When it comes to finding the perfect mattress foundation, there is no shortage of options to choose from. One of the most popular foundations on the market is bed slats, which are wood planks that run horizontally in your bed frame to support the mattress. Bed slats make an excellent foundation for any type of bed, but they aren’t the only option. In this article, we’ll explain the pros and cons of bed slats and present a few of the alternatives.

What Are Bed Slats?

Bed slats are often found in platform beds and run horizontally across your bed frame, helping to support your mattress. They’re most often wooden slats but can also be made of metal. Bed slats are designed to help equally distribute the weight of your mattress and prevent it from sagging.

Bed slats can support any type of mattress. However, keep in mind that since platform beds tend to sit lower than beds on a traditional frame and box spring, a bed with slats might be best suited for a taller mattress.

Kids assembling a wooden slats bed base.

Pros 

  • Affordable: Because they’re made of a cheap material, wood bed slats are often quite affordable.
  • Supportive: Bed slats help evenly distribute the weight of your mattress, preventing it from sagging or wearing down quickly.
  • Easy to assembly: Installing bed slats is simple. They’re usually quite thin, and you just have to lay them across the width of your mattress.
  • Easy to replace: Because bed slats are individual pieces, you can easily replace just one if it breaks, and it will barely cost you anything. That’s not the case with a box spring.

Cons

  • Don’t add height: Unlike a box spring, bed slats don’t add any height to your bed, and therefore may not be the best option for thinner mattresses.
  • Breakable: Because they’re simply wood planks, bed slats are more fragile than other types of bed foundations.
  • Require assembly: You’ll have to put the bed slats on the frame yourself in most cases. The good news is that it is incredibly easy to do and won’t be a problem for most people.

Types of bed slats 

  • Wood: Most bed slats are made of wood, making them lightweight, easy to install, and easy to replace. They generally lay a few inches apart horizontally across the bed. 
  • Metal: Many beds also come with slats made of metal instead of wood. These slats may be more supportive and less likely to break. However, they are not as flexible and lightweight as wood slats.

Bed slats dimensions

The width of the slats is about the same as the mattress size they’re made for.

The dimensions of your bed slats will depend on the size of the bed. Below you’ll find the measurements for the bed slats used for each standard mattress size. The width of the slats is usually equal to the width of the mattress, though they may vary slightly depending on the brand. So you’ll queen bed slats will be the same size as your queen mattress, and your twin bed slats will be just as wide as a twin mattress.                                             

Mattress sizeWidth
Twin38 inches
Twin XL38 inches
Full54 inches
Queen60 inches
King76 inches

Slats vs. Box Spring

Box springs add height to the bed.

A box spring is a box that’s typically made of wood and covered with fabric, and is designed to support a mattress. Box springs traditionally had coil springs inside them, designed to complement the innerspring of a mattress. Today, many box springs are simply hollow inside. Box springs used to be the most common type of bed foundation, but they’ve become less common as mattress design has changed and other mechanisms have become more popular.

Pros

  • Adds height: Unlike bed slats, a box spring can help add height to your bed. For those who prefer a higher profile bed, this might be preferable.
  • Supportive: Like bed slats, box springs do a nice job supporting your mattress, ensuring that it doesn’t sag during the night.
  • Can add bounce: If you buy a box spring with coil springs inside, it can provide a nice bounce that complements the innerspring of your mattress.

Cons

  • Heavy: Box springs are roughly the size of a mattress, making them bulky and heavy and especially difficult to move.
  • Expensive to replace: Unlike bed slats, you can’t simply replace a part of your box spring if it breaks. As a result, they can be costly.
  • Visually unappealing: Functionality isn’t the only reason box springs have become less common. They’re also just not as aesthetically pleasing as many of the platform beds available today.

Slats vs. Other Mattress Foundations

Bed slats and box springs might be the two most common mattress foundations on the market, but they aren’t the only options. Other alternatives include:

Platform bed

Platform beds often come with bed slats, but you can also find solid platform beds, where your mattress rests on a flat surface. With this type of foundation, the frame itself also acts as the support system.

ProsCons
  • Requires fewer pieces

  • Visually appealing
  • Doesn’t allow for airflow

  • Expensive
  • Adjustable bed

    With an adjustable bed you can elevate the head or the legs.

    An adjustable bed is similar to a platform, where the mattress sits directly on the bed frame. But in the case of an adjustable bed, the frame moves. These allow you to adjust the elevation of certain parts of the bed, such as the head or the feet.

    ProsCons
  • Health benefits, such as alleviating pain and sleep apnea

  • Comfortable for nighttime reading or TV
  • Expensive

  • Not suitable for all mattress types
  • What’s The Best Base For My Mattress?

    With several great options to choose from, you might be wondering what type of base is best suited for the kind of mattress you have. The good news is that most bed foundations are suitable for any kind of bed. However, some pairs are more complimentary.

    For example, adjustable bed frames go best with a flexible mattress, such as memory foam ones. And box springs are particularly complimentary to innerspring mattresses. Otherwise, it really comes down to your personal preference. So if you are still asking yourself, “are bed slats bad for mattresses?” the answer is no. Actually, it’s a kind of foundation that can work with any type of mattress.

    FAQs

    Can any mattress go on a slat bed?

    Bed slats can work with any type of mattress. However, the kind of mattress you use might impact how many wood planks you need and how closely they should be placed. For example, beds prone to sag may require more slats.

    Do bed slats break easily?

    Wood bed slats may break more quickly than other bed foundations because of their material, but metal bed slats won’t break easily.

    Can you use plywood instead of bed slats?

    You can easily use Plywood in place of traditional bed slats. If one of your bed slats break, you can replace it with a plywood plank.

    How do I keep my bed slats from falling down?

    If your bed slats are falling down, it could be that they aren’t the correct size for your bed frame. Your first option is to replace either your bed slats or your foundation. Another option is to find a way to secure them to the frame, such as with velcro, wood glue, or screws.