Bed Slats Improvement




About: Hello. I'm a freelance designer who makes a lot of different things for fun.

Recently I saw a guy building a bed at our maker space, and I liked his method of distributing bed slats using a rail with slat insets (see drawing).

My bed at home has a much worse design, which is a strip of fabric stapled to each slat. This method is not stable (they move) and the slats get tangled easily when trying to move them. You can see my photo of how uneven they get!

I was inspired to build perfectly sized spacers and glue them in position. I noticed an improvement immediately upon laying on the mattress, so if you have a similar bed, please follow along.

Step 1: Measurements and Math

You are going to make spacers to put in between every slat on the bed. Before you can cut anything, you need to measure the bed and a little math.

Measure the cleats (the support inside your bed rails that the slats sit on):

  1. How long is it?
  2. How wide is it?

Measure the slats:

  1. How wide are they?
  2. How deep are they?
  3. How many are there?

In my case, the cleats are 73¾" long (L) and about 1" wide.

My slats are 3¼" wide (W), and 5/8" deep, and there are 14 of them.

Now, figure out your total negative space (N) -- the space between the slats. That's the cleat length (L) minus the number of slats (S) times the slat width (W):

N = L - S*W.

(for me, N = 42¾")

The number of spacers on one side will be the number of slats minus one. So, the spacer length should be the negative space divided by the number of slats minus one, or N / (S-1).

For me, that worked out to 3¼".

You'll need spacers for both sides, so (S-1)*2, of them. For me, that's 26.

In summary, I will need 26 spacers 3¼" long, 5/8" high and 1" wide. How about you?

Step 2: Chop Chop!

Now the boring part is over. It's time to hit the woodshop!

Recall I need 26 spacers 3¼" long, 5/8" high and 1" wide. I found some cedar boards that are 5/8" thick, so that's one measurement taken care of.

I then ran them through a table saw to get lengths that are 3¼" wide. So finally, I can make my repetitive cuts at the chop saw, making 1" thick wood spacers. Measure your first cut, then clamp a wood stop to the end, and you can quickly do the rest.

Once you have your spacers, take them to your sanding station and give them all a good sanding, removing any rough edges. This will also help the slats fit in easily.

Step 3: Get Glueing

Remove the fabric strips and staples as needed.

Get your preferred wood glue. For this project, Gorilla glue is great because of the short open time. Once my eighth clamp was in place, my first clamp was ready to use again.

Place your first slat in place, then the first space beside it. Then place your next slat and alternate until everything is spaced out perfectly. Once you're satisfied, begin gluing. Lift up the first spacer, glue the bottom (spread it evenly), and clamp it in place. Continue gluing until all your clamps are busy. If you need to let the first batch dry, come back and continue later.

Once your glue is set, throw your mattress back on the bed and enjoy!

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    10 Discussions


    11 months ago

    Using spacers is a great idea!

    A thin plywood board on top of the slats also adds to the stability and protects the thinner slats from breaking if you do just plonk yourself down on the bed.

    An alternative method of fixing the slats is to use plastic binding tape instead of cloth tape. It is a lot stronger and lasts longer.

    2 replies

    Reply 11 months ago

    I've also used plywood over slats for years and it works great.


    Reply 11 months ago

    Thank you both. I have considered doing that too, but research recommended against it since your mattress needs to breathe. Maybe pegboard MDF would do the trick!


    11 months ago on Introduction

    Gluing the slats down makes the frame less movable, and the cross-wise glue interface will weaken every time the wood moves mechanically or with weather.

    The best slat frames are held in place with unglued dowels. You can use your plan for setting up the slats, and then drill a hole through the slat into the frame, before dropping a short dowel into the hole (perhaps with a drop of glue at the bottom only). I agree that some fabric beneath the slat will prevent creaking when you move in bed.

    1 reply

    Reply 11 months ago

    Hey, you're right -- you definitely don't want to glue the slats themselves! Just the spacers. They will hold the slats in place.


    11 months ago

    Original slats plus ribbon stapled to each is perfectly fine. I simply screwed the top slat to the side support rails then, pulling the slats taught, I screwed the bottom slat to the side rails. Being a tad portly, the bed did creak somewhat as I moved on it so I simply disassembled a couple of palettes and cut the wood to the correct length. These are more than happy to sit loose between each of the original slats & it's strengthened the bed no end. If I had to dismantle the bed, it'd be easy enough to remove the 4 screws and simply roll all the slats up - I've done it before with my children's (Ikea) beds.

    When my eldest & his girlfriend moved in together, their 'activities' broke a few of the slats on his Ikea bed. The double beds use two sets of slats with a central support beam. I dismantled a couple of decent palettes, cut the wood to the correct length and replaced the broken slats then filled in the gaps with the remaining palette wood - it's stronger and far more forgiving/bendy than the original slats so the improved bed has lasted a number of years.


    11 months ago

    As I've got an Ikea bed with everything made of wood, I used nails to fix everything together. Of course, it's quasi unremovable, but when you've once mounted and dismounted an Ikea device...


    Question 11 months ago

    I have actually broken through a few bed slats before from plopping down on them. Would it be feasible to put some thin metal under the slats?

    1 answer

    Answer 11 months ago

    At that point it might be better to just replace the slats with stronger wood. Or make sure you have a center rail to support the middle.


    Tip 11 months ago

    Having a thick ribbon between the rail and the slat prevents noises when you move in the bed. I always use the staple and ribbon, but screw the ends of the ribbon to the rails.