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If your mattress is starting to sag and you can’t afford to buy a new one, a quick solution is to buy a bunkie board or plywood.
Both options will give your mattress a boost and make rolling into ditches a thing of the past. What’s more, they’re easy and effective – and they won’t deplete your bank balance.
A bunkie board is a durable, low-cost base for a sagging mattress. Much like plywood, it’ll give you much-needed support and help you sleep more soundly. But when it comes down to it, which is better?
The final decision between Bunkie Boards vs Plywood rests on whether you’re happy to pay for a ready-made product, or save money and finish the work yourself. If a low-cost solution is your priority, then plywood is the clear winner in this category.
There’s a lot more to it than that, though. Let’s dive in!
What is a Bunkie Board?
A bunkie board is a 1–4-inch sheet that can be placed on a bed frame or box springs to support your mattress. Made from plywood, particleboard, solid wood or steel, it’s usually covered in fabric and comes in a range of sizes to suit your needs.
Originally, bunkie boards were designed for bunk beds that were often too small to accommodate a traditional spring base – hence the name! A piece of plywood or solid wood was placed under the mattress to provide support and save space.
Since then, bunkie boards have evolved to include different thicknesses, sizes, material types, and covers.
You can even get roll-up slats that attach with Velcro! Bunkie boards have also become a popular alternative to box spring bases, particularly for people who want a low line look in their bedroom.
What is Plywood?
Plywood is made from layers of wood veneer that are glued together to produce a strong but lightweight sheet.
Often used in roofing, wall panels, and furniture, it comes in different grades (from A to D) and rarely shrinks or swells – unlike other types of wood or particleboard.
The stability of plywood makes it a suitable base for mattresses.
In fact, most bunkie boards are made of plywood. The only difference is that a plywood sheet is raw, while a bunkie board has been polished and covered.
Plywood is often bought in sheets or cut to size at your home improvement centre. If you have a penchant for DIY, you can even cut the sheet to your specifications and cover it with the material of your choice. Alternatively, you can leave it unfinished if you prefer a natural look.
Which is Better: Bunkie Board or Plywood?
This depends on your specific needs and circumstances, but there are five factors you need to consider when choosing between a bunkie board and plywood.
The strength of a bunkie board depends on the material it’s made from. Is it particleboard or plywood? Solid wood or steel? While plywood is the standard, it’s worth looking at other materials to see how they compare.
Let’s start with particleboard. Many entry-level bunkie boards are made from particleboard. This makes it a cost-effective solution to your sagging mattress problem. However, particleboard is made from wood waste and adhesive, which means that the structure is weak and susceptible to moisture. This makes it unsuitable as a mattress base – unless you want a temporary fix.
The most common material for bunkie boards is plywood. This is because it’s tough, light, and moisture-resistant. Strength will depend on the grade, which can vary from A to D. Try to buy one made from A-grade plywood. While it’s more expensive than other grades, it’s stronger and smoother to the touch.
Bunkie boards made of solid wood are stronger than particle board or plywood. However, they’re much heavier and harder to lift. They can also expand and contract depending on the weather, which means they might not fit your bed properly after prolonged use.
Steel is by far the strongest and most expensive material for bunkie boards, but it doesn’t come in sheets. Instead, it comes as steel slats held together by a steel frame. While steel bunkie boards can hold the heaviest load and support active children, they are hard to move and lack ‘give’, which can cause damage to your mattress in the long run.
Plywood sheets, on the other hand, don’t give you a lot of options, except for different grades and widths. But you still get the same strength and lightweight convenience that you would with a plywood bunkie board.
Overall, solid wood and steel bunkie boards provide more strength, but they’re offset by other issues, like weight, price, moisture, and mattress damage. Given that most bunkie boards are made of plywood, it’s safe to say that bunkie boards and plywood are on a par in this category.
Winner: Bunkie BoardsX
Bunkie boards have been carefully graded, sanded, and covered for your convenience. Some even have attractive covers, which means you can find a bunkie board to suit your taste or décor.
On the other hand, plywood is a raw material that needs to be sanded and covered to achieve a clean look. If you don’t do this, the plywood plank may look hard and unattractive against the mattress. What’s more, it may have splinters or rough edges that could pose a hazard to children or your mattress!
Overall, bunkie boards look more attractive than plywood because they’re polished and covered to complement your bed. As a result, they come out on top in this category.
Winner: Bunkie Boards
Bunkie boards are already cut to the size, which means you don’t have to measure your bed or find the right width. Installation is also simple. All you have to do is lay the bunkie board on the frame or assemble it from easy-lock pieces.
