Murphy Bed Buyers Guide

This article aims to create an intro 101 course to buying a new Murphy bed. Perhaps you've heard... Murphy bed, a wall bed, Hide-a-bed, folding bed, space-saving bed, or whatever. Review this article and save yourself some money.

What is A Murphy Bed?

Noir Wall Bed

A Murphy bed, also known as a wall bed, folding bed or hide-a-bed, is a functional furniture piece that can transform any room into a bedroom instantly.  These beds utilize vertical space to store and display a bed without the obvious intrusion into valuable room space. They are the perfect addition to any room that doubles as the guest bedroom, or for smaller bedrooms that have limited floor space. Murphy beds are lowered from their vertical position when in use, and can be lifted back into the vertical position in one quick movement, creating the ease of utilizing one room for multiple purposes.

Growing Popularity of Wall Beds

The Murphy bed market has grown enormously in the past decade, and more and more companies are offering this unique bed style. Because of this growing market, there are several important things to take into consideration when purchasing a Murphy bed. It is our goal to educate you, the buyer, on all of these things before you make a purchase. We have discussed here the different factors that go into choosing and buying a Wall bed, such as the type of mechanism used, the types of materials used, finishes, styles, important company characteristics to look for, shipping and delivery procedures and installation.

This post is hosted by Old Creek Wall Bed Factory, but is intended to provide unbiased information to aid you in the purchase of a Murphy bed. Please note that each company is unique in its policies and product, and the information that we are providing is simply a summary based on the general Murphy bed market.

Deciphering the Murphy Bed Mechanism Market

When you decide to add a Murphy bed into your home, determining exactly what you want and where to find it can seem a daunting task. It is important to consider each aspect of a Murphy bed individually, to ensure that the product you purchase is exactly what you are looking for. One of the first factors to take into consideration when determining what type of bed is right for you is the mechanism used. The mechanism in a Murphy bed is the most basic element of its construction, as the mechanism dictates nearly all of the facets of the bed’s structure. There are several different types of mechanisms, as well as a number of manufacturers producing beds for each type. The two main varieties of wall beds mechanisms are spring mechanisms and piston mechanisms. Each style has unique qualities, and can be essential in your decision making process.

Spring Mechanisms in Wall Beds

Spring mechanisms are part of the traditional Murphy bed system. They usually consist of a heavy duty compressed steel spring system that may or may not be concealed within the frame of the bed.

Integration into Cabinetry

When concealed within the framework of the Murphy bed, the spring mechanism may require specialized cabinetry, such as bi-fold doors or cabinets, which can hinder the use of other storage pieces adjacent to the Murphy bed.

Adjusting/Sagging in Wall Beds

Spring mechanisms are counter balanced, and enhance the ease of lowering and lifting your Murphy bed. These springs may require adjustment after several years of use, as the springs can fatigue and stretch over time. This fatigue may lead to the Murphy bed sagging out of the frame if not adjusted. The ability to adjust the mechanism does, however, give you the opportunity to dictate the level of tension in the springs, which is impossible in systems utilizing piston mechanisms.

Piston Mechanisms

The second main type of mechanism used in Murphy bed systems is the piston mechanism. These pistons generally utilize either gas or air pressure in their function, and provide generous support when raising and lowering the Murphy bed.

Locks on Wall Beds

A benefit to choosing a Murphy bed that operates with a piston mechanism is the use of a locking device. These locks keep the Murphy bed securely inside of the cabinet when not in use and are a valuable safety feature. Murphy bed systems that utilize piston mechanism experience a much lower possibility of fatigue and sagging, which significantly extends the longevity of the product.

Zero-Adjustment

These mechanisms require no adjustment, and are concealed within the frame of the Murphy bed. Because pistons cannot be adjusted, however, proper installation is crucial to promote the longevity of the mechanism, as piston mechanisms cannot be adjusted once installed. Determining which type of Murphy bed mechanism is right for you and your home can seem a difficult task. It is important to take your time when deciding, and to explore all of the possible options before making your final decisions.

