I don't think I want to sleep on the floor
August 2, 2011 5:18 AM   Subscribe

Is anything horrible going to happen if I use an air mattress in a regular bed frame? Is there a better solution?

Inflatable mattress and standard bed frame: will they be happy together? Common sense tells me that as long as there are no bits of wood, splinters, nuts, bolts, screws, etc poking out that I should be okay. But I'd like some reassurance or other solutions.

I have a bedroom that is, I think, about 9'x10' with no closet. Every bit of space is needed and I can't loft or bunk. Cost is also a concern, but if something is perfect I'll pay for it. A friend has offered the use of an inflatable double mattress, which is great, but I don't want to take up all my floorspace with a mattress. If I put the air mattress on a regular bed frame from IKEA then I could use the under-bed area for storage. Will this work? Is there some reason it wouldn't that I'm not thinking of? Is there a particular IKEA frame that would work best? I'm in the UK and I don't have the means/resources to build anything.

If this is a horrible idea I am also not averse to buying a futon, though it would cost more.

Any input or suggestions? Anyone made something like this work?
posted by Polychrome to Home & Garden (29 answers total)
This is a little confusing. You seem to be describing cost as a secondary concern, but the only benefit you'd get out of this arrangement is a free mattress. An inflated air mattress on a frame takes up just as much room as a conventional mattress on a frame.
posted by jon1270 at 5:28 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'd imagine it'd wreck havoc on your back. A futon wouldn't be much better in that regard. Murphy Beds/Wall Beds are the best solution for a space problem, but might be out of your budget. I suppose you can try the air mattress/futon for a while and see if your back can tolerate it.
posted by litnerd at 5:31 AM on August 2, 2011

I slept on an air mattress for about a year while living in a foreign country. Depending on the mattress, you'll need to plan to add air every few weeks as slow leaks are inevitable. Also be prepared for it to tear or rip a few months from now. Other than that it it should be fine, and better than a lot of cheap regular mattresses.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:43 AM on August 2, 2011

I slept on an air mattress for about six months a few years back. Since it was super-sturdy and never even partially deflated, I didn't have any back problems. I was also healthy and in my mid-20s at the time. YMMV.

I can't see what difference sleeping on an air mattress on the floor vs sleeping on an air mattress on a bed frame might be -- except possibly that if the supporting slats on your ikea frame are spaced very broadly, maybe the mattress might start to seep between them? But that would only be a problem if your air mattress loses air, I suspect.
posted by monkeymonkey at 5:46 AM on August 2, 2011

In my experience, air mattresses do not hold up well to daily use.

Unless your friend is gifting you the mattress, you'll save money by just buying a real mattress instead of buying your friend a new air mattress after you've broken his.

(data point: I lent a good air mattress to a friend and it started leaking badly within a month)
(data point #2: my friend did not buy me a new air mattress)
posted by devbrain at 5:47 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is anything horrible going to happen if I use an air mattress in a regular bed frame?

No. You'll be fine. I did this for a month or two. Is this a "double" mattress as in "full sized mattress" or double inflatable mattress as in it has two vertical sections. The latter type are especially sturdy.

Is there a better solution?

Buy a mattress.

I have a bedroom that is, I think, about 9'x10' with no closet. Every bit of space is needed and I can't loft or bunk.

How is this relevant to putting an air mattress on a bed frame?

Cost is also a concern, but if something is perfect I'll pay for it

Then find a guide to mattress shopping and start looking around.
posted by deanc at 5:51 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

An air mattress on a frame doesn't seem to solve your problem as stated; as jon1270 notes, if you want to conserve space, this doesn't help.

In your situation I would get a single futon that folds into either a couch or chair, which can be had from Ikea for not much.
posted by mhoye at 6:07 AM on August 2, 2011

Best answer: I have personally not tried this, but I think the already-not-great support of an air mattress would be even more marginal if supported on a slatted base such as is typical of IKEA beds. That is because some of the air pressure inside the mattress will be bulging downward through the slats, rather than pushing upward supporting you. You will be more likely to "bottom out," and to boot, you'll be bottoming out onto a slatted base, not onto a solid surface like the floor.

