Do You Need a Box Spring? And If So, What Type?

Your bedroom should be a sanctuary for sleep. While there are many contributing elements, the most important is undoubtedly your mattress. Pillows, sheets, and comforters also enhance your sleep environment. But, most people seldom think of a box spring as a huge factor. It’s certainly not the most sexy or fun part of your purchase. Nonetheless, there is much to think about when considering your options. What height? Do you need splits? Or is purchasing a new box spring even necessary? These are all important decisions you’ll need to make when buying a new bed.

Considering how they are currently manufactured, the term “box spring”seems a bit outdated. Most companies stopped using springs in these units years ago. The more common industry name used these days is foundation. They are usually made up of either all wood slats or MDF board. Sometimes they are built with both metal and wood but, actual springs are seldom used. More often the metal portion is a series of rods that form support. Regardless of their construction, they are designed to create a solid, even base. The box / foundation is placed on top of a metal bed frame below the mattress. They should be a firm structure with some flexibility. In theory, this adds durability to your mattress by absorbing body weight.

While box springs are usually very sturdy, they do break down over time. Under regular usage, a box spring has the same lifespan as your average mattress. It should be changed every eight to ten years to provide optimum functionality. If you buy a new mattress without replacing the old box, you run the risk of premature sagging. It’s important to note that a mattress warranty can be voided if it’s determined the cause was a defective box spring. For a mattress to be considered defective, most companies require there to be a minimum of 1” – 2” body impression. An old or deteriorated box spring that loses its support can easily cause this much of an impression. Thus, disqualifying the mattress from replacement consideration.

There are a set of questions that you can ask yourself if you are struggling to gauge whether you need a box spring or not. These can also help you in deciding what type of box spring you need to buy if you’re having trouble with that decision.

What Is the Your Ideal Bed Height?

Platform beds are usually lower than regular beds with box springs. Therefore, if you are a person with a back or knee problem, you may have trouble using a platform bed. You find box springs of different sizes, which means that the height of the bed can be adjusted to your preference.

Standard box spring height: 8″ – 9″

A standard box spring/foundation is the norm for most average height mattresses on standard frames. Usually, this will be the foundation of choice for mattresses 9” – 14”.

Low Profile Foundation 4″ – 6″

A low profile Box spring/foundation is a nice option if your mattress is 15” or higher. Or, if you are petite and find even average height mattress sets too high to get into comfortably. It’s also worth considering if you have a higher than standard 8” high frame. Years ago, mattresses were much thinner and beds were built differently. We have seen antique frames that are as high as 10” – 12” off the ground. For these beds, a low profile foundation will usually bring you back to a more manageable height.

Bunkie Board 2″

Bunkie boards are thin wood or composite materials designed to provide support while

Adding only a minimal amount of height. They are commonly used for bunk beds, day beds and platform beds. While not as aesthetically pleasing, a sheet of ¾” ply wood can be substituted. Platform beds with a solid surface do not need a bunkie board. However, if your mattress is going on slats more than 3” apart, additional support is required. The same can be said for bunk beds and day beds.

These are the important things you should think about when considering how high your foundation should be:

  • How tall is your mattress?
  • How tall is your frame?
  • What is a good overall height for you?

For best results, take time to consider these questions before making your purchase. Varying foundation sizes allow for easy height customization.

What Is Your Personal Sense of Style and Aesthetics?

If you like the traditional look of beds that you have grown up with or seen your family use, it may be a safe bet to go with a traditional box spring. On the other hand, if that does not sit well with your style, you may want to choose a platform bed that works for you personally.

Will I Need Split Box Spring?

The main problem with other types of beds, like platform beds, is transportation. They can be heavy and tough to carry around, while box spring beds can be dismantled and transported with greater ease.

