Mattress Guide

Do you need a boxspring?

By The Mattress Nerd

One of the most common questions I get from customers is “do I need a boxspring?” I hope to answer that question here and outline all of the boxspring options available to you. The short answer, by the way, is “probably yes,” but it’s a little more complicated than that.

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What is a boxspring?

A boxspring is a support for your mattress and typically is constructed from a wooden frame, covered in cloth with springs in the middle. It is usually built the same size as the mattress it will support and that’s why you often are able to buy a mattress and box spring as a set when you buy a new mattress.

The boxspring fulfills three needs: (1) To raise the mattress higher off the ground so you’re not stuck in your bed like a turtle on its back. (2) To absorb impact and reduce the wear on the mattress. (3) To give the mattress a strong, flat surface to sit on.

These days, the word “boxspring” is somewhat of a misnomer, because most don’t use springs. The term “foundation” is a more apt description. This has changed in the past decade or two. Up until the early 2000s, most boxsprings used actual springs in them and acted as a shock absorber for the mattress. Now, most mattresses use foundations that are just sturdy, inflexible boxes that support the mattress. These can be made of wood or metal.

Zinus boxspring

This is your standard foundation. The one pictured is from Zinus and is a very popular option Amazon (Click on the image for more information).


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Do I need a boxspring?

So, back to the main question, do you need a boxspring? Well, you need to put the mattress on something. Let’s look at the options.

    • You can put the mattress on the floor. This actually gives the mattress proper support, but it doesn’t look as nice, is more difficult to get in and out of bed, and isn’t as sanitary since you’re right on the floor.
    • You can put the mattress on a boxspring. This raises the mattress up off the ground and provides the solid support that a mattress needs. This is usually used in conjunction with a bed frame to keep everything off the floor and provide a little storage space under the bed if necessary.
    • You can use a platform bed. These are very popular in Europe. They consist of a platform surface, either solid or with slats. The mattress goes directly on the bed with no boxspring. Amazon has a good selection of traditional platform beds if you want to buy online. A company called Forever Foundation has a really sturdy metal one on Amazon as well that I like.
    • If you want to really go all-out, you can get an adjustable power base for your mattress. This is a base with a motor in it that can have such features as raising up the head, raising the legs, or even a massage feature. Believe it or not, you can get those delivered by Amazon for pretty low prices, as well as any other mattress retailer, including online retailers. Read more about adjustable bases here.
Falcon adjustable base

The Falcon base can be bought on Amazon for only a few hundred more than a regular boxspring.

What if I already have a boxspring?

If you already have a boxspring, it likely needs to be replaced. If you put a new mattress on an old boxspring, you run the risk of the boxspring wearing down or breaking, causing the mattress to start sagging. If this happens, it can void the mattress warranty. Additionally, if your boxspring is very old, it might be the old springy type and not the newer foundation type of boxspring. This will change how the mattress feels.

What You Don’t Know Could Void Your Warranty

The point about voiding your warranty is no small consideration. Many newly designed options, especially among the memory foam and latex varieties, require you to use something beneath the actual mattress and even list the types of bases and frames that comply with or void the warranty.

Why? Because bases that do not support your mattress will cause it to deteriorate prematurely. And that would be your fault. And the fact that you caused the wear and tear beyond normal use, you yourself will have voided your own warranty.

Why should I even use a box spring?

You could be saying, “Hey, you just told you ‘box spring’ is outdated. Why am I worrying about it?’

Because the foundation or box spring also absorbs impact when it’s properly installed. Maybe you like to literally jump into bed. Maybe you’re clumsy and have been known to literally fall into bed. In that case, the box spring sits between your mattress and its foundation. Without one, it’s you hitting the mattress and the mattress hitting the floor and nothing else.

Boxspring or foundation?

Your mattress and your preferences should decide which to use.

If you’re used to a boxspring, you’re used to that level of support underneath your mattress. Without it, your sleep quality may suffer. The boxspring may feel like an old friend and ease of use for you, the sleeper, may be the most important thing for you to consider. If you’re sleeping on an innerspring mattress, this is the choice. But boxsprings are also bulky and heavy. Wooden ones will break down slowly and compromise its ability to support a mattress, robbing you of use.

