I thought it would be interesting to compare the two types in a head to head compeition. I picked ten important things that I think most people want to know when trying to decide with path to take before making a purchase. It is interesting how much an article like this makes you think about things that usually don’t come to mind when shopping.
Wood bed frames are better than metal with a score of 6-4 in the analysis below based on the analysis of 10 criteria including noise, strength, sagging, head/footboard compatibility, durability, adjustability, storage, allergies, weight, and environmental.
Are Metal Bed Frames Noisy?
(Scott’s subjective rating out of 10) Metal bed frames are not usually noisy when they are new. They very often become noisy and squeaky within the first month due to loosening screws or an uneven floor. If yours has screws than simply tighten them and consider adding a Locktite (link) or other product like these (link). An uneven floor can cause the frame to bend and flex which can cause squeaks.
This is also a simple fix by adding solid furniture pads like these (link) where needed. If your metal bed frame was manufactured in China the welds may not be as high quality as the craftsmanship in the USA. This can result in weak welds in time, which will cause noises and squeaks. And this is NOT an easy fix without some welding.
Are Wood Bed Frames Noisy?
These are noisy when fasteners become loose, stats aren’t strong enough and start to sag, and the design and materials are inadequate (cheap). Adding locktite to fasteners works too so please consider that option when noises start.
If it is a platform foundation it may have weak or undersized slats or gaps that are too large between the slats (three or more inches), slats not fastened in place, cause noises and squeaks as the mileage adds up.
One big benefit over metal is that you can easily disassemble a wood bed frame and modify it with the following solutions to reduce squeaks and creaks:
- Add vaseline or another lubricant where sections are screwed or bolted together
- Add felt between the slats and rails
- Simply tighten fasteners when they become loose
- Add lumber to the weak areas of the frame to make it stronger and flex less using fasteners and construction adhesive
- Screw the headboard or the frame rail to two wall studs and the bottom of the legs to the bottom 2×4 plate in the wall.
A cheap and simple solution is to add plywood to the slats (see my article: Make a Bed Slats Stronger)
Noise, Squeak, and Creak Winner: Wood
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Are Metal Bed Frames Stronger Than Wood?
Many metal bed frames are stronger models in the same price range. However, as your budget increases so do the strength and durability of wood bed frames. The quality of metal bed frames does not increase much as the price increases.
This is often different for wood models as the price increases so does the quality of the design and strength.
Spending a few more dollars on a more expensive model can allow you to get a very strong and high weight capacity frame with very well-designed connections and thick rails and slats. So metal bed frames are likely stronger under $200 and wood bed frames are likely stronger with a bigger budget.
But a big consideration to think about is that it is easy to increase the strength of frames rails, slats, and legs with a bit of lumber and some screws. A metal frame is pretty much what it is and when it starts to fail it is easier and cheap to toss it out and buy a new one.
Strength Winner: Wood
Which is Less Likely to Sag
Based on almost one year of research it seems that wood slats and frames are more likely to sag over time. Lumber is much easier to flex and bend over long periods of time while underweight and stress. When the rails sag it is usually due to poor design and lumber that is not thick or wide enough for decades of strong use. When the slats sag it is usually due to narrow and thin boards that are sometimes made with plywood.
TIP: When slats are not fastened to the frame rails they are more likely to sag.
Think of it like this, if you hold a rubber band between your two index fingers and stretch the band it can support some weight. If the rubber band was not held in place by your fingers it would not support any weight and it would put the ends of the band together and sag (crappy analogy, but it is all I thought of while writing this).
Metal usually resists bending and sagging better than wood unless the slats are designed much too thin and narrow and with too large a gap between the slats.
Resistance to Sagging Winner: Metal (assuming relative comparisons of models with similar quality design and materials)
Can a Headboard be Attached to Metal Frame?
Attaching a headboard to some metal frames is easy if it is designed for this attachment. However, most budget models do not incorporate this option into its design. This makes it complicated to attach a headboard and required accurate measuring and drill the legs of the headboad and bed.
And this will void the warranty too, so keep that in mind.
