Bunkie Board Vs. Plywood: What Is the Difference?

A sagging mattress can be a nuisance and an impediment to good sleep but it does not always mean you need to buy a new one.

Your mattress may just need a flat surface base instead of one with gaps. When this is the case, you have two choices: plywood or bunkie board.

Bunkie boards were designed to replace the box spring. They are very useful when you have limited vertical safe and would like to maintain a low-profile aesthetic.

Plywood platforms, on the other hand, are easier to access and more affordable than bunkie boards.

So which of these is ideal? What is the difference between them and how do you pick the right base for your mattress? Read on to learn more.

What Is a Bunkie Board?

A bunkie board is a flat 1 to 4-inch thick wooden board sheet that can be used as a base and placed on a bed frame to support a mattress. It is usually trimmed to specific dimensions before being placed directly beneath a mattress.

Made from a wide range of materials steel, solid wood, particleboard, etc. bunkie boards are covered in fabric.

They provide a solid foundation for your mattress and can be used instead of the box spring. According to manufacturers, they are ideal for foam and latex mattresses.

Originally, bunkie boards were developed for use in bunk beds that were too small to accommodate a spring base. They were placed directly under the mattress to save space and provide support.

Today, bunkie boards are available in a wide range of materials, sizes, thicknesses, and cover options.

Bunkie boards are associated with maximized comfort and increased service life.

They also reduce the impact imposed by the weight of the sleeper and the mattress on the slats. If you have limited vertical space on your bed, you can choose a thinner bunkie board to avoid wasting height.

What Is Plywood?

Plywood is a strong but lightweight sheet consisting of several layers of wood veneer glued together. It is offered in different grades from A to D and is usually used in furniture, wall panels, and roofing.

Unlike other types of particleboard or wood, plywood rarely swells or shrinks.

This, in addition to its stability and strength, makes it a good mattress base. In fact, many bunkie boards are made from this material. The difference is that bunkie boards are covered and polished while plywood is raw.

Plywood is usually sold in sheets but you can ask the attendant at your local home improvement center to cut it to size.

If you have a knack for DIYing, you can buy a sheet and cut it to your preferred dimensions at home. You can then cover it in a material of your choosing or leave it unpolished and uncovered for a more natural look.

Plywood Design

Each adjoining layer of wood veneer in a plywood sheet is rotated perpendicularly during a cross-graining process to improve endurance.

hardwood plywood

This process makes plywood immune to splitting when the edges are nailed and reduces expansion and shrinkage, improving overall stability.

Additionally, the layers used in gross graining are usually grouped in odd-number layers to create a balance sheet that is resistant to warping.

The core layers in plywood increase the strength of the sheet by increasing the separation between the sheet’s outer layers. Since this area is where stress is most abundant, this configuration enhances the sheet’s ability to resist bending.

The technique used to design plywood also makes it easier to produce larger, thicker sheets and smaller versions that can handle the same load.

In fact, plywood maintains its effectiveness and quality regardless of size, which means you can always find a sheet for your needs.

Which Is Better?

Bunkie boards and plywood are similar enough that they can be compared to each other, usually favorably, when looking for a base for your mattress. Here are several aspects of both options and how they measure up to each other:

Durability

As mentioned earlier, bunkie boards are made from a wide variety of materials.

The durability of an individual board will usually depend on the material from which it is made. Although the standard is plywood, there are several other materials worth reviewing. They include:

Plywood

Most bunkie boards are made from polished plywood because it is moisture-resistant, light, and strong.

Since plywood is available in different grades (A to D), the strength of the bunkie board will depend on the grade. A-grade plywood is the most expensive but also the strongest. It is also smoother than its counterparts.

Particleboard

Entry-level bunkie boards are usually made from particleboard because it is more cost-effective.

Nonetheless, because particleboard is made from adhesive and wood waste, its structure is moisture-sensitive and weak. This means that particleboard bunkie boards are unstable and will offer a temporary solution as a mattress base at best.

Steel

Steel is the most expensive but also the strongest bunkie board material. Unfortunately, it comes in steel slats held together by a steel frame rather than sheets.

It can support very heavy loads and active children they do not have any give and are hard to move. This means that they can cause damage to your mattress over time.

Solid Wood

While weaker than steel bunkie boards, solid wood bunkie boards are stronger than plywood and particleboard.

They are also heavier and more susceptible to contracting and expanding depending on the weather, which makes them unfit for prolonged use.

Plywood sheets are less versatile. Except for the different widths and greats, you do not really have a lot of choices when it comes to material.

That said, they do offer the same lightweight but strong configuration as a plywood bunkie board.

Steel and solid wood bunkie boards are stronger but they are plagued by problems like mattress damage, moisture, price, and weight. And since most bunkie boards are plywood, we can concur that plywood and bunkie boards draw when it comes to durability.

Convenience

Bunkie boards are usually sold customized and they come in a ready-to-use size.