However, it may be possible to rectify those issues by layering a few layers of flattened cardboard over the slatted base.
posted by drlith at 6:11 AM on August 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Like the others, I don't see how this solves your space issue. Also, anecdata: I have a good air mattress, which I sleep on when the need arises, but I do get a bit achy after a couple of days, and it can be very uncomfortable in the winter, because they retain almost no body heat. (Be sure to use a mattress pad and a fitted sheet.) Ditto the futon suggestion, if you want something that can be moved out of the way--I futoned my way through grad school and a good chunk of employment.
posted by thomas j wise at 6:19 AM on August 2, 2011

Air mattresses are fine, in my experience, but like others I don't see how they solve your problem.

I like to keep my floor space clear so I sleep on a floor cushion by Muji that folds into thirds. Very comfy. Have been doing this for over two years now.
posted by tel3path at 6:27 AM on August 2, 2011

I think the poster may be planning to store things *under* the bedframe, and thereby gain storage space. Is this what you're thinking? I can see that being a good plan, but also, consider that with an air mattress without a frame, you could easily move it out of the way if you need extra space for bedroom dancing or yoga or whatever. You could even do a murphy-bed style thing where you have a loop hook or something that holds it vertically up against the wall.
posted by shortyJBot at 6:27 AM on August 2, 2011

I spent a while on an air mattress. It didn't last very long, maybe two months tops. It got to the point where it would be inflated before going to bed and then flat enough to be uncomfortable halfway through the night. (Also I think there are two of you--and that part was especially miserable. The lighter person rolls downhill onto the heavier person. The heavier person gets strangled by the lighter person. Argh.) So yeah, I really don't recommend it, but if you do then please budget enough to buy your friend a new air mattress of similar quality.

Futons... Depends on the type. They often have very narrow bases when unfolded, which makes them tippy. Make sure there are extra legs besides the couch base, ideally a leg actually at each corner. If your plan is to use it as a couch regularly then you'll spend a lot of time fixing your sheets (sleeping on a futon cover is, imo, right out). And eventually they do develop uneven spots and your shoulder does feel the slat underneath every night...
posted by anaelith at 6:30 AM on August 2, 2011

Yes, I think the murphy bed will be the solution to your space and storage problems- foldable during the day so you can reclaim your room. Here's one that costs only $275 (US) to make, and should work well with an air mattress. I know you said you can't build anything, but the effort and tools need for this one are extremely minimal- worth considering, anyway.
posted by heyheylanagirl at 6:46 AM on August 2, 2011

I like air mattresses. I have used them for extended periods when I did not have enough money to buy a decent mattress and box spring.

For the frame issue..
- Make sure you will have enough slats to support the mattress. Unlike a conventional mattress, there is no existing wooden frame. You can get slats cut to length at a hardware store or big box type of place.
- Cover the slats with cloth, like a blanket or something. It will reduce the issue of splinters poking holes in the mattress.
- Expect that you will have to replace the mattress due to leaks at some point. Like mentioned upthread, leaks are a common problem.
- Get a reliable air pump (Amazon.uk). It gets really old, fast to have to top up the mattress air manually and you will have to do it periodically even in the best circumstances. Most any pump will do if it has the proper nozzle. I would suggest getting one that uses wall power as opposed to batteries.

Air mattresses are not a perfect solution, but they are a nice, cheap, quick fix. Plus when you are ready to get a real mattress, you already have the frame.
posted by lampshade at 6:49 AM on August 2, 2011

Response by poster: Okay, I thought I was fairly clear but to clarify further:

I have nothing to sleep on. My friend has offered me his air mattress. I don't think he'll care if he never sees it again but that isn't the concern here. I do not want to use the air mattress on the floor because my bedroom is tiny and I need to use the space as fully as possible, so I was considering purchasing a cheap (£70) bed frame and putting the air mattress on the bed frame so I have storage underneath the bed, which an air mattress on the floor would not provide. I wanted to check if this might be a bad idea because it doesn't seem to be common practice.