Before purchasing a mattress, one of the most important questions you should ask yourself is whether or not you need split box springs. Most homes built during or after the 1960’s were designed to accommodate queen size mattresses. Prior to this period, a full size was the norm. First floor deliveries may not be a problem but narrow stairways leading upstairs are another issue. Mattresses are typically able to bend around tight corners. A standard box spring does not offer the same flexibility. This is where a split foundations can really save the day. Measuring only 30” wide, they easily go places the standard box spring will not. Moving into a new home is stressful enough. If you have concerns about whether or not a standard box spring will fit, we recommend being proactive and buying splits. Even if you don’t need them for this particular home, you may the next time you move. Purchasing splits along with your mattress usually adds about $50 to your total purchase. Buying a set at a later date could cost between $200 – $300.

While it’s very rare, even full size mattresses sometimes need split boxes. This is most common in older cape style homes where attics have been converted to bedrooms. Because they were not designed for this purpose, some may be a difficult delivery without splits. It’s important to note, not all manufacturers offer split fulls. If you do need one, don’t be discouraged. There are plenty of other companies that do. Full split box springs are manufactured as either horizontal or vertical splits. Either design will suffice for delivery purposes.

King size mattresses always come with split box springs. That said, they are considerably larger than both full or queen size. While the box springs may not be an issue, your mattress might be. If this is the case, you can combine to twin xl mattresses to make a king size bed. Just like the split king split foundations, twin xl mattresses measure 38” X 80”. Providing your bedroom is large enough, this is a good solution for those set on a king.

Regardless of the size you choose, take time to investigate the dimensions of your new home. A little bit of extra research and planning can save time, money and frustration on delivery day.

What Type of Mattress Do You Have in Mind?

Memory foam works great with platform beds, but other types of mattresses may work better if they are used with a box spring. This makes the investment into a box spring worth it. Box springs are also known to increase the lifespan of a mattress.

There are times when you may not need a new box spring at all. Platform beds, daybeds, bunk beds, and adjustable bases are all situations where a box spring is not necessary. A relatively new box spring that is still in decent shape may also be used  for a new mattress.

Platform Beds

A platform bed has a flat stable surface designed for the mattress to lie directly on top. For most of these beds, no additional foundation is necessary. Storage beds (sometimes called captains beds or mates beds), are common examples.

Some less elaborate frames can also save you the cost of a box spring. These simple but eloquent designs require no foundations.

Bunk Beds

While bunk beds do not use standard box springs, they do typically require a foundation. A bunkie board is usually placed across the slats of each bed to provide more stability and safety. Sheets of 1 ¼ “ plywood are also an adequate substitute.

Day Beds

Depending on their design, a daybed may or may not need a foundation. If a link spring is used or slats are very close together, it might not be necessary. Check with manufacturers specifications for details. Like bunk beds, a bunkie board would be the proper choice here. At 2” or less, they offer enough support without raising the mattress too high.

Adjustable Bases

Over the last 10 years, adjustable bases have become increasingly popular. These structures require no box spring. The base itself is the foundation. The ability to customize your sleep position aids health and personal comfort. Elevating your head benefits both GERD and Sleep apnea sufferers. Changing the height of your head and feet can also take pressure off your lower back.

Additionally, an adjustable bases can lift your head to a nearly seated position. This is great for those who wish to read or watch TV before dozing off.

Using An Existing Box Spring

On standard bed frames, there are also circumstances where you may be able to reuse your old foundations. Once in a while, a mattress is replaced after only a few years. It may have been stained, damaged or maybe just not comfortable. If your box does not show excessive wear, you may be able to continue using it. Be aware, some manufacturer warranties are contingent on proof that a solid stable foundation has been used. A mattress warranty can be voided if it’s determined the cause was a defective box spring. For a mattress to be considered defective, most companies require there to be a minimum of 1” – 2” body impression. An old or inferior box spring that loses its support can easily cause this much of an impression. Thus, disqualifying the mattress from replacement consideration.


There is a lot to think about when considering which (if any) box spring is appropriate for your mattress. Whether you need split box, low profile foundations or no foundation all depend on a variety of factors. Regardless, the decision is far more important than many shoppers believe. Prior to purchasing your mattress, take time to get proper measurements and decide what type of bed you’ll be sleeping on. Having all this information at your disposal will make your buying decision far easier and less stressful.


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