Bunk Bed vs. Loft Bed: What’s the Difference and Which is Better?

Bunk beds and loft beds share many similarities but they're not the same thing. Discover the pros and cons of each and which type of bed is right for you.
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Wooden loft bed or high sleeper.

A bunk bed and a loft bed are great alternatives for a small floor area and for families with more than one child. Both have similar styles, functions and sometimes even prices so it’s easy to see how they’re often mistaken to be the same thing.

As you’ll find out below, both are different with their own sets of positive points and drawbacks. Read on to see which type of bed is the right one for you.

Bunk Bed

Bunk beds are beds that have two beds stacked vertically on top of each other. The mattress generally lies directly on a board, meaning that you don’t have to have a box spring. It is normal for there to be rails on the top bed to ensure that the person sleeping there doesn’t accidentally roll over in the middle of the night and fall off. They have four poles that support them, with one at each corner of the bed, and there is usually a ladder that the person sleeping on the top bunk can use to access his or her bed. While they do come in various sizes, the most common type of bunk bed has two twin beds stacked on top of each other. Variations include a twin bed on top with a full size on the bottom as well as two larger mattresses on top of each other. Another variation is when the bottom bed is turned 90 degrees into an L shape, creating a little extra space under the top bed for storage or a small piece of furniture.

Bunk beds are ideal when you need places for multiple people to sleep and don’t have a large room. They are very commonly used in dorms at college when you need to be able to put a larger number of people in a room and they are also very common in homes with children who are near the same age. If you want to free up floor space while still maximizing the number of people who can use a room, then you will want to have bunk beds as they are ideal for this purpose.

Full bunk bed with white-finished design with cast metal.

Source: Wayfair

Pros

    • Some bunk beds come with storage under the bottom bed which makes it easy to stash sheets, clothes, or blankets. Others even come with an optional trundle bed that will allow you to share the room with yet another person.
    • It can be a lot less expensive to buy a bunk bed than to buy two individual beds.
    • If you do not need the top bunk for a person to sleep on, then it can be used for storage. This is ideal if you used to share the room with someone and he or she no longer needs his or her bed as you can continue to use the bunk beds.
    • Bunk beds are a great way to save floor space if you have more than one person or child sleeping in a room. This is especially important in a dorm room or in a smaller home where the rooms aren’t very large. Bunk beds will allow kids to have plenty of room to play in their room because they don’t have two individual beds in the space.
    • Being able to buy larger bunk beds ensures that the person will be comfortable no matter how old he or she is.
    • Railings on the top or bottom bunk ensure that everyone is safe while sleeping.
    • Having clearly defined separate space is important to children and will reduce the possibility of fighting over space.
    • Separate space is important if a child were to get sick in the night as you can tend to him or her without waking up the sibling.
    • Most bunk beds can be taken apart into two separate beds, which is ideal because it will allow the furniture to change with the changing needs of children.

Cons

    • It can be scary for small children to climb into a bunk bed and to sleep in one. In addition, if a child were to fall from high up, he or she could become seriously injured. Any instability in the bunk bed will increase the likelihood of injury.
    • It is very difficult to make the top bed and this can result in problems when changing the sheets as well as when making the bed each morning.
    • The top bunk is often very close to the ceiling. Depending on the height of the person sleeping on top, this can result in him or her hitting his or her head if he or she sits up quickly. Additionally, small children may be able to reach a light fixture or the ceiling fan.
    • It’s hard as a parent to tuck in the child who is sleeping on the top bunk.
    • Coming down the ladder in the morning or in the middle of the night when someone is sleepy is very dangerous.
    • Younger children who should not be climbing the ladder because of safety concerns will often feel as if they want to explore and go where their older sibling is, which can result in an accident.
    • Anything dropped off of the top bunk takes time and effort to retrieve. This makes it especially difficult when studying or working on a project.

Loft Bed

Loft beds are elevated beds that at first glance may look very similar to bunk beds except they do not have a bottom bed. The bed is lifted up into the air and supported by a very strong metal or wood frame, leaving space open below for a desk or other furniture. They are incredibly popular in dorm rooms or small bedrooms where the person wants to have enough space in the bedroom for all of his or her furniture as they provide a lot of floor space that can be used in a number of different ways. They’re also a great way to lift the beds up for children who share a room, allowing them to play on the open floor.

You’ll want to choose a loft bed if you have very limited space in your room, especially if you are the only one who will be using the space. While you can place two loft beds in the same room for extra space, at this point it may be less expensive to simply buy bunk beds. They are ideal in college dorms as the student can place his or her desk, TV, or dresser under the bed and still have extra space in the room for other activities. They are a very unique-looking piece of furniture so they aren’t ideal in classic homes or ones with more traditional furniture choices as a loft bed may appear out of place.

Twin low loft bed with metal frame.

Source: Wayfair

Pros

    • Perfect for people who like to sleep up in the air but don’t need a second bed, loft beds provide security without space being taken up by an unused bed.
    • They free up a ton of floor space directly under the bed. Instead of space under the bed only being used for storage, this space can suddenly be used in any number of ways, including as a study area or gaming zone.
    • Adding curtains under the loft bed will soften the solid, strong lines of the bed and help to personalize the space. They can also be used for privacy while working or studying.
    • Lower loft beds are perfectly safe to be used with smaller kids and parents won’t have to worry about them falling out and being injured. In addition, it’s possible to buy lower loft beds with fun features such as slides to make getting out of bed fun and to make rainy days a little more bearable.
    • Mid and high loft beds allow for the most space but are higher up, making them perfect for older children and even young adults.
    • Some loft beds come with storage and desks already built into them. What kind you buy will depend on what furniture you already have as well as how you are going to be using your extra space.

Cons

    • Unfortunately, there is only one sleeping space in a loft bed, which means that if you have more than one child or need two beds for young adults, you will have to spend twice as much money.
    • Making the bed is very difficult, especially if you buy a higher loft bed. It is also harder to tuck in your child at night.
    • If you do not make the bed every day when you or your child gets up, then it will look very messy and unkempt. Additionally, most kids won’t be able to make the bed on their own due to how hard it can be to navigate on the top of the bed. This results in an adult having to do all of the work.
    • Getting up and down off of the bed can be exhausting, especially if you are very tired or have been sick.
    • Higher loft beds can be very dangerous for children as they can easily roll over and fall out. For this reason, it’s important to only buy ones that have railings to help with safety.
    • Children sleeping in loft beds who wake in the middle of the night may get very scared about trying to come down the ladder to get help. This can result in them falling and getting injured. Even during the day, tall ladders can be very difficult to navigate safely and any falls can be painful.
    • Lower ceilings will dictate that you have to have a lower loft bed or the person using the bed will hit his or her head when he or she sits up. This can be especially dangerous for a small child who may tend to bounce and jump around on the bed.






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