How to Make Bed Slats Stronger in 7 Steps

Most bed frame manufacturers design their beds to meet the most basic needs structurally to reduce costs. This is to be expected, but that often results in bed slats that sag over time, or even right out of the box.

Obviously, this provides poor support for the mattress because the manufacturer saves a couple of bucks by not adding a few slats or thicker wood.

Anyone can make bed slats stronger with options:

  • Increase the number of slats
  • Replace wood with thicker lumber
  • Use stronger wood, such as any hardwood
  • Add plywood or lumber to existing slats
  • Replace the slats with metal ones
  • Add a wood beam in the center of the bed
  • Add a box spring to the slats

Steps to Make Bed Slats Stronger

There are a few simple steps you can take to make bed slats stronger, some free and some cheap including:

1. Improve Fastening to Reduce Slat Movement

A simple and almost free solution you may want to first try is to add two 2-inch screws to each end of all slats. This reduces the amount the slats can sag in the center when weight is added to the bed at night.

Make sure to countersink (like this one) the screws into the wood so that the screw heads don’t catch on the mattress and cause damage.

Scott biting his tongue off while working on the bed slats

2. Add a Support Beam With one 2×4 Steps link to how to transport wood

This solution installs a lumber wood beam running from the head to the foot of the frame. It runs up the center of the slats and uses the beam cut-off wood remains for support posts.

Don’t forget to check out my article here about how and why to screw down slats.

Drill25 3.5” screws*5
Tape measure

* Or nails.

  1. Remove the bedding and mattress.
  2. Lift the bed frame onto its side and lean it against a wall.
  3. Measure the distance from the head to the foot against the slats to determine the length of the wood beam. For twin a full the measurement should be about 77” and for 82” for queen and king bed frames.
  4. Measure the distance from the bottom of the slats to the bottom of the foot of the bed frame.

    This measurement should be about 8 – 10 inches Subtract 1.5 inches from this measurement and this is the length of the beam posts.
  5. Measure the 2×4, mark with the pencil. Use a square or a book to make the mark straight.
  6. Cut the beam and two posts (this is the saw I used for decades).
  7. Measure 12 inches in from each end of the beam and make a mark with an X of the sides closest to the end of the beam.
  8. Nail or screw the two posts to one side of the beam on the X side of your two marks. Use at least three screws or nails for each post. The posts are 90 degrees to the beam and flush to the beam.
  9. Bring the posts and beam to the bedroom. Place it approximately where it is to be installed on the floor.
  10. Position the bed frame over the beam.
  11. Measure the center of the stats near the head and foot of the frame.
  12. Have a helper position the beam so the center of the beam is on the two center lines.
  13. Screw or nail the beam into place through the bed frame if possible and through each of the wood slats.

    One screw or nail through each slat is adequate and produces very strong and sturdy slat support for the mattress.
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TIP 1: Make sure to countersink the nails or screws into the lumber in the slats or they can damage the mattress.

TIP 2: If you do not have a saw at home then ask the hardware store staff to cut your lumber or plywood to size (or get the one I have at Amazon). This also keeps the wood dust at the store rather than your house and is easier to transport.

TIP 3: Cut lumber and plywood outside or in the garage to reduce the amount of wood dust in the bedroom and throughout the house. Dust can get sucked into ventilation ducts and also pushed under the bedroom door.

Read my article about if you should use 2x4s here.

3. Add Plywood Over Slats Steps

This is the easiest method, but it is not as cheap as solution #2 and requires a truck, utility trailer, or paying the local hardware store to deliver the plywood.

Saw3/4” plywood23
Drill25 3.5” screws*5
Tape measure
  1. Go to the local hardware store and purchase a sheet of 0.75-inch plywood. If you don’t have a saw then measure the bed frame and follow TIP 2 above.
  2. Remove the bedding and mattress.
  3. Measure the width of the slats and the length of the frame to determine plywood size. Two sheets are required if you have a queen or king-size bed.

    When two plywood is required the should be installed left to right. This is better than the joint running from the head to the foot of the bed.
  4. Measure and mark the plywood and make the cut/s. See TIP 3 above.
  5. Place the plywood on the existing slats.
  6. Screw or nail the plywood to the bed frame.
  7. Screw or nail the plywood to the slats as this will increase the strength of the bed support structure. See TIP 1 above. Read my article about the best wood to use here.
  8. Add mattress and bedding and enjoy a sag and squeak-free sleep. Read my tips to fix sag in 60 minutes here.

4. Reduce Gaps and Add Slats

If there are gaps in between your slats you can shuffle them around or add more to increase the strength of the support system.

OPTION 1: Using only the existing slats.

Tools: Hammer or drill (this is the one I have used for years and it is 70% off)

Cost: Free! Or a few dollars for fasteners if you need them.

  1. Remove the slats starting at the head of the bed and leave the last one at the foot of the bed.

    If they are installed with nails please feel free to read the section a little more than halfway down my article Should You Screw Down Bed Slats here where I explain how to remove slats that are fastened with nails.
  2. Reinstall the slats starting at the foot end and maintain a 2 or 3inch gap for the first one-third the length of the bed (about 24 to 26 inches).
  3. Reinstall the next slats as close together as possible. This is where most of the weight is due to our torsos.
  4. Install the remaining slats using a gap that allows you to use all the slats. Larger gaps up to 3 inches near the head of the bed are ok as our head and neck are not as heavy as a torso.

OPTION 2: Same as above except:

  1. Purchase 1x3x8′ lumber or any lumber that matches your existing slats.
  2. Reinstall with no gaps and use the new lumber to fill in where needed.
Box Spring

5. Replace Slats with Stronger Wood

This project replaces the cheap wood that came installed on your bed.

  1. Remove the bedding, and mattress, and slats.
  2. Measure the length of the slats and count them to determine how much wood you need to buy.
  3. If you do not want to increase the height of the bed (if not a problem here is how to do) you can use hardwood rather than softwood lumber available at the local hardware store.

    Call local lumber yards and wood suppliers to find hardwood and ask what options and prices they have. They can also cut the wood to length and width for a fee.
  4. The cheapest and easiest stronger wood to use is 2-inch lumber. 2×4 through 2×10 works fine so look for sales and calculate the cheapest solution. See here for using plywood.
  5. Fasten the lumber to the bed frame using screws or nails and do not leave any gaps between the slats.

TIP 4: If you have a queen or king bed you can increase the strength even more by installing the new lumber on top of the existing slats. Screw or nail each slat or add furniture felt wherever wood touches other wood to reduce squeaks and creaks.

6. Replace Wood Slats with Metal

Metal slats can provide a very strong and sturdy base for a box spring mattress. This is not an economical solution for platform beds that do not have a box spring. This is because a mattress cannot be installed on a platform with gaps larger than 3 inches, and that is pushing it for foam mattresses.

This would require a lot of metal which is expensive. However, if you have a box spring there are likely fewer slats so it may be a worthwhile solution. Follow the steps above in the solution that best match your situation.

Purchase square metal tubing from the local hardware store or machine shop. A machine shop will cut the metal to the length that you require.

However, hardware stores may not provide these services, so you will need a grinder, circular saw with a metal blade, or a hacksaw and a lot of sweat and determination.

7. Add a Short Box Spring

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TIP: Check out my article Should You Screw Down Bed Slats

Scott Boyd

I spend my days doing research, performance testing, and materials analysis and reporting my experience and test results to help people make decisions before purchasing expensive furniture.

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