How to Buy a Bed

You spend a lot of time in bed. Buy one that meets all your needs.

By FamilyTime


When it’s time to dump the futon and buy a real bed, do your research. It pays in the long run — and since your bed will be a prominent part of your life for years to come, why not take your time?

The mattress is perhaps the most important part of the bed, and we discuss mattresses in It Might Be the Mattress. If you’re buying a bed frame as well as a mattress, start with the frame and then work your way to the mattress.

Bed Frames

The bed frame is the bed without the mattress and box spring. It may be as simple as a metal frame or as elaborate as a luxurious sleigh bed.

For example, a Harvard frame is an inexpensive adjustable metal frame with casters on its legs so it can easily be moved. It holds a box spring and mattress and you can usually attach a headboard to it.

From this most basic of bed frames are others:

A captain’s bed frame is a platform with drawers beneath it. These are great for kids’ rooms where storage is an issue. Rarely are these beds larger than full size.

A four-poster bed frame is just that. There are four posts at each corner and usually a headboard and footboard. The posts may be tall and elaborate, or short and less obtrusive. Some four-poster beds are designed to be canopy beds, with framework attached to the posts to allow a canopy to be draped over them.

Platform beds are sleek and modern with low-lying platforms designed to hold a foam mattress. These are often less expensive than other beds but not everyone likes being so close to the floor.

So-called mission or Shaker beds are defined by the vertical slats in the headboards and footboards. They are handsome, no-nonsense designs.

Sleigh beds are perhaps the most elegant — and expensive — of all standard designs for bed frames. The curved head and footboards resemble old-fashioned, horse-drawn sleighs. These frames are often beautifully carved to resemble antique beds.

The final common style of bed is a bunk bed — two single beds stacked on top of each other, each with its own mattress and a ladder to access the top bunk. These beds do not use box springs and are known for being utilitarian and sturdy. There are some variations with some bunk beds having a full bed on the bottom and a single bed on top.

Know Your Room

It’s important to know the dimensions of the bedroom. You don’t want to get a four-poster home and find it won’t fit because the ceiling is too low or there are eaves in the way.

Equally important is the access to the bedroom (stairs, hallways) and the size of the door. Measure carefully to avoid heartbreak when the movers can’t get the bed in the room!

Know Your Bed

There are several sizes of bed: single, full (which used to be called “double”), queen, California queen, king, and California king.

Single bed mattresses are 39 inches wide, while king mattresses are 76 inches wide. California beds are longer than others, with California kings measuring 84 inches long and a regular king only 80 inches long.

Here’s the skinny on the sizes:

Twin: 39-by-75 inches

Full: 54-by-75 inches

Queen: 60-by-80 inches

California queen: 60-by-84 inches

King: 76-by-80 inches

California king: 72-by-84 inches

Headboards and footboards may be detachable so you can upgrade your bed as the years go on. It’s worth it to buy the best you can afford now for the simple reason that you need your sleep!