I could purchase a mattress, but I'd rather not as I don't currently own a bed frame. Regular mattresses are expensive and cumbersome. If my friend were not offering his mattress, I would probably get a futon; a futon seems to me to be a better idea than purchasing a mattress and a bed frame. I don't plan on living in this place forever. A futon would cost considerably more than just purchasing a bed frame (about £200-300 vs. £70) and in my experience futons are much less comfortable than air mattresses.

I have slept on both futons and air mattresses for years. I don't really care about having a standard bed. I need something that will provide as much storage as possible, be cost-effective and easy to move is a plus. I have an air mattress and money to purchase things as my options.
posted by Polychrome at 6:53 AM on August 2, 2011

I would see if you can find a second hand divan set ideally with storage. It will provide a nice large surface upon which to put a mattress air or otherwise and if it has storage it isnt wasted space. You can get one with a matress for £180 from Tesco but if you look in charity shops you could probably find just a divan for a fraction of that cost.
posted by koolkat at 6:59 AM on August 2, 2011

How accessible does the stuff under the bed have to be? You could use a bunch of milk-crate sorts of boxes and simply lay a large piece of plywood across them. You can have the air mattress on that but it would just as easily support a proper mattress.

Which I agree with folks above - air mattresses just don't tend to last.

So the boxes-with-plank would provide a lot of storage but not be terribly easy to get in and out of; you'd have to tip the mattress and board off them. But if you have stuff you don't need to get into but every few weeks it would maximize your storage.
posted by phearlez at 7:01 AM on August 2, 2011

My absolute favorite bed in grad school was after my futon frame broke (see anaelith's comment on tippy frames) but I still had the mattress (it was a good one, as futons go). I stopped at a yard sale that was getting rid of some speaker cabinets: two 24" tall wooden two-shelf units, about a 2x1.5' footprint. I then bought some 4"x4" post at the hardware store, cut to 24" lengths. Put the sturdy cabinets in the middle, so the shelves go straight through the width of the bed, put two pieces of plywood on top with the seam running down that center, screwed tight to the top of hte shelves. Then a post under each corner of the bed, screwed together.

The advantages:
- extra-tall bed, for big storage, but a 28" tall mattress wasn't tall enough to be awkward. (IKEA beds are nice enough but too low for my taste, frankly not worth much for storage)
- having those shelves kept the storage divided up: camping stuff went under the head of the bed; boxes of stuff went on the back of the shelves (against the wall); easy-access stuff, including my "bedside table" (kleenex, alarm clock, book etc) was actually the front set of shelves, basically under my hip; and the foot of the bed nearest the rest of hte room was the semi-used storage, out-of season clothes, etc. The great thing was that nothing got lost in the back corner, and was tall enough to kind of crawl underneath and dig out what I needed.
- the plywood base meant no slats, good stability/support, basically no different from sleeping on the floor. I tried IKEA slats on a later frame, and they were too floppy/springy, and seemed to require more stability in a mattress than my futon could provide. I think slats wouldn't work well with an air mattress.
- super-cheap. $10 plywood, $8 posts, $15 at the yardsale. For replication, the hardest part would be finding some crappo wood cabinets to base your design off of. The important parts were sturdiness, a good height, and having an open back (because it was against the wall, made it easier to slide things through to the rear cabinet). I recommend craigslist or just creative shopping - you're not shopping for a bed, you're shopping for a low shelving unit that will hold 100 kilos.
posted by aimedwander at 7:26 AM on August 2, 2011

Best answer: I have slept on an air mattress that was on a bed frame, which was used as a guest bed in the home of my friend's mom. It was not the most comfortable I've ever been, but the real issue was that was LOUD. Every time you moved, the air in the mattress would redistribute, which would make it rub against the bedframe, which would make a noise.
posted by dizziest at 7:37 AM on August 2, 2011

Get an air mattress frame! You could store things in between the supports and it would be really easy to flip up the mattress and get at stuff because both the mattress and frame would be very light. You can stow the whole thing away if you want to dance around in your room and it would be handy later when you move up in the world for making a little guest bed in the living room as needs arise.
posted by amanda at 7:37 AM on August 2, 2011

