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What are Slat Beds?

By J. Beam
Updated May 16, 2024
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Slat beds are beds that support a mattress with a series of wooden or metal slats rather than through the use of separate box springs. This type of furniture often sits lower to the floor than beds with box springs, but not always. A lot depends on the frame and its height, as well as the height of both the headboard and the footboard. A slat bed that is made from top-quality materials or that carries the name of a famous designer might be quite pricey, but in most cases this style is somewhat inexpensive and many people consider it to be something of an “economy” choice.

Basic Concept

Beds often look like simple pieces of furniture, but they can be pretty complicated. A lot of this has to do with the mattress and how it is supported, since mattresses can be really heavy and keeping them balanced and steady is key to a comfortable night’s rest. The frame is basically the skeleton of any bed, and is what elevates the mattress off the ground. The simplest frames are little more than a base, often with legs, where the mattress can sit, though more complicated versions include elaborate headboards and footboards.

In a slat bed, the frame includes a series of thick planks, called “slats,” that run from one side to the other. These are usually made out of wood, but they can also be constructed from metal. The slats form a supportive base that people can sit a mattress right on top of, creating a single piece of furniture that is ready to use. This is really different from the taller box spring beds that are popular in many parts of the world.

A box spring looks sort of like a second mattress, but where a mattress is made of soft material the box spring is firm, usually made of metal coils or springs that provide support and often a bit of bounce to the bed. It also adds a lot of height. Standard bed frames are usually designed to conceal the box spring with side boards, and many sheet sets come with “dusters” or "dust ruffles" that are essentially decorative fabric covers to conceal the sides of the box spring. Slat beds don’t require these since there is nothing that needs to be hidden.

Different Styles

All slat beds are distinguished by the way they support the mattress, but they can come in many different styles and in basically any size. Bunk beds and loft beds are almost always made this way, since both are usually trying to save space; eliminating the box spring makes each workable. Many beds sit relatively low to the floor, creating the illusion that they don’t take up as much room as they do. This makes them very popular in small apartments and other economy-sized spaces.

Almost any style of bed can incorporate slat support, though. Taller frames usually require sturdy legs and bases, and are often referred to as “platform” beds due to the way they elevate things. Wrought iron, four poster, and more contemporary modern designs can all be made using slats though these may actually work out to be more expensive depending on how complicated they are to put together. Most “standard” bed frames are designed to support weight with a box spring, and using slats instead often requires some creativity on the manufacturer’s part.

Choosing the Right Mattress

Without a box spring, the mattress must do all the work of supporting sleepers. People with this sort of bed often spend a lot of time researching their mattress options to get one that is of good quality and provides the right balance of firmness and softness. Slats tend to provide more rigid support than box springs, which means that lumps and bumps in an inexpensive mattress might be felt more than they otherwise would be.

Common Pros and Cons

In most cases, slat beds are less expensive than their box spring counterparts. This frees up more money to spend on a quality mattress, and often works out to be a good choice for shoppers on a budget. These sorts of beds may also provide a good amount of storage space underneath. A lot of this depends on frame style, since a bed that sits right on the floor would clearly not accommodate boxes or other storage solutions; beds that sit a it higher up on platforms often have a lot of space, though, since the absence of a box spring frees up room for other things.

These sorts of beds can be more fragile and they don’t always absorb shock very well. Jumping on slat-supported beds isn’t usually a good idea since there is a higher likelihood of breaking the supports and collapsing the mattress. The slats can also sometimes be somewhat difficult to correctly assemble and disassemble. People often hire professional movers or furniture specialists when things need to be relocated to make sure that everything gets put together properly.

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Discussion Comments
By anon991802 — On Jul 20, 2015

I bought a new slat bed. I 'd never had one before, and it took 20 minutes to set up.

By Babalaas — On Jul 01, 2010

I have a slat bed and I have never had a more comfortable bed. I like the fact that slat beds integrate the support into the bed frame.

The biggest problem I have with normal beds is that the box springs often deform, allowing the bed to sag in the middle. My slat bed is about four or five years old, but it still feels like it is new.

My slat bed is a platform bed with a low profile. The mattress I use is an inner spring mattress with individually wrapped coils and foam edges. It is a little on the softer side, but the support offered by the slats compensates for this.

I have had many different beds in my life, and this is by far my favorite set up. The frame is not very expensive, and as the article stated, I was able to invest in a great mattress.

By GlassAxe — On Jul 01, 2010

@ anon46596- I have a slat bead that I bought a few years ago. I had to take it apart when I moved and ran into the same problem. I could not quite figure out how to put everything back together again.

I bought the bed from Ikea, and moved to a city that had an Ikea. I called the store to ask if they had any solutions, and they directed me to their website.

Ikea has an archive that has the assembly instructions for almost all of the products they make. I was able to view and print the instructions for my particular bed.

If you bought your bed from somewhere else, I would still recommend looking up a slat bed frame on their website. They may have a similar design that you can download the directions from. This will at least help with re-assembling your bed. I am sure the design would be similar.

By anon46596 — On Sep 27, 2009

We had to take apart our slat bed, in order to remove from a bedroom (renovation), and now we are having hard time re-assembling it. Need suggestions.

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