Girl holding pillow climbing onto bunkbed
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Bunk Bed vs. Loft Bed: What’s the Difference?

    Last Updated
    October 17, 2021
    min read

    The main difference between bunk beds and loft beds is a bunk bed has two mattresses, one above the other. A loft bed consists of one mattress up top, leaving space below to have a desk or extra storage space.

    Loft beds are a lot like bunk beds. Both bed types allow you to elevate your mattress above the ground, freeing up the space underneath. If you’re looking to make good use of the vertical space in your room, a bunk bed or a loft bed will allow you that option.

    Despite their similarities, there are also distinctions between loft and bunk beds. Unlike bunk beds — which stack more than one bed and frame on top of one another — loft beds feature only a single mattress. Loft beds allow you to use the space underneath your elevated mattress for storage, a desk, or other purposes.

    You can also use the space under the elevated bed for a play space, making loft beds one of the more popular bedding options for kids.

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    What Is a Bunk Bed?

    Bunk Bed

    Bunk beds feature at least two beds stacked on top of each other. This type of bed is popular wherever space is limited, or when two or more residents occupy the same room. From military and medical environments to a child’s bedroom, bunk beds help you make the most of the space you have available.

    Some bunk beds feature a traditional mattress on top, with a trundle bed — or even a futon — on the bottom. In other cases, bunk bed mattresses are perpendicular to each other, forming an L-shape: the top bunk is parallel to the wall, while the end of the mattress on the bottom butts up against the wall.

    If you’re considering a bunk bed, you’re likely trying to save space. Most designs will fit a twin mattress, or a twin XL mattress if you need some extra legroom. Bunk beds provide a fun sleeping option for growing children and they can help you preserve space in compact rooms for other purposes.

    Pros and Cons of Bunk Beds

    Bunk beds are a worthwhile investment for anyone looking to save space and create a fun, dynamic sleep environment. If you’re interested in any bunk-bed model, consider the following bunk-bed benefits:

    • Save space in any room;
    • Offer children a non-traditional sleep option;
    • Less expensive than several other bed options;
    • Promote bonding between roommates;
    • Allow more individuals to sleep nearby;
    • Complement the fun atmosphere of any youth-themed room.

    As with any sleep model, there are also downsides to bunk beds. The drawbacks of a bunk bed include the following:

    • Often won’t integrate well with a king-size mattress;
    • Requires an upgrade after children outgrow bunk-bed size;
    • Can create a feeling of claustrophobia;
    • Fall risk for anyone in the upper bunk;
    • More complicated setup process than a traditional bed frame;
    • Uncomfortable for someone unaccustomed to sleeping above the ground;
    • Access to the top bunk is sometimes difficult.

    How to Separate Bunk Beds

    There might come a time when you want to separate your bunk bed into two separate beds. Perhaps your children have outgrown the bunk-bed model, and now prefer to sleep in more of a traditional bed setup. Whether you’re upgrading your child’s bedroom or simply remodeling a living space, separating bunk beds is a fairly simple process.

    To begin separating your bunk beds from one another, remove the mattresses. You’ll also want to remove any ladders, stairs, or other mechanisms used to reach the top bunk. Safely take apart any guardrails.

    Next, remove any pins or fasteners that hold the top bunk firmly in place. Look for these pins near the bedposts, or anywhere else where the top bunk touches the bottom bunk. Make sure to keep these pins in a safe, non-corrosive environment in case you need to bunk the beds in the future.

    Next, it’s time to lift the top bunk from the bottom bunk. If you’re not confident that you can fulfill this step alone, feel free to ask a friend, neighbor, or family member for help.

    With a firm grip on both the head and foot of the bed, lift the top bunk in a single motion. Place the top bunk safely on the floor beside the bottom bunk.

    What Is a Loft Bed?

    Similar to a bunk bed, a loft bed raises your mattress above the ground. However, unlike a bunk bed, the space below the raised mattress is not used for another bed. Instead, you can place a desk, dresser, storage container, or other items in the space you’ve created.

    Many individuals choose to use the area below the mattress for storage purposes. With the right furniture, you can store clothing, books, toys, even electronics under your lofted mattress.

    In other cases, you might choose to create a workspace underneath your lofted bed. Many loft beds sit above a full desk, with enough space for one or more computer monitors or television screens. You may even be able to fit a few other pieces of office furniture — alongside a desk chair — if you use the space efficiently.

    Loft beds typically accommodate smaller mattress sizes, including a full size mattress. If you’re a single sleeper who wants enough room to move around and get comfortable while you sleep, a loft bed might be the ideal option for you.

    Pros and Cons of Loft Beds

    Loft beds offer a variety of distinctive benefits. Whether you’re looking to save space or create a dynamic living environment, loft beds deliver comfort and convenience in a confined space.

    You’ll experience the following benefits with any lofted bed:

    • More space for storage underneath;
    • Opportunities for desks, dressers, or other furniture in the same space;
    • The ability to sleep and work in the same environment;
    • Adds space to a small or medium-sized bedroom;
    • Favorable bed type for many children.

    As a fan-favorite among young children, the loft bed allows you to save space and money.

    There’s also a chance that a loft bed might not be the optimal sleep option for you. Loft beds do come with a few cons, which may cause you to reconsider your decision.

    Consider the following drawbacks of the loft beds:

    • Don’t fit well with larger-sized mattresses;
    • Longer setup times compared to traditional bed types;
    • Long disassembly times, especially with additional furniture below;
    • Fall risks for children in the loft;
    • Higher costs than some traditional bed options;
    • Lower weight restrictions than larger beds.

    Depending on your sleep needs, you may want to consider other sleep options besides a loft bed.

    How to Loft a Bed

    If you’re looking to create a more dynamic sleep environment, or you simply want to create more space in your room, consider lofting your bed. It’s relatively simple to make your bed higher, and your new use of vertical space will create storage opportunities below.

    To loft your bed, first, remove bedding and any other sleep accessories that could move during the lofting process.

    Next, use standard lofting posts to raise each post of your bed by the same height. Make sure that your lofting posts are the same size before beginning the lofting process. If you’re not confident in your ability to loft your bed on your own, ask someone you know for help.

    One post at a time, slide the lofting posts under your existing posts to raise your bed further into the air. Be sure to support other sides of the bed while lofting, and secure each loft post to each existing post before continuing.

    When completed, add bedding back onto the frame and attach a ladder, stairs, or another mechanism to help you reach your bed.

    Bunk Beds vs. Loft Beds: Which One Is Better?

    Your needs will dictate whether a bunk bed or a loft bed is ultimately a better fit for you. For example, large families might benefit from a series of bunk beds, to help them conserve space in a confined living environment. Children living in the same room might also prefer the closeness of a bunk bed.

    By contrast, college students might prefer the lofted bed model. Students living in a dorm can make better use of their room’s space with loft beds. Students could loft their beds and place desks, televisions, or other furniture below their mattresses.

    Whether you prefer a bunk bed or a loft bed, both bed types provide a space-saving, convenient piece of furniture. Perhaps more importantly, you can get a comfortable night’s rest in both a bunk bed or a loft bed, making each a quality sleep option.


    About the authors

    Cecilia Gillen

    Cecilia brings over five years of writing experience primarily centered around lifestyle and health topics. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Media and Journalism from the University of South Dakota. She’s both an advocate for sleep and a night owl at heart.