A mattress is only as good as its support system. In the past, when innerspring mattresses were pretty much the only viable option, box springs were ubiquitous. However, now that there are other mattress options, there are also other base options.
Below, we’ll talk about what box springs are, how they fare with memory foam mattresses, and other choices for you to consider when choosing a base for your bed.
Box Springs and Memory Foam Beds
Box springs are metal or wood frames containing a network of metal springs. Box springs were invented to complement the innerspring mattress, and they are made to absorb shock from innerspring mattresses and help increase air circulation underneath.
The issue with box springs and memory foam beds is that box springs are just not strong enough to support the weight of these heavy mattresses (memory foam mattresses are much heavier than innersprings).
If you place a memory foam mattress onto a set of box springs, the weight of the mattress will over-compress the coil network. This will cause the box springs to wear out too quickly. It may also break the box springs.
Box Spring Alternatives
Although a lot of people call any mattress base a “box spring,” the truth is there are several different bases that are better suited to memory foam mattresses—sturdier bases that can take a lot of weight and are compatible with any type of mattress.
Mattress foundations are wooden or metal frames with rigid wood slats stretched across at regular intervals. These intervals can range from 2 to 5 inches, but the ideal gap between slats is between 2 and 3 inches to allow for air circulation as well as offer enough support.
Slats may be flat or curve upward to provide extra support in the middle of the mattress, but all slats must be rigid enough to offer sturdy support and bear a lot of weight. If you were set on the box spring and bed frame combo, foundations are the best alternative for your memory foam mattress.
Once you lay your mattress on a foundation, it looks the same as a box spring set. Mattress foundations are often upholstered in fabric to protect the bottom of the mattress.
Mattress Foundation Pros
- Offers sturdy and solid support
- Encourages good airflow
- Adds height to bed
Mattress Foundation Cons
- Not as cost-effective as platform beds
- Still needs a bed frame
Like a mattress foundation, a platform bed frame is a frame with metal or wooden slats. Unlike a mattress foundation, platform beds are made to stand on their own without a frame or additional bed base.
Some platforms have a simple four or six-leg design. However, some platform beds can be quite elaborate, coming with headboards, footboards, and even storage space.
Platform beds have a low profile, and they can be anywhere from six inches to a foot shorter than the average 24-inch bed frame/mattress foundation/mattress combination. This might be fine for young people with no disabilities, but people with mobility issues should keep in mind it’s harder to get in and out of a low-profile bed like a platform bed.
Platform Bed Pros
- A single piece is more budget-friendly
- Offers modern, sleek style
- Has same rigid support as mattress foundation
Platform Bed Cons
- Low profile can be tough to get in and out of
- Some foundations may not have sufficient weight capacity
Adjustable beds let you adjust their position to sleep with your legs or head elevated. This can be great for people with poor circulation, sleep apnea, acid reflux, back pain, and a host of other problems.
An adjustable bed is a good way to support your memory foam mattress. Furthermore, memory foam mattresses are also a great choice for your adjustable bed because they’re flexible and heavy enough to follow the bed’s movements.
Adjustable bed frames have two basic components: the sleeping surface and the joints. The joints alter the position of the sleeping surface, while the sleeping surface is just the flat surface that takes your mattress.
Mattresses compatible with an adjustable bed include memory foam, latex foam beds, and hybrid mattresses.
Adjustable Bed Pros
- Allows for position adjustment
- Can help with medical issues and pain
Adjustable Bed Cons
- Heavier and more expensive
- Sleeping surface without slats may impede airflow
Would a mattress foundation or platform bed be good for my innerspring mattress?
Yes. A more rigid support system is great for an innerspring mattress. Not only can the additional support help extend the life of your mattress by preventing sagging and soft spots, but the rigid slats can also reduce motion transfer and increase airflow underneath the mattress.
When you get a new coil mattress, consider using a mattress foundation or even a platform bed underneath it to help it last longer and improve its support. Just avoid using an adjustable bed with an innerspring mattress, as these mattresses are not flexible enough to bend with the adjustable bed.
Why can’t I use box springs for my latex or hybrid mattress?
You can’t put box springs under latex or hybrid mattresses for the same reason you can’t put them under memory foam: these mattresses are too heavy. Latex especially will crush box springs under its weight.
Furthermore, a lot of mattress manufacturers specify that their warranty will be voided if you use their product with box springs. Box springs can damage your new foam or hybrid mattress as well as become damaged by it.
Can I lay my mattress on the floor instead?
You can lay your mattress on the floor, but you shouldn’t. Being on the floor puts your mattress at risk of damage from moisture buildup, mold, dust, and a wide variety of pests. It also reduces air circulation underneath your mattress.
This not only makes the bed sleep hotter, but it also makes it necessary for you to air out your mattress every once in a while to prevent moisture buildup, mildew growth, and a stinky mattress.
Like with box springs, many mattress warranties specify you cannot lay the product on the floor if you want to keep the warranty valid.
Will a bunkie board make my box springs stronger?
The short answer is no. Bunkie boards (also spelled bunky boards) might help your box springs feel more rigid, but they won’t make them sturdier and they won’t increase their weight capacity. Even if you put a bunkie board on your box springs, it still won’t make them able to bear your memory foam mattress.
Is a metal bed frame strong enough to support a memory foam mattress?
That depends on what metal the frame is made of and the quality and type of construction. Cast iron or steel frames can usually take a good amount of weight. However, some metal platform beds may not have enough slats or may not be constructed sturdily enough to take the weight of some heavier mattresses.
Make sure you’re looking at your bed’s maximum weight and you’re aware of how much your mattress and/or bed base weigh before laying them on the frame.
While traditional box springs can’t handle memory foam beds, there are plenty of alternatives that can offer proper support to this mattress type. Mattress foundations are a great alternative if you want a bed base that has the same look as a bed frame and box spring combo. Platform beds are perfect for those who want a lower-profile look. And adjustable beds may be the right option for back pain and sleep apnea sufferers.
Chris was a psychiatrist and neurologist with board certification in sleep medicine Clinical Associate Professor at the University of California. For over 10 years, he served and helped patients at Stanford Health Care-Stanford Hospital with their sleeping disorders.
After suffered from sleep disorders for years, Chris has been passionate about sleep health ever since. He wants to help others sleep better and wanted to make the world of sleep easy to understand for everyday people.