Build or Buy a Bed Frame? The LIST of Pros and Cons


I have built many bed frames, slept on the floor many times for up to eight months at a time, built wood platform frame in an old metal box spring, and just about anything that you can imagine over the decades. I don’t know if I am an expert, but I will share my thoughts if you are interested.

A person should build a bed frame to save money, get exactly the design needed for the bedroom, build a very strong foundation, make it a family project, and impress your family and friends. One can build storage drawers and shelves designed for the builder’s exact needs.

If you can build it, you should! To heck with the store-bought made in China that has a curb to gutter warranty. Once the delivery person gets it to the curb you gutter! Oh don’t even start with the impossible “return policy”:

  • Box it back up exactly as we sent is, including no cuts in the plastic bag it was in when you received the package.
  • Send it back to us in a first-class seat on a Boeing 747 to prevent damage (they sent it by the world record holder in the consecutive soccer/football kicks, not a plane).
  • Hey hey hey, it is scratched, but that is ok, we will only take 20% off of your return. Plus the first-class flight back to us, plus the cost of the famous footballer to kick it back to you, so you only owe the seller $4,947 for your $100 product.

    Cool, sign me up… as an investor in that business.

If you are getting old and lazy like me you can simply buy a quality one like this and have it delivered to your door in a couple of days 🙂

Scott Boyd
wood joists for bed

Why Should You Build Your Own Bed Frame?

You should build your own foundation for some of the reasons listed below:

  • To prove that you are a man.
  • To prove that you don’t need a man.
  • To save money because the bank account is empty or you are just a tightwad.
  • To build a stronger foundation to handle WWE worthy wrestling nights.
  • To create a better design for your bedroom and your needs.
  • To allow your creative juices flow and jazz up the design with beautiful hardwoods, book lights, navigation lights underneath, custom paint job (think artwork).
  • For a sense of pride and accomplishment. Show off your work to your family and friends
  • To make money. Maybe your family or friends want you to build them a bed frame. If you build a couple each year you can earn a few bucks and even save money on your taxes by making it a business to claim expenses against your day job salary.

    It is pretty easy to rack up $10,000 in expenses through the year for a home office, utilities, cell phone, interest on car payments, fuel, etc.

    If you pay 30% to the taxman every year you can save $3,000 not including the income that you earn on the side.
  • Family time. If you are building a bed frame for your child this is an opportunity to ask for their input for the design.

    It should be pretty easy to get him or her excited about this project and maybe they are willing to help build it.
white bed frame diy

How can I Make my Own Bed Frame?

This is too big a topic for a subheading in an article so I will include a link to our building a pallet bed frame article and include a few of the best YouTube videos that I have found over the past month.

What Kind of Wood Should I use for a Bed Frame?

The kind of wood you should or should not use information:

MDF

MDF (Medium-Density Board) is basically glue and sawdust, which is great for not supporting uses. It is available in thicknesses of:

  • 1/8″
  • 1/4″
  • 1/2″
  • 5/8″
  • 3/4″

For the construction of a bed frame the most common thickness is 5/8″ and 3/4″. The standard sizes of a sheet is 4′ x 8′ and 2′ x 8′. Some hardware stores cut it up even more to make more money by selling 4′ 4′ and 2′ x 4′ sheets.

MDF PROS:

  • MDF is easy to sand, router, and cut.
  • Easy to paint.
  • Is available in 2′ wide x 8′ long sheets, which makes it easier to transport in your Prius and easier for anyone lacking physical strength.

    Although it still requires strength and coordination to swing a sheet around without damaging property or people.
  • Available in shelving widths with a white vinyl coating
mdf shelving white vinyl

MDF CONS:

  • MDF can be used for headboards, footboards, side rails that contain a box spring or mattress. MDF is easy to work with, but it is damn near poison when I work with it.
  • If I don’t wear a mask when cutting it will a table saw or a circular saw or when sanding I get wheezy, start sneezing, and my eyes start to water and become irritated.
  • It is HEAVY!
  • Cannot stain the surface (no wood grain so why would anyone want to?)

Presswood Plywood

This is similar to MDF except rather than being sawdust as the primary wood ingredient there is actually a small amount of wood particles. However, the manufacturing process creates many air cavities so the strength is crap and don’t dare get it wet.

Unfortunately, many older solid wood kitchen cabinets are removed and send to the dup in favor of this inferior product.

The new one may only last ten years before disintegrating in front of your eyes.

If you want to see how terrible this building material is then just go to a local Walmart and look at some of the assembled furniture that is falling apart days after it was assembled.

Ok, there is one advantage that I will grudgingly admit. It can be purchased with various veneer coatings to look like real wood or whatever.

But here is an idea, buy real wood and stain it. You will thank me later.

Presswood with veneer

Plywood

Regular laminated plywood is the best option here. I described MDF above, but another option is OSB (Oriented Strand Board, or chipboard to us old folks). This can be a decent option where the OSB will not come into contact with the mattress or box spring as the edges are sharp and can chew up upholstery and knees, shins, and calves.