Murphy Bed Mounting Options: Floor vs. Wall

Once you have decided on what type of mechanism you would like your Murphy bed to utilize, the next step is to consider the way in which the bed will be mounted in your home. There are two ways to install a Murphy bed.

Floor Mounting

Mounting to the Floor

Some systems require that the unit be drilled into the floor of the room. These are generally systems that rely on spring mechanisms. Mounting a Murphy bed unit into the floor provides grounded stability and truly makes your Murphy bed a fixture in your home, but it is important to note the long-term effects of mounting on your floor. Most floor-mount systems call for a solid mounting surface, requiring any carpeting to be cut away which can permanently damage your floor. In addition to marking your floors, floor mount systems are difficult, if not impossible to move once installed.

The “False Floor” Option

There are several Murphy bed manufacturers that offer a “false floor” option, where the Murphy bed is attached to a specifically cut piece of plywood, which is then attached to the wall or baseboards. This option is ideal for those who have settled on a Murphy bed requiring floor mounting, but want to preserve the appearance of their flooring.

Wall Mounting

Mounting to the Wall

Systems that require the Murphy bed be mounted to the wall are most commonly used with piston mechanisms. Mounting to the wall provides a much less permanent fixture in your home, as wall mount systems can be easily moved and incur very little damage to the structure of your room. The most common way in which a Murphy bed is mounted to the wall is by locating three studs, and then attaching the back panel of the Murphy bed to those studs with the use of a drill. Utilizing studs in your wall creates a stable foundation for your Murphy bed. It also allows you to re-position your Murphy bed if need be later on.

Different Wall Types

When deciding on a wall mounted Murphy bed, take into consideration the wall you will be using. Is the wall made of sheet rock, concrete or bricks? While most manufacturers provide solutions for all types of walls, certain wall types will require additional installation steps. Deciding between floor mount and wall mount styles of Murphy beds, and how they best fit into your home is an important choice. Be sure to investigate all of your options early on in your decision making process, and when you have decided which style is right for you, you will be one step closer to enjoying your Murphy bed.

Vertical Wall Beds versus Horizontal Wall Beds

When you have decided on which type of mounting is the best option for your home, the next factor to consider is the spatial alignment of your wall bed. While looking at all of your options, it is important to evaluate not only the floor space that you have available for the wall bed to operate in, but the wall and ceiling space as well. There are two wall bed configurations to consider and each one lends itself to different space arrangements.

Vertical Wall Beds

Image from Murphy bed buyers guide of a vertical queen murphy bed

Vertical wall bed systems are the more traditional, upright wall beds. In this configuration, the wall bed is stored vertically, and lowered into the room so that the length of the bed is perpendicular to the wall. This style of wall bed requires ceilings that are high enough to accommodate a fully upright bed. It is also important to note the amount of room allowed for the wall bed’s projection into the room once the wall bed is engaged. Whatever the height of the wall bed is while in its vertical storage position will then be translated into the floor space occupied when the wall bed is engaged. Vertical wall beds lend themselves nicely to utilizing accompanying storage units, such as vertical bookcases, without interrupting the visual line of the room.

Horizontal Wall Beds

Image from Murphy bed buyers guide of a horizontal queen murphy bed

Horizontal wall bed systems are ideal for rooms that have lower ceilings or less floor space for bed projection, such as rooms in the basement or attic of a home. These wall beds require enough wall space for the full length of the wall bed, as it is essentially a vertical wall bed turned ninety degrees. The projection of this style of wall bed into the room will be more shallow than that of a vertically standing wall bed, but will consequently be wider. Horizontal wall beds lend themselves nicely to rooms utilizing lower height storage units, such as desks or nightstands. Determining the space you would like your wall bed to occupy is a large step in on the road to making a final decision. It impacts not only the specific wall bed that you choose, but also the company from which you place an order, the accompanying furniture of the room, and eventually the feel that your room will have.

