How to Make Bed Slats?

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Written by:

Max Stevens

How to Make Bed Slats?

Are you tired of weak and flimsy bed slats that cause discomfort and restless sleep? Have you ever considered making your own bed slats but aren’t sure where to start? 

Let’s face it, when bed slats are not strong enough, they can sag or bow over time, causing an unstable sleeping surface that can leave you feeling tired and irritable. Not to mention, a lack of support can lead to damage to your mattress and bed frame, resulting in costly repairs or replacements. 

My top tip for making bed slats is to correctly measure the wood before cutting, as this can prevent mistakes and ensure that the slats are aligned properly. Using hardwoods such as oak or maple that are at least ¾ inch thick and have been kiln-dried can also help prevent warping and bowing. Additionally, incorporating “crowning” into the slats can help distribute weight evenly and prevent sagging.

In this walkthrough, I’ll be sharing some helpful and easy-to-follow steps to create strong and sturdy bed slats that provide the support and comfort you need for a good night’s sleep. So, grab your tools, get ready to learn, and let’s get started on making the bed slats of your dreams!

Six Steps to Make Your Bed Slats 

Honestly, making bed slats is a project that needs prior DIY (or handyman) knowledge and woodworking experience. So if you don’t have DIY knowledge and experience, make sure to have someone who does assist you to prevent mishaps and ensure excellent results. 

Making good bed slats require a different set of tools and equipment, as listed below: 

Materials Needed

  • Tape Measure
  • Bench Saw or Circular Saw
  • High-Grit Sandpaper or Sanding Machine 
  • Varnish (optional but recommended) 
  • Natural-Bristle Brush (for applying varnish)
  • Wood Screws or Wood Glue (recommended to use both for extra durability) 
  • Wood Clamps

Step 1: Determine the Number and Size of Slats That You Need

Note: If you’re replacing busted or broken slats in your bed frame, you can skip this step since you have existing slats to pattern your measurements. 

If you’re starting from scratch (say your bed frame didn’t come with slats), the first thing to do is to determine how many slats you need and how big or small they are. To do this, follow these: 

1) Get your tape measure and measure the length of the bed.
2) Once you have a value, divide it by 3 (the average length of a slat). Go a bit higher if you like wider slats. 
3) Since slats need to be placed apart, divide the sum by 2. 

For example, if you have an 80 inch bed, divide it by 3, and you get roughly 26; divide it again, this time by 2, and you’ll get 13—which is the number of slats you’ll need to make. 

If you want fewer slats to allow for the mattress to breathe, you’ll need to widen the slats. In contrast, if you want more slats in order to have a mattress without sagging issues in the long run, double up the number of slats (for example, 13 x 2 equals 26). 

Tip: Changing the slats (as in wider or slimmer), you’ll need to account for the lumber you’ll be using; go for more robust materials we’ll discuss below. 

Step 2: Purchase Needed Materials

You’ll need to buy the necessary materials, tools, equipment, and other supplies for the task. If you already have some tools and equipment and you’re just missing one or two, you can borrow from someone, and you’ll cut the costs even more.
As for the materials such as wood, wood screw, wood glue and more, grab a piece of paper and pen and list down the needed materials to make things easier. Wood types are essential for bed slats, as wood types have different durabilities.

Popular lumber types when making bed slats are pine, oak, poplar, fir, and hickory. Your local hardware salespeople may provide more detailed insight into these wood types than this article. But for starters, you may want or prefer oak and hickory lumber cuts because of their durable and stronger build and workability than other lumber. 

Alternatively, you can use inexpensive plywood boards or a 2 inches thick sheet of plywood if your budget is restrictive (they’re still durable with the right thickness, we promise)

Step 3: Measure and Cut the Wood

Follow these steps: 

1. Get your tape measure and measure the width of the bed this time. 
2. Once you get a value, subtract 0.5 inches. 
3. Cut the wood according to this measurement, but don’t forget your width preferences; stay in the 3-4-5 inches width range using your circular or bench saw. You can also use a jigsaw for ease of use and good manoeuvrability while cutting.  
4. Use the first cut as your template as you cut the rest of the slats. 

Trick: If you don’t have the time and tools to cut the wood, you can use wood planks that are pre-fabricated to your desired dimensions at lumber factories. 

Step 4: Sand the Slats

You may not consider sanding to be much important in the bed slat-making process, but they are actually necessary. Splinters in the wood can cut your skin (and they’re notoriously tricky to pull out). 

Apart from cuts, splinters can damage the surface of your mattress and might even puncture the foam material (if your mattress is foam-based). Surface openings on the mattress from splinter puncture can even make way for bed bugs to enter. 

To get rid of splinters, use high-grit sandpaper. If you’re a bit busy, you may use a sanding machine to ease things out. But read the instruction manual first, as some sanding machines have attachments suitable and not suitable for flat wood planks. 

Step 5: Varnish the Slats (Optional)

Note: This step is optional, but we recommend doing this to prolong and preserve the life of your bed slats. 

Varnish is a compound applied to wood and timber to protect them from elements that can deteriorate their structural integrity. Varnishes can come as oil-based or water-based, but if you really want to prolong your slats, oil-based varnishes are the way to go. 

Moisture can damage wood slats, and applying a coat or two of varnish offers a good degree of protection. Using your natural-bristled brush, just paint around the slats like painting and staining a wall. You can also use wax, but varnishes last a lot longer and are more durable. 

Tip: Varnishes come in different colors; choose light-tinted varnishes for light-colored wood and dark varnish for dark wood. 

Step 6: Install the Slats

After the varnish coat in the slats has dried, the next step is to install the wooden bed slats in place. You can do this by choosing between wood screws or wood glue; you can even combine both if you want extra durability. 

If your bed frame has slat slots, you can secure the bed slats on your bed rails and support beams using screws, glue, or plain nails. But also consider certain changes in your frame (such as moving out and needing to disassemble the frame, including the slats). Ensure there’s an equal distance between each slat (a spacer would be a nice tool to have) to allow good airflow at the bottom of the bed frame.

In this case, securing the slats using screws would be good since you can detach the screws with a simple screwdriver or a drill driver. Wood glue is permanent and tough to remove, so it’s a good option if you think the slats should be permanently attached to the frame. 

Make sure the slats are flush with the support beams and side rails. Finish off by reinstalling your mattress, bedding, and headboard bracket, and you’re good to go. 

How Thick Should My Bed Slats Be?

Your bed slats should be at least ¾ inches thick to allow for more durability and longer-lasting life. Simply put, the thicker the slats are, the more durable they are, and the more durable the bed frame is (since it is a part of the bed frame).

Thick slats should also be as inflexible as possible, as flexible ones may be prone to breakage. However, thick and rigid slats may make your bed firmer—which is a no-go for some people. 

Thinner and more flexible slats are your best option if you need a softer bed.

Can You Put Mattress Directly on Wood Slats?

Yes, most mattresses are fine when rested directly on wood slats. However, exercise caution if you have double-sided foam-based mattresses, as slat marks may be apparent when placed on slats as the weight of the mattress pushes down on the slats.

If you have a double-sided foam mattress, a platform foundation is better to avoid slat marks and possible sagging in the future. 

Make Your Bed Slats 

In summary, making your own bed slats is a fairly easy task, provided you have the necessary tools, equipment, knowledge, and experience. If you’re someone not well-versed in DIY tasks, having someone who does is a great addition. Feel free to also read back and forth this article should you need to do so. Good luck!