Do I Need a Box Spring for My Mattress? Your Top Alternatives Revealed

Do I Need A Box Spring for My Mattress?

If you’re in the market for a mattress and wondering if you need a box spring, then this article is for you…

The short answer is no, you don’t need a box spring for your mattress! What you need is a foundation, which doesn’t necessarily have to be a box spring. In fact, you’ll be happier if you choose a box spring alternative instead.

If you read until the end of this post, you’ll have all the information you need to make an educated decision on what bed foundation will best protect your mattress investment.

Skip to Alternative Comparison

Why do you need a mattress foundation?

Without a proper foundation, your mattress will “sink” and become uncomfortable. But what’s even worse than the lack of comfort this sinkage causes is the lack of support. If your mattress doesn’t evenly support your body as you sleep, then you’ll likely wake up in the morning with aches and pains. When it comes to lack of support, boxsprings are a primary offender.

There are several box spring alternatives that will provide a better foundation for your mattress to rest on. Alternatives like platform beds, wood foundations, and adjustable beds are longer-lasting than boxsprings. Using one of these alternatives means you’ll have appropriate support and firmness for your back throughout the night.

So even though box springs used to be considered a practical and functional part of your bed’s setup, they have become largely outdated. There’s better options to choose from now! But you may be wondering…

You may have heard these claims cited by outdated sources, or by companies just trying to sell you a box spring. And if this is the case, then don’t worry! Thinking you need a box spring for your mattress is common, and even though it’s fiction, believing the false information isn’t your fault!

Below, I’ll explain how box springs work in comparison to not having a mattress foundation at all. After we get this foundational information out of the way, I’ll be able to compare box springs to the three alternatives we (and most reputable mattress companies) recommend.

boxspring need explained
An example view inside a box spring

Many customers we speak with over the phone and in our Charleston mattress showroom think they can use an existing box spring (like the one pictured above) for their latex mattress, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. The coils you see in the box spring x-ray photo above simply don’t provide the rock-solid support you’ll need with a latex mattress. Latex mattresses need more support than any box spring could give!

Putting your mattress on the floor, without a frame or foundation…

Can you put your mattress on the floor without a box spring or foundation?

Absolutely! In fact…

Big mattress stores down the street from your house would disagree with the statement above, but that’s okay. They just want you to buy a boxspring from them with your new mattress! I’m here to help make sure you have the best night’s sleep of your life! Some people choose to leave foundations out of the picture all together. A few common reasons to place your mattress flat on the floor include:

  • Necessity
  • Aesthetic value
  • Desire for a more minimalist bedroom.

And even though some sleepers prefer being closer to the ground like this, one of the downsides to keeping your mattress on the ground is that there won’t be properly ventilated as you sleep. Actually, the ventilation problem is why boxsprings were originally created…

What's the purpose of a box spring?

Box springs were originally developed to work in unison with coil mattresses and to lay on top of metal rail frames like this:

metal rail
A traditional metal rail frame, meant for use with a box spring.

 

This combination of metal rail frame and box spring was looked at as a way to help absorb the daily shock of a person getting in and out of bed. But unfortunately, the promise didn’t match the function. Over the years it has become clear that there are really only two benefits to using a box spring instead of placing your mattress directly on the ground.

First, as a way to suspend your bed above dirty floor where dust and other allergens settles. Pure function, but not much of a benefit. The second reason is more important; to improve ventilation.

The primary reason boxsprings exist is to help improve ventilation, in comparison to placing your bed flat on the floor.

Another reason box spring bases have become popularized in the past few decades, is that they were marketed as a method of mold prevention.

The University of Missouri released an article discussing mold prevention in residential homes. They caution that “poorly ventilated closets get damp and musty during continued wet weather, and articles stored in them are apt to mildew. Try to improve the air circulation by opening the closet doors or by installing a fan.”

Though they’re talking about closet ventilation and not mattress ventilation, the scientific explanation holds true for your bed. In fact, it may be even more important for your bed because after all, you don’t sleep in your closet.

The less ventilation a mattress has, the greater the chance for mold. This likelihood increases exponentially if you live in a hot, humid climate or if you keep your mattress on the floor in a damp space (such as a basement).

Keep this in mind as we move into box spring alternatives below. When you compare a box spring to the floor, box springs have ventilation benefits. But when you compare it to other foundation alternatives, the box spring will be at the bottom of the list when it comes to ventilation.

When compared to putting your mattress flat on the floor, some benefits of boxsprings include:

  • Provides a riser so that the mattress is not on the floor
  • How it makes your bed look, if you want it raised up.
  • Provides more ventilation than a mattress directly on the ground.
  • Known breeding ground for dust mites, mold, and mildew
  • Can cause mattress to feel too firm or soft – both of which can negatively impact sleep quality
  • Poorly designed foundation can nullify the benefits of a premium mattresses, especially organic latex mattresses.
  • Poor ventilation when compared to alternatives.
  • Cheaply manufactured and not designed to withstand the weight of foam and latex mattresses over long periods of time.
  • The give in box springs can lead to dipping and sagging in latex and foam mattresses

It’s true, major brands still push the perceived value of a box spring set to most mattress buyers!

They emphasize the importance of it for the sake of the bed because they’re cheap, and easy way for the mattress company to make more money. Not only that, but certain warranties will not cover a mattress by itself;  they’ll require that a consumer also buys a box spring with the mattress, or else they won’t have a warranty at all!

Yup…

Even though box springs are no longer necessary due to the innovation of other alternatives, many consumers are told that they absolutely need one if they want that warranty in the event of an accident. For these reasons, consumers are still buying box springs even though they’re not necessary and in some cases, actually bad for your bed.

Instead of a boxspring, go with a platform bed or solid, premium wood foundation as a way of protecting your mattress investment.

Doing so is even more important if you’re buying a bed that’ll last you years and years, like a natural latex mattress.

Do Latex Mattresses Need Box Springs?

Both latex mattresses and memory foam mattresses are heavier than traditional mattresses. For this reason, they both require a strong, rigid base that will support the weight of the mattress, your body, and varying indentations over long periods of time. It’s important to know that latex mattresses will conform to whatever surface they are on.  Box springs have an innate ‘give’ that will lead to dipping and sagging in your mattress due to inadequate support.  So if you’re looking for a foundation for your latex or foam mattress, I advise you select one of our recommended box spring alternatives below.


Best Bed Foundations for Latex Mattresses

Type of Mattress FoundationVentilationFunctionalityReliabilityAestheticsCost
Box SpringLow LowLowLow Low
RTA Wood Foundation (Slats)HighMediumVery HighMediumLow
Platform BedHighHighVery HighVery HighMedium-High
Adjustable BedHighVery HighHighHighVery High
Hardwood FloorVery LowLowVery HighLowFree

Even though companies still manufacture box springs, dramatically improved mattress technology has almost nullified their value. The latest beds are designed with inclusive features that render the traditional box spring a need of the past.

Latex mattresses are a great example; they’re thicker, more resilient to applied pressures, and anatomically superior to the innerspring mattresses of the past. If you’re looking to buy a new bed, then it’s important you know these details! Box springs are no longer enough if you want reliable support!

The bed foundation comparison table I’ve included above will help you get a clearer picture about the differences between box springs and newer, more reliable foundation types. As you consider which foundation is right for you, remember this…

Below, I’m going to outline important facts about each of the bed foundations listed in the table. So if you’re on the fence about which foundation to order with your new mattress, then keep reading. This information will help you choose which foundation best fits your needs.

Wood Slats; a High or Low-Profile Box Spring Alternative

wood slats foundation
The wood used on our premium RTA foundation is smooth on all four sides.

It’s true, wood foundations are amongst the best bangs for your buck in the bed foundation world!

Not convinced? When compared to a boxspring, add some extra storage space into the mix…

When you add 7 inch bed legs to a KD foundation, you’ll instantly create additional space between the wood slats and floor. This means extra bedroom storage for odds and ends that otherwise would have cluttered up your living space. Check it out:

wood foundation with legs
One benefit of adding bed legs to an RTA foundation is that you’ll have extra room for bedroom storage.

Because of the storage benefits, foundations made with sustainable wood are a winner for families looking to maximize available living space without splurging on a more costly platform bed. But keep in mind, for the extra space to really become a factor you’ll need to choose from a higher-profile bed leg like out 7 inch option.

On a structural note, take note of the gap space between each wood slat on the foundation. If you’re shopping around, then this is very important. If spaces between the slate of wood are more than three inches apart, it’ll cause gaps that make your mattress sink. And as we discussed earlier, sinkage is bad! Make sure your wood foundation has slats that are at most three inches apart because this spacing will provide a sturdy, long-lasting infrastructure for your mattress.

High Profile vs Low Profile

The difference between a low profile and high profile foundation is height.

As a rule of thumb, low profile mattress foundations are less than 5 inches in height. At Sleeping Organic, we offer both 3 inch and 5 inch bed legs and both give a low profile appearance. The shorter the bed legs, the lower profile you’ll have of course.

Taller bed legs, like our 7 inch option, will give your bed more rise to it than the lower profile options mentioned above. This “high profile” foundation is best for you if you want your bed to have a loft-like feel to it.

If you choose a Sleeping Organic wood foundation, you can rest easy knowing that our bed legs are practically indestructible.No matter which profile you choose, the legs can withstand up 8,000 pounds of pressure. Certainly more than you’ll ever have on your bed!

Wood Slat Foundations vs. Box Springs

Comparing a wood foundation and a box spring is easy when you consider the main points…

Take a look at the picture of our premium RTA mattress foundation above. The design leaves ample room for airflow compared to an outdated box spring, which greatly decreases the likelihood you’ll experience mold and mildew growth under your bed. And if you’re like me, I’m sure you can agree that this is a positive!

Is your old box spring contributing to your poor sleep quality? There’s a high likelihood it is!

Box springs create pressure points, dipping, and sagging because certain areas are either more firm or softer than others. There isn’t an even distribution of pressure, which is necessary with latex and memory foam mattresses.

Keep in mind that even though these pressure points won’t be obvious when you first sit or lay down on a bed, you’ll definitely notice them after a night or two of sleep. After months of sleeping on it, you’ll recognize this as “normal,” but it certainly is not. Lower back pain is usually a manifestation of this issue.

You don’t deserve an uncomfortable sleep just because of a product that’s unrelated to your mattress quality!

The strong core of an RTA (ready to assemble) wood foundation when compared to a box spring is clear. Especially when made from the right kind of wood, RTA  foundations will provide better support for you than a box spring ever could… even if it wanted to!

If you’re looking for a minimalist bedroom, these foundations are great because they’re an ultra low profile option. This also means there’s less moving parts than box springs and other alternatives, so you’ll feel a more consistent support and the likelihood of damage (ie. future need for replacement) will significantly decrease.

As long as they’re made from high quality materials, foundations made from wood also last longer!

Compared to a box spring that needs to be replaced every 10 years, you’ll save money in the long run when you go with a wood foundation that only has a slightly higher upfront cost.

What Is the Best Wood to Use for Wood Foundations?

Premium white pine that’s finished on all four sides is the preferred wood for RTA wood foundations for a few reasons:

  • No knots
  • Doesn’t split, snap or break like cheaper types of wood
  • It’s smooth, so you don’t have to worry about splinters
  • Naturally resistant to rot
  • Major sustainability benefits

On the other hand, wood foundations made from premium white pine are more sustainable because free-to-grow white pine grows up to four feet per year. When fully mature, these trees climb to heights of 200 feet or more. Very strong! Think about how well this wood will support your mattress, which is not 200 feet in height…

A Long-Lasting Appearance & Finish

Our premium RTA wood foundations are handmade in Charleston, SC. Having complete control of the wood quality and craftsmanship (that you can watch in the video above) helps guarantee that you receive a foundation that’ll last decades.

White pine’s appearance is nearly all-white, which means it’ll age gracefully. And since it’ll be in your bedroom, this is important.

If you live in a damp climate, I want you to take specific note of the rot-resistance of wood foundations made with white pine. If this is the foundation you choose to buy, then you won’t have to worry about strong odors being emitted from the aging wood under your bed.

Finishing the wood surface on all four sides helps increase the foundation’s lifespan. And although it seems like common sense to finish wood foundations this way, it’s unfortunately not standard in the industry because there’s no difference in looks from the outside. You can see this quality in the video above, but here’s a closer look:

boxspring alternative foundation choice
A view from underneath our RTA wood foundation.

Recapping This Box Spring Alternative

I recommend wood foundations as the best boxspring alternative for most folks, but if a modern-looking bedroom is extremely important to you, then you may want to keep reading. With a little extra money to spend on a high-quality mattress foundation, you may find exactly what you’re looking for in a platform or adjustable bed.

Platform Beds; Modern-Looking Box Spring Alternatives

platform bed alternative to box springs
A beautiful platform bed by Urban Woods.

As is the case with wood foundations, many platform beds have room underneath for storage. But due to the extra height of a platform bed, many of the newer foundations have space for real drawers that are built into the bed itself. Coupled with a sleek modern design and vintage materials, a platform bed blurs the line between a chic lounging area and a functional, adjunct storage unit. Quite the improvement to any bedroom, if you ask me!

 

Do Platform Beds Require a Box Spring?

On platform bed foundations, the wood slats that hold your mattress are securely installed into the bed frame, which helps guarantee any size sleeper can be supported. These slats also eliminate the need for a box spring because the bed itself acts as a sturdy base.

Better Mattress Foundation: Platform Beds vs. Box Springs

Though they have a higher upfront cost, consumers who invest in a quality platform bed can save money in the long run for the same reasons we discussed with non-platform wood foundations. They won’t break down over time like box springs do.

