What Is A Box Spring?

A box spring is a wooden box covered in cloth with springs inside, meant to act as a base and additional support system for your mattress. They are available in all mattress sizes (the common ones, at least), including twin, full, queen, king and California king. They’re most commonly used with innerspring mattresses to provide that extra layer of support but can be used with any mattress. A box spring will provide stability and give the mattress some lift off the bed frame.

What Is The Purpose Of A Box Spring? 

A box spring is a support for the mattress; it absorbs some of the impact you give it by jumping on it, falling on it or just general use over time. A box spring provides a durable, flat surface for your mattress that can reduce the wear. Box springs can also keep your mattress up off the floor; which helps maintain good hygiene and makes it easier for you to get on and off your mattress. Though you can, indeed, go without a box spring, these extra layers of support can also help your mattress live longer because the box spring provides a stable base and keeps it farther from the floor (and dirt). 

Who Should Get A Box Spring?

Box springs have a fair number of advantages that are worth considering. If any of the following apply to you, you should consider a box spring.

You have an innerspring mattress

The box spring will provide more support, something innerspring mattresses need. In turn, getting a box spring will help extend the life of your bed.

You want more firmness 

A box spring can help firm up the mattress you’re sleeping on because it prevents it from sagging too much. Innerspring mattresses are known to sag, so that a box spring can help a little bit here.

You want to be further off the floor

This may seem like a flippant reason, but the box spring will lift your mattress higher and get you away from any dirt or allergens hanging out on your floor.

Who shouldn’t get a box spring?

Despite what we wrote in the previous section, you don’t always need a box spring. If you’re in any of these situations, you can forego one.

You have a foam or latex mattress

Box springs can do more harm than good with these mattresses. The box spring’s metal coils could break into the foam or latex material and void the warranty.  If your mattress is foam or latex, opt for a platform bed or bed base rather than a box spring, as these can provide better support.

Your mattress is directly on the floor

If you’re in a situation where your mattress is directly on the floor, you don’t need a box spring. While a bed frame situation would probably be more ideal to sleep, some people like the floor, and that’s fine.

What Is A Mattress Foundation?

Mattress foundations have become a common way to keep your mattress supported and off the ground. Foundations are usually made of wood or metal and don’t have any shock-absorbing springs in them. There are four common types of bed foundations.

Platform foundation

Platform foundations are popular in Europe and have begun to catch on in the United States. A platform foundation is usually solid and made of wood. 

Slatted bed frame 

A slatted bed frame is a type of platform bed with slats of wood or metal, meant to hold up and support your mattress. 

Adjustable base

The base moves much like a hospital bed so you can have an incline, bend your knees, or both. This is perfect for anyone with chronic pain, recovering after a surgery, or those who are avid readers in bed. 

Metal bed frame

Metal bed frames are made of, ahem, metal, and are more durable than wood frames. Sometimes they have rods going across from top to bottom, much like a slatted frame, and sometimes they are just on the outside and have a lip all around that supports the mattress. 

Box Spring Vs. Foundation

Now you might be wondering whether you need a mattress and box spring combo or a foundation for the base of your mattress. It’s an entirely personal choice. 

Some cons about box springs are:

  • They can break down over time, giving you something to replace regularly
  • If they aren’t replaced regularly, they can be home to an overload of dust mites and maybe even some insects
  • If you have any pets, especially cats, they will love to scratch and tear the cloth on the box spring, so that’s also something to consider

Foundations and platform beds are similar in that they are both usually made of wood (sometimes metal) and provide a flat, unmoving support for your mattress. They also keep your mattress off the ground. Though, what are some reasons why someone might choose a box spring over a foundation?

Some cons about foundations are:

  • Most require assembly; whether it be quick or pretty time consuming, it’s an extra thing to do
  • It might not be the best option for thin innerspring beds 

Box Spring Vs. Platform Bed 

There’s also the option of using a mattress and box spring combo or a platform bed in place of a box spring. We’ve already discussed the cons of a box spring, like that they may need to be replaced often and can attract bugs and feisty kitties. But let’s consider some of the cons of platform beds:

  • They can be difficult to move around, as they’re large and bulky. You can’t as easily transport them as you can with a box spring.
  • They’re lower to the floor, which can make it harder for people to get in and out of bed. 

Why Beds Need A Supportive Base

Mattresses need a sturdy and supportive foundation, especially the newer mattresses or all-foam beds, for a proper support system. Beware — if you don’t use one and own a more modern mattress, you might unknowingly void the mattress’s warranty. The newer foam and latex mattress warranties will require that you have a supportive base underneath your mattress, so it doesn’t break down as fast. 

You’ll want to read your mattress brand’s warranty because it will tell you whether or not it requires a base. That’s why we always suggest you read the warranty before purchasing a bed from a brand, so that you know what you’re getting yourself into. 

What About The Floor? 

You can sleep with your mattress on the floor if you really want to, but it’s not the best option. It looks sloppy, it’s not sanitary, and as mentioned before, you might void the warranty. 

Sometimes there are exceptions, like if you have to sleep with your mattress on the floor due to budget reasons or while you are waiting for your new foundation or box spring to be delivered. 

If You Already Have A Box Spring

For those of you who currently have a box spring and are buying a new mattress, you’re probably going to need a new foundation. Box springs usually need to be replaced when it’s time to get a new mattress — like we said before, old box springs are a haven for dust, dust mites, and even bugs (dead and alive). 

If you use an old, worn out box spring with a new mattress, it could cause premature wear on the mattress, even causing it to droop or sag. If your box spring is fairly new and doesn’t make your new mattress’s height too tall, you may be an exception. 

Final Thoughts 

It’s the million-dollar question: do you need a box spring? The choice is yours, but a box spring will benefit you and your mattress in many cases. However, depending on what kind of mattress or bed you have, you may not need the box spring. Decide what’s right for you and your sleep and go from there.

How much money should I spend on a foundation?How much you spend on a foundation depends on which type you are buying and what size it is. A twin foundation would be the cheapest because it’s the smallest. If you’ve saved enough for a really nice foundation, go for the adjustable bed frame which can cost between $550 and $1,500, or even over $2,000 for a luxury one. A basic metal or wooden foundation, on the other hand, will usually cost about $150 on the budget side. The average cost of a bed frame is a little over $200, give or take $50 or so.
Can I return my box spring or foundation?That depends on the box spring or foundation company’s return policy. Make sure you understand the return policy before you buy a foundation. Some of the brands in our Best Adjustable Bed Frame list, for example, have 30-50 day trials.
How do I get rid of an old box spring?Recycle your old box spring by checking with local women’s shelters, homeless shelters, or nearby recycling centers. You will likely find a place that can repurpose it, or recycle it for you.