Bed Slats

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Slatted bed bases can be improved to give greater comfort, longer mattress life, reduced expense and less inconvenience.

Slat Shortcomings

Mattress Failure

Mattress failure is caused & accelerated by pressure points. Open slats put a row of pressure points on mattresses at the edge of each slat. In use the mattress sags a little between each 2 slats, accelerating the mattress wear & failure mechanism along the edge of each slat. Also with only 50% area support the mattress sees double the pressure on the slats compared to a solid base.

Earlier mattres failure causes discomfort, inconvenience and expense. This is all the more so when people buy good quality mattresses.


Spaced apart slats reduces mattress comfort. If you lie on the same mattress with full slat support and spaced slat support, the difference is immediately noticeable.

Slat Deflection

Slight deflection of slats in use makes for a slightly increased area of body pressure distribution on the mattress, thus lowering pressures slightly. This translates to improved comfort and reduced mattress wear. Thus it is advantageous to choose slats that will bend a little in use. 3/4" deep 4-5" wide softwood slats will give this slight bend in use.

This works well for single beds & for doubles where the slats are supported half way across. It would not work as well for a double with no centre support of the slats, for 2 reasons:

  • The shape of bend would not be conducive to comfort
  • The degree of bending would be significantly increased due to greater weight and longer span.

Slats are always fitted across the bed rather than lengthwise, partly because when across the deflection adds to comfort. Differential slat movement does not work well if lengthways slats are used.

Why not a Solid Base

Solid sheet bases avoid the spaced slat issues, but have 2 shortcomings of their own:

  • They do not ventilate the mattress
  • They are unable to deflect in a comfort enhancing way, due to end support of the base.


The solution for beds with spaced slatted bases is to add more slats to fill the spaces and give continuous support. This will prolong mattress life, thus save money, reduce inconvenience, and improve sleeper comfort.

Slat Type

3/4" slats seem to be the ideal size. 5x1 PAR or PSE are 3/4" deep (not 1").

Slats should have rounded or 45 degree planed corners to avoid high point loads. This is easily achieved with a plane, or even a stock removing type of sander if a better tool is not available. CLS timber comes pre-rounded.

Very overweight people may need 1" slats.

Slat Arrangement

All slats should be the same height. Variation in width should be minimised, but where this occurs the best option is to put the widest ones at the head end and narrowest at the foot end.

Don't alternate varying width or depth slats, as this will cause differing deflections of alternating slats, recreating the original problem to a partial extent.

Many existing open slat bases use webbing to hold the slats in position. The webbing is no longer needed when the slat space is filled, since there is no longer free space enabling slats to move out of position. It's not usually necessary to remove the webbing, it can just be disconnected at one end.

See Also