A couple of years ago I was searching for a solution to a problem that I had created by downsizing our house. We chose to live a leaner lifest‌yle, by moving from a 2500-square foot house to a 1750-square foot home. In doing so, we quickly found that space was at a premium. My son’s room is an unusual size of 12 feet by 9 feet. My tween needed some more space, so we decided to get him a bunk bed.

I knew that my son needed “more room for activities” (a la Stepbrothers). The solution was simple—a bunk bed. However, the options to find a way to really maximize his space were limited. I wanted to get him something that would stretch into his early teens, even though he was only 6 at the time. My other key in this search was that I wanted him to have a desk under his bed like I had in my college dorm.

Throughout most of my search I found plenty of options for storage, both under the bunk bed and in the steps that lead up to the bed. Most of these options were bulky so I knew that they wouldn’t work for us, given his small room. I ended up selecting this simple bunk bed with a desk below. It shipped to us in a box, so my husband and I spent four hours of pure torture assembling the bunk bed/desk combo. We accomplished the mission of saving space, but I’m not confident that it will last into his teen years.

The solution is that we are eventually going to move this into his little sister’s room and look for something that is stronger and more durable than what we currently have. I am open to suggestions for bunk beds that you have that work for children through the early teen years.

A few tips that I learned along the way: Measure! Make sure that your room has at least 2 feet of clearance on two or three sides of the bunk bed frame. Also, make sure to plan where the ladder will go in advance. I measured the fully assembled dimensions of the bunk beds that I was considering and then cut some string with the same dimensions. I then cleared out his room and started to map out my options for placement.

The next consideration was getting the right mattress.

Most bunk beds available in the United States come in a standard twin size. To clear up confusion between a twin-size mattress and a twin XL mattress let’s look at the two different sizes below.

Standard Twin Mattress

Dimensions: 38 inches wide by 75 inches long. Ideal for children and single adults (under 6 feet tall). Leaves lots of room for activites and is used in most bunk bed setups. However, children will outgrow them.

Twin XL Mattress

Dimensions: 38 inches wide by 80 inches long. Ideal for split adjustable bed users (a.k.a. your squirrelly kids) and single adults (up to 6 feet, 2 inches tall). While used for adjustable beds (you’d buy two), Twin XL mattresses likely won’t fit in most bunk bed frames.

Initially, I purchased him a cheap innerspring mattress. He was a small kid and didn’t have any complaints. However, one day I climbed up there and took a nap. Turns out that it was an incredibly uncomfortable, I could feel the coils pocking up at my back. I turned over to my side and things didn’t improve.

The next day I was on a quest to find him something better. As I was shopping I was searching for something that would still work for him in his early teen years. I bought him something with all the latest tech, it had infused cooling gel, air flow layers, a nice cover, you name it. It was also a sturdy 11 inches thick rather than the 5-inch cheap one he was on. Surely, this was the solution I was searching for, right?

Again, there were a couple of rookie mistakes that I made at this step. The guard rail for his bunk bed is a foot tall. If he were to toss and turn at night, falling out of bed became a real possibility. Also, the mattress was much heavier than the previous one. This means that I needed a Bunkie board to help the frame distribute the weight better.

After a few restless nights for me, I realized that the thick mattress just wasn’t worth the risk of him falling out of bed. I didn’t want to put him back on the cheap mattress, so I searched for a mattress that was between the two. I ended up going with a 7-inch all foam mattress, and I have never been happier with the choice. He is now safely within the guardrail and has a nice level of comfort.

I solved the space problem and gave him more room for activities, but I discovered a new problem. He now spends too much time on his computer. (Sometimes I regret the decision to put a computer in there, but there are so many advantages to being computer literate at an early age. Will he grow up to be a programmer by learning how to code while young? Or will he spend his time watching funny animal fails? Right now, it feels like he’s doing about 50/50, so I’m on the fence about putting restrictions on his use.)

Do you have bunk beds for your kids—and how’s it working out for you?

Featured Photo Courtesy: Rana Landreth