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Is a box spring the right base for your bed?

They may be outdated, useful, or maybe just sleeper’s choice.

Cartoon graphic of mattress, box spring, and black metal frame all floating on top of each other. Credit: Reviewed / Emily Northrop / Getty Images / Sinan Kocaslan / Tuft & Needle

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In the past, box springs were practically a requirement when buying a new mattress—they’re the best base for innerspring beds, offering additional support and absorbing movement. Today, that’s not always the case. Modern mattresses in a box unroll and expand right onto solid foundations such as a slatted bed frame, a flat platform, or spring-less box, and may not even be compatible with a box spring.

So, when purchasing a new mattress, you may ask yourself, “Do I need a box spring?” The short answer: It depends. Here’s what you need to know about choosing the right base for your sleeping setup.

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What is a box spring?

A box spring is a traditional bed base consisting of a wooden or metal frame covered in fabric with a filling of metal coils, aka springs. Nowadays, some box springs don’t actually have coils inside, instead sporting wood slats or metal bars. Box springs are typically known for being bouncy and lightweight and pair best with innerspring mattresses for providing support while absorbing impact or movement from the mattress. They can prevent sagging in the middle of the mattress, which some bed frames with fewer slats or support structures can struggle with.

Like some other types of bed foundations, a box spring on top of a metal bed frame also keeps the mattress off the floor, which is necessary for promoting airflow and preventing sagging or noticeable indentation as well as damage from wear and tear over time.

Finally, using a box spring could come down to individual preference. If you find that your innerspring mattress feels too firm when placed on a solid foundation, using a box spring will give it some additional buoyancy, though it may reduce the bed’s motion isolation, meaning sleeping partners may feel each other’s every move.

What types of mattresses require box springs?

The type of mattress you sleep on can determine whether or not you need a box spring. Generally speaking, only traditional innerspring mattresses are compatible with them. If you have a traditional mattress, you should consider purchasing a box spring.

But if you’re going the foam mattress or hybrid mattress route, that’s not the case. Those softer, gelatinous foam beds require a more rigid base and structure to prevent sagging than a traditional box spring can provide. You’ll most likely need to replace your foundation with something that offers the support needed to retain your mattress’ integrity and the bed height you want to make it easy to get in and out.

Most bed-in-a-box companies, like Casper and Leesa, advise against using a box spring with their memory foam and latex mattresses—in fact, using the wrong bed base could void the mattress warranty. Further, some adjustable beds aren’t compatible with box springs at all as, understandably, these require adjustable bases.

If you’re concerned over which support system would be best for your mattress, it’s best to read the care instructions that came with your mattress or contact your mattress company’s customer service for support.

Types of box springs

For innerspring mattresses, choosing the right box spring is important for adding support, height, and bounce. There are a few types of box springs on the market, most differences coming down to height variation.

Ultra-low profile box springs, or related bunkie boards, are typically two inches tall, meaning they won’t add additional height to your bed. Low profile box springs range from around four to five inches in height, and standard box springs vary in height from seven to nine inches. The latter two options will raise your mattress off the bed frame significantly, changing the way it sits against your headboard.

Another factor to consider is whether or not the box spring is split. For bigger beds, like a queen or king size, you may use a flexible box spring or two smaller box springs placed side by side. This could be a great way to avoid sagging in the middle of a larger box spring. It also allows couples with different sleep preferences to pick the box spring that works best for them individually.

For a traditional box frame: 9-Inch Serta Box Spring

This 9-Inch Serta Box Spring available at Raymour & Flanigan is a great option if you’re in the market for a more traditional box spring option. It comes in a variety of sizes ranging from twin to king, with a split queen option as well. Online, customers appreciate the box spring’s structure, sturdiness, and comfort, giving it an average 4.8-star rating.

$180 from Raymour & Flanigan

What are some good box spring alternatives?

Person smiling while laying in bed while reading book.
Credit: Reviewed / Tuft & Needle

Tuft & Needle not only sells their infamous bed-in-a-box, but also, chic bed frames, bedding, nightstands, and much more for all of your bedroom needs.

