What Mattress Base is Best For You?

By Stacy Liman
Last Updated On February 15th, 2021

Once you’ve found the best mattress, it is important to protect it by using the correct base. While box springs were once the most popular option, leading manufacturers now produce…

What Mattress Base is Best For You?

Once you’ve found the best mattress, it is important to protect it by using the correct base. While box springs were once the most popular option, leading manufacturers now produce more advanced and supportive mattress foundations.

All mattresses need some sort of base to prevent sagging and provide proper support. The right base is there to lift your mattress and expand its lifespan, among other benefits.

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However, different types of mattresses require different bases, and it can become overwhelming when trying to find what’s best for your new mattress. So, to make things easier, we quickly run down the different mattress bases available and which is best for your mattress type.

Box Spring

A box spring is a wooden frame wrapped in cloth. Older box springs contain actual coil springs inside for support. Interestingly enough, newer box springs are just the wooden frame, despite their name.

Box springs support your mattress by absorbing shock and weight, ensuring it doesn’t wear down or sag quickly. Box springs are usually quite tall for a base, at usually 7 to 9 inches, adding some height to your bed.

While box springs are a well-known and popular mattress base, they’re actually not usable with most modern mattresses.

Box springs only work with innerspring mattresses. With the wrong foundation, innerspring mattresses can get deformed and break down quickly, thus why they only work with a box spring and vice versa. However, innerspring beds have become incredibly unpopular since they’re uncomfortable, heavy, and wear down quickly; so box springs aren’t all that common anymore.

Best Fit For:

  • Innerspring mattresses

Mattress Foundation

Mattress foundations are the most common base for modern mattresses—they’re a tall surface for your mattress to rest on, but they don’t contain springs for support. Instead, they are either wood or metal and have wooden slats across the top to support your mattress.

Some mattress foundations also have storage space underneath so you can optimize your bedroom.

A high-quality mattress foundation’s slats should be no further than 2 to 3 inches apart for optimal support. Any wider and the mattress will sink through the open spaces, causing it to soften and sag rapidly.

Best Fit For:

Bed Frame

Bed frames are wood or metal bases with a headboard, footboard, and two side rails. They typically have support beams in the center of the frame to hold your mattress in place.

Bed frames are the only foundation you shouldn’t use independently unless it contains slats that are 2 inches apart or closer. Bed frames normally pair with box springs or foundations to keep your mattress in place and provide added support.

You can find minimalistic and plain bed frames or decorative ones for an added cost. Some common types of bed frames include sleigh, murphy, poster, bunk, trundle, and canopy frames.

Best Fit For:

  • Innerspring mattresses
  • Hybrid mattresses
  • Memory foam mattresses
  • Latex mattresses

Platform Bed Frame

Platform bed frames, unlike standard bed frames, don’t require an additional foundation or box spring. Platform bed frames are wooden or metal frames with horizontal slats 2 to 3 inches apart to support even the heaviest of mattresses.

A platform bed frame ensures your mattress is properly ventilated. Sufficient airflow prevents overheating and moisture build-up in your mattress.

Some platform bed frames have legs to add extra height to your bed to make it easily accessible. However, if you need a lower profile bed, opt for a legless platform bed frame.

Lots of platform bed frames are visually appealing so you won’t need to buy an extra frame. You can find minimalistic and low-profile frames or those with a decorative headboard and footboard for an added cost.

Best Fit For:

  • Hybrid mattresses
  • Memory foam mattresses
  • Latex mattresses

Adjustable Bed Frame

Adjustable bed frames are hinged, motorized mattress bases built for customized support. They were originally used in hospitals for pain relief and support, but mattress companies have upgraded adjustable bases to be viable and appealing for everyday use at home.

With an adjustable base, you can elevate your head or legs for optimal comfort. Sleeping on an adjustable bed can ease symptoms associated with the following health issues:

  • Chronic pain Verified Source Medline Plus Online resource offered by the National Library of Medicine and part of the National Institutes of Health. View source
  • Heartburn Verified Source Medline Plus Online resource offered by the National Library of Medicine and part of the National Institutes of Health. View source
  • Acid reflux or GERD Verified Source Medline Plus Online resource offered by the National Library of Medicine and part of the National Institutes of Health. View source
  • Snoring or sleep apnea Verified Source Medline Plus Online resource offered by the National Library of Medicine and part of the National Institutes of Health. View source
  • Headaches
  • Arthritis Verified Source Medline Plus Online resource offered by the National Library of Medicine and part of the National Institutes of Health. View source
  • Edema Verified Source Medline Plus Online resource offered by the National Library of Medicine and part of the National Institutes of Health. View source and fluid retention Verified Source Medline Plus Online resource offered by the National Library of Medicine and part of the National Institutes of Health. View source
  • Congestion Verified Source Medline Plus Online resource offered by the National Library of Medicine and part of the National Institutes of Health. View source

For couples with different elevation preferences, adjustable bed frames are available in split sizes, meaning you and your partner can adjust each side of the bed separately. Some adjustable bases also include extra add-ons, such as USB charging ports, massage features, and under-bed lighting.

Best Fit For:

  • Memory foam mattresses
  • Latex mattresses
  • Hybrid mattresses

Bunkie Boards

Bunkie boards are 1 to 3-inch foundations made from a single slab of wood, plywood, or particleboard wrapped in fabric. Bunkie boards were originally just for bunk beds, but eventually became a replacement for box springs since they provide a solid, even surface. They’re also good if you’re looking to add height to your current foundation.

