The pros and cons of bunk beds


Considering getting a set of space-saving bunks for your kids?

Here are some of the pros and cons to help you make up your mind.

For the love of bunks

Whether you love them or hate them, bunk beds can provide a clever and stylish solution for those having to squeeze their family into a small space. 

When faced with soaring rental prices and a family that was out growing their Christchurch home, Jen and Joel Marsh came up with a clever solution to having to fit three children into one bedroom. The couple took advantage of the room's high stud and create a stylish, yet practical, three-tiered bunk.

Joel, who is a structural engineer, built the bunks himself out of plywood and recycled rimu framing. In the place of a ladder, the bunks are equipped with cut-out circles on the side of the bunks which allows their two oldest children, Sonny, six, and Leo, four, to climb up to the upper bunks. Their youngest, Pippa, two, can't quite get to the top so she sleeps on the bottom bunk.

Photo: Jane Ussher/ NZ House and Garden

Knowing that the current set-up wouldn't last the family forever, Joel built each bunk pod as a separate box, so that in the future the family could move them to a new home and reconfigure the beds to suit their children's needs.

"Joel probably overdesigned the bunks for strength," Jen said. "In an earthquake, this is the place to be." 

But Joel's knack for design doesn't end their as the bunk pods have been personalised for each child: Pippa's, for example, has pink tones and a lacy bed cover, whereas Sonny, in the top bunk, can read at night without disturbing his siblings below. Each pod also has a display shelf that the kids can fill with whatever they please.

Photo: Tessa Chrisp

Want to give your children a little bit more personal space? With a little imagination and clever design, bunk beds can also be used as a room divider.

Tanguy Le Moing of Supermobilet and Make Creative, came up with a clever solution for a family whose 10-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son had to share a room.

The final result is a single bedroom that has been transformed into two separate spaces thanks to the insertion of a freestanding plywood bunk bed structure that has been positioned in the centre of the room. Both beds are positioned to face a different direction, giving each child privacy on their side of the room. 

Photo: Carlas Cafe

The dangers of bunk beds

Unfortunately, bunk beds also come with a few safety hazards. In 2017, there were 708 ACC claims made for bed bunk related injuries for those aged 18 years and under. 

"The most common causes of injury are slips and falls while playing on the bunks, ascending or descending bunk ladders, and falling out of bed (both top and bottom)," said an ACC spokesperson.

KidsHealth said bunk beds can be especially dangerous for young children and warned that they are "not suitable for children under nine years of age". Despite this recommendation, ACC statistics showed that the majority of bunk-bed related injuries in 2017 were received by children below this age group. 

Tips for safe bunk bed use

  • The top bunk should only be used for sleeping as most injuries occur due to children playing on the top bunk.
  • Ensure ladders and guardrails are fixed and stable.
  • Regularly check for wear and tear and ensure you repair any damage immediately.
  • Make sure the mattresses are suitable for the bunk bed being used (e.g. check their size in relation to the guardrail, if it is too high it increases the risk of your child rolling out of bed during the night). 
  • Be cautious and pay particular attention when using bunk beds you're not familiar with, such as those in holiday accommodation.
  • Never hang bags, scarves or other looped objects on the bunk bed - they can cause hanging if a child is playing and falls. 

- Stuff (Homed)