Differences Between a Wall Bed and Murphy Bed Explained


Wall Bed and Murphy Bed

Wall and Murphy beds act as cabinets and beds, letting you save space in your home. However, not many people understand their differences. We will address their similarities and differences so that you can confidently determine which bed is best for you.

Despite their similar function, the wall bed comes in fewer pieces and takes less time to install than a Murphy. Murphy beds arrive in multiple pieces, making them easier to move. They have locking leg mechanisms and require less space. Lastly, wall beds have a larger weight capacity. 

Please keep on reading to learn more about wall beds, Murphy beds, and their differences.

What Is the Difference Between a Wall Bed and a Murphy Bed?

Murphy beds are a type of wall bed, but not all wall beds are Murphy beds. Let’s explore the technical components of each option to determine where they differ. We will consider wall beds as those with gas pistons and Murphy beds with a spring set.

Wall Bed

When you first order a wall bed, you will find that it arrives almost assembled. If you live in a tight apartment building, you may struggle to get the large packages inside. However, it takes less time to install because of its convenient packaging.

Wall beds employ locking legs that hold the bed upright. The legs are secure and less likely to fall open. The locking legs mechanism guides where the bed lowers, so you will always place it in the correct position.

The pressurized gas pistons move the bed between the two positions. When opening, they offer a lift to facilitate the process. As you close the bed, the pressurized gas will dampen the movement. 

Gas pistons do not require floor mounting, and they have few moving parts. They are durable, reliable, and aesthetically appealing because the visible components stay within the cabinets. These durable pistons resist material damage like breakage, failure, and fatigue. They have a fast installation process, and you can replace them easily.

Wall beds have smaller cabinets, making them save more space. However, they also offer less storage. Wall beds are often shorter than Murphies as well, preserving even more room.

While neither bed will normally approach the maximum weight capacity, wall beds can hold 4,000 pounds. This expansive capacity comes from the strong metal components.

Murphy Bed

Murphy Bed

After ordering a Murphy bed, it should arrive in multiple small parts. You can readily move it through tight spaces, making Murphy beds ideal for rooms with small doors or upstairs locations. However, it will take longer to install a Murphy bed. You should follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully, or else you may experience a malfunctioning bed.

Murphy beds utilize metal spring mechanisms that hold them closed when upright. They attach to the Murphy bed’s sides, which makes them take up more space. The original Murphy bed also used a heavy spring mechanism, which they have redesigned and perfected over the years. Modern Murphy beds source their springs from North America. Most have bulkier cabinets with bi-fold doors rather than a panel, and they do not always stay in the cupboard.

After installing the bed, you place the springs under tension. When you lift the bed, the potential energy in the springs converts to kinetic. As you move the bed, the springs release the stored energy and generate extra force that works with your applied force to displace the bed.

You will need tools and gloves to install the spring system. If you are not handy, you may want to hire a professional to help you install or replace springs from the Murphy bed. You will need to mount your Murphy bed to the floor. 

Over time, the metal will weaken from the weight applied to the bed, so you will need to replace your springs. They elongate and fatigue, so the bed may not fit in the cabinet correctly. Because of their heavy frames, Murphy beds can leave holes in the floor. Many have too many springs to fold and unfold daily, so you may wish to get a decorative rug to conceal the damaged ground when you lock it up.

Murphy beds can hold around 2,000 pounds. While this capacity is half that of wall beds, you are unlikely to reach this value. However, it does indicate that Murphy beds are not as durable because their metal springs have a lower yield strength and plastically deform faster.

Similarities Between Wall and Murphy Beds

The comfort of these beds depends on the mattress you choose. You can get one up to 12 inches thick. Since you will sleep on a regular mattress, you will find that wall beds are more comfortable than futons and compare to a standard bed.

If you have a guest room, you may want to install a wall bed or Murphy bed. They also work if you wish to convert your child’s old room into an office with the option to give them a bed when they visit home. 

Many people use wall beds for second guest rooms as they can normally use the space as an office, fitness center, living room, or art studio. If you ever have too many people over at your house, you can unfold the bed and let them spend the night.

Some risks associated with Murphy and wall beds come from them not securing properly and falling on the victim. Other cases involved the cabinet portion collapsing on a sleeping individual and trapping them inside. Keep in mind that only a few deaths have occurred from Murphy beds, and they are safe overall.

Customization Options

These beds come with multiple amenities, such as lighting on the bridgeboard. These can act as reading lights that gently illuminate the sleeping area.

For those who want to use their beds in an office, you can get a drop-down table. These protrude from the bed’s bottom and provide a simple desk to hold your laptop or supplies. While both Murphy and wall beds can have these, drop-down tables are usually smaller on Murphy beds than walls. 

Some wall beds have side cabinets that create a more cohesive appearance when you fold the bed. You can use them in addition to the bottom cabinets or save them for your guest’s storage needs.

The sides of the cabinet may have sliding trays that guests can use as nightstands. They slide back in the cabinet during the day to save space and appear discrete.

Another option is headboard storage. You can keep bedding, pillows, and blankets in the headboard so that everything your guests will need is in the bed. Sometimes you can get bookshelves for some open-faced storage.

Does a Murphy Bed Have to Be Attached to the Wall?

In short, a Murphy bed does not need to be attached to the wall.

The two most common options are wall-mounted and floor-mounted. Modern wall beds require wall mounting because of their gas piston lifting mechanism that raises and lowers the bed platform. These beds attach to studs on the wall, and they cause minimal damage.

