Stairs vs Ladders For Bunk Beds

young girl on bunk bed ladder

One thing you might want to consider when buying a bunk bed is whether you should have a ladder, some stairs or even a staircase. In this article, let’s look at the pros and cons of both options.

Are stairs safer than ladders with bunk beds?

Yes. Stairs are generally a safer option than ladders when it comes to bunk beds. The stairs are often enclosed either side which reduces the risk of falling, and they have a larger tread which makes it more comfortable and safer to ascend and descend.

Pros and cons of using stairs

Here are the advantages and disadvantages of using stairs with a bunk bed:


  • Stairs are safer. Many bunk bed designs with stairs come with a handrail. There’s also more tread for children to put their feet on (compared to a ladder) which reduces the risk of falling and picking up an injury.
  • Easier to use for adults as well as kids. If you need to change the sheets on the top bunk, or read a bedtime story to your child, it’s a lot easier for adults to climb up a set of stairs, than trying to climb a ladder.
  • More storage. Stairs will give you more storage space as each stair can function as a drawer for storing clothes, sheets or anything else you want.


  • Stairs take up more space. One of the reasons families buy a bunk bed is to save on space. But if your child’s room is particularly small, you may struggle to fit a set of stairs attached to the side of the bunk bed. Make sure you measure everything properly if you have any doubts.
  • More expensive. Stairs are made of up of more material than ladders and therefore this comes at a price.
  • Harder to child proof. If you don’t want your child to use the top bunk yet, or if you have a small baby who loves climbing stairs, this can be an issue.

Pros and cons of using ladders

Here are the advantages and disadvantages of using ladders with a bunk bed:


  • Cost. They’re a cheaper than stairs as they are smaller and use less material (whether this is wood or metal)
  • Detachable. If you don’t want your child to use a top bunk yet, you can simply remove the ladder and just fix it when they are ready (most manufacturers recommend from age 6 upwards)
  • Attach at either end of the bunk bed. Most bunk bed designs with ladders allow you to choose which end to attach it. This flexibility can be useful depending on the layout of your room.


  • Less safe. Unfortunately ladders aren’t as safe for children, just like for adults. Most bunk beds have a straight vertical ladder attached to them, which is a little tricky to climb up and down at first. Make sure your child knows how to use a ladder safely. To mitigate this risk, you can get bunk beds with ladders which can pull out slightly so you can go up and down at an angle. Also, some ladders have side rails.
  • Less comfortable. Your child will likely be going up and down a bunk bed ladder in their bare feet.  This is fine, but due to the small tread on the ladder rungs, it is less comfortable and puts a bit more pressure on the balls of the feet. Ladder cushions can make things more comfortable though.

How do you make a bunk bed ladder safer?

There are various things you can do to make a bunk bed ladder safer. You can install rubber treads, ladder cushions or anti-slip tape.

Should the ladder be at the head or foot?

In most cases, it’s more comfortable to have it at the foot end of the bed. It makes sense as your child will go down the ladder feet first so their body is already in the right position. However, children are a lot more flexible than adults, so you may wish to do things differently.

How do you baby proof a ladder?

You can purchase a bunk bed ladder cover. Alternatively, you can attach a blanket to the base of it and fix it in place with some strong tape.

Stairs vs ladders: Which should you pick?

If you’re on a budget, a ladder will be a cheaper option, but you may prefer the elegant look and feel of stairs attached to a bunk bed. Also consider the space in your child’s room carefully. Stairs will take up more room, but if you get extra storage with this, it may mean you don’t need to use an extra chest of drawers. If you have any doubt, you can always arrange a showroom visit at a bunk bed manufacturer. This will give you and your child a better sense of what is the right option for you.

stairs vs ladders for bunk beds