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Can You Use Plywood Instead of a Bunkie Board?


If you are wondering if a piece of plywood will function the same as a bunkie board to support your mattress you have come to the right place. We have been asked this question countless times over the years and are here to answer it once and for all.

It used to be that when you bought a new mattress, you also bought a new box spring or foundation. Recently, foam mattresses have been gaining popularity. With these foam mattresses, there is no need for a full box spring. However, you may still want or need some added support.

What is a Bunkie Board?


That is where the bunkie board comes in. The bunkie board is a flat board with a fabric covering that you put under your mattress. You can also use it on old box springs to give a little extra support. With a foam mattress, you would put the bunkie board directly under the mattress onto your frame.

The bunkie board originally was used in bunk beds, hence the name. It was the board placed under the mattresses on bunk beds so that there was support without the added height of a full box spring. Usually, with bunk beds, there is no room for the room for the height of a box spring.

Some bunkie boards offer the flexibility of being able to fold up, which makes it easier to store them if necessary. It also allows for more support to be put on one side of the bed than the other.

There are other styles of bunkie boards that are wooden slats joined together with fabric strapping. These allow for very easy storage if needed. They also allow for maximum breathability for the mattress, which we will discuss later.

Can I use plywood instead of a bunkie board?

Do you need to buy a bunkie board or can you just buy a piece of plywood instead?
The quick answer is YES you can use plywood. BUT There are a few things that you need to think about if you use plywood instead of a bunkie board in order for it to function properly.

How to make plywood work

1. FABIC COATING – The first thing to remember is that a bunkie board has a fabric coating. You may not think that is an important thing, but you don’t want to snag your new foam mattress on plywood or deal with splintering in your bedroom. You can easily add a fabric coating to your plywood or wrap a bed sheet over it.. If you are especially crafty, you can add some padding as well.

2. QUALITY AND THICKNESS – The plywood should be at least 3/4″ thick at the bare minimum. The thicker the more supportive and better. Most bunkie board are closer to 1.5″ thick. You also should buy a quality piece of plywood that doesn’t have any warping, bending or cracks.

3. AESTHETIC – A third thing to remember is that you may see the edge of the bunkie board or plywood when you look at your bed. If your comforter or bedspread doesn’t hang lower than the mattress, whatever you decide to use for support will be seen along the edges. If your bedding will not cover the edge, you can still use plywood but may want to put a fabric cover over the plywood you could opt to paint the plywood which would neaten the appearance as well.

Pros and Cons

A piece of plywood will generally cost less than a bunkie board. If you choose to do the plywood, it is important to remember that you need a three-quarter-inch piece of plywood. Any thinner plywood and you risk it not being durable enough.

A bunkie board can be up to two inches thick. This is the board as well as any coating and padding. Remember that those two inches will also add two inches to the overall height of the bed.

Using plywood may cause a problem with the mattress’s breathing. Foam mattresses tend to hold moisture, like sweat. If they cannot breathe properly, other issues may develop from the moisture such as mold. The plywood may not allow the mattress to breathe and let the moisture dry.

Plywood can be coated with a coating that will make it waterproof. Paints, stains, and straightforward waterproof sealant can help with the moisture issue of plywood. It may be much easier to coat the plywood with some sort of sealant than to add fabric, padding, etc.

A bunkie board tends to allow for breathability. This is because of the makeup of the board. The bunkie board is not a flat surface like plywood. The material, the padding, and the board itself allow for layers that will allow the mattress to breathe and therefore allow for some of the moisture absorbed to dry.

Some types of mattresses are more breathable than others. Hybrid mattresses and innerspring types of mattresses are more breathable. They can be used with plywood or a bunkie board.

Foam mattresses are, by design, less breathable. The foam is a more absorbent material. Bunkie boards are a better choice to use with them. Remember, you can make the plywood waterproof. Do not let this issue alone be the deciding factor for you.

If you are deciding between plywood and a bunkie board for a spare bedroom or maybe a camper, or any bed that isn’t used regularly, the plywood can be a good option. If the bed is not being used regularly, the amount of moisture would be considerably less.

Do I need extra support?

The new foam mattresses do not require a box spring under them. In fact, a traditional box spring may not offer the support for the newer foam mattresses. This is because the foam mattress, by its design, does not stay in one shape. Over time, it conforms to the body’s shape.

Newer style bed frames have wooden slats, frequently, that go across the frame. You do not necessarily need a bunkie board with these wooden slats. However, if you want more support, the bunkie board will give you that additional support and firmness.

Some people that have back issues have put plywood under their mattresses for added support. This happens more with the “old style” innerspring mattresses. It really depends on the level of support you want or need.


As we mentioned earlier, a piece of plywood will generally be less expensive than a bunkie board. Home Depot currently has three-quarter inch thick plywood for $69.65 per sheet. This is for a four-foot by eight-foot sheet. These are just under the dimensions of a full-size bed.

Amazon is offering a twin-size slat-style bunkie board for $64.97. The dimensions are thirty-nine inches by seventy-four inches. This is smaller than the plywood offered at Home Depot.

Different styles and sizes of bunkie boards cost different prices, obviously. Some styles can cost more than $100. Again, this will depend on the size, the material the bunkie board is made of, and the style of it.

Final Decision

After thinking about what type of foundation works with your mattress and bed frame, the next decision will be bunkie board or plywood. When you get to this decision there are some things to keep in mind.

First, do you need the more finished appearance of a bunkie board? Or maybe you are the crafty DIY type of person who can take a plain piece of plywood and make it look like a top-of-the-line bunkie board. For some people, that appearance along the edge of the bed makes a difference.

Second, what is your budget? Plywood on its own is less expensive than most bunkie boards. However, it is plain plywood. If you are going to transform it into a fabric-covered masterpiece, the cost of the fabric and other materials need to be taken into consideration. If the paint or stain option is what you choose, then remember that cost as well.

Bunkie boards come in various thicknesses. They range from one inch to two inches. If the added thickness is an issue, for whatever reason, then keep the thinner options in mind. The plywood starts at a three-quarter-inch height. If you do not add any padding, it will stay close to that three-quarter-inch mark.

Third, what is your ability to maneuver this? Are you putting the mattress and support in yourself or do you have a delivery person doing this? If you are doing it yourself, remember that mattresses are heavy. Using a bunkie board that folds or one that is made of wooden slats will be easier to maneuver, especially if you are doing it yourself.


For most people, a new mattress is a major purchase that requires a lot of thought. After all, we do spend several hours every day on it and we need to be comfortable. If you are looking for a new mattress, the foundation or support needs to be a consideration as well.

With the popularity of memory foam mattresses growing every year, more people are having to decide whether to do a bunkie board under their mattress or a simple piece of plywood. We have discussed a few key factors in making this decision.

You can use a piece of plywood in place of a bunkie board. Remember that for the aesthetic look of your bed, you can dress up the plywood. You could also just buy a longer bedspread and you would never see what type of foundation was under your mattress.

Whether you choose plywood or a bunkie board, the important thing is to take into consideration all the factors and make the decision that is best for your situation. 

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