Murphy beds are floor-mounted because of their spring mechanism. The springs are counterbalanced to lift and lower the bed. However, they can permanently deform the floor and may become challenging to uninstall.

Sometimes you can find a no-mount, free-standing Murphy bed desk. These work best for renters who want more space without the risk of damaging their landlord’s walls. They have a desk-like platform with hinges attached to the bottom of the frame.

The desk automatically falls flat below the mattress when you pull down the bed. It will hold onto papers, so you do not need to remove your work. The metal legs on the desk act as a counterbalance for the bed, keeping the mattress upright during the day.

How to Install a Basic Wall Bed

When installing a wall-mounted bed without a piston or spring mechanism, you will need:

  • Protective eyewear
  • Heavy-duty gloves
  • Leveler
  • Sandpaper
  • Paint or stain
  • Brushes
  • Stud finder
  • Pencil 
  • Power drill
  • Screws
  • Standard drill bits
  • L-brackets
  • Rotating brackets
  • Bolts
  • Nuts
  • Wrench
  • Measuring tape

As well, it’s important to take safety precautions before installing by using protective eyewear like goggles and heavy-duty gloves. You can also wear earplugs or headphones if you do not like the sound of a power drill. Try to place the bed in the most level portion of your room. You can use your leveler to check. 

Begin the installation by using your stud-finder to find the studs behind the desired drywall where you will install your bed. Studs are usually spaced every 16 inches, but this value does vary between houses. An electronic stud finder should beep once it locates the correct spot. Use a pencil to mark where the studs are on the wall.

While each manufacturer has a different hardware kit, you will typically follow similar instructions to these. Using two studs as a reference, install the cabinet on the wall. Attach the cabinet so that two studs lie within the cabinet evenly spaced from the edges. Take the first L-bracket and screw one side in the stud and the other in the cabinet’s top support. Repeat this with the second L-bracket.

If your Murphy or wall bed has a rotating mechanism, fasten the rotating brackets six inches from the floor on the cabinet’s inside. Hold it even with the front edge of the cabinet and drill a hole in the wood through each bracket hole. Attach nuts and bolts to secure the brackets on both sides of the cabinet.

Attach the mattress frame to the rotating mechanism by aligning it with the brackets and sliding it into the cabinet. Use the bracket holes as guides to drill into the mattress frame. Insert nuts and bolts into each hole, secured with a wrench. Get the stand on the mattress frame by centering it on the footer. Drill through the stand’s holes and install bolts and nuts.

You can keep the bed closed by drilling two-inch bolts through the cabinet. Have someone hold the bed shut, drill a hole through the frame and cabinet below the footer, and insert a two-inch bolt that acts as a latch. If you do not have shelves, you can install a handle on the front and top. Place it twelve inches from the cabinet’s top to help you pull the bed down.

Optional Steps

Before installing the bed, you can sand your wall bed to prepare the surface. You can apply paint or stain using brushes to alter the appearance of the frame and cabinets. Make sure to add a finishing coat to preserve the color so that you will not need frequent touch-ups.

You attach spring and piston mechanisms according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Springs will require more tools and brute force, while pistons typically have all of the required materials in the kit.

At a Glance

The differences between a wall bed and a Murphy bed are as follows:

  • Murphy beds are a specific brand of wall beds
  • Wall beds come partially assembled, giving them a quicker installation process
  • Murphy beds arrive in smaller boxes, making them more navigable than wall beds
  • Wall beds have a locking legs mechanism to hold the bed upright
  • Murphy beds use their springs as a counterbalance to keep the bed closed
  • Wall beds have pressurized gas pistons to help with lifting and lowering the bed
  • Murphy beds use energy stored in compressed springs to balance and move the bed
  • Wall beds require wall mounting and take up less space
  • Murphy beds require floor mounting and take up slightly more space
  • Wall beds minimally damage the walls and can move up and down daily
  • Murphy beds permanently damage the floors and cannot be moved as frequently
  • Wall beds are more durable and easier to repair than Murphy beds
  • Wall beds have a 4,000-pound capacity
  • Murphy beds have a 2,000-pound capacity

Keep in mind that people use the terms “Murphy bed” and “wall bed” interchangeably, and they may refer to a piston-operated bed as a Murphy. When choosing which option you want, consider your living space. If you cannot transport the unit into your home in large pieces, you may prefer a Murphy bed. However, a wall bed will take up slightly less space if you live in a micro-apartment or tiny home.

Also, consider your installation skills. The easiest model to install does not have a piston or spring mechanism, but it lacks the durability and movability of the others. Springs require the most work and care to attach, but gas pistons are somewhat simpler to secure.

If you are renting your place, check with your landlord to see if they approve of drilling. You could get a free-standing Murphy bed desk, though it is not as stable as a standard option. Even if your landlord approves of drilling, they may prefer the minimal damage of a wall bed as you can more readily conceal the holes.

Lastly, figure out what special features you want. These days, you can get a wall bed that doubles as almost anything. Whether you want cabinets, lights, a desk, or bookshelves, you can find an option that meets your needs.

We suggest choosing one with ample storage space, particularly if you plan on using it in a makeshift guest bedroom. Your visitors can store their clothes, toiletries, and bedding during their stay, and you can convert it back into your yoga studio, office, or craft room once they leave.

Now that you know the differences between a wall bed and a Murphy bed, you can confidently pick the perfect one for your home.

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