Signs of quality in a wood bed frame
May 22, 2016 9:59 AM   Subscribe

I need a new bed frame, and I found one that's hitting a lot of my buzzwords: it's hand-made from locally-sourced hardwood by a small business. And at $280 (Canadian) for a queen, it's less expensive than comparable beds from IKEA. So I'm assuming it's made by someone in their garage. How can I tell if it's well made?

The bed seemed solid when I tried moving it a few inches in the store. But I don't know a lot about woodworking, so I don't know what else to look for. How can I tell if it's likely to remain solid and non-squeaky after years of use?

It's made with solid oak, and the slats are less than 3 inches apart.

If it's more difficult to disassemble than flat-pack furniture (or just not possible to be disassembled), that's OK with me.

The store that's selling the bed is so mom & pop that there are no reviews on Yelp or Google. So no help for me there.
posted by Banknote of the year to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Look for bolts attaching the main pieces, not just screws, and definitely not nails. You can adjust bolts, to tighten things up if they get loose, but with screws you can't as much, with nails you can't at all.
posted by ananci at 10:16 AM on May 22, 2016

How are the slats held up? If it's by wood rails, is the wood quality at least as good as the wood the bed is made of?
posted by andreap at 10:36 AM on May 22, 2016

Check how well the wood is finished. Feel around on the backs & bottoms of pieces, areas that are normally out of sight. I don't mean are those areas stained/painted/varnished so much as, is the work the same quality as it is on the more-visible tops & front? We're talking basic woodworking here: neatly cut & trimmed, sanded, etc.
posted by easily confused at 11:30 AM on May 22, 2016

This would be a lot easier if you could post some photographs, including close-ups of a few details. I assume you like the way it looks, it's the right height for the mattress set you'll be using, etc. From there it's a question of long-term durability. There's no single right way to achieve that, so there aren't straightforward, reliable signs to look for.

One thing I can say is that the price alone would make me deeply skeptical of the claims they're making. Take that $280 (Canadian!) and subtract the store's profit margin to get the wholesale price, and it's hard to imagine there's enough to pay for lumber, hardware, finish, shop supplies and local wages for someone to acquire the materials, build the thing, and deliver it to the store, no matter how simple a construction it might be.
posted by jon1270 at 12:12 PM on May 22, 2016

Are they perhaps Mennonite? Some Mennonite groups don't believe it is right to charge much more than time and materials, and will make furniture that will last for life.
posted by scruss at 3:15 PM on May 22, 2016

By bed frame do you mean just the mattress/box spring support or are you including the head and foot boards? The more elaborate the foot and head boards the less likely one could build a quality bed for the asking price.

While bed bolts are a tried and true method of attaching rails to the head/foot boards there are other methods. Even machine screws can be used if they are set into threaded anchors.

However there are all sorts of ways that a piece of furniture can be constructed that will be problematic going forward. It's pretty easy to get a piece of furniture 99% right and then make a single bad decision that effects longevity.

$280 isn't much for a bed. A double bed for example is going to have at least 50 board feet of material; maybe 2-3x that depending on size of head/foot boards and rails. That is a significant investment in oak. Finish and hardware are also not cheap even for something like boiled linseed oil. And then the manufacturer has to at least cover his overhead while still allowing the store to make money. For that kind of price I'd expect an imported product and possibly unfinished.

PS: are the slats actually oak? SPF is plenty strong for a bed slat and it is a pretty common way to save significantly over hardwood in the construction of a a bed. A lot of furniture that is advertised as solid Foo is often only Foo where you can see it. With beds if often only refers to the head and foot boards.
posted by Mitheral at 10:28 PM on May 23, 2016

Thanks, everyone. I went back for another look, and was able to see where they were taking shortcuts. I'll be looking elsewhere.
posted by Banknote of the year at 11:26 PM on May 30, 2016

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