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What Are Bed Rails? Do You Need Them?

What Are Bed Rails? Do You Need Them?

Did something break on your bed, but you’re not even sure what to call it? Are you not getting the right support, but you're not sure why? We’re here to help! Today’s topic is bed rails. It sounds like bed rails are just the sides of your bed frame, but they’re actually a different product that you can buy separately to solve problems like lack of support, attaching a headboard or footboard to a frame with no brackets, or adapting a frame size to fit a different sized headboard.

Bed Rails – What Are They?

Unlike a regular bed frame or platform bed, which can independently support your mattress and box spring, bed rails won’t support you without being attached to side panels, or a headboard and footboard. They can be individual rails, used to replace existing support slats, or can come as several pieces that connect to form a framework so that a headboard and footboard can be attached. Here are a few different types:

Bed Rail Examples

Bed rails are often made of metal, but can also be wood. You’ll find wood rails especially in older beds, and some manufacturers use plastic or other materials as well. Metal tends to be more durable and provide better support than other materials that bend and break more easily over time.

What Do You Use Them For?

If the slats break on your antique wood bed, you can you use bed rails to bring it back to life. Do you want to attach a headboard and footboard, but your bed frame doesn’t have brackets?  Add a set of rails to help (they come in different sizes to fit different size beds). Larger sizes require additional support.

You can even choose the right attachment to match your favorite headboard, whether it’s bolt-on or hook-on. Similar to attaching a headboard to a bed frame, brackets on the end of the bed rails need to be compatible with the headboard and footboard.

One of the most interesting ways that bed rails can help you out is by adjusting the size of your bed without getting an entirely new bed. What does that mean? Here's an example: if you have a favorite antique headboard that is Full size, and you’d really like to sleep on a Queen mattress, you can get a set of rails to adapt the Queen bed frame to fit the Full headboard.  

Do You Need Bed Rails or a Bed Frame?

If you aren’t sure what you need, having a normal bed frame is your first line of defense. It can support your mattress and box spring entirely on its own. If you’re using a wood bed with slats or rails, you probably don’t have a bed frame underneath. You could switch out the slats for a bed frame, if it will fit with your type of bed, or you could just replace the rails with better ones. Replacing may be easier than trying to find a frame that will work, especially if your bed is custom-made.

Most bed frames include brackets to attach a headboard, so if your headboard is the same size and attachment type as the frame, you can just attach the two together. If your headboard and bed frame are different types (one is bolt-on and the other his hook-on) you can get parts that adapt the bed frame brackets. You still don’t need the rails!

However, if your headboard and frame are different sizes, or if you don’t have headboard brackets at all, that’s when you need something special to adapt.