Sleeping on a foundation, or a solid slab of wood (no slats), is similar to sleeping on a platform bed. It will support the mattress and absorb extra impact or movement. It will do a better job distributing weight along the length of the mattress.

Foundations are flexible, too, in that it can support any type of mattress. By the same token, you give up some comfort because the flat foundation won’t give like a box spring will. Did you just buy a bed for its contouring effects and still wake up sore in the morning? Maybe it’s that flat foundation.

In conclusion, you need to put a mattress on something, and if it’s not going to be on the floor, platform bed, or power base, you need a new boxspring.

Thanks for reading.

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Comments (125)

  1. I have a Sherwood King Pillowtop mattress, the tag/label says I do not need and can be used without a foundation. So am I able to put it directly on the bed frame with no problems?

    • No, a typical bed frame cannot support a mattress. You can put it directly on a platform bed or on the floor. A regular frame will just have one center support bar and huge gaps in between.

  2. I read on one site that my California King memory foam mattress needs two box springs…? Do you happen to know if that’s accurate?

    • The boxspring is split. Otherwise it wouldn’t fit through doorways or around corners.

      You don’t need to separately order two boxsprings. If you order a “California King Boxspring” it’ll come in the two pieces.

      An exception would be if the “boxspring” is actually a platform bed or something, or maybe some “build it yourself” boxsprings. But standard Cal King boxsprings will be split.

  3. We are about to buy twin beds for our 3 year olds. Our top picks are all platform beds which come with slats included. Do you think a box spring is still needed?

    • Boxsprings shoudln’t be needed, assuming the platform beds have slats close enough together (i.e. no more than 3 inches apart).

  4. Hello I just bought a new memory foam mattress and then I bought a new bed frame separately. It describe the frame as a platform bed frame but only came with 3 slats. Would I need. Box spring with this or would I be able to just lay the bed on top?

    • The slats should be no more than about 2.5-3 inches apart. So unless those are huge slats, you will need a boxspring.

    • Some manufacturers require it for the warranty, but not all of them. It’s a good idea to have, and many full sized frames will have it anyway. (In fact, I think most will).

    • Not generally, unless you already have a platform bed. Plywood by itself won’t be strong enough to support the mattress across a regular frame with one center bar.

  5. What a killer web site! I’ve been clicking and reading here for an hour today. THANK YOU for the education! I always knew how important sleep is, but not how to shop for a mattress. Will commence tomorrow. Can you imagine what this world would be like if everyone got enough high-quality sleep? Unfathomable. (What a fantasy.)

    • No, bunkie boards don’t have the structural integrity to support itself and the mattress without a lot of slats or something similar underneath. They can’t bridge larger gaps.

  6. My grandson has Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome which is a form of epilepsy. I would like to know if I am able to purchase a coil bed spring to hold a queen size mattress from your company. I have purchased box springs and mattresses for his bed, but when he has a seizure in bed the box spring is destroyed. The cost of replacing the box spring is ridiculous. I have a coil spring on a full size bed, but he is too big for the bed. Thank you for the courtesy of a reply and for taking the time to resolve my problem.

    • I don’t sell products directly. You can buy a new foundation from the links on my site, and I’d get a commission if you did so, but that’s as close as it gets to “buying it from my company.”

  7. I recently purchased a plush pillow top mattress with a regular box spring. It was kinda tall, so I switched to a low profile with the assurance there would be no difference in support. After the first night I slept on it my back hurt the next morning. Which has continued over the last few days. IAny thoughts or suggestions??

    • You might need a different mattress. It has nothing to do with the boxspring. There is no difference between a low and regular profile in terms of support.

  8. I have one of those really high beds with a boxspring that I have to use a step stool to get into. I am getting older and for see a time when that won’t work for me. I need a new mattress. My question is can I get a mattress with a boxspring so that it will be lower. Or should I put a piece of plywood down and put mattress on top, ??? I think that would make it low enough to just sit on.

