What Is a Bunkie Board—and Do You Need One?

/ July 21, 2020

Every mattress needs the right support system, as it will help the mattress both perform at its best and last the longest. If you've been looking for the right foundation or bed frame for your mattress, you've probably encountered the term "bunkie board" at some point. What is a bunkie board, and what does it do?

Read on to learn what a bunkie board is used for and whether your mattress needs one.

What is a bunkie board?

A bunkie board is a flat piece of material (typically particleboard or plywood), about 1 inch to 3 inches thick, that goes between your mattress and the surface it sits on. It can be used with any type of setup—a box spring, foundation, platform bed, and so on—to provide additional support for a mattress in cases where the foundation alone is not enough.

Bunkie boards got their name from bunk beds because they were originally used to provide the base for a bunk bed mattress. Traditional innerspring mattresses needed a box spring for support, but a box spring couldn't be used with bunk beds—it wouldn't allow enough clearance for a person to sit up on either the top or the bottom bunk.

A bunkie board came about as a solution to replace the box spring, so bunk bed mattresses could sit low and still have the needed support. Today, bunkie boards are widely available for all mattress sizes—twin, twin XL, double, queen, king, and California king and can be used either instead of or in addition to a slatted foundation.

Bunkie board vs. box spring

While both provide support for your mattress, these two are not the same thing. A box spring (sometimes just called a foundation) is a fabric-covered wooden box that your mattress sits on top of. Originally, box springs were filled with metal coils that added cushioning to innerspring mattresses that were much thinner than the ones made today.

Today's box springs do not contain coils but simply provide support for the mattress while raising it to a comfortable height. If you're happy with the height of your bed, as long as it has adequate support (even on the floor), you don't actually need a box spring. Bunkie boards provide a simpler alternative to a box spring while providing the same sturdy support. They can also be put between your mattress and the box spring as a temporary way of strengthening a box spring that needs replacement.

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Bunkie board vs. slats

Some platform beds or bed frames have a slatted surface. That can be enough support for some mattresses but won't be appropriate for others. A bunkie board can be put between your mattress and the slatted base it sits on to provide additional support. Always check with your manufacturer to see if your mattress needs to be resting on a solid rather than slatted base.

Keep in mind that using a bunkie board with a slatted base will reduce the airflow to the mattress, which could potentially result in you sleeping hotter.

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Bunkie board vs. plywood

If your platform bed or bed frame has a solid plywood top rather than slats, there is no need for an additional bunkie board. A bunkie board can be made of plywood, so these two are pretty much synonymous.

Do you need a bunkie board?

Whether or not you need a bunkie board depends on the kind of mattress you own. Traditional innerspring mattresses needed a box spring—however, the way these mattresses are made today, a box spring isn't always necessary. An innerspring mattress can rest happily on slats or a solid base such as a platform or bunkie board.

Where bunkie boards really help is with foam mattresses, such as memory foam and latex mattresses, as slats often don't provide enough support for those. A bunkie board that rests between slats and the mattress will provide additional support and prevent the mattress from sagging, ultimately prolonging its lifespan.

The bottom line: Always check your warranty to see if your mattress needs solid support or if slats placed closely enough can provide enough support for it. If your mattress necessitates solid support, then a bunkie board can help you achieve that and keep your mattress in great condition for years to come.

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