What Does a Box Spring Do
and Is It Necessary?

By: Kealia Reynolds

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.

What is a box spring?

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.

What does a box spring do?

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.

Types of box springs

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.

Do I need a box spring?

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.

Mattresses that can be used without box springs

There are a number of mattresses that can be used without box springs. Here are a few of our top picks.

  • The Layla mattress is a copper-infused, double-sided mattress that can be used with a foundation or adjustable base. The Layla gets a perfect score (that’s five stars) in House Method’s mattress reviews.
  • The Avocado mattress can be used without box springs. In fact, Avocado recommends using a platform of solid foundation for this mattress. The Avocado is made with all natural and non-toxic materials.
  • The Nest Bedding Love & Sleep is a cooling mattress that can be used without a box spring.
  • The Puffy mattress is designed to work with any type of frame or surface, so while you can use a box spring, you certainly don’t have to.

Alternatives to box springs

If you choose to forgo a box spring, here are some options for additional mattress support:

  • Use a foundation—A foundation is a sturdy, wooden structure with a flat, corrugated board on top that offers strong support for memory foam, latex, and innerspring mattresses. Most mattresses require wooden or metal foundations that are sturdy, inflexible, and able to handle the full weight of a mattress and sleeper(s). These foundations consist of a lightly framed wooden box with horizontal wood slats that span the overall width of the structure to help distribute mattress weight.
  • Purchase a platform bed—A platform bed does not require a box spring or foundation. These beds are typically made of wood and contain a series of wooden slats that run across the bed. There are two types of platform bases: solid wood and wooden slats. Solid wood gives you a sturdier foundation while wooden slats provide better ventilation.
  • Get extra comfort with an adjustable base—Mattresses with an adjustable power base allow you to adjust your head and leg positions with a remote control. Some adjustable bases even provide a massage function or USB inputs. Saatva makes an adjustable base with under-bed lighting and remote control capabilities.
  • Place your mattress on the floor—Though we don’t recommend this, some people choose to put their mattress on the floor to give their bedroom a more minimalist look. While the floor may give your mattress the proper support it needs, it makes it harder to comfortably get in and out of bed. Placing your mattress on the floor can also be unsanitary, as improper ventilation causes more dirt and dust to collect on your bed and stir up pre-existing allergies.

When to replace a box spring

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.

What to consider before buying a box spring

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.

  • Size of foundation—If you’re purchasing a solid frame foundation, make sure there’s enough room to get it into your bedroom—small hallways make it tough to round corners. If you live in a tight walkup or in close quarters, you may have to skip box springs or solid foundation altogether.
  • Mattress size—Box springs are sized like regular mattresses and are available in twin, twin XL, full, queen, king, and California king sizes. Make sure your mattress and box spring are the same size.
  • Warranty terms—Some mattress companies will require you to use a box spring for the mattress warranty to be valid. Without using one, you could void your warranty.
  • Additional box spring options—Since box springs are ideal for dust mites and allergens, select an allergen-blocking cover for your box spring to reduce the chance of an allergy attack. If you experience back problems, look for box springs that provide additional back support, but always speak to a medical professional before buying.
  • Reviews—When looking for a specific box spring or mattress support system, read both consumer and third-party reviews to get a sense of brand and product quality.

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