The Pros and Cons of a Solid Wood vs. Laminate Murphy Wall Bed
If you’re jazzed about the space-saving benefits of a Murphy wall bed (and watching your den, living room or spare room ‘magically’ turn into a bedroom) you’re not alone! This practical ‘bed in a box’ not only looks like built in furniture when the bed is concealed but gives you a far-more comfortable sleeping experience (no painful sofa beds for your guests anymore!). And it’s nice to know you’ve got a hide-a-way bed which is available at a moment’s notice.
And although the idea of a Murphy bed is intriguing, comparing the types of murphy beds can be confusing…to say the least!
Is it best to use a piston or spring mechanism so the bed is simple to move up and down? For my money, I’d go with the piston system because it’s more durable, never needs to be adjusted, and is used in heavy-duty applications like hotels.
Is it best to choose a vertical (it’s taller than it is wide) or a horizontal (it’s wider than it is tall) murphy bed? If you have enough room, I’d choose the vertical bed because it’s (a) easier to make the bed and (b) easier when you have 2 people using the bed for either of them to get out if they have to take a ‘biology break’ in the middle of the night.
And while the list of questions comparing wall beds could go on and on – this article will only focus on one element in this selection process. And that element is….
Is it better to choose a solid wood or a laminate murphy wall bed (or conversely you can say, ‘what are the pros and cons of solid wood vs. laminate murphy wall beds?).
I’ll first look at the pros and cons of laminate wall beds, then I’ll turn our attention to solid wood wall beds. At the end I’d love to hear your opinion which bed you think is best for you.
The pros and cons of laminate murphy wall beds
Pro #1 – Laminate wall beds cost less than solid wood wall beds
OK – so you’re not made of money – as your dad used to say…. N-E-V-E-R! Cost matters. And if this is your reality, you’ll want to take a serious look at laminate wall beds. Since these units are production made, require less labor in the manufacturing process, and use less expensive materials (although they’re no less durable), they’ll cost about half the price of a solid wood wall bed.
And what’s doubly nice is the savings you get on the bed can be used to add a storage unit(s) or matching desk along the side of your bed. That’s a bonus you’ll enjoy.
Pro #2 – Laminate wall beds are simpler to maintain
A laminate wall bed will never have to repainted or re-stained. They’re also scratch resistant and not prone to dings and dents you can get with a wood wall bed which certainly can happen if you have teenagers, young kids, or a clumsy spouse (or significant other) in the house.
These beds are easy to wipe off or dust as well.
Pro #3 – You’ll get a consistent look for years to come
If you’ve seen a painted or stained surface fade, you’ve experienced one of the worries of a solid wood surface. Laminate surfaces retain their look. In addition, the technology used to make them has progressed so far, you’ll swear a ‘laminate wood-look’ surface IS the real thing!
In addition, with a solid wood wall bed you can’t control the grain pattern you’ll actually receive. This will be the result of the specific board chosen by your wood murphy bed manufacturing company when your order is produced. Laminate is consistent every time.
Pro #4 – Laminate wall beds are lighter and easier to install
Even if you’re choosing to hire a professional murphy bed installer, if the bed is simpler to install and lighter to transport you’ll save money. And with todays escalating labor costs, buying products which save time (and labor) in the installation process is smart.
Pro #5 – Laminate wall beds won’t warp and crack
After you’ve spent anywhere from $2,000 to $9,000 for a wood Murphy wall bed, the last thing you want to encounter is an expensive bed which has warped or cracked. High quality laminate wall beds are built onto industrial strength particle boards (NOT the cheap particle board you find in department store furniture!) and are dimensionally stable.
On the other hand, heavy solid wood slabs can warp and crack (and as was mentioned in pro#1 of the laminate system – solid wood beds ARE NOT a ‘cheap date!’).
Con #1 – Laminate wall beds don’t have the door front options of solid wood systems
The door front options in solid wood murphy beds are only limited by the ingenuity and willingness of the craftsman who build them to create the exact front you’re looking for. The style, colors, finishes and stains are limitless. So – if you want an exact match to a specific antique furniture piece, you’re more likely to get what you want with a solid wood murphy bed than a ‘production-made’ laminate wall bed.
