# Which Bed Slats are Strongest?

I’m making a queen-sized bed from a picture that my granddaughter has supplied to me. Concerning the slats that support the box springs, which would be the stronger: (a) a 1 x 2 on edge;(b) a 1 x 3 laid flat, or (c) a 1 x 4 laid flat? – Charles (Dusty) MacDonald

Tim Inman: “…and the Doctor said, ‘No more monkeys jumping on the bed!”  I’m going to dodge the actual question and go to the issue I’m reading in between the lines. It seems to me you’re wanting supports strong enough to make the bed withstand slumber parties and other abusive behavior commonly perpetrated upon bedroom furniture by happy but otherwise misguided youth. Actually, the box springs are, in and of themselves, self-supporting and “strong enough.” All the box springs really need is something to keep them in place on the bed rails. Usually, when a steel frame is not used, 1 x 3 or 1 x 4 slats are used. Either work fine. Four or five of these boards will suffice. The boards or slats usually lie on a ledge of wood mounted on the inside of the rails. This ledge will actually carry the weight of the springs and mattress. Those good old coil springs of the past needed support out in the middle, but modern box spring sets really do not. If something breaks during the main event, it won’t be the slats. It will be the box springs themselves, which go first. I raised boys. I know. Happy memory making!

Chris Marshall: I’ll dodge the question a bit less, thanks to Bruce Hoadley’s Understanding Wood book — really a must-have reference for all of us. I’m reminded that, provided a load is perpendicular to the long axis of a beam, and the grain is running along that same axis, the wider dimension will always be stiffer over its length than the narrower dimension. So, for example, a 1 x 2 laid on edge will deflect less under load than 1 x 2 laid flat. (Of course, that’s why joists and rafters are always oriented on their edges.) But, it would take more calculation to determine if the edge-up orientation of a 1 x 2 would be stronger than a 1 x 3 or 1 x 4 laid flat. I like Tim’s approach here: skip the formulas and keep it practical. The slats are more formality than function if the box spring’s framework is in good shape.