What is the Best Wood for Bed Slats? 6 Options (1 Free)


There are several options for which type of wood to use and your specific needs can dictate what options are available. Once the options are determined you can choose which is best for you and the bed frame and mattress.

The best wood for bed slats is 1×4” for twin size and full size, 2” lumber (spruce, pine, or fir) is best for queen and king frames. plywood is sometimes the best option for twin and full; queen, and king with additional support.

The Best Wood for Bed Slats: 6 Options

There are several common options and a few not so common. I will list the common options listing the best first and work down to the least good. Later sections include cheaper and even some free options for hardwood!

1. The Best: Lumber (Spruce, Pine, and Fir)

In the eastern US and Canada, the lumberyards and hardware stores carry dimensional lumber made from softwood including Spruce, Pine, and Fir. You may notice S-P-F stamped on the lumber and this is what it means.

Lumber Pros

  1. Cheap to buy 2″ x 4″ and 2″ x 6 ” lumber.
  2. Less likely to sag than thin wood slats as lumber is much thicker and therefore stronger.
  3. Available almost everywhere in hardware stores and lumber years in most cities, towns, and villages.
  4. Easy handling for one person to transport, cut, and install.
  5. Easy to work with using either hand tools, or cordless or corded electric power tools such as a circular saw and jigsaw.
  6. Standard sizes throughout the USA and Canada so the information in this article and others on this website refer to the lumber dimensions available at your local hardware store.
  7. You may not need any tools to cut the lumber as you can ask the store to cut your 2x4s or 2x6s to the exact length that you require.

Lumber Cons

  1. Not as strong as hardwood lumber (but hardwood lumber is usually only available at specialty lumberyards).
  2. Long lengths may be a problem for transporting from the store to your home if you have a very small car. The shortest length is usually 8′, but most stores will cut the lumber to any length you require to make transportation easier.

After a year of full-time research I recommend two companies (learn why here), Brooklyn Bedding (25% off here) and Naturepedic (20% off here).

Scott Boyd

2. Second Best: 3/4″ (or thicker) Structural/Sheathing Plywood

There are a few options with traditional style plywood including:

  1. Structural/Sheathing Plywood: used for rough framing and the cheapest option. And since the bed slats will not be seen this is the option that you want to select. Make sure to use at least 3/4″ (19mm) or thicker.

    TIP: The thicker options are usually harder to locate and they are typically used for subfloor construction over floor joists in home construction.
  2. Hardwood Plywood: This is used for furniture making and much more expensive. If you are building the entire foundation you can use the hardwood option for building the visible sections of a frame.
  3. Sanded Plywood: Similar to hardwood and used for finished visible surfaces.

Plywood Pros

  1. Strong horizontal strength created by laminated wood layers.
  2. Zero gaps between slats if you cut the plywood to the correct length and width and place the entire sheet on the bed frame. Zero gaps between bed slats are required by some mattress manufacture warranties.
  3. Less chance of sagging if using the entire sheet of plywood for one giant slat rather than many slats with gaps.
  4. Available almost anywhere there is a hardware store.

Plywood Cons

  1. Hard to handle and carry alone and perhaps not easy even for two people when it has to be carried upstairs with turns and narrow hallways.
  2. Difficult to transport at 4 x 8′ unless you have a truck.
  3. Not an organic material as it is usually made with resin that contains urea-formaldehyde.
Plywood

Below is an excellent video showing the manufacturing process in 1954 and the current method. I really enjoyed it especially watch two men operate a massive chain saw to cut down a gigantic tree and the guys walking on logs in a river.

3. Third Best: OSB (oriented Strand Board)

OSB is very similar to structural plywood except that it is made with wood chips and adhesive rather than thin sheets of wood glued together.

Pros

  1. Does not require curring down trees as it uses the wood chips created during the lumber manufacturing process.
  2. Cheaper than regular plywood.
  3. Easier to handle and carry than structural plywood because it is lighter compared to regular plywood and MDF.
  4. Available almost anywhere there is a hardware store.

Cons

  1. Not an organic material as it is usually made with resin that contains urea-formaldehyde.
  2. Easy to injure yourself as it can cut your hands to pieces when you run your hand along the edges.
  3. Not as strong as structural plywood.
  4. Moisture can cause damage to the structural integrity and durability.
  5. Potential damage to mattress due to very rough edges and the wood chips can partially delaminate and damage a mattress.
DIY storage bed

To see how OSB is made in Scotland check out the video. You can see sharp wood particles sticking out from the plywood when it is cut during the manufacturing process.

4. Fourth Best: Hardwood

Hardwood lumber would be the best wood for bed slats if you can find it for free (keep reading for this option). But unfortunately, there are too many negatives to rate this as the best wood for bed slats.

Pros

  1. Very strong
  2. Beautiful (which won’t be seen under your mattress)
  3. Least likely to sag

Cons

  1. Expensive
  2. Hard to locate a specialty lumberyard
  3. Hard to cut if only using handtools

However, if you do want to use hardwood for better strength then check out the informative video below about how to buy hardwood.

