Things to Consider When Buying Bunk Beds

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Categories Products, Safety, Sleep

With the arrival of a third child quickly arriving, my husband and I needed to figure out sleeping arrangements in our small three bedroom apartment.  Our twin daughters had been sleeping on their crib mattresses on the floor of their bedroom for months.  We wanted to use one of the crib mattresses for our newborn son’s crib and not have to buy a third crib mattress.

So, we thought about possible solutions.  We could have bought two toddler beds or twin beds.  We could have bought one full or queen-sized mattress for them to share.  We could just have our new baby sleep in the pack n’ play for a long time.

Or we could get a bunk bed for our 2.5 year old twins, which would provide each one with their own bed and save space in their small bedroom.

We thought about the advantages of a bunk bed:

1. Two beds.  Each of our girls will still have their own bed to sleep on, giving them their own space.

2. More space.  Bunked beds means more room in their small bedroom.  It allows us to actually store toys in their bedroom.  Two twin beds would leave about two feet of walking space between their beds.  One full or queen bed would have taken up most of their room as well.  Now our kids can keep toys in their room and we can have less toys downstairs!

3. If someone has an accident or gets sick in the middle of the night you don’t have to wake them both up to change the sheets (like you would if they shared a bed).

4. When the time comes, the bunk beds can be separated into two twin beds.

5. They can be a ton of fun for little kids to play on.

The disadvantages of bunk beds are:

1. Safety concerns:  Kids can fall off the ladder when climbing up or down.  They could fall off the bottom or top bunk if they aren’t being careful enough.  They can crack their head or body part on the wood or metal rails.  If the bunks don’t have a ton of space between them, the bottom child could crack their head on the bottom of the top bunk.  Also, will the slats or boards support your bouncing child enough so that the mattress doesn’t fall through?  Will the bunk bed be stable enough?

2. Making the beds.  Not as easy when you can barely reach the top bunk, or have to climb on top of the bed to make it.

3. The child on top can likely reach the ceiling, light, fan, curtains or whatever else might be higher up in their room.

4. In the middle of the night whoever is on top can’t see the ladder very well and can’t get down by themselves (though I may see this more as an advantage right now).  Also, it’s not super fun to make your tired body climb down a ladder first thing in the morning.

5. Tucking the child on top in may not be very easy if the bunk bed is very high.  Or giving them their goodnight hugs and kisses.

We figured that the advantages for us and our situation far outweighed the disadvantages and were determined to find as safe and as comfortable a bunk as possible.

Here are some of the things to consider or look for when buying a bunk bed:

1. Can they separate into two beds?  We wanted ones that could, which pretty much ruled out most of the metal framed bunks.  We like that bunks that could separate gave us flexibility in the future as our children aged and as our living situation changed.  However, not all separable bunks are made equal. One may look very different than the other when divided, which may or may not matter to you.

Bunk Beds that can become two twin beds

2. How much space is between the bunks?  This one was more important to me than to my husband.  I didn’t want my kids to outgrow these bunks in just a few years because their heads were touching the bottom of the top bunk (or because they were kicking the bottom of the top bunk).  I also thought it would be very nice if an adult (mom or dad) could sit on the bottom bunk without stooping or hunching over and cracking their heads.  Maybe this won’t be as important to you, but it is something to consider.

Not much room for someone to sit up if on the bottom bunk

3. How high will the top bunk be in your space?  Do you have low ceilings?  Or a ceiling fan?  Because then you might want to consider how tall this bunk bed will be.

My kids showing how much space they have on the top bunk

4. To trundle or not to trundle?  This style of bed seems to be fairly popular right now as we saw several at various stores we looked at.  However, since we are planning on using both of the beds every single day, the trundle didn’t seem to make sense.  The purpose, for us, of getting a bunked bed was so we’d save floor space.  Having to pull out a bed seemed to defeat that very important aspect.  Trundle beds seem like a great option for a guest bedroom or occasional use.

Trundle Bed

5. What type of ladder or stairs will the bunk bed have?  Since our kids are still very young (under three), we ideally wanted a ladder that came out from the bunk bed or stairs that had storage drawers in them so they could climb up and down safely.  Some bunks you have to climb up on one of the ends.  Will that affect where you have to place your bunk bed?  Will the ladder or stairs take up too much space in the room?  Is the ladder removable? Are the rungs of the ladder too far apart or the initial one too far off the ground?  All important things to consider. I don’t think we could’ve easily fit stairs or a slanted ladder into our kids’ room.

A bunk bed with storage stairs attached

6. How high do the rails come?  Is there only one rail above the mattress?  Or two?  Or three?  Do the rails cover the entire front or back or ends?  On both top and bottom or just one?  We definitely wanted high rails for our very young children to ensure it would be as safe as possible.

7. How stable will the bunk bed be?  Whenever we went to look at bunk beds in the stores, my husband was especially adamant about having to put the bed through a “shake test.”  How much did the bunk bed rock?  Part of the reasoning is that kids are hard on furniture.  They will jump and bounce and yank and rock that bed, so the more it allows for that, the sooner the bed may “die” or fall apart or collapse.  To gauge whether we thought a bed was fairly stable, we looked at how thick the corner pieces of the bed frame were as well as how it was assembled together and the materials used.

8. Aesthetics.  Do you like how the bed looks?  Is the wood sanded and polished nice and smooth?  Or is the wood gritty feeling?  Do the drawers (if applicable) slide nicely in and out?  Do you like the color of the wood or metal?  Do you like how the bunks look when separated?  If you like DIY projects then these may not be as important to you, but if you don’t want to have to worry about these things, it is important to consider.

9. Storage space.  Does the bunk come with extra storage space? Is there room under the bottom bunk for things?  Are there drawers in the staircase?  Does the bunk come with a desk or shelves attached?  If you are looking into a loft bed these things are probably much more important to you.  But, remember the space you plan on putting the bunk bed or loft in. Will there be enough room around it to access the shelves or desk or drawers provided?

Bunk Beds with work spaces and storage combined

10. Cost.  We are, like most people, always looking for a great deal.  And you’d be surprised how quickly the price of bunk beds can escalate, but also how unstable and unsafe the cheapest (~$150) new bunk beds can feel.  My suggestion is always to shop around.  Figure out what features are most important to you of the nine points I listed above.  Safety of course should be a top concern, so the materials and construction of the bed should be among your top priorities.  Do you feel more comfortable with a metal framed bed?  Or do you really prefer wood?  Also, when thinking about cost, remember that you will still need to buy mattresses and sheets and perhaps even bunkie boards.  We looked around at bunk beds at various stores to solidify what we and our children liked and were able to climb up on and to compare cost.  We also looked in the local newspapers classifieds and on

We ended up buying our bunk bed gently used off of craigslist for only $200. Here’s the bed we ended up purchasing (without the bedding on) set up in our daughter’s bedroom.

This bunk bed pretty much takes up a large majority of the small bedroom, but it has allowed us more space on the opposite side of the room for a rocking chair, a fan, and a bin of toys:

Our girls absolutely LOVE their bunk beds.  We prepped them for weeks ahead of time before we actually purchased them.  We talked about who would be sleeping where, and let them pick out their own bedding.  Today they pulled me into their bedroom to show me their bunk bed, four days after they’ve already been set up.  They show off how they are able to climb the stairs. Both of them love climbing onto the top bunk and playing up there, even if sometimes one of my daughters gets a little scared and wants help going up or down.

We love that the top bunk has such high rails, partially because we purchased only 6″ mattresses.  But, it’s like a mini crib again for our girls!  So far no one has even come close to flipping over the rails.  We’ve had a couple tumbles on the stairs, but nothing major.

I hope that this list helps you in your search for the perfect bunk beds for your family.  Leave me a comment with anything else I may have forgotten to mention as something to consider.  How have you saved space in your home with twins?   

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Katelyn is a stay-at-home mom to three year old fraternal twin girls, Lisa and Alison, and a brand new baby boy, named Michael. She is enjoying having a newborn again and also loving the dynamics (so far) of having kids of different ages. When Katelyn isn’t playing or taking care of her kids, she’s often reading a book, blogging, watching a movie, or taking care of business. She’s also a talented artist, a Sunday School teacher to a group of 6-year old kids, a supportive spouse to her graduate student/math teacher husband, and a musician. She works hard to have a clean house, great preschoolers, and a happy home. She shares bits of advice and much of her life over at her personal blog What’s up Fagan’s?

19 thoughts on “Things to Consider When Buying Bunk Beds”

  1. This article worries me, because children under 6 shouldn’t be sleeping in the top bunk of a bunk bed, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics & the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. Your information is excellent, but maybe post a disclaimer that the top bunk is only for a child 6 and over!

  2. I just read your link about the prison cell nursery. Wow, that is intense. But it must’ve worked since I’m sure there’s no way you’d trust them with a bunk bed if not!

    How’s the potty training going? Our 34 mo old no longer needs diapers but she’s still in her crib because we’re too scared of what would happen if we let her out in her own. But it could be helpful to not have to run and get her when she needs to potty.

  3. Ha. We STILL sit with the girls at nap time and bed time, can you believe that? It’s been months, and months, but for the most part it works really well and they fall asleep within about 20 minutes, sometimes much less than that. Other times it’s extremely frustrating when they refuse to sleep still. And yes, it does help my anxiety about the bunk beds, because as Janna pointed out, it’s not recommended for young kids to be on a top bunk, but we’ve had ZERO problems with them falling off the top bunk. A handful of slip-ups on the stairs, but those were mostly in the first week of having the bunk beds.