Image Source: WW Beds
Con #2 – Laminate choices are limited by the supplier you choose
While there are thousands of laminate (also called melamine) surfaces available, the reality is most manufacturers limit their selections to 25 options or less. And while these options work in 95% of the homes, you may want a specific look, color, or texture you can’t get with your preferred suppliers ‘in stock’ options.
So, now that we’ve looked at the pros and cons of the laminate wall beds, let’s turn our attention to the advantages and disadvantages (AKA the pros and cons) of the solid wood Murphy beds.
The pros and cons of solid wood murphy wall beds
Pro #1 – You’ll feel the real grain patterns in solid wood murphy beds
Most solid wood wall beds are made with hardwoods like maple and oak. And if getting the ‘real-McCoy’ is critical to you, you’ll enjoy the feel, texture and variations of the wood species you choose. And while there’s been advancements in laminates (like the EIR – Embossed in Register – process which creates actual grooves in laminate surfaces) – the real thing is still the real thing.
Pro #2 – With a solid wood murphy wall bed it can be stained or painted to match the exact color of your furniture or trim
If you’re known to be just a little bit picky (OK – if you’re being honest –at times some people think you’re a total PIA!) and your OCD REQUIRES you to find an exact match to your wood trim or furniture– then a laminate wall bed (with its predetermined patterns/colors) may not be for you.
With a solid wood bed, you can choose a matching paint or stain color.
Pro #3 – Solid wood beds can be ‘crafted’ in a wider variety of styles
Perhaps you want a barn-door looking Murphy bed. Or you want a Murphy bed with an arched base. Or you want a Murphy bed with carved half-round column corners. If you want a Murphy which IS a distinctive piece of furniture (and you have the budget to afford it), the solid wood murphy bed can be the ticket for you.
Image Source: WW Beds
Pro #4 – You’ll even find low-volume wall beds for your pets made out of wood!
With custom solid wood wall beds, you can even find smaller than standard wall beds for your pets. What WON’T we do for our furry loved ones?
Image Source: Room For Tuesday
Con #1 – Solid wood murphy wall beds must be cut, shaped, joined, sanded, and finished. In other words, there’s a lot of EXPENSIVE steps in the process!
There’s a lot which goes into the manufacturing of a solid wood murphy bed. And if you have the bucks to spend this may be fine for you. But if your remodeling budget is stretched thin – and inflation, labor costs and supply chain issues are making your life a nightmare – you may be better with the laminate fold down bed which has less customization, but also a lower price tag.
Con #2 – With a solid wood bed, the final product you get may not be exactly what you envisioned
Solid wood murphy beds are NOT mass produced. This can be a good thing (you’ll enjoy their uniqueness) or a bad thing (the grain pattern you thought you were getting is NOT what you ended up with!).
So -if you’re buying a real wood product understand (just like your granite countertops) what you actually get may be different than the model you saw in the showroom.
Con #3 – Wood is prone to cracking and warping
If you’re considering a solid wood Murphy bed, ask about the guarantee. Does it specifically address warping or cracking? This can be a problem if you live in a high humidity area.
Con #4 – Solid wood murphy beds are heavier and harder to install
Whether you’re a DIY’er struggling to figure out your first wall bed installation or you’re paying (hopefully not through-the-roof prices) for a professional installation – a heavy Murphy bed system IS NOT ‘you’re little ‘fre!’ (As Tony Montana in the uber-gory movie Scarface might say).
Keep in mind laminate wall beds are simpler, lighter, and more cost-effective to install.
Image Source: DIY Pete
So, in your opinion, is a laminate or solid wood wall bed the better choice? Do you need help selecting the best fold down bed for your den, spare bedroom, or loft?
While my goal in this article was NOT to teach you everything you could possibly want to know about Murphy wall beds – it was to help you see the advantages and disadvantages of solid wood and laminate wall beds. And after reading this article which option is best for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.
And – most importantly – if you have more questions about wall bed selections (or would like a Free 3D Murphy bed design (and live in Columbus Ohio) call 614-545-6888. And if you don’t live in Columbus, let me know where you do live, and I’ll see if I can find you a referral for a local expert in your market through my friends in the industry.
Thanks for reading.
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