The quality of the base you lay your mattress on is just as important as the quality of the mattress itself. Your bed base affects everything from how much support you get while you sleep to the life expectancy of your mattress. That means if you’re trying to decide what kind of bed base to purchase, there are a few questions you’ll need to answer first.
While box springs are still among the most popular bed bases, whether or not you need them is going to be determined by your mattress type, personal preferences, and even medical needs. Let’s talk about some of the most important factors in influencing your choice.
What Type of Mattress Do You Have?
If the answer to that question is anything other than “an innerspring,” then you don’t need a box spring. You need a mattress foundation or platform bed. Traditional box springs were designed with innerspring mattresses in mind, and they’re not compatible with other types of mattresses.
If you have a latex mattress, hybrid bed, or memory foam mattress, you’ll need a sturdier bed base because all these mattresses are much too heavy for box springs. Heavy mattresses can over compress a set of box springs, causing the coils to wear out too fast or break. For example, memory foam beds should not be used with a box spring because the soft foam could begin to sink and cause damage.
Box springs can damage heavy mattresses as well. A broken box spring might pop a coil and tear the bottom of your mattress. And inadequate support can also reduce the life expectancy of a mattress, causing sags and soft spots. For this reason, most non-innerspring mattress warranties prohibit the use of box springs under their product.
What Kind of Bed Frame Do You Have?
Box springs are intended to go on a bed frame, so if you have a traditional bed frame and a traditional innerspring mattress, you’re fine to purchase a set of box springs.
However, platform beds are meant to stand on their own. So if you already have a platform bed, you won’t need a set of box springs. In fact, you really aren’t supposed to put box springs or a mattress foundation on your platform bed because they can shift around.
What Sort of Feel Do You Want?
If you like a lot of responsiveness and shock absorption, box springs might be up your alley. They’re the only bed base that offers a coil network inside their frame, and combined with an innerspring, they’ll give you the bounce you’re looking for.
However, some people find the bounce of an innerspring and box spring combo more like a trampoline than a bed. If that’s the case, you might prefer a mattress foundation or platform bed instead. The more rigid support offered by these bases will help reduce responsiveness to a more pleasant level.
How Much Does Motion Transfer Bother You?
In a similar vein, if you want a lot of motion isolation, box springs (or an innerspring mattress, for that matter) may not be for you. The bounce of the mattress and box springs will ripple all over the bed, disturbing other sleepers.
Some couples may be used to this and thus unbothered by it. However, if you’re easily awoken by your partner’s movements, consider a memory foam or latex mattress and a more rigid bed base instead.
How High Do You Want Your Bed?
Those looking for lower-profile beds would do well to avoid box springs and mattress foundations alike. Both of these bases are meant to go inside a bed frame and underneath a mattress. They’ll raise the height of your bed by 9 to 12 inches. If you want a full-height bed (around 24 inches on average), box springs will be fine (assuming you have a coil mattress).
However, if you’re looking for a sleeker, more modern style for your bed, a platform bed will be more your speed. Platform beds offer a lower profile (10 to 18 inches). Just keep in mind if you have mobility issues, a lower-profile bed may be more difficult to get in and out of.
Other Bed Bases
Aside from box springs, you have some options for bases to lay your mattress on. These include mattress foundations, platform beds, and adjustable bases.
Mattress foundations are metal or wood frames featuring wooden slats spaced at regular intervals. The ideal interval between slats is 2 to 3 inches. Smaller gaps can impede airflow, while larger gaps won’t offer sufficient support to heavy hybrid and foam mattresses.
Mattress foundations are made to go into bed frames in order to shore up support, raise your bed’s profile, and increase air circulation.
Like mattress foundations, platform beds are metal or wooden frames with slats. However, unlike foundations, platforms are made to stand on their own. Some can be as simple as a rectangular frame with legs. Others may have more features like headboards, footboards, canopies, and storage drawers.
If you’re looking for a minimalist platform, industrial metal bed frame, or storage bed that doesn’t need extra support, platform beds are a good option.
Adjustable bases allow you to change your bed’s position to sleep with your head or feet elevated. This can be great for all kinds of medical problems like back pain, acid reflux, joint pain, sleep apnea, and even circulation issues.
Just remember, you’ll want to use a mattress suitable for an adjustable bed, such as an all-foam or hybrid mattress. Innersprings are not flexible and cannot bend to change positions with the adjustable bed.
How long will box springs last?
Box springs aren’t all that durable. The metal coils inside them lose tension and break down faster than the slats in a platform bed or mattress foundation. Furthermore, coils may also lose whatever oil or other lubricant was applied to them during manufacturing, which can cause squeaking and creaking during movement and further reduce longevity.
Your box spring set may last around the same time as your innerspring mattress (6 to 10 years), but it may also wear out sooner.
Can I put my mattress on the floor instead?
This is usually not a great idea. You expose your mattress to all kinds of issues without laying it on some kind of bed base. Everything from bed bugs, mold, dirt, moisture, dust, and dust mites has an easier time accessing and infesting your mattress if it’s on the floor.
Furthermore, mattress manufacturers may specify their warranty coverage does not extend to mattresses laid on the floor.
If you’re going to put your mattress on the floor despite all this, at least use a bunkie board or piece of plywood to protect the bottom of your mattress from damage, especially if you’re laying it on carpet. You’ll also need to air out your mattress from time to time.
Should I air out my mattress if I set it on box springs?
There’s no reason to air out your mattress if you have it on a set of box springs. Box springs allow for tons of airflow underneath your bed, protecting it from moisture buildup and mildew growth. You also won’t need to air out your mattress if you put it on a platform bed or mattress foundation unless you use a bunkie board.
If you have a bunkie board between your mattress and its base, this could reduce air circulation and require you to air your mattress every now and then.
What if my mattress manufacturer recommends box springs?
You should normally go with what your manufacturer recommends. Many manufacturers are drifting away from recommending box springs because of the issues we discussed above. However, there may be some instances where you go against the recommendations.
One reason you might avoid box springs despite your manufacturer’s recommendation is if you use a platform bed. Laying box springs on a platform bed may make your box springs, mattress, or both slide around on the bed.
Can I put box springs on my adjustable base?
Never, ever put a set of box springs (or a mattress foundation) on an adjustable base. They cannot bend at all, so when the adjustable frame changes positions, these bases will either be pushed off the bed or broken. The resistance of the frame may also damage your adjustable base’s joints.
Since they’re meant to remain flat, box springs and foundations also defeat the whole purpose of an adjustable bed. Always set your mattress directly on your adjustable bed’s sleeping surface.
Box springs have their place, but they’re falling out of favor for multiple reasons. The main one is likely the fact that box springs cannot take the weight of many of the most popular mattresses on the market. Another factor is that box springs simply won’t last as long as other bed bases.
Finally, box springs’ support is not as sturdy as that of platforms and foundations, which can lead to issues like voids and sagging in your mattress. If you take issue with any of these factors, you should consider a foundation or platform in lieu of a set of box springs.
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.