After about 18 months I noticed that my mattress was beginning to sag a little bit in the middle.

Apparently there is a lot more to buying a bed than one usually thinks about when making the purchase. As I found out, sales people, generally speaking, do not have enough knowledge to advise you what you need to do to extend the life and comfort of your mattress and box spring. After my bed began to sag, I took the time to thoroughly investigate why I had a problem, and what I could do to rectify it. The root of the problem was that there was insufficient support beneath the box spring. Although the box spring has a framework made of wood, it is basically a member that is used to raise and support the mattress, and it is not intended to be the primary structural member supporting the bed. I noticed that there were only two cross pieces underneath the box spring, one underneath the head and one underneath the foot of the bed. Upon investigation I realized that these supports were called slats, and only two of them did not offer enough support for two adults. It became apparent that these slats can be made from lumber of various dimensions and also various species. Typically the wood used is southern yellow pine, ash, or hemlock, although oak which is heavier, will be more resistant to sagging and distortion. Typically the boards used are 1×2, 1×3, 1×4, or 1×5. Clearly the 1×4 and 1×5 provide much more support and resistance to distortion. As far as the lengths of the slats are concerned, this is not standardized and will vary based on the bed frame and/or the construction of the bed. Twin bed slats, double bed slats, queen bed slats, king bed slats and California king bed slats will all be different lengths.

Now that I have worked out all the technical details and variables that go into properly supporting the bed, using the correct type and amount of slats, I was able to move forward with my project. For simplicity sake, and also availability, I decided to use 1×4 southern yellow pine, which I was able to purchase at the local home center. For my particular application, the distance between the rails of the bed was 60”. Therefore I cut the slats to 59 ½”. The best tool for cutting slats would be some type of radial arm saw. After that, a table saw would be best. If none of the above is available, then the old cross cut hand saw will do. Regardless of which saw you decide to use to trim the bed slats, you should always be cognizant of appropriate safety measures. In all cases wear appropriate OSHA and ANSI approved eye protection. In the case of the power saws, also wear appropriate OSHA and ANSI approved hearing protection. You also need a tape measure, square, and a pencil so you can measure the slats to the appropriate length. Then use a square and pencil to make a mark that is perpendicular to the long axis of the slat. In the case of my bed I decided to use 7 slats. This would place one in the dead center and three on either side. Since I was using 1×4’s I thought this would give adequate support against distortion and sagging. I also took this opportunity to install a bed slat center support in the middle of the center slat. I cut the slats, put them into place, replaced the box spring and mattress, and the problem was solved.

I should also make another comment here. In investigating the project, it became apparent that there are many people who build custom wood bed frames that do not include a steel frame. In order to properly anchor the slats in this situation, there are brackets and hardware fittings that attach to the frame of the bed. These fittings are made of steel and are configured so they have a slot or pocket and attach to the side rails or frame. On the slat the corresponding fitting is attached with screws and this fitting has a tongue that fits into the pocket or slot on the corresponding fitting to make a secure, tight fit. These fittings are sold by Zinus, Classic Brands, Continental Sleep, Ikea, Cardinal and Crest, Malouf, and Tech Team Products I used the Tech Team brackets because they appeared to be the strongest. For a custom bed, the other advantage of using this type of slat connection is that it holds the side rails of the bed at a constant distance. In other words, even if the wood warps or stretches, the mattress and box spring will always remain properly supported and the slats will stay in place.