Bunkbed & Loft Safety

Parent Q&A

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  • Building a ladder to loft space?

    (2 replies)

    We have a house with a super-fun loft space in the second bedroom and a 2 year old who loves to climb. Right now there's a permanently installed ladder to the space but we'd like to replace that attractive hazard with something removable. Any recommendations on a contractor/carpenter who would take this on? (Or suggestions for preventing climbing, as she's outsmarted our tie-a-cover on strategy...) Thank you!

    Our handyman is a very good carpenter, his name is Roger Hammar, his email is carpentryandsuch [at] gmail.com. He built the gate to our backyard, did a great job. Tell him Rebecca on Chestnut in Berkeley recommended him. 

    Maybe scissor attic stairs would work.


Archived Q&A and Reviews


Making bunk beds safer for earthquakes

Oct 2011

Yesterday's (10/19) earthquakes really spooked us and the kids insisted on sleeping in our bed. Which is fine for a night or two -- but they're in bunk beds and now I'm worried about what would happen to the bunks. I worry about the top bunk collapsing onto the lower bunk and the top bunk throwing my other son out over the safety rail.

The beds are the all-wooden type that can separate into two beds. They're secured with four-inch metal pins between the foot and top post of each upper and lower bunk post. That doesn't seem like much.

If we should fix them, I really want to get someone to do it who is experienced in this and who won't screw up the beds so much they have great big holes in them and the walls (if we should brace to the walls) when we do finally separate them into twin beds. Has anyone actually done this and has recommendations for how to proceed?

Or, am I being paranoid? I have never been through a major quake so have no idea what to expect... Shaky

I'm not sure I have much advice about the connection between the upper and lower ''bunks,'' as this seems like a design issue within the bed itself, but definitely, absolutely, 100% DO secure the bed to the wall. I would worry more about the bed tipping completely than the top falling onto the bottom in the event of seismic activity.

The recent earthquakes have definitely made me realize that I also need to be more on top of things like this. I just ordered bracing for our dresser, and a wall-mount for our television.

I would recommend attaching them to the wall. Which is more important, a few holes or your kids? Ask for advice at your local hardware for the correct materials. You need to use a stud finder to ensure that you are drilling into structural material and not just plaster. Also, think, could there be any water, electrical or gas lines running up the wall in that area?

All bookcases and waterheater should also be strapped and secure. If you want to go further, put child proof locks on your kitchen cabinets and you can buy strapping with velcro for your TV and desk top computer.

Being prepared will make you feel better. cocosar

Bunkbeds and earthquake safety

Sept 2008

A recent tremor here in berkeley got me wondering about the safety of our kids new ikea bunkbed. Should the thing be bolted to the walls? Anything else we can do to make it safer in a larger earthquake? maya

Hi - I work for Home Safety Services and we do in-home assessment and installations for child safety (AKA child proofing), senior safety, and emergency preparedness. In answer to your question, ideally bunkbeds would both be secured together (top & bottom), and anchored to the wall. For those with a relatively wide base, a couple of straps secured to the wood studs would probably do the trick. Dana

No,I don't think you have to worry. My kids have had IKEA bunkbeds for 5 or 6 years, they've been through earthquakes, and we've been fine. I understand your concern, but from experience, I think you'll be fine. Big Bunk Bed User

I don't agree with another response you got (we haven't had a nice big earthquake in more than a decade). I would tie the bunkbed to a wall stud, and if not in the middle, I'd put two ties, one on each end. Also, if it is the kind that stacks and the top part comes off easily, tie the upper and lower parts together also (use flat metal strips). If you see a video of what happens to a 4' tall file cabinet on the upper floor of a house on a shake table (strong jolt), you would want to tie it. anon

Loft Bed/Bunkbed Safety. How young is too young?

Oct 2007

Anyone have a preschooler in a loft bed? My son has a very small room and we think a loft bed would be the perfect solution to his space issues. We are considering a ''half-height'' loft bed, but wonder if it's too dangerous to have a 5-year-old climbing in and out of bed. Also how can we protect our 2-year-old from getting hurt if she climbs into the bed -- which she certainly will do at some point. Maybe parents of bunkbed sleepers can weigh in here too. If you've gone the loft bed route and have the name of a great company/builder that information would be much appreciated. Thanks. soaring to new heights?