5. Fifth Best: MDF (Medium-Density Fiberboard)

MDF is basically sawdust glued and pressed together with glue and resins. It works fine for cabinets, baseboards, and trims but it has very little horizontal strength and will sag quickly.

Pros

  1. Easy to work with
  2. Available in many sizes at many stores including 2′ x 2′, 2′ x 4′, and 2′ x 8′.
  3. Available at most hardware stores.

Cons

  1. Water will cause damage quickly as it acts like a sponge and absorbs water and expands.
  2. Expensive
  3. MDF bed slats will sag quickly as it has little horizontal strength.
  4. Lots of glue and it causes my allergies to go crazy with my eyes watering and my throat swelling when cutting it with a saw.

TIP: Reduce squeaks using the thickest wood possible for fewer joints.

TIP: Check the crown of the wood and mark an X the “hump” edge with a pencil. The hump edge in a floor system, or bed system, in this case, faces up. This provides more strength than U-shaped lumber and with all “crowned” the same way there won’t be big dips and valleys in the platform base.

6th Best Wood: Free Hardwood Pallets

Hardwood pallets have slats on each side and they can be removed and repurposed for your bed slats. They are usually about 48″ long so you have to have, or install, a center beam to rest a slat on each side for full, queen, and king size mattresses.

You can find free hardwood pallets for free in many locations such as businesses in your city or town, industrial parks, and even the local hardware store.

The Best Wood Bed Slats for Platform Foundations

For wood and design options for box spring bed frames please see the next section.

The Best Wood for Twin Bed Slats

1 x 4” (which is a true 0.75 x 3.5”) wood, commonly call strapping in the construction world, at least in Canada) is the cheapest option to span the 38” frame. There should not be any gaps in the slats that would reduce strength.

The manufacturers have gaps between their slats to save money on wood and shipping costs, but they are trying to save pennies. And they don’t care if your bed frame only lasts a year. If you are reading this you are already replacing the slats, or about to, so do it right once and forget about what the manufacturers do.

The Best Wood for a Full Bed Frame

1 x 4” wood slats are acceptable for a small child or very light teenager. I am going to assume that the child will grow and increase his or her weight. So you can use this option in some cases, but why not spend a few more dollars for the best wood option for a full bed frame?

2×4/6/8/10/12” (which are actually 1.5 x 3.5/5.5/7.5/9.6/11.5”) lumber is the best option and is much stronger than the 1×4” strapping and you don’t have to worry about the size or weight of the sleeper.

Any width lumber from 2” through 12” is perfectly acceptable for this bed, but the cost for each increase per square inch as the wood gets wider.

With the thicker wood, you can leave a small gap if you wish, but not more than three inches as that would void most warranties.

If the sleeper is a little on the chunky side or likes to jump on the bed you may want to consider reducing or eliminating the gaps.

TIP: There is often a sale at one of the local lumberyards for 2×4 studs. If you cannot find a sale ask the staff for economy studs or seconds as they cost less.

Best Queen Size Wood Slats

With the wider frames comes more options and thinking required, sorry.

Bed frame with head to toe support beam

Many wood and metal platform frames have a wood or metal support beam running in the center from the head to the foot of the bed. You are in luck if you have this style as 1 x 4” strapping is adequate and the cheapest solution for a queen frame.

Best Lumber for King Size Bed Frame

Wider span than the other standard sizes there are likely one of two options avaialble to your situation.

King bed frame with support beam

Thicker wood is required for the extra span so any of the 2′ lumber is the best wood for king slats. Another option is to use the strapping and 0.75” plywood on top. Both options are 1.5” in actual height and perfectly adequate so it is up to you.

Without a support beam

The best wood for this situation is a combination of dimensional lumber and plywood. There is more work for this solution and you can read about the DIY steps in my article here.

A very good video below compares the pros and cons of plywood, OSB (Oriented Strand Board), and MDF (Medium-Density Fiberboard) and the best uses of each.

Best wood for box spring frame slats

Slats are not used on bed frames design for a box spring and a mattress. The box spring has its own wooden frame to support its weight and that of the mattress also. However, if you want to dispose of the box spring and add slats for the mattress to sit on that can be done too

Twin and a full box spring frame slats

The best wood for slats for a twin or full box spring frame is 2” dimensional lumber of any width for the twin and 2 x 6” minimum for the full bed.

Various sizes of lumber provide options for the platform height to make up some of the lost removed box spring. This wood allows the new platform to install the lumber on edge at 4”, 6”, 8”, 10”, 12” and cover with plywood, not OSB or MDF.

2×4 lumber is the best wood for replacing slats in a box spring bed frame for Twin and Full size bed frames. The lumber sits on its face on the bed rails and runs from side to side.

Best Wood for Queen and king box spring slats

The span is too great for slats on these frames if using with a mattress and no box spring. Unless there is a support beam running in the center from head to foot. Or you can build a beam and add slats the same as for the above twin and full sizes.

Tips to stop squeaks and creaks by replacing slats with plywood in my article 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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