Plywood, on the other hand, needs to be purchased in sheets and cut to size, either by you or a tradesperson. You also need to ask for the right width and grade or it won’t be sturdy enough to hold the weight of your mattress – or you!
If you want a seamless look, you’ll need to sand, polish, and cover the plywood. This can take time, and not everyone will have the tools, know-how or inclination to do this.
As a result, the convenience of a ready-made bunkie board is the winner in this category. Why fuss around with measuring tape and sanding strips when someone else can do the work for you? However, if you’re a DIY whiz and have some sturdy plywood lying around, you might welcome the challenge!
Winner: Bunkie BoardsX
Most traditional mattresses can sit comfortably on any base. But if you’ve got a latex, foam or hybrid mattress, you need a hard base to properly support it. In this case, both bunkie boards and plywood are suited to the task.
A quick note: non-traditional mattresses don’t like box springs. So if you’ve got a box spring base that you want to keep, place the bunkie board or plywood on it, then put your latex or foam mattress on top. Whatever you do, don’t place the mattress directly on the box springs. It could damage the mattress and void your warranty!
The other issue is airflow. If you’ve got a solid sheet underneath your mattress, it won’t allow your mattress to breath. This can promote the growth of mold or mildew, particularly if you live in a humid environment.
The best way to avoid this is to opt for slatted bunkie boards or plywood. Make sure the slats are evenly spaced (less then 3 inches is best or you might get sagging!) and buy ones with Velcro attachments so you can secure them in place.
Overall, bunkie boards and plywood are both great performers – particularly for non-traditional mattresses. The only problem might be moisture and breathability issues, which planks or slats can easily solve.
Winner: Bunkie BoardsX
Bunkie boards are more expensive than a plywood sheet because they’re pre-made and ready to install.
The costs can go up depending on whether you get solid wood or steel. But given that most bunkie boards are made from plywood, we’ll compare like with like!
Bunkie board slats could cost you as little as $50, while a covered sheet may be as much as $150. By comparison, plywood will cost you around $50, depending on the grade and width. (If you’ve got leftover materials from a DIY project in your garage, it won’t cost you a cent!)
While bunkie boards are twice as expensive as plywood, the latter needs to be cut and finished to suit your needs – and not everyone can do this.
Winner: Bunkie BoardsX
Frequently Asked Questions
Do You Need a Bunkie Board if You Have Slats?
Normally, a slatted base is enough to support the weight of your mattress.
However, if the slats are old, bowed or damaged, your mattress won’t be getting the support it needs. If that’s the case, place a bunkie board on top for extra reinforcement.
One thing to remember is that bunkie boards can be about 3 inches thick. Make sure this increase in height won’t affect your ability to get in and out of bed, particularly if you suffer from back pain or mobility issues!
Is It Okay to Put a Mattress on Plywood?
It’s perfectly safe to put your mattress on plywood – whether it’s raw or covered with fabric. There are only two issues you might encounter: damage to your mattress and airflow issues.
A raw sheet of plywood may have rough edges and splinters that could snag and tear at your mattress, not to mention your sheets and skin. If possible, try to sand the plywood sheet and cover it with fabric beforehand, or use a plywood bunkie board.
Also, a plywood sheet may prevent your mattress from breathing. This can easily be fixed by using plywood slats or planks. Make sure they’re secured so they don’t slip off or move around!
There’s no doubt that bunkie boards and plywood sheets provide a safe and sturdy base for your sagging mattress. But when you weigh up the pros and cons, which comes out on top?
When we looked at categories like durability, appearance, convenience, compatibility, and price, bunkie boards match or even outperform plywood.
But in the end, it all depends on your needs. Bunkie boards are best for buyers who want speed and convenience, while plywood is for DIY enthusiasts and bargain hunters.
Use a bunkie board if:
- You want a ready-made mattress base that can be installed in minutes
- You want a mattress base with an attractive cover that complements your mattress and décor
- You want the option of choosing a base made from particleboard, plywood, solid wood or steel
Use plywood if:
- You want to save money
- You love DIY and want to cut and finish the sheet yourself
- You like the look of unfinished plywood
But it doesn’t matter what material you choose. Both options will provide the support you need to eliminate sagging, extend the life of your mattress, and give you a good night’s sleep – and that’s what really counts!
Thank you for reading. We hope you found this comparison guide useful! See our articles below for more product comparisons.