Can a Bunkie Board Replace Slats? How to Choose the Right Thickness, Weight Capacity, and Design

Bunkie boards and slats are bed bases that are placed under mattresses to provide support and foundation. Slats are a series of solid connected bars, usually made of strong wood such as pine, that lie across the width of the bed. While some beds come with empty frames, others come with a set of built-in slats. On the other hand, bunkie boards have a flat surface and typically come as a single board made of plywood, particleboard, or solid wood. Sometimes you can even find bunkie boards made from closely placed slats that allow for ventilation. For a more in-depth look into bunkie boards, check out what is a bunkie board and how much weight does a bunkie board hold. For our purposes here, you may be wondering if a bunkie board can replace slats. You may also be interested to learn about mattress foundation and donation tips when you’re ready to replace your existing foundation.

Bunkie boards can replace slats if you don’t need your mattress to support lots of weight. Bunkie boards can also replace slats if you need a flat, solid surface for your mattress (for example, if you have a memory foam mattress), or if you don’t live in a very humid area where your mattress would need lots of ventilation.

Bunkie boards can replace slats if problems like lack of ventilation, which can greatly affect the longevity of a mattress, are considered. Moreover, a bunkie board will not offer much support if you are using a mattress that requires flexibility, like a memory foam mattress; with a mattress that needs flexibility, it’s recommended to use slats rather than a bunkie board.

Below, we’ll compare the pros and cons of bunkie boards and slats.

Pros & Cons of Bunkie Boards vs. Slats

A bunkie board can replace slats in certain scenarios.An example of a fabric-covered bunkie board. Image from Amazon.

Bunkie boards and slats each have their pros and cons. Choosing between a bunkie board and slats depends on your budget, your mattress, and even the environment you live in.

Pros of bunkie boards include that they are cost-effective and affordable, have a solid surface, and are easy to carry because they are generally made of light materials. Cons of bunkie boards include that they don’t have a high weight-bearing capacity, aren’t suitable in poorly ventilated areas, and don’t last for a very long time. Pros of slats include that they are durable, provide good ventilation, and can hold heavy weights. Cons of slats include that they are heavy, more expensive, and can cause mattresses to sag due to the gaps between the slats.

Slats can hold more weight and usually provide a sturdier foundation than regular bunkie boards. This is because bunkie boards are usually made of materials such as plywood and particleboard. These materials may be easier to afford, but they have less weight-bearing capacity than solid wood, which most slats are made of. However, some bunkie boards are also made of materials that have a high weight-bearing capacity, like steel or solid wood.

Slats provide excellent ventilation and higher ventilation, but are unwieldy to move around.Solid wood slats on a wooden bed. Image from Wayfair

A significant advantage to slats is that damage to the slat support system is easily repaired by replacing just the broken slats. However, if a bunkie board is damaged, you will have to buy a new one. In general, slats will last longer than bunkie boards due their thickness and structure. Although bunkie boards come in varying thicknesses, they are usually thinner than slats.

Depending on the type of mattress you own, the choice between a bunkie board and slats becomes clearer. Bunkie boards are recommended if you prefer memory foam mattresses, which mold to your body as you sleep on them. Slats don’t work with foam mattresses because the gaps between slats can cause the mattress to sag; as a result, these types of mattresses need a flat, solid surface for maximum support. For more information on how to pick the right bunkie board for your mattress, take a look at this article with reviews of the best bunkie boards.

However, a problem with bunkie boards with solid surfaces is that they do not allow ventilation like slats do. This can be a problem if you live in a place where the weather is humid most of the time, so if that’s the case you should use slats to ensure proper ventilation of your mattress. Make sure to take a closer look at mattress foundations vs bed frames before making any decisions.

When Can a Bunkie Board Replace Slats?

A bunkie board can replace slats when you have a mattress (like a memory foam mattress, for example) that could sag into the gaps between the slats. A bunkie board can also replace slats when the amount of weight to be put on the bed can be supported by a bunkie board, or when you have a very thin mattress that wouldn’t be comfortable to use with slats.

Certain mattresses, such as simple memory foam mattresses and gel memory foam mattresses, are more likely to become saggy due to falling into the gaps between slats. This can reduce sleep quality, so these types of mattresses need to be supported by a flat surface (if you’re curious about how different mattresses affect sleep quality, read this paper by Lee and Park, El Sevier 2006, International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics). In these cases, a bunkie board can replace slats to increase the longevity of the mattress, help maintain its shape over time, and prevent it from sagging. Take a look at our article answering do you need a bunkie board under your foam mattress too.

