Platform beds have been around for a long time but have only recently gained popularity, especially in the natural and organic market. A platform bed incorporates the mattress support of a box spring or foundation into the design of the bed frame by utilizing either a solid surface or wooden slats. The platform bed allows you to place a mattress directly on the bed frame without needing a box spring or foundation to support the mattress, and also eliminates the need for a bed skirt or long bed spread to cover up the unsightly box spring. Not needing a box spring or foundation can also save you quite a bit of money.
A common misconception about platform beds is that they are always modern in design. There are actually many different styles of platform beds from very traditional to modern. The Natural Sleep Store sells a range of solid wood bed frames, specifically natural platform beds, made by Nomad Furniture, Pacific Rim, Savvy Rest, and Maple Corner Woodworks.
There are many companies today that sell platform beds and it is important to choose a quality product for longevity, for proper support of your organic or natural mattress, and most importantly for your health. In this article I will discuss what to look for as far as durability, materials, and support.
Platform Bed Longevity
In terms of durability, I suggest you choose a platform bed that is made of solid hardwood. Veneered particle board or soft woods are not the best choice for most parts of a bed frame because they have less structural integrity than solid hardwood. Because of its structural integrity, solid hardwood will also last much longer than veneered particle board. We recommend a natural wood bed frame. Additionally, solid wood is a much healthier choice than particle board.
Avoid Toxins in Platform Bed Construction
Selecting a product made from healthy materials is an important component of shopping for your new platform bed. I always look for solid wood over plywood or particle board because the majority of the odor and toxic out-gassing in a furniture product can come from the glue that is incorporated into its construction. A solid wood bed frame is generally made with little to no glue. If glue is used, it is usually water based and does not offgas once cured. In contrast, veneered particle board has a tremendous amount of glue in it, and the type of glue used often contains formaldehyde and other toxic and carcinogenic chemicals. These chemicals that the glue is made from continue to outgas from the product and into the air for years. Avoiding these chemicals is key, so solid woods or even metal is a healthy choice. Metal, like solid wood, is mostly neutral (i.e. does not out-gas toxic chemicals) as long as the finish is not toxic.
Another potential health concern to be aware of is the type of stain or finish that is used on the bed frame. Stains are not as unhealthy as particle board or plywood because once a stain cures it is mostly inert whereas the glues in particle board and plywood will release odor and chemicals over time. For people highly sensitive to odor or interested in avoiding as many chemicals as possible, I suggest natural platform beds with low or zero VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) finishes or completely unfinished. Read our article on how to find a low or zero VOC bed frame.
Platform Bed Support System
When purchasing a bed frame, look for a strong enough structure to support your mattress, with a base of either slats or a solid surface (like plywood). I prefer wooden slats over a solid surface because slats offer much more ventilation for the mattress as well as often being made out of solid wood. If you choose a platform bed that has a solid surface instead of slats, I recommend one with holes for ventilation or the addition of a bed rug. Without proper ventilation, mold or mildew can form between the mattress and bed surface. On a slatted platform bed, especially if you will be using it with a heavy organic latex mattress, the slats should be no more than 3 inches apart and should be at least ½” thick by 2” wide. Additionally, it is an absolute necessity (unless your slats are made from steel) to have a center support that runs perpendicular to the slats from head to foot (from full size to king size).
Joint Construction for Platform Beds
Part of the strength of bed rail connections come from the type of material that is used to construct the bed and part of it comes from the type of connection hardware that is used. Fastening joint hardware in soft wood (like pine) or in particle board could eventually loosen or come out. So, once again, I suggest a solid wood platform bed.
I like to see metal on metal construction where the side rails meet the headboard and footboard. These joining areas are the places on the bed that take the most strain over time. Eventually, you will probably have to tighten these joints (if they are not self tightening) and a metal on wood connection can strip much easier than metal on metal connections. Two connections that we prefer for side rail to leg connections are bed bolts and mortise bed rail fasteners. The bed bolt connection is extremely strong and can be tightened over time if the connection loosens. Below is a diagram of a “bed bolt” connection where a long bolt threads into a metal nut and holds the connection in compression.
In contrast, mortise bed rail fasteners use an angled hook that tightens as you put weight on the bed and continues to self tighten over time. Pictured below are two different bedrail fastener systems where the metal hook latches onto a metal fitting.
Height of Your Mattress on a Platform Bed
Platform bed frames can sit lower to the ground than a traditional frame that utilizes a box spring. In order to make sure that your mattress is sitting at a height that you like, you should first measure the height of your mattress. As you are shopping for a platform bed, look at the specs and locate the height of the slats. If you add these two numbers together, you will get the final height your mattress will be sitting at. If you need the height to be higher, you have a few different options. 1. Even though you do not need a box spring or foundation, you certainly could place one on top of your new platform bed, under your mattress. 2. You could choose a new mattress with a greater height (we recommend an organic mattress, of course) 3. You can add a mattress topper to add height to your mattress. An organic mattress topper will also likely change the feel of your mattress, generally, it should make your mattress feel a bit softer.
Mattresses, especially organic latex mattresses are heavy, so it is best to put them on a natural wood platform bed that has a strong base with proper slats, a center support, and made with strong materials that have metal on metal connections. Choose a solid wood bed frame or metal bed frame to compliment your healthy organic mattress and keep the air in your bedroom clean from VOCs.
Originally posted on September 21st, 2012, updated on February 5th, 2022.