Metal vs. Wood Bunk Bed: A Tough Choice Made Easy


Bunk beds are a staple in children’s rooms everywhere and a common occurrence in camps and dorms. While bunk beds can be a huge space saver and highly beneficial in most bedrooms, they do require some thought. You want to guarantee you are getting a bunk bed that fits your personal needs and works well for those who may be sleeping on it. One major question that many have when it comes to choosing their bunk beds is whether they should purchase metal or wood.

Are metal or wood bunk beds better? It depends on your preferences. Generally speaking, you should consider some of the following factors when trying to decide between the two:

  • Safety
  • Durability
  • Comfort
  • Price
  • Aesthetics 

The remainder of this article will discuss the pros and cons that come with each bunk bed type. Along with breaking down both metal and wooden bunk beds and really getting to the heart of how they can fit your needs, we will also discuss what you should look for when making your bunk bed purchase. You can take this knowledge into your next furniture store adventure and leave knowing you chose a bed that fits your needs perfectly. 

Are Metal or Wood Bunk Beds Better?

The main question you are probably asking yourself, is simply: which is better? The problem is that this answer is not black and white, as certain individuals have different needs than others. Also, a major factor that goes into which bed will work better for your needs is your own personal style and the budget that you have available to spend. 

As far as which bunk bed is better, there are a few key things you need to consider when it comes to the overall quality and appearance of the bed. Some commonly asked questions regarding wood and metal bunk beds are:

Which Bunk Bed is Sturdier?

When you purchase a quality bunk bed, it should be sturdy no matter which material you decide to go with. However, metal does tend to be a tad less sturdy than wood when the wood is higher quality. The sturdiest on the market are beds made used from solid wood and not particle boards or artificial wood options. 

Sturdiness often comes down to who made the bed and how well it is put together. When a bunk bed is properly built, it should be sturdy enough to support its allotted weight, and most work well in a child’s room. If you do notice a certain amount of ricketiness, flimsiness, or excessive movement, it is often because of poor design or quality. 

Which Bed is More Comfortable?

Something to remember when purchasing bunk beds is that you will also have to purchase two mattresses for the beds. This is where a majority of the comfortability comes in, and you will want to set aside a certain amount of money for quality mattresses. Many do find that wooden bunk beds are more comfortable and tend to be warmer than their metal counterparts. However, no bunk bed will be comfortable without a quality mattress and a nice set of bedding. 

Which is Longer Lasting?

This goes hand in hand with the sturdiness of the piece, and wooden bunk beds are often the longer lasting of the two. Some basic things that you will want to keep in mind when it comes to the longevity of the bunk beds are:

  • Wood is heavier and tends to withstand the test of time better.
  • Most metal bunk beds come with a powder finish that makes them more durable, while wood bunk beds are often treated with varnish or paint to protect the surface. 
  • Both materials are vulnerable to scratches and marks on the surface. 

(Source: Bunk Bed King)

Which Bunk Bed is More Affordable?

In the perfect world, money would not be a factor when it comes to purchasing your bunk bed, but it often is. While everyone has a different budget, and hopefully you can get the bed that you want in your price range, we will jump into which type is more affordable. Often, metal bunk beds are less in price than wooden bunk beds. 

However, there are a lot of factors you should keep in mind when it comes to the final price. Many cheaper wooden bunk beds are not made from quality, solid wood, making them a less than perfect option. Also, cheaper metal bunk beds may not have a quality coating that will protect them with regular usage. You truly want to consider what the beds are equipped with and read reviews no matter which price range you choose. 

Which is More Aesthetically Pleasing?