A bunkie board can also replace slats if you don’t live in a very humid area and the lack of ventilation won’t cause your mattress to be ruined by mold and the like.

Another situation in which a bunkie board can replace slats is when the amount of weight to be put on the bed can be supported by a bunkie board. For example, a bunkie board made of particleboard will work well on a kids’ bed and provide adequate support for children; however, the same bunkie board will most likely not be suitable for a bed shared by two or more overweight adults.

It is also a good idea to use a bunkie board instead of slats when you have a very thin mattress, as slats can feel uncomfortable through the mattress and become a nuisance for you. To learn about how long bunkie boards last and when to replace them, check out our research. 

How Thick Should a Bunkie Board Be To Replace Slats?

A bunkie board should be at least 2 inches thick to replace slats. This will ensure that the bunkie board is sturdy enough to bear your weight and support the mattress. 

Bunkie boards are lightweight and thin, which contributes to their portability. Bunkie boards can range from 1.5 inches to 3 inches thick. However, when it comes to replacing slats with a bunkie board, it is preferable to choose a thick bunkie board; the thicker the board, the better.

How Much Weight Can a Bunkie Board Hold vs. Slats?


Bunkie boards can hold weights up to 225 lbs. Depending on the material they’re made from, slats can hold weights between 300 lbs to 3,500 lbs.

The weight-bearing capacity of bunkie boards can vary depending on the material they’re made from. For example, bunkie boards made of particleboard will have less weight-bearing capacity than those made of plywood. Steel and solid wood bunkie boards can have an even higher weight-bearing capacity than plywood bunkie boards. As mentioned earlier, the weight-bearing capacity of a bunkie board is also affected by its thickness. Make sure you get a bunkie board with center support (like this one) so that your mattress is well supported and cannot sag.

Slats can usually bear more weight than a typical bunkie board because they are thicker and sturdier. However, if your bunkie board is somewhere between 2 to 3 inches thick, made of plywood, and has center support (in the case of large beds), it should be able to bear enough weight to replace slats.

Here’s an overview of our favorite bunkie boards and our bunkie board cost guide for more information.

When Can a Bunkie Board Not Replace Slats and Why?

While there are situations where it is perfectly fine to use a bunkie board instead of slats, there are also situations when bunkie boards cannot replace slats.

A bunkie board cannot replace slats when you live in an area with high humidity, you have kids who might spill liquids on your bed, you need support for a heavy weight, or your mattress requires support with flexibility. Slats are better in these situations because they offer better ventilation and flexibility than bunkie boards, can be easily repaired if damage occurs, and are made of stronger materials.

If you live in an area where the weather tends to get very humid, a bunkie board cannot replace slats because it is best to use a mattress support that provides ventilation to prevent your mattress from becoming damaged by bacterial and fungal growth. For more information about how dampness and mold in bedrooms can affect respiratory health, see this study. If you do not live in a humid climate but you have kids at home that are likely to spill liquids on the bed, then going with slats will be a better option for the same reasons we listed above.

Note that some bunkie boards (like the ones on our favorites list) have slats that are perfectly spaced apart to provide ventilation and also prevent a mattress from sagging.

A bunkie board cannot replace slats if you need strong support for heavy weights. Since slats can hold much more weight than bunkie boards, in these cases it is better to use slats instead of a bunkie board.

Lastly, if you have a mattress that requires a support surface that allows flexibility, then bunkie boards are not a good choice because the surfaces of most bunkie boards don’t allow for much flexibility.

Examples of Bunkie Boards That Can Safely Replace Slats

Here are a few high-quality bunkie boards that you can use to safely replace slats.

Product Name & Link to Amazon Why Can This Bunkie Board Replace Slats? Price
Continental Sleep Heavy Duty Wooden Bunkie Board This bunkie board is made of closely placed slats that are held together with a fabric cover, which make it strong enough to be used directly on the bed frame. ~$60
Zinus Gulzar Easy Assembly Bunkie Board This bunkie board has a strong and sturdy steel frame and therefore does not require any other support. The foam-padded tape added to the steel frame prevents noise and the fabric-covered gaps allow for ventilation. ~$90
Classic Brands Attached Solid Wood Bunkie Board This bunkie board can easily be laid across the bed frame without any additional support. The structure is strong enough to support heavy weights, and the solid wood will increase the  longevity of the mattress and prevent it from sagging. ~$100

Related Articles: