young woman lying on a futon

The type of support you own will matter a lot when it comes to buying a mattress.

Different mattresses have different bed requirements, but in general, three types of supports are most commonly used: box springplatform and foundation.

People often wonder which of these provides the best support.

The answer is that all of them are good options, depending on the mattress and the desired effect.

Know the differences between each kind, and make sure that when you purchase a new bed, you keep in mind the type of mattress that will be paired with it.

This research will help you get the most satisfying sleep for a longer time.

Box Spring

a box spring to support innerspring mattressesA box spring is best to support innerspring mattresses

A box spring usually has a wooden frame (the box) designed to distribute and absorb weight on the mattress, sometimes with added steel reinforcements for strength.

A system of a large number of heavy gauge wire coils or a grid is attached to the frame as the mattress support system. A fabric with skid resistance covers the top and the bottom, acting as a dust barrier. The box spring also raises the mattress to a suitable height, escaping dust and the cold air.

When buying a box spring, you may have a few options, such as coil spring beds with cone-shaped wire coils for good support and flexibility of stiff mattresses or high-quality modular grids with square coils for greater durability of the mattress.

Semi-flex grid box springs consist of a wooden frame with a stiff, firm metal grid above slats for support and minimal flexing.

Double-sided Innerspring mattresses are best for use with coil springs and modular grid box springs.

The coils of the box spring move along with the coils of the mattress, and a stiffer mattress can feel softer as the coils flex and move and absorb a lot of the sleeper’s body weight.

Some experts advise that single-sided, no-flip coil mattresses don’t last as long as they should when used with box springs.

A few manufacturers say that you can place your latex mattress directly on a box spring, but the weight could make the springs bend and the mattress sag.

Also, those kinds of mattresses are designed to provide comfort on their own, so an uneven surface (like a box spring) can disrupt the way they work.

If that’s the case and you want to keep your box spring for aesthetic reasons, a neat trick is to put a cheap plywood board between box and mattress, making it much more even and rigid.

Platform Bed vs. Box Spring

When comparing platform beds with a box spring and thinking about what to get, it will depend on the type of mattress you have and what you prefer in general. Here we will list the pros and cons of platform beds and box springs to make the distinction clearer.

Box Spring Bed Pros and Cons

Box springs come with coils that promote air circulation and enhance breathability overall. Next on the box spring pros list is that they also serve as shock-absorbers and support the mattress no matter the different styles of sleeping or the sleeping positions. With their non-slip fabric, traditional box springs will keep your bed in place.

On the other hand, a traditional box spring is known to lose support after a while, especially if used with a heavier mattress with springs inside. This is simply because they aren’t sturdy enough, and springs do break over time. So, you are balancing between shock-absorbing features and long-lasting use of other traditional bed frames.

Additional trait users complain about is the noise that metal springs produce after a while as they start sagging into the ground. Lastly, before getting a box spring, make sure that your mattress is compatible with it.

Some don’t work with particular mattresses and can make them lose edge support, so seek more info from the mattress manufacturer. Also, they don’t offer any storage options, as is the case with a platform bed frame.

Platform Beds

One-sided, no-flip innerspring mattresses (like our favorite, the Saatva Mattress), latex, memory foam, gel memory foam, and other modern non-coil mattresses should be used only on firm, flat surfaces like suitable platform beds or foundations (see below).

light wood mattress platform

A platform bed is usually a low bed frame, often with a head and footboard, and a solid panel or wooden slats (usually not more than 3 inches apart) which support a mattress.

Unlike a traditional bed, the platform bed doesn’t need a foundation or box spring to place on it before placing a mattress.

There are many sizes of platform beds available, and since they don’t need a box spring, they can be economical to buy.

When buying a mattress, make sure slat widths and materials match the mattress manufacturer’s recommended usage to avoid voiding the warranty.

Inexpensive compress cardboard or particle board platform beds are available, but always choose the solid frame platform bed for durability and comfort if you can afford them. You don’t want to end up with lower back pain caused by inappropriate underlying support.