Many of the bed-in-a-box companies offer a variety of bases to buy with their mattresses, such as Tuft & Needle, a brand we’ve tested and loved. But you don’t have to buy everything from one place if you know what to look for.

Simple foundations called bunkie boards consist of a slim frame surrounding wood slats or metal bars, offering a low-profile firm surface for a mattress. These are typically best for foam mattresses, giving them support so they don’t bow, as well as some space for air circulation. You can also find bed bases that look just like box springs sans the springs to add height to a bed while providing the solid support and needed air circulation. Note: You may see these marketed as “box springs,” but they don’t actually contain any springs—read the descriptions carefully so you know what you’re buying.

Platform beds are pieces of furniture that range from sturdy and simple wooden frames with feet to more elaborate styles designed with storage drawers. They’re a versatile option for a variety of mattress types, but they can be pricier.

For the most basic bed base: Spinal Solution Bunkie Board

If all you need is a flat surface to place into your metal bed frame, the Spinal Solution Bunkie Board will do the job, without adding any extra height to your bed. This fabric-covered slatted frame is slim but stable, and popular with over 2,600 reviewers who give it an average 4.4-star rating. Multiple customers appreciate the easy setup and use, as well as how the board nicely transforms any slatted surface into a true platform base.

$129 from Amazon

For a springless box: Amazon Basics Smart Box Spring Bed Base

Don’t let the name fool you—the Amazon Basics Smart Box Spring Bed Base is a simple box without the springs that’s suitable for supporting any type of mattress. It comes in three heights—5-inch, 7-inch, or 9-inch—as well as with or without a metal frame, so you can decide for yourself how tall you want your bed. Online, the base has an average rating of 4.5 stars, with reviewers praising easy assembly, durability, and quality.

$130 from Amazon

For a basic metal platform: Olee Sleep Metal Steel Slat Bed Frame

If your aim is to get the mattress off the floor, a slatted platform base from Olee Sleep takes the place of a box and frame in an economical package. More than 30,000 customers love this frame, giving it an average 4.6 rating and appreciating its durability. One reviewer writes: “It’s a really solid bed frame, doesn’t squeak, and fits a variety of mattress sizes and heights.” Other verified buyers agree, and a few mention easy setup and building, too.

$129 from Amazon

For a sleek wooden bed: Mercury Row Mcgovern Bed

Mattress inside of black Mercury Row Mcgovern Bed frame.
Credit: Reviewed / Mercury Row

If you're looking for a sturdy frame that's both durable and modern, Mercury Row offers the McGovern frame.

The Mercury Row Mcgovern Bed is a simple but bold bed frame, consisting of thick, black steel beams and strong wooden slats for support. The company advertises it as a great option for memory foam, latex, and innerspring or hybrid mattresses. Online, the Mcgovern Bed’s average rating comes in at 4.7 stars from 7,700 reviews, with customers praising how sturdy and easy to build the bed frame is.

$268 from Wayfair

For a platform bed with storage: Allewie Upholstered Bed Frame with Storage Drawers

Made of a gray fabric upholstery, the Upholstered Bed Frame from Allewie has four underneath storage drawers and comes in a variety of color and stitching options, creating an overall luxurious feel. More than 1,000 customers gave this an average 4.5 stars, with multiple reviews praising the sturdy frame, the feel of the upholstery, and generous storage space inside the drawers.

$245 from Amazon

For an adjustable bed: R650 Adjustable Power Base

Black Reverie R650 Adjustable Power Base box spring.
Credit: Reviewed / Reverie

Go above and beyond with your bed's base with the help of the Reverie R650 which allows you to control your positioning via Bluetooth.

For anyone looking for an adjustable frame, consider the R650 from Reverie. This base has multiple sections on each side of the bed that can be moved via Bluetooth connection on your phone for a variety of sleeping positions. Reverie advertises the base as a great option for partners who have different sleep preferences, and multiple verified customers agree.

Giving it an average of 4.7 stars, buyers love how the base’s settings relieve pressure from the shoulders and hips. Some customers suggested using a foam mattress with this base, as the various adjustable positions compliment the general feel of a foam mattress.

$2,299 from Reverie

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