When it comes to the appearance of your bunk beds, this relies heavily on what you think is more aesthetically pleasing. While we will jump fully into the pros and cons of each type of bed, some basic aesthetics you should remember about each bed style are:

  • Wooden Bunk Beds – Tend to be naturally pleasing to the eye and give a warmer, more inviting atmosphere. Wood bunk beds can be made in a large variety of shapes, styles, and arrangements. They also offer optional items from various ladder types to stairs, adding drawers for storage, and even trundles for optional sleeping arrangements. 
  • Metal Bunk Beds – Metal framed bunk beds often offer a more modern or contemporary look that some prefer, but these can also appear colder than wooden options. Metal beds are often lighter in weight and come with the previously mentioned powder-coating that make them more durable. Metal can be easily shaped into curvy forms, adding to their overall appeal. 

(Source: Bunk Bed King)

Pros and Cons of Metal Bunk Beds

While we have already discussed some of the basic positives and negatives of metal bunk beds, we will further delve into these factors. For businesses, camps, schools, etc. that need high-capacity bedding, bunk beds are the top choice. They are a great way to provide sleeping arrangements for several individuals in a relatively small space and for a more affordable price. 

Of course, there are some key pros and cons you should keep in mind before coming down to your final choice between wood and metal bunk beds. 

The Pros of Metal Bunk Beds

  • They Maximize Your Sleeping Space – As with all bunk beds, metal bunk beds allow you to use the space you have available more wisely as you can take advantage o both vertical and horizontal space. Depending on the overall height of your room, you can even opt for triple-tiered bunk beds that increase space-saving. 
  • They Are More Affordable – When it comes to bunk bed options, metal ones are often more affordable than wooden options. Even heavier duty metal options are often more expensive than nicer wooden choices. 
  • They Are Easy to Assemble – Metal bunk beds tend to be easier to assemble than wooden options. Many of these beds can be assembled in half an hour or less and require less effort. Of course, you want to ensure you are purchasing those that have good warranties and positive reviews. 
  • They Are Safe – Metal bunk beds are often able to support a large amount of weight, which is why they are great for college students and even adults. They also tend to be more resistant to moisture and pests; this makes them great for reducing problems like bed bugs. 

The Cons of Metal Bunk Beds

  • They Have a Specific Aesthetic – Depending on the overall style you are hoping to achieve, metal bunk beds can really fit your style or drastically go against it. For many, metal bunk beds can be very industrial looking and can appear almost cold. They do not offer an excessive amount of style or personality as wooden options do. 
  • They Are Not as Suitable for Young Children – Often, metal bunk beds are not as suitable in young children’s rooms as wooden options. They are often slicker when climbing the ladders and can cause more falls with children that are not extra careful; this is why they are most often sought after for older children, teens, or even young adult bedrooms. 
  • They May Not be as Durable – Compared to higher-end wooden bunk beds, most metal bunk beds are not as durable and long-lasting. The bolts holding the bunk bed together can often become wiggly and cause the best to begin to squeak. While these bolts can be tightened back into place, this can be annoying and can lead to a lowered durability over time. 

The Pros and Cons of Wooden Bunk Beds

Just as there are positives and negatives to metal bunk beds, there are also several pros and cons to wooden bunk beds. These bunk beds are much more popular amongst consumers and tend to be the top choice for those with children who want to add them to their home. However, they do come with some negatives that you must take into consideration before making your final choice.

The Pros of Wooden Bunk Beds

  • They Are More Durable – When you purchase quality wooden bunk beds, you are guaranteed a high level of durability. There is a huge difference in durability depending on the type of wood that you purchase. We will further break down the types of wood that are often used in these bunk beds and which are amongst the best. 
  • They Are More Elegant – Wooden frames are often more elegant and warmer looking than their metal counterparts. Wood can be carved to form various designs and can come in a large range of options. They can also be stained to fit different color themes, allowing you to find a bed that fits your room. 
  • They Are More Comfortable – Wooden bunk beds are often more comfortable and better equipped for younger children. They tend to be safer for them to maneuver and fit the younger aesthetic more naturally.

