What You Need to Know Before You Buy a Bunk Bed

Ever since I announced I was writing a book about bunk beds (aptly titled The Bunk Bed Book) I’ve been flooded with questions from my parent friends (and even strangers on Instagram) about what kind of bunk to buy. 

I get it! These days, bunks come in so many shapes and sizes, it can be hard to figure out what is best. Plus, parenting-related decision fatigue is 100 percent real. Which bunks will be right for your family will depend on your kids, their space, and what else you have in their room. But here are 5 universal things every parent must know before buying bunk beds.

The age warnings are there for a reason.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children under 6 years of age should not sleep in the top bunk. You might find yourself thinking, “6? Come on!” but bunks can be dangerous, especially if you’ve got a rambunctious kid. A five-year-old might be ready for a top bunk, but four and under is definitely too young. When I was interviewing Roberto Gil, the custom bunk bed designer behind Casa Kids in Brooklyn, he told me that when he learns that a family is buying bunks for particularly young kids, he will encourage them to come to his showroom with the kids because parents will often decide to wait when they see their pre-K kid attempting to jump around on the top bunk. 

Pro tip: No matter what age your kids are, create a house rule that bunk beds are not for roughhousing, and never hang anything from the bunk bed to avoid strangulation risk.

The kids will fight over the bunks.

The age-old power struggle for the top bunk is still very much alive, but bunk bed squabbles go beyond the control of the upper berth. Even if kids are generally happy with the bunk they’ve been assigned, I’ve observed that they can get very territorial about their bunk, for example, not letting a sibling up the ladder to the top bunk during playtime. Kids in the top bunk will also complain that their lower bunk sibling is kicking them from below. Brace yourself for the inevitable conflicts that come with a shared bed.

The Bunk Bed Book/Emily Butler/Kirsten Francis

You get what you pay for.

There are SO many bunk beds available for purchase online today. It can be overwhelming to try to distinguish between them, but price is actually a pretty good indicator of quality when it comes to bunks. If the company selling the bed offers white glove service to assemble the bed for you, that’s also usually a sign that the product is better made than those that you’ll need to assemble yourself. If you’re shopping for bunks kids will use daily, I’d encourage you to invest in the best you can afford.

Don’t forget that kids grow fast!

While it may be tempting to get space-saving, lower-height bunks for your kids today, bunks are a bit of investment, so it’s smart to think longer term. Twin-sized beds are most comfortable for people who are under 6 feet tall. If you and your partner are tall and you want the bed to last into the teen years, an extra-long twin or even full-sized bunk bed may be the way to go. The lower-height bunks that are so appealing for younger kids will be decidedly unappealing as your kid gets older. Likewise, avoid the temptation to buy anything too juvenile in design. 

Bunks are a bear to make.

Making a bunk bed is hard. Period. (So hard that I joked my book should come with a warning sticker that told prospective bunk owners that bunk beds are rarely as beautifully made as they are in the photos.) There are some tips and tricks that will help making the beds a little easier — I share some in my book — but if you’re the kind of person who is driven crazy by an unmade bed or have a kid who wets the bed often, think twice before opting for a bunk.

Despite these cautionary words, as the author of a book about bunk beds, I can tell you confidently that everyone loves a bunk bed (whether you are 5 or 75!). There is just something about bunk that excites the imagination. They are also an infinitely practical space-saving solution.


These are some of the coolest (and safest!) bunk beds for kids.

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