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“Bed frame” is a catchall term referring to any base that supports a mattress. Today’s shoppers can choose from a wide selection of frame types ranging from bare-bones designs like platform beds to more ornate options such as canopies, four-posters, and sleigh beds. This leaves you with a handful of considerations when choosing a new bed frame, including size and dimensions, style, weight limits, and budget.

In the search for the right mattress, a bed frame can be easily overlooked, but both components are equally important for creating and maintaining a comfortable sleep surface. We’ll discuss the various frame styles available today and answer a few common questions about these products.

What Are the Different Types of Bed Frames?

Familiarizing yourself with different bed frame types and their unique attributes, pros, and cons will be very helpful when the time comes to purchase one. Also keep in mind some frames may require additional purchases, such as a box spring or foundation.

Panel Bed

The panel bed is a traditional style that remains popular to this day. These frames consist of a headboard and footboard, and two parallel sideboards that essentially form a shoebox-shaped frame. Both sideboards feature L-shaped rails, which provide base support along the sides. Some panel beds are also equipped with slats or metal beams for extra reinforcement, but others omit these components.

Panel beds are designed for use with a box spring or other type of solid foundation. The side rails won’t provide adequate reinforcement for a mattress on its own, and you’ll likely notice significant sagging or trenching in a short amount of time. If you don’t already own a functional box spring or foundation, be sure to include this when calculating the total cost of a panel bed.

Panel bed designs range from basic to ornate, so most people can find a style that matches their bedroom decor. Price-points depend on factors like material, design, and brand. Budget-friendly panel beds typically cost $150 to $200, and $300 to $500 is considered mid-range.

Platform Bed

The platform is a relatively modern style that has become quite popular in recent years. A platform may or may not include a headboard and/or footboard. The defining feature is its base, which consists of either solid panels or equally spaced slats linking the sideboards. Perimeter legs and center beams provide added reinforcement.

Since platform beds are not primarily reliant on side rail support, you won’t need a box spring or foundation if you choose this type of frame. The slats or solid panels should adequately support a mattress alone. That said, some mattresses are better suited to platform beds than others (see next section for more information).

As with panel beds, platform beds are available in a wide array of designs. A basic platform bed does not have a headboard or footboard, so you’ll probably pay more for models that include these features. Quality of materials and the brand also play a role in cost. Budget platform beds are usually priced in the range of $100 to $200, while mid-range prices are $300 to $400. Since you won’t need to purchase a box spring, your total up-front costs will likely be lower compared to buying a panel bed.

Other Bed Frame Types

Panels and platforms are most common, but other bed frame styles include:

  • Four-Poster Bed: Another traditional design, the four-poster bed features tall posts in each corner. The posts give these frames considerable height – 80 inches or taller, in some cases – though low-poster beds are an alternative take on this design for people who want a shorter profile for their frame. Another variation is the half-poster, which has higher posts around the headboard and lower posts at the foot of the bed.
  • Canopy Bed: The canopy bed builds on the four-poster design with beams connecting the tops of the posts to form a cube-like frame. Canopies allow you to personalize the frame with curtains, drapes, and other decorative features. Like traditional four-poster beds, canopy beds can be quite tall.
  • Captain Bed: Also known as storage platforms, this variation on the standard platform features drawers beneath the base where you can keep pillows, linens, or other items. Storage panel beds with drawers attached to the footboard are also available, but less common.
  • Bunk Bed: A popular choice for children’s bedrooms and college dorm rooms, bunk beds consist of two or three individual bed frames stacked neatly on top of each other. Many bunk beds can be disassembled to create individual, unstacked beds, while others feature a single bed frame over an open space for extra storage. Most bunk beds are only designed for twin, twin XL, and/or full size mattresses.

Other common bed frame types are mostly defined by the style of their headboard and/or footboard. For example, sleigh beds feature headboards and footboards with curved shapes that resemble the back and front of a traditional sleigh. Another common example is the slat frame featuring open headboards and footboards with vertical wood or metal slats.

Additionally, some bed frames are designed to be stowed away when not in use. These include rollaway beds with foldable legs for more compact storage and caster wheels for easy mobility, and murphy beds that can be lifted and pushed into wall panels that fully conceal the bed. Trundle beds – often lumped together with bunk beds – feature mattresses installed into the base that can be pulled out and pushed back in with drawers.

The bottom line: plenty of bed frame styles are available. Next we’ll go over the most important factors for determining which bed frame is best for you.

What Should You Consider When Buying a Bed Frame?

Finding the right bed frame often comes down to the following considerations:

Support System: A panel-style bed supports a mattress and box spring with L-shaped side rails, while a platform bed uses evenly spaced slats or solid panels instead. You won’t need to invest in a box spring or foundation if you use a platform, which can decrease your total cost. At the same time, you should use a box spring if your mattress is a traditional innerspring model.

Frame Material: The bulk of bed frames sold today are constructed from wood and/or steel components. Hardwood frames are reasonably durable but steel holds up better over time.

Bedroom Size: Always measure your bedroom’s dimensions before purchasing a bed frame. A platform without a headboard or footboard will probably be the most compact if you need to save floor space, and these models often provide under-bed storage areas. You may want to consider a movable rollaway or murphy bed if the bedroom is particularly small and intended for overnight guests, rather than constant use.

Bedroom Height: Bedroom height will only be a major consideration if you’re purchasing an exceptionally tall bed frame such as a four-poster, canopy, or bunk bed. This is virtually a non-issue with most standard platform and panel beds.

Mattress Type: Traditional innersprings were designed for use with box springs. As a result, a functional box spring should extend the lifespan of any older bed with a coil-based support core. Modern mattresses – such as all-foam, all-latex, and hybrid models – may not receive enough support from the side rails of a panel bed, so a platform bed will be more suitable.

Headboard/Footboard Style: Bedroom dimensions aside, your choice of headboard and footboard will probably boil down to personal style preferences as well as budget. Older styles like sleigh beds may appeal to those with more traditional tastes, while a slat bed provides a leaner, more modern look.

Storage Needs: A bed frame with plenty of space underneath or storage drawers may be your best option if you want a lot of extra storage. Platforms generally offer more storage opportunities than panels.

Total Weight: Regardless of which frame style you choose, the bed will carry a recommended weight limit. Most frames are designed for two adults of most weights to sleep comfortably. However, be sure to include the weight of your mattress – and box spring if applicable – when calculating the total weight that will be placed on the frame.

Cost: Plenty of platform and panel beds are available for $200 or less, but these models tend to be fairly minimalist and won’t come with bonus features such as storage drawers, headboards, or footboards. You’ll pay the most for ornately crafted models, including many four-posters, canopies, and sleighs. Bunk beds can also be somewhat expensive compared to other frames.

Bed Frames and Mattress Warranties

The final consideration to make when choosing a new bed frame is whether or not it will be compatible with your mattress warranty.

Virtually all mattresses made today come with a manufacturer’s warranty that covers certain structural defects, such as premature sagging and material deterioration. Since the frame you use can impact the lifespan of your mattress, warranties often list specific bed frame requirements. These requirements may include the number of legs and how far apart the slats are spaced. Some warranties may demand use of a box spring, but this has become less common in recent years.

If a defect develops in your mattress and the frame you use doesn’t meet these requirements, the manufacturer will probably void the warranty rather than covering the cost of repairing or replacing the mattress. Follow warranty instructions to the letter and you can avoid these headaches down the road.

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