And depending on the exact model you choose, you may not have to worry about spending more money on a headboard and footboard. Most platform beds come as one unit, meaning the headboard, footboard, and bed frame are all attached as one unit. Keep this in mind as you’re considering how much platform beds cost.

A Modern Addition To Your Bedroom

Sleek. Modern. Clean-cut. These are all proper ways to describe platform mattress foundations and it’s likely a reason home design company Houzz has an entire section of their website dedicated to integrating platform beds into modern bedroom design.

At Sleeping Organic, we choose to carry the line manufactured by Urban Woods because of their quality craftsmanship and commitment to sustainable manufacturing. Urban Woods also has lots of styles to choose from, which means you can easily match one of their wood finishes with the design of your room. Here’s a sample of the finishes you can select from when you buy an Urban Woods platform bed:

wood finishes for Urban Woods platform beds
Urban Woods platform beds come in many styles and color options.

Recapping This Box Spring Alternative

Adjustable Beds; the Premium, Functional Foundation

adjustable bed - reverie 7t model
Reverie’s 7T Model

If you watch TV or read in bed, then you’ll love having the ability to adjust your head and upper body, torso, feet, or all of the above (if you’re feeling adventurous) for added comfort and support.

How do adjustable beds improve aches and pains?

It’s no secret that raising your head up as you sleep has big benefits for both snoring and sleep apnea. So if you have these problems, keep an eye on adjustable beds because they may just solve (or significantly reduce) your nightly annoyances.

People with lower back pain are typically advised by doctors to invest in an adjustable bed because of the superior support these foundations provide the spinal column. More support for your spine can lead to fewer body aches.

According to Spinal Health, adjustable beds can help relieve a number of “back back” conditions, including but not limited to degenerative spondylolisthesis, osteoarthritis, and spinal stenosis. If you have any of these issues, then please consult a doctor before ordering your new bed.

Newer adjustable models now have unique lumbar support features where the adjustable base helps raise the mattress to support the lumbar area of your lower back. This helps tremendously if you have lower back pain. Truly amazing technology!

In addition to helping with lower back pain, adjustable beds can incline to relieve acid reflux and heartburn.

Because adjustable beds raise your feet with the push of a button, you’ll love this mattress foundation if you suffer from foot pain, ankle pain, or even restless leg syndrome.

Raising the bottom section of the base provides a slight incline, which takes pressure off your lower body. Then whenever you desire, you can lower it back down to a flat position.

reverie adjustable base
New adjustable bed technology provides even more lumbar support than older models.

Photo credit: Reverie

Above is an x-ray view example of how one of Reverie’s new adjustable bed lines can expand and compress for added lumbar support.

Do Adjustable Beds Need Box Springs to Function Properly?

Nope. There’s no need for a box spring! In fact, you couldn’t even use a box spring with your adjustable foundation if you tried because the bed wouldn’t be able to change form with the stiff box spring sitting on top of it. As seen in the example above, your mattress sits flat on the adjustable base itself.

Adjustable Beds Vs Regular Beds

When you compare the functionality of an adjustable to that of basic bed, you don’t need to be an expert to recognize the major shift in features, functionality, and technology. It’s much more than just a bed that moves and changes positions…

The origins of adjustable beds trace back to hospitals where they were first used to help adjust the bed position for patients who needed to sleep in a particular position for either comfort or recovery. Over the years, their benefits became too great to ignore and as a result, adjustable beds slowly made their way into modern American homes.

An adjustable bed is for you if you often find yourself tactfully arranging pillows to get into the perfect position to watch TV, read, or even sleep. While flat beds require this pillow shuffle, an adjustable unit automatically fixes the problem. All you need to do is hit the switch, then go for a ride. Just like that, you’re in a different position. Hit the switch again to return to your normal sleeping position. Definitely worthwhile if you spend lots of time in bed at night or on the weekends.

Recapping This Box Spring Alternative

Which Foundation Is Best for Latex Mattresses?

you need to consider box spring alternatives
Whichever box spring alternative you choose, we strongly recommend you avoid buying a box spring. It’ll deteriorate on you over time, and never provide you the sleep support you deserve.

All latex mattresses are compatible with the wood, platform, and adjustable foundations mentioned in this article. If you’re investing in a latex mattress, then please do not place it on top of a box spring. You won’t enjoy nearly as many of the benefits of the premium bed as you would have with a higher-quality foundation.

Though you could throw a latex mattress on top of a boxspring, they really are not compatible.

As with any long-term investment, the best bed foundation for you depends on your unique needs. What’s most important for YOU matters most!

Our recommendations for the best box spring alternative