Wall Beds and What They’re Made Of

In today’s wall bed market there are a number of wood materials that wall beds are constructed out of. Four of the main materials used in constructing a wall bed are Particle Board, MDF Board, Ply Wood, and Solid Wood. Each material has unique qualities that lend themselves to the operation and structure of your wall bed. Each material type is outlined below to give you a better understanding of why it is used, what it is best used for, and what to look for when choosing your perfect wall bed.

Particle Board

Particle Board is an engineered material used primarily for exterior furniture surfaces. It is composed of highly compressed wood pieces, or particles, which gives the material its name. In wall beds, particle board’s chief use is for exterior surfaces, because its guarantees a smooth surface and is less likely to warp or crack over time. Particle board strength is measured by its PSI, which gauges the compression of the particles together, and therefore the overall quality and strength of the board as a whole. A cheaper product will be composed of cheaper particles, and therefore have a lower PSI. Industrial strength particle board is much stronger, and has a much higher PSI rating. One thing to note is that particle board may contain amounts of formaldehyde, and it is important to be aware of this when furniture will be used in nurseries, or other highly sensitive spaces. Newer age particle board does not utilize formaldehyde in its construction so be sure to ask when purchasing a wall bed that has particle board components.

MDF in Wall Beds

MDF is a material similar to particle board and has the same usage as an exterior surface wood since it results in a smoother surface and is less likely to warp and crack. MDF, however, is a much more refined product than particle board. It is also composed of wood particles, but they are much, much smaller than those that particle board is comprised of. Because of this, MDF has a slightly smoother texture than particle board. Consequently, this decrease in particle size makes MDF a much heavier product than particle board. This increases its structural use, but also makes your wall bed much heavier, which can be a hindrance when installing or moving your wall bed.

Plywood

Plywood is a material that is generally stronger as a structural material than particle board or MDF. Plywood is constructed of several thin layers of wood, and can also be called layered board. The wood used to create the layers in plywood is generally B grade wood, which individually would not be strong enough for use, but when layered together creates a much stronger material. Use of plywood minimizes the chances of warping, which makes it desirable for exterior surfaces of a wall bed , as well as interior. Be cautious when selecting a wall bed that utilizes plywood as a main structural component, however, as knots in the wood layers can create instability. If one layer of the ply wood has a knot, it creates a point of weakness that can be transferred throughout the wood.

Solid Wood

Solid Wood is the material that is most used in wall beds for structural composition. This is the strongest material available, and is consequently the material used most often for the most important part of the wall bed: the structure. Solid wood is generally not used as an exterior material for several reasons. Solid wood can naturally warp, leading to visual imperfections which decrease the overall appearance and structural performance of your wall bed. It is also difficult to guarantee and align specific grain patterns when using solid wood, creating greater difficulty when used for exterior purposes. Solid wood is also very expensive, and unnecessary use is wasteful in our limited eco-system. Wall beds that utilize solid wood as their main structural material will be extremely strong, but for aesthetic purposes solid wood is not recommended as an exterior surface.

Deciding what you want your wall bed to be made of brings you one step closer to knowing which wall bed is perfect for you. Once you know the materials, the next step is to choose how your wall bed looks.

Wall Bed Exteriors: Veneers and Melamines

Achieving the Look You Want: Veneers and Finishes

During your search for the perfect wall bed, you’ll run into many industry related terms that may throw you for a loop. One of the terms you’ll run into over and over again is ‘veneer’. What is a veneer and how does it play into your purchasing decision? A veneer is essentially a thin layer of material placed over a core panel to provide consumers with benefits that they could not achieve with solid wood alone. Some of these benefits include warp prevention, aesthetics and lower price points. Within the world of wall beds, there are two primary types of veneers on the market: Solid Wood Veneers and Laminate Veneers. Each option has unique pros and cons you should consider.

Solid Wood Veneers

Solid wood veneers involve layering a thin slice of solid wood over a core panel. The core panel may be constructed of plywood, particleboard or medium density fiberboard (MDF). The wood veneer can be finished in several different ways and can be made out of any type of wood which allows you to achieve the exact look you want for your wall bed.

