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Metal or wooden bed frames, which are better?

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Whether you purchase a metal or wooden bed frame comes down to personal preference. Consider which type of bed is more suited to your lifestyle. It isn’t necessarily the case that one is better than the other. Both types of beds are stylish, durable and provide good support. However, it is important to ensure that the base is compatible with the mattress if you buy both separately.

We spend most of our time in the bedroom, so buying a new bed is a big deal. But most people fail to recognise the importance of choosing a suitable bed base for the mattress to rest on. While the mattress provides comfort, the base provides the underlying support. The two need to work together and are equally as important.

Bed frames come in a wide selection of styles, colours and materials. Most people choose a frame for its aesthetic appeal, but other factors should be considered.

Wood and metal bed frames are popular options. Here’s a look at the differences between the two and which is better.

light wooden bed frame with matching bedside cabinets
Light wooden bed frame

Aesthetics

The bed is arguably one of the most important features of the bedroom, so most people understandably choose a bed for its aesthetic appeal.

A wooden bed frame is a great way to make your bedroom feel warm and cosy. The frame can be made from various hardwoods and softwoods, such as oak, pine, beech, ash, and walnut. There’s nothing quite like the natural beauty of wood. The grain and tones bring real charm and character to the bedroom.

Wooden beds also come in a vast array of classic and modern designs. From luxurious sleigh designs featuring a curved headboard to less elaborate panelled or slatted back styles. Other designs include bunk beds, with two or more beds stacked on top of each other, canopy beds, defined by their four posts, and wooden frames with a pull-out bed underneath.

Wooden bed frames are often part of a bedroom collection, where you can purchase other items in the range, such as bedsides, chests, and wardrobes, to create a streamlined look. However, if you prefer to be a little more adventurous, you can easily mix and match woods, materials, and furniture pieces.

Wooden beds sometimes have sharp edges, so you may want to avoid this style if you have children.

Metal beds are renowned for their elegance and versatility. They come in various colourways, including black, white, cream, silver, and pink. Like wooden beds, metal beds come in many styles and work well in almost any bedroom setting. Some frames may come with matching furniture, such as bedside cabinets, but the options tend to be limited.

Metal by itself may feel bland, but you can spruce it up by combining it with other materials like wood.

Some metal beds come with height settings, so you can choose how high you want the mattress to sit on the bed frame from the floor.

Some people find metal beds uncomfortable to sit up against and cannot prop themselves up properly because the pillows fall through the gaps in the headboard. Similarly, their pillows may disappear behind the bed while sleeping.

white elegant bed frame against grey wall
White elegant metal bed frame

Room space

Bed frames typically take up more room space because the mattress often sits inside a frame. Depending on the design, some wooden beds can overpower a smaller room. Wooden sleigh beds, which feature a curved headboard and footboard, can take up a significant amount of floor space. A smaller room may be better served with a metal bed.

Whichever style you prefer, it is important to check your measurements to ensure the room can accommodate a bed frame. Although bed frames usually come flat packed, some bed frames come with large headboards, which can be awkward to manoeuvre. You should check access points like stairs and doorways to avoid problems with delivery.

Support

It isn’t necessarily the case that one type of bed is more supportive than the other. What matters is that the mattress and base are suitable for use together and that the mattress is sufficiently supported.

Most bed frames have a slatted base to support the mattress. The slats can either be solid with no give or sprung, which are flexible. Both sprung and solid slats offer good support. Solid slats will give the bed a firmer feel, and as there is no give from the slats, this leaves the mattress to do all the work, which can affect its longevity. On the other hand, sprung slats work with the mattress, providing extra cushioning. Not only can this make the bed feel more comfortable it can help prolong the life of the mattress.

Slat spacing is also an important consideration. The gap between the slats will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. It is important to ensure the gap between the slats does not exceed the mattress manufacturer’s recommendation. Otherwise, the mattress could get damaged and invalidate its guarantee.

You should also avoid placing your mattress directly on the slats. You can place a mattress pad or a breathable blanket between the slats and the mattress to minimise wear.

If the bed comes with a centre support leg, this may indicate that the frame is not strong enough to withstand regular use. The centre leg may move around with use and can sometimes fall off or break. Cleaning underneath the bed can sometimes be awkward where the frame has a centre leg, and under-bed storage space is also limited.

You should avoid buying a cheap bed frame for a good-quality mattress. The frame won’t support the weight of the mattress, and you could invalidate your guarantee.

Durability

Both wood and metal are durable materials. It can be difficult to determine which is sturdier as it depends on the quality of materials and construction. Like most things, you get what you pay for, and you should expect a higher-quality frame to be more durable and have a long lifespan if looked after properly.

Almost any type of wood can be used to make a bed frame. Hardwoods such as oak, ash, and beech are typically more durable than softwoods like pine. Softwoods are inexpensive but are prone to scratches and dents.

Over time, you should expect wood to expand or contract with changes of room temperature and humidity levels. After a while, tiny cracks may start to form, which tend to be more noticeable on painted finishes. Also, wood will change colour and mellow over time, so expect variations in the shade if you have matching furniture in the room.

A common misconception about metal beds is that they squeak or creak in use. This may be the case with poorly manufactured bed frames, but good-quality frames that have been assembled correctly should not make a noise.

However, over time, metal may be susceptible to rust if it is not looked after properly.

Maintenance

Both metal and wooden bed frames are easy to maintain. You can routinely clean the frame with a soft dry cloth, and you don’t need to worry about the frame getting stained or soiled like an upholstered base.

Assembly

Bed frames usually come flat-packed and may require self-assembly. Although each bed will come with slightly different assembly instructions, both wood and metal frames are relatively straightforward to assemble. It is generally recommended that two people assemble the bed, but metal is typically lighter and more manageable.

If you’re concerned about building the bed, some retailers may offer an assembly service for an additional fee.

Weight

Wooden bed frames vary in weight depending on the type of wood but are typically heavier than metal beds, making them harder to move. Furthermore, low wooden frames may provide limited space underneath for cleaning, meaning the bed may have to be moved for vacuuming.

A metal bed may be more suitable if you need to move the bed for cleaning or if you often relocate to new homes.

Other options

If you’re not convinced a metal or wooden bed is right for you, there are some alternatives.

An upholstered bed can be fully or partially covered in a wide range of soft fabrics. The headboard provides a generous amount of padding, making it comfortable to sit up in bed.

Divans are ideal for most mattresses and typically take up less room space than a bed frame. Some divans feature a spring unit on the top of the base, making the bed feel more comfortable.

Final thoughts

Whether you purchase a metal or wooden bed frame comes down to personal preference. Consider which type of bed is more suited to your lifestyle. It isn’t necessarily the case that one is better than the other. Both types of beds are stylish, durable and provide good support. However, it is important to ensure that the base is compatible with the mattress if you buy both separately.

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About the author

Tony Brown is the founder and creator of The Bed Consultant. His career in the bed industry began in 2002. After graduating from university with a degree in Business Administration, Tony joined one of the largest independent furniture retailers in the UK as a bed consultant. Tony has helped thousands of customers find the perfect mattress.

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