A bunkie board is the thinnest mattress foundation and can be used independently or between your mattress and the surface it’s resting on, such as a bed frame.

Best Fit For:

  • Innerspring mattresses
  • Hybrid mattresses
  • Memory foam mattresses
  • Latex mattresses

Floor

Some people choose to place their mattress on the floor because it’s a free and sturdy foundation. The floor makes your mattress feel firmer and some floor sleepers note it helps their back pain.

While the floor is a convenient and easy-to-use foundation that requires no set-up, this isn’t a good base for most mattresses. The floor leaves your mattress vulnerable to dust, bugs, and mold, and there’s minimal airflow on the floor. When sleeping on the floor, it’s hard to get in and out of bed (so people with limited mobility should avoid using the ground as a mattress foundation). Not to mention, placing your mattress on the floor could void your warranty, so if you’re considering this option, check your warranty before doing so.

Best Fit For:

  • Memory foam mattresses
  • Latex mattresses
  • Hybrid mattresses

Importance of a Mattress Base

Mattress bases aren’t just some costly, unnecessary add-on. The bases provide necessary benefits, such as helping a mattress last longer and supporting you while you sleep.

Extends Your Mattress’s Lifespan

Since mattresses are expensive, it’s important to protect your investment and ensure it’s usable for as long as possible. The proper mattress base absorbs shock, motion, and weight, protecting your mattress from premature wear and tear and sags.

Provides Support

A sagging mattress is unsupportive and uncomfortable, making it difficult to sleep well and leading to pains and aches in the morning. With a proper bed base, your mattress will be less likely to develop sags and indents, helping it remain sturdy and supportive.

Improves Ventilation

Mattress Base

When your mattress is on the ground, there’s little to no airflow out the bottom, and as a result, heat gets trapped in the mattress and leads to night sweats. Plus, moisture can build up and lead to mold and mildew since the mattress can’t aerate itself.

A mattress base introduces airflow, keeping you cool at night and protecting your mattress from various allergens.

Adds Height

A bed base can add up to 18 inches of height to your mattress. Not only does the extra height look nicer, but it makes getting in and out of bed easier, especially for the elderly and individuals with limited mobility.

Holds Your Mattress in Place

Without a foundation, your mattress can slip out of place when you shift in bed. The right mattress foundation holds your bed in place when you’re getting in and out of bed, minimizing potential frustration.

Keeps Your Mattress Clean

When lifted off the ground, your mattress is safe from dust, dirt, and bed bugs. Additionally, the increased airflow ensures it won’t trap heat and cause mold and mildew build-up.

FAQs

Are metal or wood mattress bases better?

Most mattress bases are either metal or wood, though both have their advantages and disadvantages.

Metal is lighter than wood, though it can creak and is vulnerable to rusting if the paint seal wears down. However, metal is less vulnerable than wood to bugs, water damage, and fire.

Wood provides extra mattress support, is available in several different styles, and is more eco-friendly. However, wood is susceptible to decaying and can begin bending after years of use. It’s also heavier, making it difficult to transport.

Can you put a new mattress on an old base?

Although you may consider keeping your old bed base to save money, this isn’t always a good idea. First, if your current base isn’t a match for your mattress—such as a memory foam mattress with a box spring—your mattress will wear down quickly.

An old base might also be worn down and have more give, thus not providing enough support and making your mattress feel softer than expected.

If your base is fairly new and suits your new mattress, then it’s okay to use, but it’ll likely wear out sooner than your mattress.

Can you stack two mattresses instead of using a mattress base?

While some people might consider stacking their mattresses for extra comfort, we don’t recommend doing so. A mattress isn’t a proper foundation for another mattress since they need a solid, sturdy base.

If you’re buying a new mattress, your old one is presumably sagging and worn down, so it couldn’t properly hold up your new mattress. A weak foundation would only cause your new mattress to sag and rapidly wear down.

How often should you replace your mattress base?

Not many people consider the fact that mattress bases do need to be replaced eventually since they wear down with use. Some signs of wear to look out for include:

  • Creaking
  • Bending or bowing slats
  • Visible signs of wears (rusting metal and cracked or splintered wood)

Additionally, if you’ve recently bought a new mattress and didn’t replace your base, but find your new bed isn’t helping you sleep better or relieving pain, it may be a sign the base requires replacement.

Do mattress bases come in different heights?

Mattress bases are between 4 to 18 inches in height. Bunkie boards are a low profile option, while box springs and platform bed frames are high profile.

Ideally, your mattress and base should be tall enough so when you sit at the edge of your bed, your feet are flat on the floor and your knees are aligned with your hips. This way, getting in and out of bed is as easy as possible.

Sleep Easy With the Right Mattress Base

Choosing the optimal bed frame mainly comes down to what type of mattress you own. You have multiple options if you own a memory foam, latex, or hybrid mattress, and only two options with an innerspring mattress.

If you’re still unsure what type of base is best for you, most companies sell matching foundations for their mattresses. Some companies may even offer large discounts when purchasing a mattress and a foundation together.

This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.


About the author

Stacy Liman is a journalism graduate student and a freelance writer with a focus on mindfulness and content marketing. Stacy enjoys discovering new mattresses and connecting people with their perfect bed, but she more so enjoys understanding and writing about the science of sleep to help people get deeper, healthier rest.

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