Pros of Solid Wood Veneers

One advantage of using a solid wood veneer is that you achieve the look of real wood without having to worry about the possible disfigurations that can occur with furniture completely crafted from solid wood. Since natural wood has the possibility to warp over time, introducing a veneer significantly decreases the likelihood of warping while maintaining the natural look of solid wood. Another advantage is price. Any piece of furniture constructed from solid wood will be placed at a premium price. Taking advantage of a veneer gives you the same quality look and feel of solid wood without this high cost. Thirdly, solid wood is very, very heavy. Not only does your price per wall bed go up dramatically, so will your delivery cost and any future costs associated with moving your wall bed. A wall bed that utilizes premium wood veneers is much lighter.

Cons of Solid Wood Veneers

Because every tree is different, the grain on every piece of wood will be slightly different from the next. When choosing a wall bed with a solid wood veneer, it is important to remember that the grain on your wall bed may differ from the grain on other furniture in the room or your home, even though they may be the same type of wood. If you want your wall bed to have an even, consistent wood grain you may want to consider a laminate veneer (discussed in greater detail below).

Finishing Solid Wood Veneers

There are several types of finishes that can be applied to solid wood veneers, all of which enhance the wood in different ways. When choosing the type of finish that your wall bed will have you should take into consideration the type of finish that the accompanying furniture will have, the look and feel you want the room to have, and the overall color scheme that you plan to utilize in the room the wall bed will be used.

Oil Based Finishes:

Oil based finishes are generally either hand applied or sprayed onto the surface of the wall bed. Oil finishes are designed to penetrate deep into the wood and allow the natural grain of the wood to really shine while enhancing it with pigmentation. This type of finish is generally available in several shades to create the look you want, or accent your existing furniture. Specific color availability varies based on the company you are purchasing your wall bed from.

Water Based Finishes:

Similar to oil based finishes, water based finishes can be applied with a brush or sprayed on. Water based finishes are best used in situations when the finish will be more of a protecting agent, rather than an addition of color. Water based finishes are a more eco-friendly option, as they use less chemicals than other types of finishes and any spillage can be cleaned using water.

Lacquer:

A lacquer is a type of varnish that is applied to furniture and can be clear or colored. When a lacquer is applied to a surface it dries through the process of solvent evaporation which creates a solid, extremely durable finish. Lacquers can have different levels of sheen, from matte to high gloss, and can be further polished to achieve variations of look and texture.

Paints:

Paints are a great option when the color of your wall bed is your main concern. Because paints come in all levels of coverage, color and shine there is a wide variety of options. However, it is important to note that paint may fully cover the natural grain of the wood.

Laminate Veneers

A laminate veneer, like a wood veneer, is a thin layer of material that is applied over a core panel. The difference, however, is that the thin layer is not made of wood. Instead, laminate veneers (also referred to as Melamine or Formica) are made of synthetic materials.

Pros of Laminate Veneers

Because a laminate is a man made substance, it can be made to have any appearance you would like. For example, if you want the look of solid wood but don’t want to worry about grain inconsistency or can’t afford solid wood, laminate veneers are a good solution. Or if you like a more contemporary finish in black, you would opt for something made from melamine (a type of laminate veneer). Laminate veneers are wonderful in that your options are endless whereas wood veneers can only vary as much as the trees they come from.

Cons of Laminate Veneers

Where all of this may get a little tricky is when a laminate veneer is made to look like wood. Some people are unclear of the difference and pay real wood veneer prices for laminate veneers that imitate real wood. Though laminates can be made to have the appearance of natural materials, in the end they are still man-made and as such you should be paying less for them. Another con of laminate veneers is if you want the actual look and feel of real wood. Unfortunately, a laminate veneer will never have the exact look and feel of real wood because it isn't real wood. If this is something that is important to you, solid wood veneers will achieve this better than any imitation laminate veneer can.

When choosing your wall bed make sure you understand what your bed is made of – especially the exterior surface. Using veneers can be a smart decision if you find a company that uses quality veneers and can utilize them in a way to create a look that will enhance the décor of your home.