This means that you do not have to measure your bed base to determine the dimensions. Even better, installing bunkie boards is very easy. You lay the bunkie board on your bed frame and put together the easy-lock pieces.

On the other hand, plywood must be bought and then cut to size. This can be done by a tradesperson or you can complete the project yourself.

You will also need to determine the weight exerted on your bed frame so that you can get the right grade and width of plywood for your particular needs.

Also, if you prefer a cleaner, more seamless look, you will have to sand, polish, and cover your plywood sheet. In addition to taking a lot of time, you may not have the necessary tools, knowledge, or experience to do this right. You may not even want to or have the time.

As such, when it comes to convenience, bunkie boards trump plywood sheets because they are ready-made.

Still, if you are a DIY maestro and don’t mind the work, plywood is a welcome challenge.

Strength and Thickness Comparison

Bunkie boards are a great option if you are looking for more than one inch of thickness. Since they are offered in different thickness levels, you can pick a thickness that best meets your needs.

Bunkie boards are also very durable, especially if you pick one made from good-quality materials.

In contrast, plywood sheets have a thickness ranging from one-eighth to three inches.

Since cutting thicker sheets can be more challenging and energy-consuming, you should go with plywood if you are not looking for a very thick base for your mattress.

Appearance

Bunkie boards are usually sanded, graded, polished, and covered, with some options including attractive covers that could match your décor or mattress.

Plywood, on the other hand, is a raw material with an unfinished look. It has to be sanded, polished, and covered to give it a clean look. If you do not do this, it retains its unattractive and hard appearance.

Some plywood sheets may have rough edges or splinters that could damage your mattress or pose a safety hazard to mattress users.

Subsequently, bunkie boards are more attractive than plywood sheets. They also offer more design options than their counterparts thanks to the wide variety of covers.

Nonetheless, plywood can look good with little processing to people that prefer that natural, unfinished look.

Mattress Compatibility

While most traditional mattresses will do well on any base, non-traditional options like hybrids, foam, or latex need a hard base for proper support.

Bunkie boards and plywood will both work great but airflow and breathability issues can present themselves.

Placing a solid sheet underneath your mattress, be it plywood or bunkie board, will prevent it from breathing and ultimately cause mold or mildew growth.

You can eliminate this risk by buying slated plywood or bunkie boards. Pick evenly spaced slats of no more than three inches or you could promote sagging.

Note: Non-traditional mattresses like foam or latex should never be placed on box springs.

If you have such a mattress and would like to keep your box spring, place plywood or a bunkie board on it then place your mattress on the platform instead. Placing your mattress directly on box springs could damage it and void your warranty.

Price

Plywood sheets are more affordable than bunkie boards because they are ‘unfinished.’ Bunkie boards are polished, covered, and ready to install, which means more work has gone into producing them.

Moreover, their price can go even higher if you pick steel or solid wood options. However, since most bunkie boards are made from plywood, the cost does not vary that much.

You can buy a bunkie board slat for around $50 but a polished covered sheet could set you back as much as $150.

Plywood sheets, on the other hand, cost about $50, depending on the width and grade.

While they are cheaper, you have to factor in the cost of cutting and finishing the board, especially if you cannot complete the project yourself and don’t have any tools or materials.

Pros and Cons of Plywood and Bunkie Boards

Before deciding if you would rather buy a bunkie board or DIY a plywood sheet, here is a rundown of the pros and cons of each of these platforms:

  • Plywood sheets are more affordable than bunkie boards.
  • A DIY project involving plywood can be very fun, if you are DIY-inclined, and allows you to control your expenses.
  • DIYing with plywood gives you more control over the final design.
  • Bunkie boards are easier to install and assemble.
  • Bunkie boards are more pleasing to the eye than unpolished plywood.
  • Some bunkie boards are more durable and stronger than plywood.

Which one to choose: Bunkie Board or Plywood

As is almost always the case, there is no clear-cut answer to which of these platforms is better.

The choice between bunkie board and plywood will ultimately come down to your needs.

Choose A Bunkie Board If:

  • You want an aesthetically pleasing mattress base that matches your décor and mattress.
  • You want a ready-made base for your mattress that can be installed in no time.
  • You do not mind spending a little more on a mattress base.
  • You want to have options when it comes to material.

Choose Plywood If:

  • You have a limited budget or would like to save money.
  • You prefer the natural, unfinished aesthetic of plywood.
  • You love DIYing and want to make a base for your bed yourself.

Whichever you choose, both of these options will eliminate sagging and give your mattress the support it needs. All you have to do is pick good quality materials and a suitable thickness for your needs.

Conclusion

Evidently, both plywood sheets and bunkie boards provided a sturdy, safe, and durable base for sagging mattresses.

Both options are durable but bunkie boards beat out plywood sheets for convenience and appearance.

Plywood sheets are more affordable and require some work, which makes them ideal for people looking for a bargain and DIY enthusiasts.

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