Plywood
Got plywood? You should

Standard Construction Lumber

How can you go wrong with lumber that is available at every hardware store and is used to build the house where the new bed frame will live. Ok, maybe you live in a concrete and steel apartment building, ya got me on that one 🙁

Pallets as Wood for Bed Frame

Pallets as wood for bed frames are excellent and cheap wood for your project. You can build the platform one pallet high if you have a box spring and mattress. Or you can build it two or pallets high if you only plan to use a mattress.

Pallet bed foundation

Pallets as Wood for Bed Frame

PROS:

  • Free or cheap
  • Easy to find in almost any area unless you live in a one-horse town (my town isn’t much bigger and there are pallets to be had for free from several businesses)
  • Good sizes for beds. They are typically 48″ x 40″ so the 40″ wide works for twin and twin XL. 48″ wide works for full with the mattress hanging about 2.5″.

    An easy fix is to fasten a 2″ x 4″ stud (lumber) flush with the top of the pallets on either side. For an exact match you can cut spacers from the lumber to furr out the lumber to exactly match the width of the mattress.
  • For queen box spring and mattresses you have two options. One is to go with the pallets 48″ wide and fill in the six-inch gap on either side. Or go with two pallets side by side for a total of 80″ wide.

    This means an extra 10″ of foundation on both sides or you can push the pallets against a wall and use all 20″ as a nightstand and table for anything you want.
  • A king is 76″ wide so you can use 40″ pallets side by side for 80″ and simply fastening a two by four to both sides flush with the top of the pallets.
  • Pallet lumber is often hardwood, which can be stripped down and sanded to add beautiful accents.
  • You can strip pallet wood, remove nails, and have all the lumber you need for any bed frame design.
  • The gaps are much less than three inches, which is the maximum most mattress manufacturers require for the mattress platform, or the warranty is voided.

    Gaps are usually only one quarter to one half of an inch, assuming you are smart enough to install the pallet with the correct side up.
pallet bed frame on casters

CONS:

  • Most configurations have pallets longer than the bed, so get creative and build funky footers.
  • Some free pallets are well used and must be cleaned very well. Pallets in bad shape need cleaning on the outside and the inside.

    Cleaning the inside can be accomplished by taping a wire brush to a broomstick or lumber and crank away at the dirt and grim.

    Hit the pallet with bleach and rinse to kill any potential organics.
  • They might stink. But no problem, give them a bleach bath and that should take care of the odor issues.
  • They don’t fit well in a Chevette (oops, dating myself again) or any car really. You will need to borrow uncle Bob’s truck or beg a favor from another friend or family member.
  • They are heavy and cumbersome to move around the house to its final bedroom destination.

Many people have asked if pallet beds comfortable and the answer is absolutely!

Super sturdy when properly fastened together and very small gaps allow for comfort even with the mattress directly on the pallets, assuming you have the correct side up.

DIY pallet bed frame two levels on castors

What Can I Use Instead of a Bed Fame?

What you can use instead of a bed frame is the simplest solution is to do what millions or billions do each night. Crash on a mattress that is on the floor. Where is the rule that we need to sleep a certain amount of inches off the floor?

Where did this crazy idea come from? Asians have been around for many thousands of years before us and they are comfortable sleeping on a mattress on the floor.

Actually I spend half the year in Thailand and regardless of your house, mansion or hovel, people sleep on the floor. What better base is there?

Mattress on floor

How many pallets does it take to make a twin bed?

Twin beds are usually 38″ wide and typical pallets are 48″ x 40″ so it takes two pallets positioned 40″ wide for every four inches of height. So if you want your twin height to be:

  • 4″ it requires two pallets
  • 8″ requires four pallets
  • and 12″ obviously needs six and so on
man working on pallet bed frame

How much does it cost to build a bed frame?

How much are costs to build a bed frame can range from almost free to many hundreds depending on fancy you get. Some typical costs include:

  • Pallet foundation for all sizes, assuming you can obtain them for free, is about $20 for some metal plates and screws to fasten them together so they don’t slide around on you in the middle of the night.
  • The costs for adding lumber to a box spring frame to build it up and eliminate the box spring can be seen in the cart here.
  • Lumber costs for a simple platform range from $30 for a simple twin frame to $50 for a king with a basic minimalist design.
  • Hundreds of dollars for a captain’s bed with bookshelf headboard and fancy routered footboard and MDF or maple plywood drawer fronts with beautiful handles.

If you want a super-strong and dirt cheap option consider a pallet mattress foundation and click here to read about it in my article here. or another option for $50 – $100 here.

Scott Boyd

A semi-retired workaholic in Thailand is a challenge. It is too hot to keep building adobe and earthbag buildings so a new project was needed. I became interested in bed frames after purchasing a bamboo bed frame from a local supplier here and I learned there is little information about them on the Internet. So now I spend my days researching, testing, and reporting my findings to help others while having an occasional beer and istening to 60s and 70s B side rock, blues, and much more.

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