Can Top Bunks Collapse? We Find Out


Top Bunk

So, you’re interested in purchasing bunk beds, or perhaps you’ve already invested in a set, and now that you have the bunks assembled and in place in your home, you’re wondering how safe is the set-up, and whether or not the top bunk can collapse? 

All bunk beds come with manufacturer’s instructions on how to set them up properly to reduce the risk of a malfunction such as a collapse. However, this doesn’t mean they won’t collapse; following both the safety guidelines and assembly instructions is the best way to ensure a safe bunk bed set-up. 

Besides helping save space, bunk beds can be aesthetically pleasing; they cost less than two regular beds would cost, and the bunks can provide a sense of privacy within a room. They can be a fun and bonding experience, especially for younger children. However, if you have concerns about their safety or stability, read on to discover if bunk beds are prone to collapsing and measures you can take to provide a safe sleeping environment. 

Can the Top Bunk in a Bunk Bed Collapse?

Bunk beds, like many furniture items available on the market, can malfunction and can collapse. However, unlike other furniture items, a bunk bed collapsing carries a greater risk of injury due to its function and design.

Bunk beds are two beds, one of which is placed over the other, and are generally purchased for more efficient use of household space. A large percentage of bunk beds are marketed for use in children’s rooms. Given that you have one person sleeping on the top bunk and a person tucked in below them, and because there can be youngsters involved, it’s easy to see why there’s a concern with bunk beds collapsing.

Here’s a list of reasons why bunk beds—specifically the top bunk—might collapse: 

  • Defective components used in the set-up, including the frame and bed base material and the bolts and screws to fasten everything together
  • Poor bunk bed design using inferior materials
  • Not following the manufacturer’s instructions for properly assembling your bunk beds

Another big reason bunk beds collapse is due to excessive weight. You’ll want to read the manufacturer’s recommended weight capacity for your unit and adhere to them. Here’s a few examples of bunk beds for children and their weight capacities: 

Type of Bunk Bed and MaterialWeight Limit (Lbs.)
Twin Over Twin – wood 165 lbs. per bed 
Twin Over Full – pine Top – 250 lbs. Bottom – 500 lbs.
Twin Over Twin – metal 220 lbs. per bed 

Always be sure to follow the recommended weight capacities. If you take care to assemble your bunk beds following the manufacturer’s instructions and follow the weight guidelines, you’re ahead of the game to ensure you have a safe bunk bed set-up. It’s also worth noting that these weight limits only apply when the bunk beds are being used safely. For example, if you or your child weigh over the recommended limits provided and try to jump on the bed, it can quickly become unsafe to use. 

Safety Tips to Ensure the Top Bunk Doesn’t Collapse 

So, now that you have researched which bunk beds are the safest for your home, what are some other considerations to ensure the bunk beds don’t collapse after being set up in your home? 

Some of this may seem obvious, but it’s crucial to follow these guidelines to avoid issues down the road with your bunk beds. Here’s a list of things you should do when you assemble bunk beds:

  • Carefully follow the manufacturer’s directions for assembling your bunk bed; there’s a reason why you’d want to use specific parts in particular places, and it has to do with safety. 
  • Install all the parts, especially guardrails; you might be tempted to leave railings off for better bed placement, or you think that they may not be necessary. Leaving parts off is a bad idea; bunk beds are designed with safety in mind. 

What Else Can You Do to Create a Safe Bunk Bed Experience?

The American Academy of Pediatrics weighs in with a list of other safety tips; here’s a rundown of the safety items to think about when you add bunk beds to your home:

  • For added protection, place the bunk bed so that it is in the corner of the room; the walls provide additional support.
  • Never hang anything from the bunk bed; items such as belts and scarfs are a potential strangulation risk. 
  • Make sure to block any gaps between the mattress and the guardrail. 
  • Make sure the guardrails are at least five inches high.
  • Secure the ladder to the bed frame. 

As you can see, there’s a lot to be concerned about when you choose to use bunk beds. Doing your research on bunk bed safety, being proactive about proper assembly, and creating a safe sleeping environment will go a long way in making you feel good about using bunk beds as a sleeping arrangement. 

Who Should Sleep on the Top Bunk? 

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, over half of all bunk bed injuries occur to children under the age of six. Because of this statistic, the AAP recommends that you do not allow children six and younger to be up on the top bunk. 

The AAP also stresses the importance of teaching your children the importance of being safe and cautious around bunk beds. Here’s what the AAP recommends regarding your children and bunk beds:

  • Always use the ladder and not the frame to get to the top bunk.
  • Keep the area around the beds free of clutter and objects if someone falls from the top bunk.
  • No rough-housing on the beds.
  • No children under six on the top bunk— this is important; that’s why it’s here too! 
  • Make sure there is a night light near the bunk beds so if you need to climb out of bed, you can see where you are stepping. 

The top bunk should be reserved for children over six; statistically, they are less apt to be injured on the top bunk. However, it is still important to teach your children the importance of being careful around and on bunk beds.

Likewise, adults can also sleep on the top bunk, as long as they fall under the weight limit provided by the manufacturer. Just make sure that the bunk bed is built explicitly for adults, as these will usually be able to handle larger weights. 

How Do You Know a Bunk Bed is Safe to Use?

So far, we’ve covered why bunk beds can collapse, but how do you know the bunk bed you are purchasing is safe to use to begin with?

A great place to investigate safety issues regarding bunk beds is the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. Here you can read about standard federal law requirements enacted in 2000 and recent updates like the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA). These regulations serve to protect consumers from inferior, dangerous products. The site is also a valuable resource for you to research and report unsafe products. 

This document details the safety requirements that a bunk bed manufacturer must follow to get certified to produce and sell bunk beds to the public. The basic guidelines cover:

  • The definition of what a bunk bed is and the purpose of the rules.
  • What the actual requirements are in terms of guardrail placement and bunk bed end openings. 
  • The testing procedures that are used to ensure bunk bed safety. 
  • Additional standards (ASTM F1427-13) that apply to bunk bed performance and safety. 

Anyone manufacturing or importing bunk beds must show a General Certificate of Conformity (GCC) that the bunk beds comply with the rules and guidelines and pass “testing or a reasonable testing program.”

The US Consumer Safety Commission is a great starting point to gather information about making the safest and best bunk bed choice for your home. Ensuring that you have a General Certificate of Conformity should give you peace of mind about making a bunk bed purchase. 

Important Tip: If you buy a used bunk bed, do your research, and make sure the bunk bed has a General Certificate of Conformity. The federal laws listed on the CPSC were enacted in 2000, so bunk beds made before 2000 do not follow these regulations; purchase carefully and at your own risk. 

Conclusion

In summary, yes, given the design of a bunk bed, a collapse is possible. There are guidelines manufacturers must follow to ensure safety protocol, and there are practical things you and your children (or anyone) can do to have the safest bunk bed experience possible. 

Sources:
www.mattressnut.com/weight-loft-bed-bunk/
www.aappublications.org/content/33/7/22.6
www.sleepadvisor.org/are-bunk-beds-safe-for-kids/
www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/16/appendix-to_part_1213
www.cpsc.gov/Business–Manufacturing/Business-Education/Business-Guidance/Bunk-Beds
www.nationwidechildrens.org/research/areas-of-research/center-for-injury-research-and-policy/injury-topics/home-safety/bunk-bed-safety

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