The Cons of Wooden Bunk Beds

  • They Hold Less Weight – Wooden bunk beds are not seen as often in dorms or young adult bedrooms as they do not hold as much weight. This is very situational, depending on the bed that you purchase, but most do not hold nearly as much weight as the available metal options. If you are purchasing for a child, this is not often a factor to consider. 
  • They Can Break Down Over Time – Just like metal bunk beds, wooden options can become squeaky and a little less durable over time. They may take longer to break down, but you will notice a slight movement in the bed over time. 

Types of Wooden Bunk Beds Available 

One thing you will want to take into great consideration when it comes to choosing your wooden bunk bed is the type of wood that the bed is made out of. This will greatly affect the overall quality of the bed and can lead to its longevity. There are several types of wood bunk beds on the market today, which include:

  • Maple – A leader amongst American furniture makers as the wood is heavy with higher resistance to abrasion and wear. The color will range from creamy white to a dark reddish-brown, offering a uniform texture. The wood, in general, can be stained, polishes well, glues satisfactorily, but it is recommended the nails or screws are bored beforehand. 
  • Cherry – This wood is a medium-strength level, is shock-resistant, and can be bent if needed to create unique shapes. The color of cherry varies from red to reddish-brown, but it will often darken with age or if it is exposed to light. This wood is great for furniture use because it is easy to machine, nails, and glues well, and can be stained or sanded to fit style needs. 
  • Walnut – This is a tough hardwood that is a great option for heavier duty bunk beds, offering a greater strength holding ability. The color of the wood is light brown to chocolate brown; some can even have a purplish hue or darker streaks. Walnut can hold paint and stain very well, works well with both hand and machine tools, and is a great option for furniture building. 
  • Oak – This is another heavy wood that has crushing strength, while it is very good at steam bending and is wear-resistant. The wood ranges in color from white to light brown, and sometimes a reddish-brown, depending on the species of the wood itself. It is recommended that screws and nails are pre-bored for this wood. 
  • Pine – This is a softer wood that has a low strength but is shock resistant. It does hold together well but does have a moderately low decay resistance. The wood ranges from creamy white to pale yellow or a light brown, working well for an antique or rustic look. It does not paint or finish as well as some of the previous options and may not hold up as long as either. 
  • Rubberwood – This is an Asian hardwood that is often used for higher-end furniture. The wood is one of the most prized for being environmentally friendly, as the wood is made from trees that have been cut down at the end of the rubber-producing life cycle. However, these can be a little more expensive to purchase. 
  • Engineered Wood – This can also be sold as composite wood, and it is manufactured by attaching wood strands, particles, veneers, lumber, or wood fiber together to make a larger composite that is stronger and more durable. However, although these wood pieces are strong and lightweight, they are often not as strong as the wood they are composed of. One of the only advantages they have over solid wood is that they are often far less expensive. 

(Source: Bunk Beds HQ)

How to Choose Your Bunk Bed

At this point, you probably have a better idea of what type of bunk bed would best fit your needs. However, there are still a lot of things to consider before visiting your local furniture store or scouring the internet for the perfect fit. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of available bunk beds on the market today in a huge range of styles. 

While your final aesthetic choosing is up to you, there are a few tips and tricks you can keep in mind when deciding your final bunk beds. Some basics to keep in mind when it comes down to choosing your bed are:

Safety Should Be Top Priority 

Safety should always be the most important aspect when choosing your bunk beds because it is critical to provide your family with safe sleep. The one thing you will want to keep in mind is that smaller children should have smaller bunk beds so that a fall does not result in immense injury. If you have older children who are more sturdy climbers, a taller bunk bed or even triple option can work fine. 

You want to make sure that your top bunk has a guard rail in place that is securely placed. This guarantees that the top bunk sleeper does not fall out of the bed and get injured in their sleep. You want to make sure that this rail is securely attached so that it does not break loose should someone roll against it. If tipping is a concern head to our article 21 ways to prevent bunk beds from tipping over.