That one shows a combo frame + mattress but you can get the frame separately.
posted by amanda at 7:38 AM on August 2, 2011

You say you won't be living in this new place forever, but unless you'd be moving out of it and into a dorm or somewhere that provides beds, you're still going to need a bed at your next place. Why not get a cheap mattress/box spring set, and get a cheap metal frame (in the U.S., they're something like $30 for a frame). You don't need a headboard or any of that.
posted by clone boulevard at 7:39 AM on August 2, 2011

They sell air mattress covers that are thick and quilted and make the air mattress look like a regular mattress (like this). That should help with any concerns about the air mattress being damaged by a bed frame and they make the mattress more comfortable.
posted by Kimberly at 8:37 AM on August 2, 2011

Best answer: It seems like you're cool with the air mattress, so:

Just lay a few folded blankets or towels over the bedframe to cover any screws, bolts, rough edges, etc, before putting the mattress down on it. IIRC, the underbed slats in IKEA bedframs aren't finished, so the benefit here is that you'll be able move around on the mattress itself without worrying that the movement's going to cause a snap and rip. Simple & cheap.

Just in case you're still considering other options, though, you can get this cheap mattress at IKEA right now for less than £30, and this frame for about £40. I mean, the mattress is thin and all, but I slept on the earlier version of the same pad for a year or two and at the very least it didn't need to be refilled with air every week.

Also, if there's a Craiglist-style service near you, you can pick up bedframes of all sorts for very cheap. I would ONLY buy a metal one, though -- bedbugs cost a f*ckin fortune to get rid of.
posted by alleycat01 at 9:13 AM on August 2, 2011

Speaking from personal experience, your air mattress will fail after a few months. They are just not made to stand up to daily use. I had one on slats and one on the floor. Didn't matter. When I was about to buy my 3rd air mattress I instead bought a cheap flattish mattress from Ikea.
posted by O9scar at 9:41 AM on August 2, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all the input, some of it was really helpful. I'll have a look at the condition the air mattress is in and go from there. I'm surprised at the number of people with failed air mattressess, though--I had one that I slept on every night for well over a year that's now used as an occasional guest bed at my parents. It rarely needed to be filled up and is still in great shape. Then I had a different air mattress that lasted a year with two people on it every night; the downfall with that one was a new cat who swiftly scratched many holes into it.
posted by Polychrome at 12:58 PM on August 2, 2011

I don't think a bed frame will properly support an air mattress w/out a box spring. The frame has slats, which hold the rigid box spring, on which the mattress sits.

Twin bed = saved space

Futon = saved space, and I found it reasonably comfortable.
posted by theora55 at 3:46 PM on August 2, 2011

Why not just buy a bed frame/divan + mattress from a charity shop (there are apparently 100 British Heart Foundation furniture shops, in my area there's something called ReFurnish that's run by the council, and where I used to live there was a local chain of religion-based shops that did furniture; there will be something near you), and spend another £20 on a decent mattress cover to get over the 'eww, this used to be someone else's mattress' issue (something people don't seem to care about when e.g. moving into halls of residence).

I don't know how exact the fit will be between your air mattress and an Ikea bedframe, or if you care that your pillow will end up falling in to the gap; Ikea mattresses - and presumably therefore their bedframes - are a slightly different size than the mattresses I've seen elsewhere in the UK. I suspect an air mattress won't necessarily be the same width as a normal bed either, and you may find yourself constantly catching your legs on the edge of the frame (I spent three months in that kind of situation; unexpected cold metal is never good, wrapping a towel over it helped a bit, it's not something I'd do again if I could afford to avoid it).
posted by Lebannen at 3:46 PM on August 2, 2011

If you have the means to transport it, go to a hardware store and get them to cut a piece of thick plywood about an inch smaller in each direction than the inside of your bedframe, and lay it on the slats. If you have the space, sand and finish it so there aren't splinters, or at the very least staple an old blanket to it. Put the air mattress on top of that. NOw it won't gutter out between the slats.
posted by thinkingwoman at 8:10 PM on August 2, 2011

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