Cons
  • Unless you opt for a larger frame to hold a mattress bigger than a traditional trundle size, these beds can be too small for grown-ups to sleep in comfortably. 
  • The person that’s not sleeping in the trundle bed has to be very careful to not roll over onto the trundle bed sleeper, or step on them if they get up in the night. 
  • If you’re short on space and need to make use of the space under the bed, then a trundle bed will remove some of your storage room. 
  • To pull out a trundle bed, the floor must be completely clear of anything else, so bringing out the trundle does take a certain amount of planning. 
  • Trundle beds aren’t usually meant to be used for everyday sleeping, so they do wear out after frequent use. 

Bunk Beds vs. Trundle Beds… What’s the Difference and Why is it Important?

Now that we know what exactly each bed looks like, and that they both serve essentially the same purpose, let’s dive into how they’re different. This will help discern which style, a trundle bed or bunk bed, is best suited for your needs. 

Bunk Beds are Hard to Hide

You might be looking to add extra room for guests or create more floor space for a children’s room while maintaining enough beds, and bunk beds can do that for you. However, when you have bunk beds in a room, everyone can see it.

But, bunk beds are out there, in the open. Once they’re in, they become part of the room and there’s no hiding them. Of course, you can make them part of your overall vision however you see fit, but they’re still going to be seen.

Trundle beds are actually made for the purpose of hiding. Some slide right under a couch, while others do the same under a bed. Either way, they’re easily hidden and can go unnoticed until bedtime. 

Why This is Important

If you’re concerned with how a space looks, or you’re rust priority of a space is the overall design, then bunk beds can take away from that. It takes some creativity to conceal them, or to incorporate them into the aesthetics of a room. That’s not to say it can’t be done, but for some, this is an issue worth noting.

Bunk Beds are Permanent

Whether or not you go with built in bunk beds or a simpler style, you’re still committing to having bunk beds as part of your sleeping arrangements. They’re not something that can be easily taken down when you’re done using them. 

Trundle beds don’t take near the commitment that bunk beds do, unless you’re choosing a piece of furniture with a built in trundle. But even then, if you choose to not use it anymore, you can simply remove the mattress and use it as storage. 

Why This is Important

Once bunk beds are added, they become an integral piece of the home. Replacing them means either taking a part of the beds and using them individually or removing them all together and getting new beds.

Built in bunk beds are another level of commitment and can even affect the resale value of a home and limit the buyers to those that might be interested in such a space, such as families with multiple children. 

Bunk beds are a fantastic idea when there are many people needing to sleep in one area, especially children. But when children outgrow their bunk beds, this can pose a challenge for making room for everyone to sleep. 

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