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Box Spring vs. Foundation: What's the Difference?

Updated: Dec 20, 2022

The biggest myth in mattress buying is that you need a box spring. While a supportive surface for your mattress is paramount to its comfort and longevity, there is another option: a foundation. A foundation does the exact same job as a box spring but lasts longer and provides much better support. Not to mention it’s one less thing to lug upstairs to the bedroom every time you move.

As mattress professionals with over 50 years of experience, we’ve learned the benefits of foundations over box springs first hand. Plus, we want to make sure that every custom mattress we craft is as comfortable and long-lasting as possible. So, in this guide, we’re going to explain the difference between a box spring and a foundation, answer all your questions and tackle all the false assumptions people have about box springs. Let’s get started:

What is a box spring?

A box spring is a wooden frame with supporting coils or ‘springs’ inside of it. The coils are usually cone-shaped wires, which salespeople will tell you provide flexibility for stiff mattresses, or square coils which they say offers more support. The coils are always located inside the frame, with the top covered in anti-skid fabric so the mattress can lie directly on top of it.

The box spring is intended to...

  • Support the mattress

  • To raise the mattress up

  • To protect the mattress by absorbing impact

  • To improve the airflow of the mattress

For decades, the box spring was touted as a necessary purchase when buying your new mattress. However today, more people know about foundations or sleep on platform beds which replace the need for a box spring. It should also be noted that you should never put a memory foam or hybrid mattress on a box spring, as it does not provide the proper support.

Pros of a box spring

  • The coils are shock-absorbing, reducing motion transfer

  • The springs allow for good airflow

  • Supports the mattress

  • Lifts the mattress up higher

Cons of a box spring

  • The coils can be noisy

  • The coils can sag and wear over time

  • The non-skid fabric frays and fails over time and is also easy to tear

  • They’re not compatible with some types of mattresses

We’re not hating on box springs; they’re the most affordable mattress base, but they are a bit outdated, and they. are. heavy. They’re definitely the best option for innerspring mattresses, but in this day and age, with the option of custom memory foam, hybrid foam and latex mattresses, why would you buy an innerspring anyway?

What is a foundation?

A foundation, sometimes referred to as a platform bed frame, is basically anything that supports, raises and holds your mattress. Usually, it is made of a metal frame and wooden slats. Foundations provide a much firmer base for your mattress, especially those custom memory foam and latex ones. Foundations don’t require a separate bed frame like box springs do, making them a great style choice and easier to move than their box spring counterparts.

The foundation is intended to…

  • Support the mattress

  • Hold your mattress in the frame

  • Raise the mattress up

  • Improve the airflow of the mattress

Foundations provide a very solid, firm surface for your bed to rest on, which makes it a great choice for people who would normally put their mattress on the floor and those who want to maximize the longevity of their mattress. Usually, people assume that a foundation is only good for a foam or hybrid mattress, but actually, this foundation works well for spring mattresses as well.

Pros of a foundation

  • Sturdy, even support

  • Can be used with any type of mattress

  • The most durable type of bed foundation

  • Good airflow thanks to open slats

  • Often made in modular forms, making them easy to set up, take apart and move

Cons of a foundation

  • Solid wood foundations can be heavy

  • Because they are sturdy, they don’t have a lot of give

  • Not ideal for sleepers who need a soft sleep

Depending on the foundation, you could spend way less or way more than for a traditional box spring. The main thing about foundations, especially modular ones, is that they’re a set-it-and-forget-it situation. They’re simple, no-maintenance, long-lasting, and versatile; the perfect complement to a thick, plush memory foam mattress.

Foundations are also hypoallergenic because there’s no fabric involved, which can be an allergen and will also collect allergens over time. If you’re someone with sensitivities, there’s no bed more hypoallergenic than a coated metal foundation and a latex mattress. Plus, foundations are space-saving in cases of huge beds like kings or crazy 12-foot-wide beds, where you don’t want to take up extra space with a whole bulky frame, headboard and footboard combo.

6 Biggest Assumptions People Make about Box Springs

There are many myths about box springs out there. Mostly, they’re just dated ideas that haven’t yet fully phased out. These are the most common box spring myths we’ve come across as mattress crafters:

1. Box springs last longer.

This is not the case. Because box springs have coils inside, these can sag and give way over time. When this happens, it can’t properly support your mattress, which can affect how comfortable your mattress is.

2. Box springs extend the mattress life and make it more comfortable.

Actually, a solid foundation will last longer, making your custom mattress last longer and remain more comfortable over time. Box springs have coils inside, which can seem like they would make your bed softer and more comfortable. However, over time the coils inside the box spring will sag and affect the life and comfort of your mattress.

3. Box springs are better for innerspring mattresses.

Typically, a salesperson will tell you that a box spring is for an innerspring mattress because it has springs that support, and evenly distribute the weight of the mattress. However, an innerspring mattress can be supported by a foundation, too, and this is usually the better option.

4. You should always use a box spring.

Nope. Not only is it not necessary to use one on an innerspring mattress, but it can actually affect the comfort and longevity of a memory foam or hybrid mattress. This is because the coils inside of a box spring cannot properly support a memory foam or hybrid mattress, causing the mattress to even feel differently when you lay down on it. Both memory foam and hybrid mattresses are designed to lay on top of the hard, sturdy surface that a foundation supplies.

5. You should always use a box spring for a spring mattress.

False. There is a common assumption that if you have a spring mattress, you need to have a matching box spring to support it. Often, mattress retailers will tell you that the springs in the box spring help distribute the weight properly. However, this is not the case. In fact, a foundation provides a much better, more resilient structure for your spring mattress.

6. A box spring is the best way to lift your mattress.