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Have you ever wondered, “what does a box spring do and is it necessary?” Though a box spring does provide support for your mattress, there are other options that provide even more support and give you a better sleep experience. We’ll explain what a box spring does, compare other mattress foundations, and help you determine how to choose the best support.
A box spring is a wooden support that lifts your mattress off the ground, keeping it and you away from dust and cold air. Inside the box spring, there’s a system of large, gauge wire coils or metal rods that functions as the mattress support system. The exterior of the box spring is covered with a skid-resistance fabric that acts as a dust barrier.
Box springs were first created to help absorb shock for thinner mattresses and improve ventilation for sleepers. They usually came in a set with a mattress. Some are used in conjunction with a bed frame to elevate your mattress and provide storage underneath the bed.
There are two types of box springs: standard and low-profile. Because mattresses are thicker than they used to be, many mattress manufacturers now produce low-profile box springs. Though low-profile springs provide the same amount of support as standard box springs, they’re not as thick.
Standard box springs measure nine inches in height and low-profile box springs measure between five and five and half inches—this difference is completely aesthetic and doesn’t affect the amount of support they give to a mattress.
Until recently, a box spring was necessary to raise the mattress, distribute a person’s weight, and act as a shock absorber for the mattress. Additionally, a box spring is required for those who use a metal bed frame.
However, some people choose to forego a box spring for comfort and health reasons. For example, the firmness of a box spring may cause poor sleeping habits and back problems if the mattress its supporting is too thin or doesn’t have enough support.
While a box spring isn’t necessary, having support for your mattress is. Without a proper foundation, your mattress will sink and become uncomfortable, cause aches and pains, and give you a poor sleeping experience.
There are a number of mattresses that can be used without box springs. Here are a few of our top picks.
If you choose to forgo a box spring, here are some options for additional mattress support:
A good rule of thumb is to replace your box spring every 10 years. With an older box spring, you can determine if it needs to be replaced by how it feels. If it’s springy, get rid of it. Additionally, if you notice your box spring has major defects, like broken slats or noticeable sagging, it’s time to buy a box spring or foundation that provides adequate support.
Putting a new mattress on an old box spring could cause the box spring to break and mattress to sag—this can also void a mattress warranty, so be sure to replace your box spring when necessary.
Regardless of the type of support you get for your mattress—whether you choose a traditional box spring or a foundation—make sure you’re buying a product that will support your mattress for years to come and gives you the best possible sleep experience.
Keen in mind the following factors when choosing a box spring or other mattress support system.
Mattresses are never a one-size-fits-all solution. From firmness to price, shipping to returns, eco-friendliness, and warranty—we've got the details on the best mattress brands. Our reviews will help you narrow the field and make the best choice for you. Now go get some rest.
What do you look for in a new mattress? We asked three people in their 20s, 40s, and 60s what’s most important to them in getting a good night’s sleep.
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