Safety Facts

Building Safe Bunk Beds from Plans

Do you know how to determine if a bunk bed is safe for your children? Bunkbeds are a great solution for children's bedroom sleeping arrangements, but safety first, right?

There seems to be a serious need for safety in the discussion of bunk bed plans available online. There are many, many plans to build bunk beds of all types but the idea of the federal safety laws outlined by the CPSC never seem to enter the discussion. (If you would like to read the CP SC ruling, click here.) Many of the plans that we see on Pinterest and other sites that show off ideas look great, but I would NOT let my kids sleep in them. Would you? The safety laws were adopted for a reason - to ensure the safety of children. All of our beds are designed to comply with the CPSC rules for safety. If a plan that you are considering using does not address these rules, then it is probably a fair bet that those plans would not meet the rules.

I understand that unless you are a manufacturer, the laws do not apply. But doesn't common-sense? As parents, we do everything in our power to ensure the safety of our children during their waking moments, so where they sleep every night should also be considered.

The Two Main Safety Issues, with Bunk Bed Plans: Falls and Entrapment

Let's discuss falls first. There are falls that occur when a child is climbing or playing on a bunk bed and falls that occur during sleep. Of course, the CPSC cannot prevent the type of horseplay that causes kids to fall when climbing or being silly. In all honesty, we have NEVER had any of our six children fall from any of our bunk beds. We have had two or more sleeping in our bunks continuously since 1996 and they have never fallen. That includes when climbing and while sleeping.

There are no guard rails at all, but it is free!
There are no guard rails at all, but it is free!

The falls that occur during sleep because there are no, or inadequate guard rails, to protect a sleeping child are completely preventable. Until December of 1999, bunk beds were not held to the standards that they are today. Bunk and loft beds did not even have to have guard rails in many instances. Others had only removable rails that just sat on the top of the posts or abbreviated guard rails that covered only a part of the top bunk. With the CPSC rules this changed. The law for manufacturers now mandates that the guard rail extend the full length of the bed (except in the space necessary for a ladder) and that they extend above the mattress at least 5 inches. These rules are in place to prevent falls and entrapment.

There are no guard rails at all, but it is free!
Guard rails can cause an entrapment.

Too much space between the guard rails can allow a child to slip through.

Now the biggest danger is entrapment. This is just what it sounds like - a child becomes entrapped in the structure of a bunk bed. Did you ever get your finger stuck in something and had great difficulty getting it out? Entrapment in beds is a bit like this, but when a child’s head or neck is entrapped, the outcome can be, and has at times been fatal. We don't want you to be overly fearful about this; bunk beds that adhere to the governmental laws pose no threat of entrapment for your children.

We now have CPSC federal laws for manufacturers of bunk beds. These laws are a result of a study of the science of anthropometry. This is the science that proves that humans move differently than Gumby. When applied to a bunk bed plan, you can come up with a design that is safe, functional and looks good too. If a bunk bed plan does everything you ever want it to but is unsafe it fails the first test.

Having said all of that, I would like to show a couple of pictures that make my parental instincts boil a bit. These are beds that people are representing as great solutions for children’s sleeping arrangements. What do you think?

  • These Guard rails are not safe.

  • This is being sold as a toddler bunk bed plan. It looks like the toddler will make it between the rails with the exception of his head.