You can choose Asian styles or modern, European styles with clean lines. Many have storage areas underneath.

Classic, traditional platform beds are also available.

You should keep in mind that platform beds have lower profiles. If you are spending a lot of money on a high-quality, solid platform bed to last you a long time, you can consider getting an adjustable bed to factor in changes in the body’s demands in the future.

Platform Bed Pros and Cons

Before going into the pros and cons, let’s address one common mistake people make when getting extra support for their mattress. Namely, there is no need to use platform beds and box springs together. One eliminates the need for the other. Otherwise, with your mattress on top, you will raise the height to an unnatural level, and for the sake of mattress health and your sleeping quality, mattress manufacturers and experts advise against it.

It is worth mentioning that traditional bed frames such as sleigh beds, canopy beds, or four-poster beds were not made to support a mattress adequately. In this case, you will have to use an additional foundation with these frames to get the most out of your mattress.

The great thing about platform beds is that they are compatible with most mattress types making them a better buy than box springs. Thanks to their simple construction and high availability, platform beds are compatible with all hybrid mattresses, memory foam, and every other type of mattress.

Additionally, on the pro list, platform bed bases have a modern, sleek design, and because of their simple construction, they are a nice-looking value option. They come in a wide variety of styles and include storage underneath, which can be highly beneficial.

Platform beds support any mattress weight with their solid base and equally push against the mattress foundation thanks to their sturdy wood and solid surface.

On the other hand, their low-profile bed frame may cause some difficulties such as back and knee pain. However, this can be avoided with more support from the mattress itself.

Although platform beds offer storage features, and you can place storage drawers underneath for more comfort, they are harder to transport, and once set in place, moving will be a challenge. Also, with the rigid slats, platform beds will not cause the sagging of mattresses, but they might create additional pressure points depending on your sleep position.

It is why the firmer surface of platform beds should be combined with a softer foam mattress. As such, they will make the mattress feel firmer and create the perfect balance for excellent sleep quality.

Foundations

Bed foundation - ideal for many mattress typesA foundation is also a wooden frame with slats, but it is covered in fabric and similar to box springs. Foundations also act very differently from box springs.

Whereas box springs are designed more for shock absorption and less support, foundations are designed to support mattresses.

Foundations are a popular choice for modern shoppers since coil mattresses are slowly being replaced by foam and memory foam, which require support rather than weight absorption.

This type of bed structure provides a lot of support to mattresses, so if you think your platform bed is not enough for your heavy mattress, you could consider getting a foundation.

Foundations are usually recommended for use with latex mattresses or dense, flexible mattresses like memory foam (like one of our favorites, the Loom & Leaf) that need a sturdy surface.

Standard heights of foundations range from 7 to 9 inches, but you can find lower profiles as well.

Foundation Bed Base Pros and Cons

When it comes to foundation bed vs. box spring or a platform bed, foundations win over both, and here’s why. Covered with a breathable fabric, foundation beds conform to your mattress whether it has a solid or slatted surface.

Foundations are replacing box springs, especially with the growing popularity of natural latex mattress types and memory foam models. You can also place your innerspring mattress on the mattress foundation, although you have to be wary of the increased firmness.

Other pros include the durability that both a platform bed and a foundation bed have over box springs, and they also provide robust and even support all across the edges.

However, unlike box springs, mattress foundations are heavy, and because they lack give, it is possible to create pressure points due to the firm bed base.

In Conclusion

If you have a box spring, it is best used with innerspring mattresses. Memory foam mattresses on box springs may be too soft and provide you with less spinal support.

The platform bed is the most versatile since you can place any type of mattress directly on it without a box spring or foundation.

For traditional bed frames (which usually have fewer slats than platform beds and therefore poor weight distribution) you will need a box spring or foundation below the mattress for weight absorption.

Also remember that latex or memory foam mattresses should ideally be used with platform beds or foundations for a good night’s sleep, but if your box spring is in good form some manufacturers promise you can still use that.


Lauren Kendrick

Lauren Kendrick

Updated at November 25, 2021