    • There are low profile boxsprings which will save you a few inches. I’d recommend going that route. Most boxsprings are about 9 inches thick. The low profile ones tend to be 4 or 5 inches.

      There are even “ultra low profile” boxes made by some manufacturers which are more like 2.5 inches if you want to go that far.

  9. I’m seriously thinking about trying a Leesa foam for my wife and I, both in our early 70’s. We have a bed frame with legs on all four corners and underneath the slats. Our box springs (2 twin for King Mattress) are 10yrs old and look to be in good shape according to our inspection. Would this suffice for a new Leesa foam mattress?

    • They should be fine, but just keep an eye on them. You may need to replace them before you need to replace the mattress since they’re older already.

    • No, as long as two things are true:

      1) The “boxspring” is a rigid foundation, and not an old-school type that uses actual springs in it. (Most new boxsprings are actually foundations)

      2) The platform bed is good quality and forms a rigid support.

    • You mean put one mattress on top of the other? That’s a bad idea. That voids the warranty of the mattress and will wear them both out more quickly. It also dramatically changes how the mattress feels.

  10. Hi there, I want to make a storage bed out of ideas drawers, can I put the mattress straight onto drawer top or do I need to build some sort of base on top of the drawers?

    • You would need a sturdy surface to put the mattress on. I just don’t know whether or not the drawers will be strong enough. They very well may be, but I just don’t know enough to say for sure.

  11. I’m sort of repeating “Char”‘s question from July 2017. I’m looking to get a new mattress and a NEW foundation/box (mattress is ancient and on the floor – its foundation went away several moves ago). Some stores (physical/online) have great mattress prices but the foundation is almost the cost of the mattress (I need split or unassembled to be able to get it upstairs). I was thinking of buying the mattress from supplier A and the foundation from supplier B.

    I saw earlier you suggested a Zinus foundation, but that foundation is 1/2 inch smaller on each side (though the price is ideal). Would the 1/2 inch smaller be an issue with the support of the mattress?

    • The mattress dimensions are maximums. If a queen is 60×80, for example, that means you could get a mattress that’s 59.5″ x 79.5″, and that is perfectly within spec.

  12. does an adjustable bed frame preclude the necessity of a box spring if a bedframe specifies a box spring is required? or do i need to find bedframes that a) do not require box springs and b) work without slats?

    • You cannot use a boxspring on an adjustable base. They’re rigid and won’t bend.

      I don’t know what you mean by bed frames that “do not require boxsprings and work without slats.” Are you referring to headboards and footboards?

  13. I was just reading some of the Q&A you have posted about base support and there is a reason waterbeds had to have load distributing base supports. A twin size water bed used to hold in excess of 100 gallons of water. That is about 834 pounds plus bedding and occupant(s). Plywood flexes based on the number of plies, the thicker the plywood, the more plies and the less flexible and stronger it is. I had a queen size semi-waveless many years ago and I would estimate the filled weight at about 1500 pounds.

  14. I bought a twin xl mattress and box spring and am now looking for a bed frame that allows storage under it. I didn’t realize it might be too high. my son is 6 foot tall. if I get a metal bed frame that is 14 inches high will the bed be too high? These are traditional height mattress and box spring.

  15. Does a 3/4″ thick piece of plywood the size of the bed frame and laid in the bedframe serve as a good enough platform for a mattress? For example water beds just sat on plywood and their are waterbed .conversion mattresses that would sit just on this plywood. Are those mattresses made any different from others?

    • I am virtually certain that waterbeds did not sit on unsupported plywood. Those foundations generally had a support structure underneath the plywood. In a normal bed frame, there will be a giant unsupported gap between the side rails and the crossbar in the middle that will put a lot of stress on the plywood.

      Additionally, that would not qualify for proper support for warranty purposes, so if the mattress started sagging, even if it was unrelated to the support, the warranty would be voided.

      So I do not recommend using only plywood.

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