When choosing your wall bed make sure you understand what your bed is made of – especially the exterior surface. Using veneers can be a smart decision if you find a company that uses quality veneers and can utilize them in a way to create a look that will enhance the décor of your home.

Customer Service

One of the main indicators of quality in any company is the way that they treat their customers. When shopping for the right company to purchase your wall bed from it is important to recognize good and bad customer service. Buying a wall bed should be more than a purchase, but an investment in a piece of your home and the company you choose to work with should reflect positive values.

Web Customer Service

With technology quickly becoming the primary means of business, most companies have a website representing their products and services. When browsing the websites of wall bed companies there are several factors to look for: Does the website have a Contact Us page readily available from their homepage, or do they make you search around for ways to contact them? Does their contact page only allow you to email them, or do they offer a toll free number for you to contact them free of charge? Does the company offer warranties or return policies for their products? How easy is it for you to process a return? If you do decide to purchase a wall bed from a company, what type of product support do they offer on the back-end? Is there someone you can call if you experience issues installing or assembling your wall bed, or just have general questions or concerns? Does the company list any testimonials or customer recommendations? How do others rate their customer service experience with the company? All of these are factors you should look for when you are on a wall bed company’s website and are searching out a company with high customer satisfaction standards.

Telephone Customer Service

Although the internet and websites can be an effective way of communication between a company and its customers, it is still important to have customer service available over the phone. Speaking directly with a representative of the company you plan to purchase your wall bed from can be the best way to get detailed information about your purchase and any policies you may have missed on the website. Speaking with a member of the company can also give you a good feel for the company itself to help you determine if you would like to purchase your wall bed from them.

Knowledgeable Staff

Whether you are visiting a company’s website or speaking with them directly, you should be greeted by staff that is polite, professional and knowledgeable about their product and company. It is important that you feel you can build a trusting relationship them, especially when you are making an investment as large as adding a wall bed to your home. A staff that is knowledgeable and friendly reflects positively on the company and the level of service that they provide.

Once you have developed a sense of the level of customer service that a company offers, there are several other factors to consider before making the final decision.

The Pros and Cons of Company Location

The location of the company you plan to purchase a wall bed from can be a very influential part of the decision making process. While your decision should be chiefly based upon the wall beds and how they fulfill your personal needs and wants, there can be influential factors regarding a company’s location. Whether you are worried about shipping costs, taxation or the possibility of visiting a showroom, it is important to look into company’s that are both near and far from you to ensure that all of your needs are met.

Showroom Availability

Choosing a company that is locally based near your home offers the possibility of visiting their showroom and viewing the product in person before placing an order. This can be an important factor for those wishing to see exactly what their wall bed will look like, how easy it is to operate and how it will match with their existing furniture.

Shipping Costs

The location of a wall bed company can also affect the shipping costs that you will pay. Shipping costs vary from company to company, as some operate on a case-by-case basis and others offer a flat shipping rate. For company’s operating on a case-by-case basis, the closer you are located to the company the greater the chance that the shipping costs will be lower. For company’s operating on a flat fee shipping rate, you have more flexibility to base your choice solely on the wall bed itself, as your shipping fee will not be affected by your location.

Sales Tax

The application of sales tax to your order is another important element when purchasing a wall bed. If you reside in a state that does not implement a sales tax but are purchasing your bed from a state that does, you may be required to pay tax on your order. Likewise, ordering from a state with no tax may be beneficial to you as a customer, as your order may not be taxed.

It is important to remember that your overall satisfaction with your wall bed is the central goal, and considering a company’s location is just one step in the decision process.

Delivery Procedures

When preparing for the delivery of your wall bed there are several factors to be prepared for. It is important that you are aware of what will be expected on your behalf during the delivery of your Murphy bed, as well as to know what to expect of the delivery company.

Inspecting Your Murphy Bed

Upon first receipt of your bed, it is highly important to fully inspect the package for any damage. In most cases, any damage claims can only be made if discovery of the damage was noted with the delivery personnel present. Because of this, you will want to make sure that you thoroughly inspect the packaging and the Murphy bed itself to ensure that there is no damage.

