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Do I Need a Box Spring or Foundation for My Mattress?

Quick Overview

Box springs and foundations are base components designed to support mattresses and protect them from wear. Most box springs and foundations are less expensive than other base types (such as platform beds or adjustable bases), and they also satisfy the warranty requirements of most mattress manufacturers. However, in most cases, you do not necessarily need a box spring or foundation to support your mattress.

What Are Box Springs and Foundations?

Box springs and foundations support mattresses by providing a buffer between the bottom of the mattress and a bed frame made of metal or wood. In some cases, a box spring or foundation may be placed between the mattress and the floor, as well. The terms ‘box spring’ and ‘foundation’ are often used interchangeably, though both terms are associated with different types of overall construction.

A traditional box spring consists of a wooden frame, steel support springs, and a cloth cover. Some newer models feature frames made of metal, rather than wood. In addition to supporting the mattress, box springs absorb shock from sleeper’s bodies and distribute weight to help prevent wear.

In recent years, foundations have overtaken box springs as the standard mattress base. Rather than springs, foundations feature evenly spaced wooden slats designed to reinforce the mattress and prevent it from crashing through the base; the closer the slats are spaced, the more supportive the platform bed will be. As a result, foundations do not absorb as much shock as box springs. However, they tend to be more suitable for mattresses that require higher levels of support and less weight distribution, such as memory foam and latex models. Foundations, like box springs, are usually encased in cloth.

Box springs and foundations are generally available in three sizes:

Size Height (in.) Height (cm.)
Standard/High-Profile 9 in. or taller 23 cm. or taller
Medium-Profile 6 to 8.5 in. 15 to 21.5 cm.
Low-Profile 5.5 in. or lower 14 cm. or lower

Common Mattress Sizes

In order to provide optimal support for the mattress, box springs and foundations are constructed with the same size specifications as mattresses. A general size chart is found below; please note that some manufacturers use slightly different measurements for their mattresses and box springs/foundations.

Size Typical Dimensions (Width x Length)
Twin 39W" x 75L"
Twin Extra Long (XL) 39W" x 75L"
Full/Double 54W" x 75L"
Queen 60W" x 80L"
King 76W" x 80L"
California King 72W" x 84L"

Additionally, some mattresses are available in split Queen, King, or California King models; these consist of two separate mattresses that fit together in the middle to form a complete size. Box springs and foundations may be sold in split models; however, standard box springs and foundations are usually sufficient for split-style  Queen, King, or California King mattresses.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using a Box Spring or Foundation

Some benefits associated with using a box spring or foundation include:

  • Easier on and off: Due to their height, box springs and foundations allow users to get on and off the bed more easily.
  • Extended mattress lifespan: Using a box spring or foundation can minimize deterioration and help the mattress last longer.
  • Minimal sagging: Sagging and indentation is an issue with many mattresses, but box springs offer a flush surface to help the mattress maintain its shape over time.
  • Lower price-point: Compared to other base types, box springs and foundations tend to be less expensive (see pricing chart below for more information).

There are some notable disadvantages of using a box spring or foundation, as well:

  • Regular rotation: Box springs can lose their supportive qualities after too much use, requiring owners to rotate them (which can be tiring and time-consuming).
  • Occupying space: Unlike platform beds (see below), box springs do not have any space for personal storage underneath the base.
  • Extra costs: Although some box springs may be used on flat floors, many are designed for use with an additional frame or foundation.

Alternatives to Box Springs and Foundations

Alternatives to standard box springs and foundations include the following:

Bed Frames and Platform Beds

A bed frame provides sturdy support mattresses and sleepers. Depending on the type of bed frame, it might also include a foundation or support a box spring off the ground. Bed frames are often made of a combination of wood and metal, with foam or fabric upholstery. The most common type of bed frames include:

  • Canopy beds: Frame with four posts connected to an overhead frame (or canopy) from which you can hang curtains, drapes, etc.
  • Four-poster beds: Frame containing four posts which are not connected using an overhead canopy.
  • Panel beds: Also called “box spring beds,” these include flat wooden panels for the headboard and footboard as well as side rails to support both a mattress and base.
  • Sleigh beds: A bed with a curved headboard and footboard that resembles a wooden sleigh.

Aside from using bed frames, a platform bed is another possible choice. These are designed to support a mattress without the use of a base. Platform beds use evenly spaced wooden or metal slats or lattices in place of a foundation.

