How to Fix Bed Rails

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Things You'll Need

  • • Tape measure

  • • Tape

  • • Black pen or marker

  • • One 1-inch by 1 1/2-inch by (bed-rail length minus 3 inches) repair wood in a hardwood that matches the existing bed

  • • 12 1 3/4-inch wood screws

  • • Carpenter’s wood glue

  • • Wax

  • • Wood chisel

  • • Screw gun or drill (check screw-head type)

  • • Two clamps

  • • Mallet

  • • Drill set


Use a high quality board for your lip, even if it is expensive. This little board does a lot of work. If you have a larger bed, and/or there are two people sleeping in the bed, you may need to improve your slat system to carry the additional load. If one side of your bed rail fails, you should check the other side, too. Quality bed-replacement parts are readily available if you lose or damage parts while moving.


Some bed designs transfer weight between the slats, rails, and head and foot-board posts. If you use netted slats, you can spread the transfer load to provide better lateral support and reduce the risk of board failure. If your bed is wide, you also may want to install a center support rail between your head and foot boards to further disperse the load. If your slats sag, break, or become dislodged easily, and if you do not want to go use a netted slat system, then you may want to increase the slat's plank width and remeasure your rail span, which can warp with age.

Bed rails are the boards or metal supports that run from a bed's headboard to foot board, along the bed's side, and usually are an "L" shape. Wood beds generally use a hook-on design, in which the rails have slots that fit into receiving grooves in the headboard and foot board, while bed rails typically are bolted onto metal bed frames. Additionally, if you have metal bed rails, then the metal frames typically connect with bolts, spring clips, and clamps. This article focuses on wooden bed rails, since they are more likely to fail and require fixing.

Commercial bed rails typically are constructed from a hardwood, such as cherry, oak, or maple, or a laminate hardwood with a veneered edge. A solid hardwood lip runs along the bed rail, typically ending approximately 1 to 2 inches from each end. Joint repair, which is beyond this article's scope, includes replacing pins in the hook plate or foot-board receiving area. For the purposes of this article, bed-rail failure describes the collapse of the inner lip.

Removing and Repairing the Bed-Rail Lip

Step 1

Remove the bed rail by driving it upward, with the mallet, out of its hook-and-pin joints. Use the marker to mark the top edge of the damaged lip, in the intact areas. Lay the rail flat, and remove existing screws with your drill. There should not be any nails in the rail, but remove them if you encounter them. Use the chisel to separate the lip from the rail, and to clean the rail's entire inner surface of any remaining glue residue.

Step 2

Use your marker line as a guide to position your replacement board no more than 2 inches from each end, lengthwise. The 1-inch side of the board will attach to the rail, and the 1 1/2-inch board will support the slats. Line up your new rail at the top line of the rail you removed. This ensures that your new rail is level with the other bed rail. Check the other rail, if necessary.

Step 3

Once you determine that your board will fit properly, apply carpenter's glue generously to its edge, and then clamp the new lip into position on the rail.

Step 4

Select a drill bit that is approximately the same size as the solid portion of your wood screws. You will use the drill bit to drill pilot holes in your hardwood. Measure 1 3/4 inches from the drill bit's tip, and wrap a piece of tape to act as a depth guide. With the rail's finished side facing down, and the lip's edge facing up, measure 1 inch from either end. Drill a pilot hole through the lip and approximately half way into your bed rail. Do not drill through the wood to the bed rail's finished side, as this mars the bed rail's appearance.

Step 5

Rub wax on the screws to lubricate them, which aids their installation into the hardwood. Screw the screws into the pilot holes. The screws should pull the lip wood snug against the rail. Be aware that some glue will squeeze out.

Step 6

Measure the rail's other end and repeat. This should position your lip exactly where you want it. Space your remaining screws along the lip every 6-to-10 inches, and drill pilot holes for each. When you are finished, wipe off any excess glue, and let the rail dry. Once the rail is dry, reinstall it onto the head and foot boards.


F.R.R. Mallory

F.R.R. Mallory has been published since 1996, writing books, short stories, articles and essays. She has worked as an architect, restored cars, designed clothing, renovated homes and makes crafts. She is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley with bachelor's degrees in psychology and English. Her fiction short story "Black Ice" recently won a National Space Society contest.