Search for the Perfect Theme 

Depending on the age that you are buying the bunk bed for, you will want to choose a theme or color pattern that works for you. Both wooden and metal bunk beds can be painted, stained, or altered to fit a variety of styles and décor needs. These beds also come in a wide range of styles, depending on what you want for your home. 

For younger children, you may want to opt for a bunk bed that uses a stair to reach the top bunk, compared to a traditional ladder. These are often safer and can have security rails attached to them. You can also purchase a bed that includes a trundle underneath for triple the sleeping options without an increased height. 

While it can be easy to purchase beds that fit a more kiddie style, these do not last long in an actual bedroom. Often, it is best to get a bed that fits an older child or even teenage style that can be used for years and then switch out the bedding to fit a specific age range. Since these beds are not the least expensive option on the market, you do not want to pick a color or theme that only lasts a year or two. 

Ensure You Know the Room Size

Before you do any shopping, make sure that you know how much available space you have to use in the room you are planning to place the bunk bed. If you do not have the proper area for the bunk bed, purchasing it is entirely pointless. To ensure you know the space you have available, you will want to measure the area that you hope to place the bed. 

One thing you also want to keep in mind is that you know the height that you have available and also ensure that you have at least two feet of extra space between the bed mattress and the ceiling. You do not want the individual on the top bunk to hit their head when they sit up and have plenty of room to move around. Since these beds are stacked, measuring room height is critical. 

You also want to keep in mind that you need extra space, depending on the shape and design of the bed you use. For example, a trundle bed will also need an extra bit of space for the bed to pull out into the room. Also, if you choose an L-shaped bunk bed, they can be super unique, but they require a different amount of space than traditionally stacked beds. 

Some basic styles of bunk bed that are commonly sold are:

  • Twin on Twin
  • Twin over Full
  • Full over Full
  • Complete Twin
  • Futon Twin
  • Desk Twin
  • Rotates

When to Choose a Nontraditional Style

While traditional bunk beds are stacked on top of each other, there are tons of different options now that you can pick. Kids tend to have a ton of toys and extra treasures that they need to store away in their rooms. This is why many opt for bunk beds that have extra storage areas or spaces that you can use for storing extra toys and items. 

There are many bunk beds out there that do not follow the traditional pattern and can be used for proper room space usage. For example, you can find bunk beds that fit whole desks underneath and a loft on top. These are great for those who do not need the bunk beds for extra sleeping space but instead want the bunk bed for extra room spacing. If you need sleep space, some bunk beds come with added trundles.  

You can also purchase triple bunk beds, should you have a room with extra high ceilings, and offers the available space. This is a good choice for those who have several children or teens that they want to house together in one room. These are usually better for those who have older kids as they can be more dangerous for younger children to sleep on the top bunk.

Think About the Accessibility

While we did mention slightly how important accessibility is, it is something you should really keep in mind. The accessibility will be greatly affected by the person you are purchasing the bunk bed for. If you are hoping to purchase the bunk bed for a younger child, the accessibility will be a major factor. 

If the bed is designed with stairs and handrails, it is more than likely that it was designed for a younger sleeper. However, if the bed does not have these basic safety features and uses only a ladder, these are mostly designed for older sleepers. 

Choose a Material that Fits Your Needs

While you probably have a better idea of whether you want to pick wood or metal for your bunk beds, this is one of the final decisions you will want to make before purchase. You want to ensure that you are picking a bunk bed that fits your family’s needs and works well with your overall aesthetic. If you are buying the bed, hoping that it will last for years to come, you will want to ensure you are purchasing one that is extremely high quality. 

As previously mentioned, if you have smaller children, you may want to choose a wooden bunk bed. Metal is often designed for older children or teens because they can be a little more slippery. Also, wooden bunk beds tend to work better in children’s rooms. 

Conclusion

Purchasing any new piece of furniture can be a challenging endeavor, and bunk beds are no different. However, when it comes to choosing between metal or wood bunk beds, as long as you consider the safety, durability, comfort, aesthetics, and price each type offers, you can be confident in your ultimate decision. 

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