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Guide to Box Springs

Box springs and foundations help protect your mattress from wear and tear, maintain a supportive sleep surface, and satisfy the terms of your warranty. They’re cheaper than some other types of bed bases, such as adjustable bases or platform beds. However, in many instances, you can save yourself even more money and still enjoy a long life for your mattress by going without a box spring altogether.

What Are Box Springs and Foundations?

box springBox springs sit between your mattress and the bedframe or the floor. They provide a buffer so your mattress doesn’t get stained from a dirty floor or damaged by a metal bed frame. They also give your bed additional height which some people prefer for aesthetics and ease of use.

The standard box spring uses a metal or wooden frame and steel support springs covered by a cloth cover. The springs help absorb shock and distribute the sleeper’s body weight, preventing wear and maintaining the mattress’ support functionality.

foundationFoundations have recently replaced box springs as the standard mattress base. Instead of metal springs, these use evenly spaced wooden slats to support the mattress and prevent sinkage. These aren’t as great at absorbing shock as a box spring, but models with more closely spaced slats are able to provide better support for memory foam and latex mattresses.

Because they’re designed to fit a mattress, box springs and foundations are available in all the same sizes, from twin to California king. However, they’re available in three different heights:

  • Low-profile (under 6 inches)
  • Medium-profile (6 to 8.5 inches)
  • High-profile (9 inches)

Sometimes mattresses are sold in split configurations for queen, king, and California king size mattresses. This may be because each side of the bed is designed differently for a couple, or in order to make it easier to move and deliver the mattress up and down stairs. If you have a split-design mattress, you can purchase split models of box springs or foundations, or use a normal, un-split version. Either one should work fine.

Benefits of Box Springs

Even though they’re not always necessary, many people like to use box springs for the benefits they offer your mattress, including:

  • Longer lifespan: Box springs can help minimize wear and tear and make your mattress last longer.
  • Less sagging: Contributing to the point above, box springs and foundations provide a supportive surface that helps prevents sagging and indentation in mattresses.
  • More accessible: Box springs boost your mattress by an additional 5 to 9 inches, which makes it easier from some people to get in and out of bed.
  • More affordable: Box springs are cheaper than other types of mattress bases, such as platform beds or adjustable bases.

Drawbacks of Box Springs

Unfortunately, box springs are not without their disadvantages, including:

  • Maintenance: Just like mattresses, box springs don’t last indefinitely. They need to be rotated regularly to stay in tiptop shape, which takes time and can be physically exhausting depending on the size of the mattress.
  • No extra features: Some base types, like platform beds, include space for storage underneath. Meanwhile, a box spring just takes up space with no additional features.
  • Extra costs: Although some box springs are designed to fit on the floor, many box springs also require you to purchase a frame or foundation for optimal functioning.

Box Springs vs. Other Foundations

Besides box springs and foundations, you have three other common bed base types to choose from:

  • platform bedPlatform beds work like box springs but include 4 to 6 legs. Some people prefer platform beds because they include storage space beneath where the legs are. A platform bed can use wooden or metal slats like a foundation, or use a flat surface on top (these are called solid platforms).
  • adjustable baseAdjustable bases allow people to adjust the angle of their mattress at the foot or head of the bed either manually or by using a remote control.
  • bunkie boardBunkie boards can extend the lifespan of an old box spring or foundation where the surface has become uneven. These are either a single pane of plywood or a row of wooden slats linked together. They’re placed directly beneath the mattress above the box spring.

Some people choose to lie their mattress directly on the floor. Some mattresses are designed to work this way, but you should always check the terms of your warranty to ensure that a floor is considered an acceptable foundation for the mattress.


How Much Do Box Springs and Bed Foundations Cost?

Box springs, foundations, and other mattress bases vary in price depending on manufacturer, size and height, and quality of construction and materials. The list below demonstrates that box springs are usually the most affordable option.

  • Box springs range from $65 to $330.
  • Foundations range from $120 to $380
  • Platform beds range from $140 to $600.
  • Adjustable bases range from $700 to $3,300.
  • Bunkie boards range from $30 to $140.

Box Springs and Your Warranty

Most mattress manufacturers specify the type of platform you need to use in order to keep the mattress under warranty. This is for your benefit and theirs: Using the right kind of base ensures the mattress stays supportive for its expected lifespan, and also minimizes other types of wear and tear that can cause a consumer to make a warranty claim.

Make sure to read the terms of your warranty to ensure you are using an approved base for your mattress. Most mattresses today are designed to work with all bases, from box springs to adjustable beds. However, the warranty will specify exceptions, such as whether a solid or slatted foundation is required, or if the bed is not designed for an adjustable base. Some warranties also specify the number of legs required in the case of platform beds (it’s usually at least 5 for queen size and above, and 4 for anything smaller). If a slatted foundation is permitted, the warranty will specify the maximum amount of space allowed between the slats.

Also note that if your box spring or base is older than 3 years, it may not be considered in good enough shape to adequately support the mattress per the warranty.

Do You Need a New Box Spring?

If you’re not sure whether or not you need a new box spring, ask yourself the following questions:

  • When was the last time you bought your box spring? If it’s older than 3 years, it may be time for an upgrade.
  • Does your mattress warranty require a box spring or can you use another type of bed base?
  • If you’re using a slatted foundation, are the slats spaced evenly and closely enough to satisfy the terms of the warranty?
  • Is your mattress starting to sag or show signs of wear and tear?
  • Do you like the height of your mattress?

All images from Amazon.