Hi - we faced this exact problem and opted not to get the loft bed because of the safety issues for the younger child, who is a climber. Our older child was mature enough for the loft bed, but how do you keep a toddler from climbing the ladder, etc? Moving the ladder makes it difficult for the older child to get in and out of bed easily (especially at night for potty). We got good advice from the Berkeley Kid's Room (which is in Oakland on College Ave near Claremont), which basically sealed our decision. Good Luck

We are about to move our 4.5yo into the Flexa (www.flexa.dk) ''mid-height'' loft bed -- it's a little under 5' high and he's almost 4' tall, so I'm not too worried -- there may be a few cries for help the first few times he has to get up to pee in the middle of the night, but I'm not anticipating anything more serious than that. It has a good railing all the way around, too. They carry them at Berkeley Kid's Room on College near Claremont (and they make a ''low loft'' as well that's just under 4'). So far, in testing at the store, our 2yo (a little monkey) has not been able to get all the way up the vertical (as opposed to slanted) ladder by himself -- and if playground experience is any indication, when he does make it up he'll call for help getting down. Btw, my husband points out quite correctly that he used to sleep on a top bunk without *any* railing as a kid and fell off ''all the time,'' and he turned out ok. :) I Survived Childhood

We bought my son a beautiful loft bed when he was 4 and it worked perfectly. His bed has a slide and a tent around the bottom. He's a lucky kid. It was expensive. Here's a link: http://thebeanbagstore.com/bunkhouse.htm Ikea had one also! loft mom

our bunk bed clearly states that kids should be at least 5 years old before sleeping up there. that being said we just moved our 4 year old in to it and he's fine. He's a very careful kid and learned to climb (stairs, retaining wall in the garden) before he could walk. the bed has the siderail on it that came with it. so far we haven't had any problems. anon

We have the ''half height'' IKEA KURA reversible twin bed for our 4-1/2 year old which he's had since he turned 4 and we LOVE it. We also bought the bed tent and explained to him not to lean on it because it won't hold him in. I think the tent makes him him safer and more cozy. The bed is cheap ($185) and it's a great design. Our 18 month old can't climb the ladder yet so were lucky there, but we told the little one she can't go up there unless her big brother ''invites'' her, and told him not to invite her unless an adult is there, so when our little one is up there, which isn't very often at all, we're always standing there watching. On another note, I have to admit, he doesn't play alot underneath it, but he has a pretty big room. We've laid a super thin mattress on the bottom and a bunch of pillows and he goes down there more now. Also, in the wee hours of the morning, while it's still pitch dark, he climbs out of it fine and comes to us, stepping over all the toys and has never tripped or fell. It's also great because at bedtime, since he's up there, we don't lay with him to help him go to sleep. We just give him one of those ghost nightlights from IKEA and walk out. We also told him if he needs quiet time away from his sister or wants to play with small choking hazards, he can go up to his bed and not be bothered by her. He loves that. anon

My 4 year old has a quasi-loft bed I got at Ikea (Kura?). I got the semi-circle canopy for it, and I feel comfortable that he will not fall out of the bed. I put the head of the bed against the wall and put a star-light on the wall over his pillow to give him a night light. So far, he has not fallen out of the bed. The Kura bed has short rails on the side, which also add security regarding the risk of rolling out of the bed. One other security thing I have are thick carpets in the room. Note the Kura bed is only around 4 feet off the ground, which may make it shorter than traditional loft-beds, but I have a bunch of toy storage under the bed, which is wonderful! loft bed momma

Well, I've been a bit worried about the same thing, but we felt we had to make more room by installing bunks. We have a 6 yr old and a 3.5 year old. Their room is directly off the kitchen and dining room, and the door's always open, so supervision has not been a problem so far. We have strict rules: neither child may block the other from going up or down. Only climb the ladder facing into the bed. And: no kids near the bunkbed if any other children are over to play. So, I'm crossing my fingers. So far things seem to be working. good luck. bunk owner

Safety of corner posts on bunkbeds

Dec 2005

Hi. I'm not a member but wanted to add a caveat to those considering bunkbeds for their kids. I've worked in the injury prevention field. Kids can strangle on the corner posts of bunkbeds - they can hang by their overall straps, lanyard cords, drawstrings, or anything else that they can tie on. Bunkbeds have a voluntary, not mandatory, standard that the corner posts should not be higher thatn 1/4. Many bunkbeds do not meet this criteria, so check carefully before you buy. Many times, you can remove the decorative piece or saw the top off of one that you like. Hope this is useful. Anne H.

How to keep toddler out of upper bunk?

