Stabilizing a wooden bedframe
December 14, 2009 2:24 PM   Subscribe

How can I make my bed more stable?

My bedroom set is all lovely blond wood furniture from the early 40s. I love it, and don't want to give it up. The bed, however, is becoming exasperating.

The substantial headboard and footboard are connected by long pieces (similar to but thicker than 1x6), each of which has a half-inch lip to hold the slats which support the mattress. There are only four slats, which are pieces of 1x3. When all four slats are in place, the bed supports the mattress quite well, with very little noise. The problem is that, over the course of a few months of sleeping on it (or fewer, if it's being used for more vigorous activity), the slats shift and fall out (usually one at a time, thank goodness), making the whole thing seem unstable, and creak like crazy. Re-setting them is a major hassle involving moving the bed, lifting the mattress and box spring, and shimmying the slats back into place multiple times on either side until they stay put.

How can I fix my bed so that I:
a) don't damage the frame
b) keep the slats from falling out
c) make the bed more stable than it currently is with all four slats in place

Should I add more slats? How can I stabilize them so they won't fall out? Would it make more sense to use a sheet of plywood which would be less likely to fall out, or would that be too heavy for the narrow lip?
posted by ocherdraco to Home & Garden (28 answers total)
I have an old bed in my guest room and we went the plywood route after my dad dislodged the slats and fell down a few times. You have to screw the plywood into the frame or else it shifts just like the slats do.
posted by cabingirl at 2:27 PM on December 14, 2009

Fuck it; drill the slats into the frame. Wood is made to have holes put in it and unless you're planning on making this a family heirloom, it's not the kind of damage anyone could ever see or even care about.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:29 PM on December 14, 2009

And by drill I mean screw.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:29 PM on December 14, 2009

I'm worried about splitting the lip since it's so narrow. How can I keep that from happening?
posted by ocherdraco at 2:31 PM on December 14, 2009

I would do two things. Get a few more slats and frill a larger hole than necessary in each end of the slat and place a screw in it so that it can be unscrewed if necessary and with the extra room, it can expand and contract as needed.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 2:32 PM on December 14, 2009

frill is the same as drill
posted by JohnnyGunn at 2:32 PM on December 14, 2009

I have a bed like this. There are two nylon ribbons that are stapled into and connect the slats. The lip at each end on each side has a peg placed into it so that the slats can't pull towards the center. The ribbon and pegs keep the slats from shifting around. You could easily modify the bed to do something like this by adding the equivalent of pegs, then placing the slats and stapling the ribbon in place.

This helps keeps the slats from falling out, but the bed still wobbles. I got some brass L brackets and short screws and put two in each corner of the bed. That helps quite a bit.
posted by procrastination at 2:33 PM on December 14, 2009

Perhaps buying some good wood glue to attach the slats instead of drilling? In general, I also recommend getting more slats. I did this for my bed and it just feels a lot more sturdy.
posted by Atreides at 2:35 PM on December 14, 2009

Since it looks like your bed is a double/queen, I wonder whether plywood alone would have the necessary strength to keep from bowing in the middle over time? The standard for unreinforced plywood bookshelves, for instance, is to have supports every ~3 feet to prevent the shelves from sagging under the weight of the books, and you're talking about a lot more than book-weight on the centre of that bed.

Could you cut smaller lengths of 1x3 to fit between the slat ends along the edge of the bed, thus wedging the slats in place so they wouldn't shift as much? Or could you put a piece of plywood on top of the slats, then screw/glue/nail the slats to the plywood?
posted by Bardolph at 2:37 PM on December 14, 2009

How about a slatted bed base, like this one from Ikea. It's hard to tell from the picture, but there is a fabric ribbon that is attached to each slat. Here's another company that shows that more clearly. That keeps them from shifting around too much once they're on the bed. My Ikea frame also had a few pegs sticking from the side lips. The slats to either side of the pegs would not be able to shift very far before being stopped by the peg.
posted by saffry at 2:41 PM on December 14, 2009

My bed has a bunch of slats bound together by jute webbing, much like these. There are pre-drilled holes in the end slats and the frame for attaching them with screws, but I didn't notice that when I first bought the bed and have never bothered screwing them in. They work fine. Sometimes they get a bit bunched up, but I just reach under the bed and give them a yank on each end so they're taut again. Maybe something like that would work with your frame?
posted by trip and a half at 2:42 PM on December 14, 2009

I say drill small holes in the slats and the support rail at the appropriate points, then find a nail that is just a bit smaller than the holes (or find the nails first, then drill appropriately larger-sized holes). Anyway, size the nails so that they slide through the hole without using force, but where the head of the nail is large enough not to pass through the hole. Pick a length so that the nail goes through the slat, into the support rail, but not out the bottom (don't want to catch the point of the nail on something under the bed etc). This way the nail will keep the slats from sliding, but since you're not nailing it in, it shouldn't damage anything (you're just using the nail as a makeshift pin to prevent horizontal sliding). Hope that makes sense.
posted by bengarland at 2:49 PM on December 14, 2009

I think my advice may be the cheapest solution so far if you already have access to a drill. Worst case scenario you have to spend a few cents on a half dozen nails.
posted by bengarland at 2:51 PM on December 14, 2009

If you would like to keep as minimally "invasive" as possible, something as simple as velcro, would probably keep your slats in place... Three inches of velcro with a compressive load on top should be pretty resistant to movement.
posted by crenquis at 3:07 PM on December 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

It it was my bed, I'd do what Optimus Chyme suggests and put some screws in it.

