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Bunk Beds Buying Guide
Tuck Them into (Bunk) Bed Safely
Bunk beds are a convenient way to decorate a child’s room, whether they will be sharing the space with a sibling or an overnight guest. Especially when the room is small and you want space for "extras" like toys and other neat stuff, the bunk bed can be the ideal space-saver. But is it safe? This is a brief guide that outlines ways to give you peace of mind and keep your children safe and happy when using a bunk bed.
General Bunk Bed Safety Protocol
You can't watch them 24 hours a day, but you can set some ground rules the will reduce the possibilty of injury due to a bunk bed accident.
Do not purchase a bunk bed for children under six. If you are buying a bunk bed for older children with younger siblings, children under six years old should not be allowed on the upper bunk.
Limit the number of children on the top bunk to one or the weight capacity of the top bunk.
This is going to be a tough one to enforce, but have a "no bouncing, no roughhousing" on the top bunk rule.
Bunk beds must meet specified industry standards. To produce the best product they can make, many manufacturers follow voluntary standards in addition to the standardized ones. When assembling the unit, follow all of the instructions and don't make any modifications or substitutions. Any alterations you make might compromise the safety of the structure, and in most cases will void any warranty offered by the manufacturer.
Recent Safety Guideline Changes
To prevent the possibility of strangulation, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), the organization in charge of bunk bed safety standards, made recent ammendments to their safety guidelines. Any vertical protrusion above 3/16 of an inch is now considered to be unsafe and largely affects the use of decorative finials. To further discourage children from hanging anything from the top bunk, outline the rules from the start and enforce them whenever you notice them not being followed.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission requires that any bunk bed sold in the United States must meet the following requirements:
- Have a label that states the manufacturer's name, model number and mattress size information
- Have a warning label that advises against placing children under six years of age in the upper bunk
- It must have a continuous guardrail on the wall side of bed if the bunk bed is taller than 30 inches
- Openings anywhere on the unit, either the upper or lower bunk, must be small enough that a child's head, torso, or limb cannot pass through them.
Although not exactly the same, Canada also has a similar set of standards that apply to all Canadian-made bunk beds.
The top bunk should be protected on all four side to prevent your child from falling out of bed when rolling over in the night. This would include the headboard and footboard, in addition to side rails. Even if you plan on putting the bunk bed against the wall, do not remove the rail; using the full length guardrail will prevent the person on the top bunk from getting trapped between the bed and the wall.
The side guardrails should rise at least five inches above the mattress. If the mattress is too high, it renders the guardrail too low and there is a chance your child can fall off the top bunk while sleeping (especially if he or she constantly moves in their sleep).
The gap between the bed frame and the bottom of the guardrail should not exceed 3.5 inches.
The spaces between the guardrails, whether vertical or horizontal, are also goverened by safety standards. They cannot be too wide, eliminating the chance of a child's head becoming wedged inbetween.
The ladder should be well-constructed.
It should not be easily detached by a child. It should also be stationary or fixed (not designed to be moved around).
The ladder should be used at all times, to get up into bed and down from the bed. Discourage them from using a chair, toy box, etc., sliding down or jumping off the top bunk.
Use a standard size (twin, full, etc.) mattress; unless the manufacturer specifies, the depth of the mattress should be no thicker than eight inches, especially for the top bunk.
Make sure that it's a snug fit: there should be no gaps between the mattress and the frame.
If you are not sure if the weight capacity listed for the bunk bed, especially the top bunk, includes the weight of the mattress, ask for clarification before making a final decision.
Other Safety Things to Keep in Mind
Particulary for first time bunk bed users, consider installing a nightlight to make it easier to use the ladder safely if they have to get out of bed during the night.
When installing the bunk bed, ensure that it is secure and doesn't wobble; if it does, use levelers.
Make regular inspections. Check from time to time that all bolts and screws are still tight and nothing has been broken. If it has, repair it or replace it as soon as possible.
Bunk beds are a great space-saving way to decorate a guest room or a child's bedroom, especially if siblings have to share. While manufacturers, agencies and organizations do everything in their power to make them safe, sometimes they aren't. Following these general guidelines will go a long way to keeping your child safe around bunk beds. And as a parent, you can achieve the peace of mind to sleep soundly yourself, knowing that you're doing everything you can to keep your children safe and sound.