What Is a Bunkie Board?

Written by
 Purple Staff
Last Updated
February 8, 2023
min read


A bunkie board is a thin piece of wood sheathed in the fabric that functions like a box spring. Most bunkie boards have a 2-inch thickness for mattress support without the bulk and height of a traditional box spring. They are meant to create a perfect fit over slats for extra support.

Basic History of the Bunkie Board

The first bunkie boards were planks used for buttresses on bunk beds. This is where they earned the name "bunkie" board. Today's bunkie boards are made from plywood and composite wood crafted for a variety of lengths, widths, and thicknesses. They are also used for much more than just bunk beds.

The development of covering bunkie boards with fabric allows people to use them as "light" box springs. For instance, a popular option like an innerspring mattress can rest solidly on a bunkie board without concerns about sagging. Once considered to be just for kids, bunkie boards now work with all standard mattress sizes.

Bunkie Board vs. Box Spring: Which Is Better?

bunkie vs box spring

Bunkie boards provide a solid surface for a mattress that closely simulates a platform bed. When comparing bunkie board vs box spring, it's important to consider that box springs may not provide the support level needed for a newer mattress, like a memory foam or hybrid mattress. Most newer mattresses are not compatible with a box spring as it breaks down the mattress over time. Check with your mattress manufacturer to confirm.

Height preference also makes a big difference for bunkie beds vs box springs. The thinner, streamlined profile of a bunkie board allows a mattress to sit lower. By contrast, a box spring adds height. This can be important when considering the difficulty level of crawling in and out of bed.

Pros of a Bunkie Board

Lower Profile: Bunkie boards are much lower than box springs. Getting in and out of bed can be easier with a mattress that sits lower on a bunkie board compared to an elevated mattress on a box spring.

Added Mattress Support: Bunkie boards provide support and structure under a mattress. They help a frame to hold the weight of a new mattress by slumping and sagging into the gaps between slats.

Works on Any Size Mattress: Versatile and easy to use, bunkie boards can be used on any mattress size or type.

Absorbing and Distributing Pressure: Bunkie boards absorb and distribute the pressure of your body on the surface of the mattress.

Cons of a Bunkie Board

Reduced Airflow: Bunkie boards can reduce airflow by creating a solid barrier between the mattress and base. This can cause a mattress to trap body heat for a "stuffier" sleeping experience. Reduced airflow can also make it easier for mold and allergens to get trapped. Mattress allergy symptoms are more common than you think.

Warping: Wooden bunkie boards can warp in wetter climates. This can alter the way a mattress rests on the bed frame. A non-wooden bunkie board is a good workaround for this problem.

What Can I Use Instead of a Bunkie Board?

Platform beds achieve similar results as bunkie boards by creating a solid mattress foundation to please hot sleepers and budget shoppers. The perk of a platform is that it allows for better airflow to prevent heat and mold problems.

The Purple bed frame offers the benefit of a supported mattress with no need for box springs or bunkie boards. That means clear airflow with proper sleep support in one easy design.

Platform Bed

Platform Bed

Strong, simple, storage-friendly

Upholstered bed frame

Purple Bed Frame

The upholstered, stylish cozy addition

Adjustable bed frame

Purple Ascent Adjustable Base

Provides premium, customizable support for your mattress

Additional Commonly Asked Questions

Can Plywood Be Used Instead of a Bunkie Board?

Placing a solid piece of moisture-proof plywood under a mattress creates similar results to a bunkie board for less money. Unlike bunkie boards in pre-cut sizes, plywood needs to be sized appropriately. Plywood generally doesn't last as long as a measured, treated bunkie board. Plywood can also develop chips and cracks that can cut into mattresses.

Bunkie Board vs. Slats

To provide the proper support slats should not be spaced more than 2.75 inches apart. Most modern bed frames have a slatted base. Slats provide added air circulation to the mattress.

By contrast, a bunkie board is a solid surface similar to a piece of plywood, providing no circulation.

Can a Bunkie Board Replace Slats?

Bunkie boards are not intended to replace slats. They instead help to provide extra support and can be placed over slats for added reinforcement. If your slats are not close enough, a bunkie board can offer a replacement for the slats