Sept 2004

I'm moving my younger child who's 1 1/2 in with his older sister, 5. I'd like to get a bunk bed and I think my daughter is old enough not to fall out of it (I know they say 6, but I think she'd be fine), but my big dilemma is how to keep my son from climbing the ladder and falling from the top bunk. Has anyone had experience with this? Should I just give up on the bunk bed for a year or two or is there a way I can make this work? Thanks! anon

We bought a bunk bed for our kids when our littlest was born but boy oh boy do I wish I had just waited. Now they're 3 and 5 and I *still* can't safely leave them in there with the bunk bed and the ladder down. My son, the 3 year old, LOVES to jump off the ladder... ugh! I'd suggest hangin' on a bit longer - do 2 toddler beds or a double/queen for them to share until they're really ready for bunks... I'd say another year r so - 'till you can trust your youngest. Anon

We have a bunk bed and children of similar ages to yours (1 1/2 and 4). We had to remove the ladder to prevent our younger child from climbing up to the top bunk. Our four year old can still get up to the top bunk and down again with very little effort by climbing up on the headboard and stepping up. It's worked well so far and we have had no accidents or injuries. Our 1 1/2 year old is still in a crib but we are about to move him into the bottom bunk with a guard rail along the edge. So far our 4 year old has only slept in the bottom bunk. I'm still not sure what to do about the middle of the night trips out of bed from the top bunk once we move her up. Climbing down might be a little tricky without the ladder. May need to add it on just for night time. Good luck with the transition! Mary

We got a set of bunk beds when my son was 4 and my daughter was just 2. Our biggest concern was whether our son would fall out in the middle of the night - we didn't even think about our daughter, but you seem to be much more foresightful than we were - about a month after we got the bunk beds, she had learned to climb up the stairs so we took the stairs off the bed and just had our son climb up the end of the bed to get in. Well, it didn't take her long to figure that out either, and one day she climbed up into his bed and then went headfirst out of the top bunk onto the floor (carpet+wood). I don't know exactly how this happened because obviously I wasn't watching. Needless to say, we separated the bunk beds! Amazingly though, she didn't get injured (lots of screaming, but no bumps or bruises), Anyway, I think you are absolutely right to be concerned. I think that if you go ahead with the bunk beds you should be a lot more careful than I was and devise a better syste! m for keeping your youngest out of Anon - I'm really not a bad mother

I have a 5 & 3 yr old girls, and a 2 yr old boy who all sleep in the same room. To save space we got a bunkbed when one girl was 2 and the boy was 1-1/2. Here's what we did. The 5 yr old slept on top, and the then 2 yr old slept on the bottom. BIG RULE we have is we would keep the ladder (its detatchable) on the top bunk AT ALL TIMES. NO EXCEPTIONS. It only came down just before she went to bed at night, and soon as she got up in the morning it goes back up. (We put it up). Bunkbeds could be very dangerous if children play on them unattended. (I have a friend who lost her 3 yr old on one by catching his shirt on part of it). We are strict about when they play on it, (one of us has to be there), because of course kids get excited about being on the top. One other thing, when newness novalty wore off, my 5 yr old slept at one end on the bottom bunk, and the 2 yr old slept at the footend against the wall part. Good luck and just keep the safety issue in mind and you should be fine. Lynda

Bunkbed with 2 and 4 year olds

March 2004

We have a 2 & 4 year old, and the 2 year old is currently in a crib, with her older sister on a twin futon bed. We are trying to have baby #3, but I am conflicted on how to fit them all in a bedroom when the future baby comes along. My thoughts: bunkbeds, with the oldest kid on top (she'll be 5 by then), and the will-be-3-year-old on the bottom, at least at the beginning. But how do folks keep a young toddler off the steps of a bunkbed? If our kids are 6,4, and 1, how do we keep the 1 year old from climbing, playing, & falling off the top bunk? Put a baby gate in the bedroom doorway? Take the ladder off the bed so the oldest kid has to be lifted up? Put a babysafe ''fence'' around the whole bed? The room is about 12 x 13 feet, and I'm convinced there is a creative way to fit 3 kids in there, with bunks and/or loft beds, and still leave areas for play and storage. Any advice on how to do this will be much appreciated. Planning ahead!

Hi - I have 1st hand experience w/ 3 kids in one room! I have a 4year old, 21 month old, and 10 month old. The 4 yr old is in a twin bed, the toddler in a toddler bed, and the baby in the crib. I would NOT recommend bunk beds, as the reasons you said earlier and possible hazards that could happen. i.e, climbing, jumping, etc and it is not fair to make a 5-6 year old responsible for keeping the stairs put up. I plan on getting a trundle bed soon for the girls then switching the crib for the toddler bed. Its a matter of organizing and staying on top of it. (Which is hard!) I have a 5 drawer dresser that the girls share, 1 each for tops/ panties, then pants/ socks, then they share the PJ drawer. The baby has a small dresser with his clothes in it then of course they share the closet. I also put some deep woodent shelves in the closet for storage of toys, etc. Ikea has some really good ideas too, and their beds are a small size. Email me if you would like some ideas, and I can share what I've gone through. GOOD LUCK! Lynde

Our solution for a similar situation was to remove one of the rungs from the bunkbed ladder. My older child can still use the ladder, but his younger brother can't yet manage it, at 2 1/4 years. Once the younger one graduates to the lower bunk (he's still in his crib), we'll probably replace the rung. Wendy

Put 4-year-old in upper bunk?