Adjustable Bases

Adjustable bed bases feature foundations that can be raised at the head or foot (or both) to create different angles for sleeping. Some adjustable beds are split lengthwise to allow both halves of a mattress to operate separately.

These beds can relieve a variety of ailments while promoting an increase is overall sleep quality. For example, adjustable beds typically allow the top half of the bed to be raised, elevating the head. Sleepers often snore due to poor head elevation. By providing upper body elevation, their airways open up and snoring ceases.

Some adjustable beds include massage functions and even a zero-gravity feature that creates an S-shaped sleep surface, which is ideal for those with lower back pain or high blood pressure. It’s even possible to find adjustable beds that come with silent alarms that vibrate the bed, gently waking you each morning.

Putting a mattress on the floor

Some sleepers choose to stack their mattresses directly on the floor, although whether it’s a good idea is a hot topic. There are some positives to simply forgoing a bed frame. For instance, putting your bed on the floor allows cool air to move across the surface of the bed, helping you sleep cool and comfortable all night. As bed frames can run $150 to $200, skipping on buying one can save money.

That said, there are important drawbacks to acknowledge, such as issues with insects, dust mites, or other pests.  Additionally, keeping your mattress on the floor could lead to abnormal wear and tear that might void its warranty. Make sure to carefully consider the type of mattress you buy and whether just placing it on the floor is worth it.

How Much Do Box Springs, Foundations and Other Bed Bases Cost?

Like mattresses, the cost of a box spring, platform bed or adjustable base will vary by manufacturer. It’s important to note that some mattress brands price their foundations by height, while others price according to size.

The table below features the average price for box springs, foundations, and different bed base types. Please note it’s priced for Queen-size beds, the most commonly purchased type of bed.

Bed Base Type Average Price Range (Queen) Description
Box spring $100 to $300 A bed base with a sturdy wooden frame, containing springs with a cloth cover on top
Foundation $200 to $500 Reinforced slats that support the mattress and protect it from falling through the base
Platform bed $400 to $800 Raised bed base that uses slats or lattice-structure to support bed without a foundation
Adjustable bed $900 to $1,500 Bed base with adjustable head and foot that can raise or lower the body into multiple positions

Warranty Considerations

The vast majority of mattresses sold today come with warranties that generally range from 10 to 25 years in length. In most cases, the warranty will specify certain types of bases that may — and may not — be used to support the mattress. Specifications vary from brand to brand, but the following guidelines are common in most mattress warranties:

  • Foundational support: Most mattress warranties allow any type of base — including box springs, foundations, platforms, and adjustable bases — as long as they provide adequate support for both the mattress and its sleepers.
  • Frame Construction: Although this is not always stressed, some brands require certain types of frames for mattresses based on their size. Commonly, a frame with at least four legs is needed for Twin- and Full-size mattresses; and a frame with five to six legs is needed for Queen-, King- and California-King-size models. Strong center support is also required for all sizes.
  • Slat dimensions: The warranty may require certain slat measurements if a foundation or platform bed is used to support the mattress. In most cases, slats may not be spaced further than 2 to 3 inches apart.

If a mattress owner does not abide by these terms, then their warranty will be voided if improper foundational support leads to sagging, indentations, or other types of premature wear. It’s important to note that relatively old box springs or foundations — generally speaking, those that have been in use for more than three years — may not provide the ‘adequate support’ listed in mattress warranties. If a claim is filed for a damaged mattress, then the box spring or foundation may be inspected by the manufacturer — and if it is found to be faulty, then the warranty will be voided.

Bottom line: mattress owners do not necessarily need to buy a matching foundation, platform, or adjustable base for their new mattress — but if their original box spring or foundation has been in use for more than three years, then it may not satisfy the support requirements laid out in the mattress warranty.

Conclusion

A box spring, foundation, or other type of base (such as a platform bed or adjustable base) is generally recommended for most mattresses sold today — and in many cases, a suitable base will be required to keep the warranty valid.

If you need to decide whether to purchase a base with your new mattress or continue using your current model, here are a few things to ask yourself:

  • Have I owned/used the box spring or foundation for more than three years?
  • Have I experienced sagging, indentations, or other types of wear on my current mattress using the same box spring or foundation?
  • Are the slats on my foundation evenly spaced to meet the warranty terms of the mattress I want to buy?
  • Is a new box spring, foundation, or other mattress base in my shopping budget?

Additional Tuck Resources

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