Home Improvement Magazine

Do I Need a Box Spring Foundation for My Mattress? The Facts

By Richard Morse @insidebedroom

Do you need a box spring foundation for my mattress? That's a question many people ask. To look at it from another viewpoint, what else would you lay your mattress on? Your alternatives include the floor, a slatted wooden foundation and a solid wood base platform (discussed later). In fact, does it matter what type of mattress foundation you use? Here are some facts regarding box spring foundation.

Table of Contents

What is a Box Spring Foundation?

Curiously, some box spring foundations no longer contain springs! However, let's begin with those that do. What is a box spring foundation and why should you use one?

Fundamentally, it is a rectangular base with a wooden frame containing springs of various types. It is normally the same dimensions as the mattress that lays on top of it. Box springs support the mattress and extend its life. It helps to prevent sagging and warping of the mattress and helps to extend its life. In the old days, mattresses were laid on top of a spring base which was known generally as a bed set.

What is a Bed Set?

A bed set consists of a metal frame attached to the headboard and footboard, with the box spring fixed to this frame. This type of bed set was common in the days before the 'divan' style of bed became popular. When you purchased a 'bed set' you got the headboard and footboard and bolts to connect these to the spring unit. Your mattress was then laid on top.

A box spring will also raise the height of the mattress from the floor. This makes it easier for some people to get into and out of bed, particularly the elderly and infirm. However, this can be a problem to certain people, particularly with modern mattresses which are often thicker than they were in the past.

Low Profile Box Springs for Thick Mattresses

You can often find innerspring mattresses that have a layer of firm latex foam then a layer of memory on top of that. Double sided mattress can have multiple layers top and bottom, with an innerspring or a hard foam center. This can result in mattresses that are 20 inches thick or more. Low profile box springs were developed to help overcome this problem.

Low profile box springs tend to be 5 to 5.5 inches in thickness, as opposed to the normal 9 inches. Thinner box springs do not compromise on effectiveness. They support your mattress just as well as the thicker originals and are just as effective in reducing or even preventing the mattress from sagging and so extends its useful life.

Alternatives to Box Springs

We mentioned earlier that there are alternative bases or foundations for your mattress. Rather than using box springs, you can use a platform foundation. These consist of a solid flat surface (even the floor) or a base of wooden slats and are best for some latex foam mattresses. Adjustable bases are also available, although these cannot be used effectively with spring mattresses. They enable you to change the angle of the head and foot of the bed. Some can even incorporate massage functionality, but we are talking top dollar here!

Be Aware of Your Warranty Conditions

Some mattress manufacturers' warranties require that the mattress base is of a certain type. Some may specifically specify a box spring foundation. Other may allow box springs and platform foundations (solid or slatted). However, most warranties tend to favor box spring bases. If you don't use one, then you may not be able to file a warranty claim. The box spring structure must generally be sound, with no broken or missing springs.

If you are unsure of the warranty conditions of your mattress, then ask the vendor. Make sure you get a written statement of these conditions as they apply to the mattress foundation. Memory foam mattress manufacturers are generally unlikely to make such a stipulation.

The vast majority of box spring bases contain springs - and why shouldn't they? If you have a hard mattress, the springs give you a sensation of sleeping on a softer, but still supportive, mattress. They also spread the loads they carry more evenly, so your mattress lasts longer and is less likely to sag and lose support.

Benefits of a Box Spring Foundation

While a box spring may not be an essential component of your bed, it certainly offers a number of benefits. Apart from the warranty requirement, what are the other benefits of a box spring foundation? For a start, it increases the life of your mattress. It does this by absorbing much of the stresses your mattress undergoes during the night.

Child Protection: This refers to the mattress being protected from children! Apart from adult activities, people put stress on their mattress when they get into bed. They can tend to sit on it, throw themselves onto it, toss and turn during the night and then put it under more stress when they get out. Parents often find their kids jumping on their bed to join them - even 5 and 6 year-olds when school is out and it seems so far away till they have to get up early again!

Hygiene and Parasites: Box spring foundations raise the height of your bed - as explained earlier. Sometimes your bed is so high that you can stop smaller dogs from jumping onto it. It is never hygienic to allow pets into your bed. The raised height can also help to prevent small insects from climbing up to your mattress level. Dog and cat fleas can live in your carpet for years and may be attracted to your body as you sleep at night. The higher they have to climb, the less likely they are to make it!

Shock Absorbance: A box spring absorbs much of the shock to the mattress when you or your children bounce onto it, your tossing and turning during the night, or other night-time activities. This extends the life of your mattress and saves you money over the longer term.

So: Do You Need a Box Spring Foundation for My Mattress?

  • If it's a condition of your warranty, then yes - definitely!
  • If you want your mattress to last for as long as possible, then yes - definitely!
  • If you like a nice thick sleeping surface, then yes - definitely! (It adds 5 - 9 inches to the thickness)
  • If you want a more comfortable sleeping surface, then yes - perhaps!
  • If your bed gets a lot of bouncing about for whatever reason - then yes, perhaps!
  • If you want a hard mattress to feel softer, then yes - perhaps.

Generally, most people believe that a box spring base is the best foundation for an innerspring or memory foam mattress. If you use it with a latex foam mattress it might not perform so well. It may make your bed feel harder, although many people have commented that a box spring gave them a softer sleeping surface than a platform foundation - solid or slatted.


So, do I need a box spring foundation? Quite frankly, it is up to you! The problem is that you cannot compare them unless you try them. You could visit a store and lie on a bed with each type of foundation: box spring and slated or solid wood. Choose the foundation you like the best and purchase that online where you have a good choice of vendors and prices.

Ultimately, if you want a generalization, an innerspring or memory foam mattress seems best on a box spring foundation solid foam mattresses appear to provide most comfort on a solid or slatted foundation. However, one man's meat is another man's poison, so try them out. These are the generalizations made from an accumulation of opinion and reviews of box spring foundations and their alternatives.

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