Any opinions/experience related to the issue of letting a 4-year old sleep in the top bunk of a bunk bed or loft? We've started our search for a real bed for our daughter who's been sleeping in a toddler bed. A loft/bunk is the best solution for us in terms of solving problems of limited space (and other issues), but she'd have to go in the top, and some stores we've visited say don't do it until they're 6 years old. Others say it depends on the child--if they're comfortable and competent climbing up and down, it's fine even if they're younger than 6. The thing is that our daughter is fine with it (loves it!) during our visits to stores. The question I have is whether she'll be fine in the middle of the night? (And, no, we don't have any friends or relatives who have bunk beds where we could do a sleep-over to test this out.)

If any of you have put a younger child in a bed that requires a ladder to get down from, or have any insights or different ways to look at this, I'd love to hear about it! Judy

We put our daughter in the top bunk when she was around 5, I think (baby brother got too big for his toddler bed and they were out of space). Never had any trouble whatsoever (and haven't since with the littler one sleeping up there out of preference though they now have their own rooms). One caveat: we always let her know that if she wanted help getting down, she could have it and she took us up on the offer. Instead of getting out of bed at night to find us if she were scared or needed to pee, she'd yell at us from the other end of the house. Didn't bother me much (I always wake up if they get up anyway) and that way I didn't have to worry about her missing a step in the dark and her semi-wakeful condition. This is a bed with a partial rail about 6 inches higher than the mattress top and about four feet long (so there's an opening at either end slightly more than a foot long). Nina

About the loft bed, our daughter has been sleeping in the top bunk of a loft bed for 1 year. She is now 3 years, 10 months. At first she needed a little help going down the ladder but it wasn't long until she could do it easily by herself. Her younger sister Emma (now 2 years, 11 months) considers it a big treat to take a nap there when her sister isn't home. I would take the 4yo to the store to look and she what kind of interest she has in climbing the ladder and being on the top bunk. Panda

To the person who asked about bed rails for the bunk bed: Toys R Us sell a bed rail that slides under the mattress and the other part flips up and locks in place. It has a sturdy mesh that keeps the child from falling out of bed. Ours works great, we use it on the lower bunk actually to keep the 2 yr old from falling out. On yours it would come up between the mattress and the wood edge. I think it was about $20. You can still use a ladder with it as it runs about 3/4 of the length of the bed. R.

We faced this dilemma too and were strongly advised not to put a child unter 6 in the top bunk (our daughter is 3 1/2 and also loved going onto the top bunk in the shop). Frankly, I might have disregarded that advice if it had not been for the younger one who would definitely have tried to climb up to the top and who would definitely have fallen out. So now we have one of the beds set up and are waiting to install the full bunk bed until our daughter is 6 (and the younger one 4). Interestingly, the bed is so large for her, that she does tend to sleep perpendicular or diagonally in it, which makes me think that she might still fall out of it one night - and then I'll be glad it is only 15' off the ground. Hilary

Another word on the bunk-bed controversy. It is common practice to consider a bunk-bed when the first kid is, say, five or six and the littler one is perhaps two or three. We were on the verge of making such a purchase ourselves and I did some homework on the subject. The children who, statistically, are at the greatest risk of the greatest injury, tend to be three-year-olds, tend to be boys, and injuries occur most often from children playing on the upper bunk and falling off because they are so busy playing that they forget where they are and tumble off. This scenario is far more common than a child rolling off the top bunk. Additionally, for those that do purchase a bunk-bed, it is advisable to purchase the type of ladder that is screwed in to between the upper and lower beds, and totally vertically. While the other type, that is removable and at more of an angle, is easier to climb, it is for exactly that reason that it is a less safe choice. The ladder that is more upright demands more attention, and kids have to climb it with both hands. Thus they can't play around and fall off while climbing as easily. A neighbor of my sister's purchased bunk-beds on a recent weekend. Her two-year-old son couldn't seem to climb the ladder when they set the beds up, so she relaxed a bit and left her two kids unsupervised. The next day, she was in the kitchen, heard a thud, and found her son unconscious on the floor. Ambulance called, resucitation, trip to ER. The child is fine but the lesson has been learned, painfully. No bunk beds for us until our son, now 3, is at least six. Deborah