If you don't want to drill or nail or glue the bed at all, you could try some strong double-sided adhesive foam tape (or pads), between the lip and the slats.
posted by Mike1024 at 3:18 PM on December 14, 2009

Seems to me (though it's been a long time since geometry class) that if I'm correct in understanding that the issue is the slats shifting into a diagonal position and falling out, that wider slats would be more stable. Maybe switching to 1x6 slats would help?
posted by EvaDestruction at 3:19 PM on December 14, 2009

I don't know if this would work, but how about laying down grip liner where the slat touches the bed. You might have to use two layers to make it snug enough. You can get grip liner at places like Target but I've also seen them at drugstores.
posted by moonshine at 3:25 PM on December 14, 2009

Get some slightly longer slats. Put them in on a slight angle, tap into place with a hammer or rubber mallet. Now they are wedged in there firmly.
posted by fixedgear at 3:28 PM on December 14, 2009

I have a really old bed as well - I have a LOT of slats for it. I'd get some 1x4's or 1x6's at Home Depot/Lowe's, have them cut to size (bring one of your slats in and they can match the size if you don't trust yourself to measure exactly), and deploy. If you still have problems, I'd go with the velcro mentioned above. Get the adhesive kind, and then when you move again, you don't have to deal with unscrewing anything or prying out something that's been glued. I would be concerned in either of those situations about damaging the bed.
posted by Medieval Maven at 3:32 PM on December 14, 2009

Oh have I ever been there. First there are these on ebay for beds that have a box spring:

The supports on the sides of my platform bed broke. I had my handyman order (he had them made somewhere) and screw in steel supports on each side piece AND then we added plywood on top of the new steel supports.
posted by andreap at 3:45 PM on December 14, 2009

Don't know why the link does not appear:
posted by andreap at 3:46 PM on December 14, 2009

Start by putting a screw on either side of each slat to keep it from wandering sideways. Don't try to attach the slats to the frame. Pre-drill (I cannot over state the inportance of pre-drilling) wood that is thin or fragile or any time you are screwing something near the edge or near the cut end. The trick is to drill a hole just the size of the central shaft of the screw (minus the threads). That way, the threads bite into the wood without the body of the screw stressing and weakening or even splitting it as it's forced in.

If the problem is that the lip is too narrow, build it up with a 1X3 or whatever's handy. Drill holes every foot along the new wood. Make the holes big enough for the screw to pass though easily and then clamp or hold the new board in place and use it as a guide to drill the smaller diameter holes in the bed frame. Put some tape on your drill bit to make sure you don't go too deep. Then put carpenter's glue onto the wood and put in the screws in.
posted by bonobothegreat at 4:00 PM on December 14, 2009

What about metal slats with support leg? They still require you to drill them into the lip on the rails to support them, but since the take the weight off the side rails should keep them from bowing.
posted by nulledge at 5:49 PM on December 14, 2009

Maybe try velcro on the slats you already have. You can buy it in rolls. If that doesn't work, slightly longer slats (as has been mentioned) will work. The wider the better without having to force them in. If they squeak for.... ahem, any reason, put some bar soap on the ends of the strips. Tighter fitting, wider boards work better than the 1X3s. The wider the better. Even if you have to cut extra wide strips of plywood. Failing either of those, drill small holes through the lip and the slats. Use small diameter bolts and don't forget to use washers.
posted by Taurid at 10:10 PM on December 14, 2009

Wider and/or slightly longer slats should do it in the least invasive manner. Plain old 1x6 pine should do it and if you are at all handy with a saw be easy to make yourself.
posted by TedW at 6:18 AM on December 15, 2009

I think I'm going to try the velcro route, and add more slats. I'm going to keep the 1x3 that I have, but use 1x6 for the new slats. Normally I have no hesitation in drilling into things, but even with pre-drilling I worry about splitting the wood on these.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:49 AM on December 15, 2009

Note to ALL answers, read ALL answers, ....!!!!
posted by Taurid at 9:42 PM on December 16, 2009

I've added velcro to the existing slats. So far, no problems, though the bed is a little noisier now.
posted by ocherdraco at 12:17 PM on March 12, 2010

« Older How to handle taxes when you earn money in...   |   Meditation Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.