Can a Headboard be Attached to Wood Frame?
It is usually pretty easy to attach a headboard because there will be a 4 – 6″ rail and wider legs where you can fasten the headboard. It will require careful measuring and drilling, but there are many more locations available for fastening.
Headboard Winner: Wood
Which is More Durable
Metal bed frames are more durable as there are many antique metal beds that have lasted well over 100 years, but not so many wood ones. I can think of a few reasons why:
- Joints, where fasteners penetrate, can be weakened when a bed is disassembled and resembled many times. And I am sure over one or two hundred years this happens often.
- Insects can damage/eat lumber. I have lived in two locations where termites and carpenter bees can devour/destroy an amazing amount of lumber leaving a pile of sawdust on the floor/ground.
- More likely to crack during changes in humidity and some woods absorb more moisture than others, causing swelling and constracting during changes in humidity.
- More likely to get damaged during moves as it is weaker than metal.
Extreme humidity levels are harmful to any wood species. In order to prevent damage we strongly suggest keeping your humidity level at the ideal of 50% year round. Some variance should not create problems, but to maintain a “safe” variance stay within 40%-60% humidity. What you do want to avoid is rapid changes in the humidity level. Wood is far more likely to crack in this instance.Rustic Elements Furniture
Durability Winner: Metal
Are Metal Frames Adjustable?
Some models have adjustable head and foot sections that are manually or electrically operated. Most of these models cost $500 and more and require a mattress that is compatible with adjustable beds. Metal bed frames that do not have this option cannot be modified to become adjustable unless you are a Blacksmith or McGuyver type of person.
Are Wood Frames Adjustable?
No, they are not adjustable as I was unable to find any online.
Adjustablility Winner: Metal
Which has Better Storage
Metal bed frames are often simple box springs or platform foundations with no dedicated storage space. However, the platform foundations usually have about 14″ of clearance underneath where you can stuff items or use many plastic tubs for a large amount of storage.
Storage underneath wood bed frames is usually more limited due to larger frame rails and legs reducing the underneath storage substantially. However, there are many models made with storage drawers underneath, like Captain Beds (see my article What is a Captain Bed).
There are also many headboards that are designed for storage. It is much easier to add or purchase a wood bed with these types of headboards.
Storage Winner: Wood
Allergies to Metal Bed Frames
According to a study:
The prevalence of metal allergy is high in the general population, and it is estimated that up to 17% of women and 3% of men are allergic to nickel and that 1-3% are allergic to cobalt and chromium. Among dermatitis patients, the prevalence of metal allergy is even higher.PubMed.com
Allergies to Wood
One study states:
Allergic contact dermatitis caused by wood dust remains uncommon and most cases are occupational. Contact allergy to finished wooden products is even more rare and only few cases of contact dermatitis to wooden furnishings and furniture are described.PubMed.com
TIP: If you are unfortunate to have allergies to your frame, headboard, or legs you can apply stain, varnish, or any type of clear coat to seal the unfinished areas such as the backsides of rails, inside of drawers, the slats, etc.
Allergies Winner: Wood (this surprised me since I am allergic to many grasses and trees).
Which Has Better Weight (which is lighter)
This is a pretty easy section to write as metal models are almost always much lighter when similar designs and capacities are compared. This can be important when moving the bed across the room (see my article How to Move a Bed Across the Room) while cleaning, especially for older and strength/mobility challenged people.
Weight Winner: Metal
Which is Better for the Environment
Wood is a renewable product and thankfully most harvesting companies replant the forests where they cut the trees, at least in USA and Canada. The process of “logging” is also much less damaging to the environment than open-pit mines with monster trucks and excavators tearing the earth a new butthole.
Some building materials such as steel are more difficult to create, and as essentially nonrenewable resources they contribute more to total material consumption (Kim et al, 1998)University of Massetusetts
Wood, on the other hand, is made using energy from the sun (Shams, Mahmud, & Amin 2011)
Wood is a truly natural material and has the ability to regrow and reproduce
Environmental Winner: Wood
Wood bed frames are better than metal bed frames and my analysis shows a 6 – 4 victory.