Curbside V. In-Home Delivery

When purchasing your Murphy bed it is important to read carefully the shipping terms offered by the company. Many companies provide different levels of delivery service, and depending upon your unique situation it may be beneficial to take advantage of higher value delivery services. Curbside delivery is standard among most delivery companies, and requires the most preparation on your behalf. In this situation your Murphy bed will be delivered to your home, but it is not guaranteed that it will be brought into the house or even taken off of the delivery truck. Some Companies may offer a more premium level of shipping that includes bringing the Murphy bed into the house, unpacking it, and even installing it for an additional fee.

Installation

Before your Murphy bed is delivered, it can be beneficial to look over the installation instructions, if they are provided on the company’s website or through other literature. Knowing ahead of time the proper tools and assistance you will need to correctly install your Murphy bed can save you time and effort, and lead to quicker enjoyment of your Murphy bed. If you choose to invest in a premium level of delivery, ask ahead of time how much room the delivery team will need to operate in, and if any tools or portions of the installation will be required on your behalf. In many cases, even with premium delivery service, you will be responsible for mounting the Murphy bed in your home, for liability reasons.

Return Policies

It is the hope of every customer that the product they order will be the perfect fit for their home. Because this is not always the case, it is especially important to study the return policies of any company you plan to make a purchase from, especially in the case of purchasing an investment such as a hide-a-bed.

Return Time Frame

It is important to ensure that should you for any reason need to return the product—in full or in part—that you have an ample time frame in which to do so. When you know the length of time you have to potentially return your hide-a-bed, you can better plan your time frame for installation and trial usage. Additionally, pay careful attention to return policy time frames and their relation to shipping time. If a return policy does not include shipping time, you will need to prepare for this when arranging to return your hide-a-bed.

Services Charges

When placing your order, be sure to note if the company you are ordering through has any service charges associated with product returns or exchanges. Often companies have service charges or handling fees for returning your hide-a-bed, especially if the return is conducted after a certain time period.

Shipping

It is especially important to be aware of return policies and fees if you are purchasing your hide-a-bed from a company that is not located near to you. Because returning the hide-a-bed will involve getting it back to the company, if you are not returning it due to damages or defects you will most likely have to pay for the return shipment. It can be beneficial to discuss this with the company before making your hide-a-bed purchase, so that you are not caught unaware when attempting to make a return.

Communicating with the company your hide-a-bed was purchased from can be the biggest asset in making a return go smoothly. Be sure to ask plenty of questions before making your purchase, and continue to ask questions throughout the ordering and delivery process if you are at all concerned.

Murphy Bed Warranties

When you purchase your folding bed, you are making an investment in your home and it is important to know that it will last as long as you need it to. Unfortunately, things can break or wear down, and a folding bed is no exception. Because of this, knowing the warranties regarding your folding bed can be very helpful in the event that it should become defective.

Mechanism Warranties

The most common element of a folding bed that has a warranty associated with it will be the mechanism. Because this is so elemental in the function and use of your folding bed it is fitting that this be the most important warranty. The longer the warranty is for your folding bed mechanism, the more confidence that you can have in the company and in the product. A shortened warranty period may be a sign that the mechanism is not designed to last an extended amount of time, putting you out of luck if it breaks. It is also important to read the warranty thoroughly to prevent any confusion over what is covered and what is not in the event of a defect.

Murphy Bed Warranties and Repair Policies

Warranties on folding beds will vary from company to company. Some companies have repair teams that they can send directly to your home to fix or replace damaged or broken parts of your folding bed. Companies may also simply send you the pieces necessary to repair your folding bed, leaving you to conduct any repairs. Reading through these specific warranties and repair policies is important, especially if your folding bed will be used regularly.

A Murphy bed should be a lasting fixture in your home, and one that you are able to enjoy year after year. We hope that this article has been helpful in your decision making process towards purchasing a folding bed.