    And potty training is going really well! One daughter has been potty trained since about 2.5 years (with accidents here and there), and the other one is just about finishing up. She still wears a pull-up at night, but has woken up with it dry a few times. Otherwise she is in panties all day, including at nap. She still has accidents here and there, but otherwise good to go!

    Switching out of the crib is a scary thing for sure… Good luck!

  4. Our girls were out of their cribs for about a year or so and had been sleeping on mattresses and box springs on the floor (safe, no worries about falling) before we came across the bunk beds we wanted — the T-shape loft style with a leaning ladder, high rails, and a desk and dresser built in — at a reasonable close-out price. They were about 3.5 when we brought home the new beds. I agree that you have to be careful with bunk beds for this age group. As it happens, though, the only person who has gotten hurt on the bed has been me. Those ladders do not stand up to even petite adult use! I fell through the bottom rung and had a huge bruise for weeks.

    I really like the loft style. It works well for my girls, one of whom is more bold and the other likes to be cozy and tucked in (she gets the bottom bunk). Sometimes my husband moves the lower bed out for the day, and the girls play in the empty space below the top bunk.

    My biggest problem with bunk beds at this age is that it is a huge PITA to change the sheets on top on laundry day. Also, I can’t lie down with the girl who sleeps on the top bunk if she wakes up.

  5. We have almost exactly these lofted beds: in a twin size. What I love about going with two lofted beds is that there’s no fighting over who gets the top bunk. They both do! I’m very small, so I have no trouble fitting in the bed if someone wakes up with nightmares or is attached to my hip after spending a week with Daddy and Stepmom! My girls share a bunk bed (top and bottom having been assigned before they arrived), while their stepsisters share another in the same room at Daddy’s place. One issue is that the beds are so tall that the girls could easily touch our ceiling fan. I can trust them not to touch it (I’ve disabled it), but I still intend to replace the ceiling fan with a light fixture that’ll be less tempting.

  6. We also put our 3 year old boys in bunk beds upon arrival of a new baby sister. I added some extra height to the top bunk’s barrier. I also put their bean bag chairs along the floor just in case. No problems 6 months in, but every kid is different. We knew about the 6 year rec, but decided this scenario worked for us and so far it has!

  7. Great tips. I’m so glad I came across your blog. I have siblings sharing a room. They are 18 months apart and I have been looking to maximize space in addition to creating separate homework areas. I like the “Shake Test” idea. Thanks again. Very detailed.

  8. Hi, I am currently searching for bunk beds, and I was wondering if you can let me know the following? What is the space between your bottom bunk and the bottom of the top bunk? And is there room for an adult to sit, and when your daughter is sat up in bed does she have a lot of room? And likewise for the top bunk, can your other daughter sit comfortably without being too close to the ceiling?
    There are tonnes of bunk beds to choose from so finding this page has been helpful! Thanks!

  9. Im searching for a bunk bed for my 7 year old twins. I want stairs with storage instead of a ladder but i also want them to be separated into twin beds too. Please help!

    1. Your best bet is probably going to be to buy the bunk bed and stairs separately. Find the beds you like, ensuring that they can be separated into two twins and then add on something along the lines of the Coaster Rustic Bunk Bed Stairway Chest.

      I only found one bed that might meet all your requirements and I don’t know anything about the company selling it.

  10. buying an inexpensive bunk bed is certainly an option, particularly if you make sure the bed is well constructed using quality materials. Likewise, like any bunk bed, it is important to continuously inspect to ensure quality maintenance. Just be sure not to shop only on price, since poor quality beds unfortunately have serious safety risks.

  11. Great article. Im not sure if anyone else has had this problem but my girls tend to roll and move around a lot in their sleep. so beds with metal frames are not the best for them as they bang heads and limbs against the cold hard metal sometimes. There haven’t been any major bruises but I feel they’re better off in wooden beds

  12. We can say that bunk bed isn\’t the right choice for our children. But this suit your kids best because it\’s more comfortable for them. Just be aware of bunk beds you\’re buying also if your kids were very energetic. You need to buy a much more stronger bunk beds that suit them better.

  13. I shared a room with my older sister when I was a kid, and bunk beds seemed to work out well for us. Now my kids also love sleeping in bunks, I think they get all the benefit of good company, and the comfort and individual style of their own bed.

  14. For a family consisting of more than one child like ours, kid’s bunk beds are ideal to accommodate both our kids in a single room. And this thought of mine was further manifested by this excellent blog post by ldskatelyn which clearly spells out the advantages and disadvantages of bunk beds. For me, however, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages for bunk beds.

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