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So, a bunkie board is a flat wood sheet or slatted construction covered in tenacious fabric. It can work instead of a traditional box spring and has a small height which allows using it for bunk and low-profile beds.
And plywood is a flat wooden sheet made of thin layers of veneer placed onto each other and glued together. If you trim it to the size of your mattress, you’ll get the easiest DIY bed base ever made.
But can you use these two types of mattress support interchangeably?
Well, let’s see right below, in my detailed bunkie board vs plywood comparison!
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What’s Similar Between a Bunkie Board and a Plywood?
This might be a bit surprising, but a bunkie board and a plywood sheet have a lot in common, starting from materials they are made of.
Yes, many bunkie boards are made of plywood, the only difference being that it’s polished, cut into strips, and encased in fabric.
You can take the same plywood sheet, choose the thickness you like, cut it and tie it down with a rope, then encase it in a cloth, and voilà — you’ve got a bunkie board too!
Of course, some boards are made of metal and are more long-lasting, but if you need something cheap and sturdy, both wooden bunk boards and a simple sheet of plywood work just the same.
Along with that, plywood and bunk boards are similar in terms of durability and design, and here’s how.
Whether made of wood or metal, a bunkie board is designed to withstand static and dynamic loads for years. Its rigid construction makes it resistant to shrinkage and bending, as well as to mechanical impact.
Plywood, in turn, has a layered structure. The wood fibers are placed at a 90-degree angle to each other on each layer, thereby creating a system that’s incredibly resistant to excessive bending and cracks.
Both these systems make a great support layer for your mattress and smooth out any sagging spots on the base, so you can sleep comfortably.
Another similarity between the two is that both plywood and bunk board are low-profile.
Bunkie board rarely exceeds 1.5 inches in height, as it was initially made for bunk beds, and any extra inch would turn into a hazard for anyone who chooses to sleep on a second-floor bed.
Plywood sheet thickness ranges from 0,25’’ to 2’’, so you can choose anything that will work for you and just trim it to the size of your bed.
A low-profile design allows both plywood and bunkie boards to be compatible with high-profile mattresses and offer them sufficient support.
Bunkie Board vs Plywood: Differences
Even though plywood and a bunkie board look very similar, they definitely aren’t the same.
And the differences between them define how well each foundation will suit your particular needs, so let’s be sure that you understand them.
Compatibility with Mattress Types
Probably the most significant difference between a bunky board and a plywood sheet is that they work well with different mattress types.
And the reason for this lies in their design.
Plywood is flat, and while this is good for even support and bounciness, it’s bad for airflow. The flat surface won’t let the air in and out of the mattress, which might lead to heat and moisture build-up inside the layers, and consequently, mold development.
Slatted bunkie boards, on the other hand, allow for some air circulation, even if the spaces between the slats aren’t too wide.
If you have a breathable mattress — such as hybrid, innerspring, or latex — you can use either a bunky board or a plywood sheet.
Memory foam mattresses, however, often have issues with heat retention and are more prone to mildew development, so they will work better with a bunkie board.
A bunkie board is a ready-made furniture piece. It comes trimmed to the size of your mattress and all you may need to do is to encase it in the cover — if it comes with one or if you can make one yourself — and install it on your bed base.
That’s the reason why a bunkie board is a more expensive option.
A plywood sheet is a way cheaper material and you can purchase it literally in any hardware store or lumberyard. However, it also requires a more DIY approach: you need to measure your bed frame precisely and trim the sheet to fit these dimensions.
And don’t forget to find a piece of cloth to cover your plywood foundation because unfinished wood might damage the mattress cover and void your warranty.
“Thicker plywood sheets can also be pretty heavy, so you may need to recruit someone to help you bring it to your bedroom.”
Can You Use Plain Plywood Instead of a Bunkie Board?
Based on the info above, the short answer is: yes, you surely can.
But don’t forget about the nuances:
A bunkie board is designed to standard specifications and is readily available at any mattress store. Plus, it will work with any type of mattress.
However, if you’re a ‘do-it-yourself’ person and want to save some money, then a plywood sheet — and a bit of physical work — is all you need.
So, what do you think? Which type of foundation will satisfy your needs better? I’d love to read your answers in the comments!
I have decided to purchase a Purple or Leesa mattress and have a 18” metal bed frame (for storage underneath). My problem is finding a bunki board that is thin enough for a mattress to slightly fit into the frame rather than higher than frame edge! Also the measurements vary and are not standard among different brands, every time I think I’ve found the perfect frame the measurements are not right for my mattress. I’ve decided to get the frame first and go with the plywood and cover it, but wonder what the maximum thinness I could go with. Also, why couldn’t I drill holes in the plywood to help with the breathing problem with memory foam mattresses? I appreciate your article, but still would like to be able to just go buy frame with the exact specifications needed to accommodate my mattress!
Thanks for your comment!
Concerning the thickness of the plywood sheet, you can go with at least 0.75 inches. Anything thinner might not be supportive enough to withstand the weight of the mattress and the sleepers on top.
Theoretically, you can drill holes in the plywood sheet to increase breathability. That being said, you will need to make many holes to achieve a noticeable effect. But this many holes can compromise the supportive properties and the durability of plywood. That’s why I recommend getting a bunkie board if the mattress itself isn’t that breathable (foam, for example).