What Is a Box Spring? Here’s All You Need to Know

Every time you go out to buy a mattress or are looking at changing your bed, the word box spring will scream out at you from everywhere. In online blogs and websites, stores, and magazines, everybody seems to be suggesting that buying a box spring along with your mattress is a must. But what is a box spring? Do you really need to buy one if you are buying a new mattress? There is no fixed answer for this. What may work for you may not work for somebody else. But a box spring does have several advantages that you may find appealing. The following is a quick and easy guide to a box spring. Dive into the basics of what a box spring is and whether or not it is the right choice for you.

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    What Is a Box Spring?

    A box spring is basically a foundation or a base on which you can place your mattress. It typically comes with a wooden frame and has either metal rods or springs that help the mattress stay upright and not sag. It increases the life of the mattress by providing it with the right kind of support. Typically, it is put on top of a bed frame, providing the mattress with some height and support. If you don’t want to invest in a full, fancy bed you can also place your box spring directly on the floor. It’s a good way to protect the mattress as well as your back. They can be used with a variety of mattresses and are especially popular in North America and Europe.

    Why Do You Need It?

    As described above, a box spring has several uses. You don’t always need one, but a box spring can elevate your experience with a mattress and also give the mattress longevity. Besides, several mattress sellers require you to use a box spring if you want to maintain your warranty. If you continue to use your mattress on an uneven, unsupportive surface and it suffers damage, your warranty will not remain valid as it requires you to use a box spring to prevent damage to the mattress. So, just for the sake of having a valid warranty, you may need to use a box spring.

    But other than this minor technicality, a box spring does have several benefits:

    Benefits of a Box Spring

    The following are some of the common benefits of using a box spring with your mattress:

    • Provides Height – Using a box spring with your mattress provides the mattress with some height, which makes getting in and out of bed much easier. This is especially helpful for those with chronic knee and joint pain, like arthritis patients. If you are using a low lying bed frame, using a box spring will give the mattress the height it needs, and you will not have to bend too low every time you need to get into or out of bed.
    • Back Support – Lying down on a mattress that is sagging in the middle can wreak havoc on your spine in the long run. If your mattress is supported well, it will also support your back. If you wake up with backaches and strained necks often, there may be a problem with your mattress. If you do not use a box spring, get one, and you will start noticing the difference almost immediately.
    • Absorbs Shock – The springs in the box spring or whatever alternative to springs new manufacturers use in box springs allow it to absorb shock. So if you have kids jumping on the bed or if you tend to turn a lot in your sleep, the box spring will absorb all the shock. This is not possible if you place the mattress directly on the floor or into the bed frame. Chances are your kids will injure themselves if they jump directly on the bed or at the very least, the mattress will wear sooner if there is undue stress. The shock of any rapid movement is absorbed by the springs and by the wooden frame.
    • Improves Ventilation – A box spring also provides better ventilation to the mattress than if you place the mattress directly on the floor. Better ventilation also means your mattress will have a longer life. Ventilation is also important to prevent mold and dampness. This is crucial if you live in a hot and humid climate. Remember, if your cupboard catches mold it may still be possible to do some damage control. But, if mold seeps through your mattress and bedding, there’s a good chance you may have to get rid of it.

    When Can You Do Without One?

    But do you need a box spring at all times? Not really, you can also use a mattress without a box spring. Most people continue using box springs, even if they don’t need it, because their mattress warranty requires them to use a box spring. While there are many benefits of a box spring, as described above, there are also several downsides. You can do away with using a box spring as long as you find a suitable, more superior alternative.

    Downsides of a Box Spring

    The following are some of the disadvantages to using a box spring:

    • Storage – A box spring will eat up all your storage space under the bed. Most platform beds may come with some storage space underneath, but box springs typically only care about supporting the mattress. If you live in a cramped apartment and could use all the storage space you can get, a box spring may not be able to provide you with any extra storage space. It is as good as putting your mattress on the floor as, despite the elevated height, a box spring is not offering any extra storage space to you.
    • Less Ventilation Compared to Alternatives – Box springs do provide ventilation to the mattress but, its alternatives do a far better job. Box springs have been known to create conditions for mildew and mold buildup. It may also cause heat to be trapped inside the mattress, making it uncomfortable to sleep on. While several mattress manufacturers using new technology have found ways to keep the mattress cool despite the external temperature, if there is no airflow then those features will not work. Again, it is not that a box spring will provide no ventilation. It is certainly a better alternative than placing the mattress directly onto the floor. But there are enough and more alternatives that offer more airflow.
    • Extra Cost – This may be one of the most significant issues those purchasing mattresses may have. Even if your mattress does not really require a box spring, your manufacturer’s warranty will be valid only if you use a box spring. This seems like an unnecessary arm twisting, especially if you would rather use a different kind of bed base. Regardless, some manufacturers will insist you buy a box spring, compelling you to spend more than you planned.
    • Not Compatible with All Mattresses – If you have a latex or a memory foam mattress, using a box spring may become counter-productive even if you think you are providing support to your mattress. A latex mattress will take the shape of whatever you place it on. Box springs are meant to be supportive yet flexible, so they can absorb any kind of shock or rapid movement. But this flexibility means that a latex or memory foam mattress, which is meant to be just as soft and flexible, will not get the desired support from a box spring. Instead, you will start noticing that the mattress is sagging from inadequate support.

    What Are the Alternatives?

    So if there are so many downsides to box springs, what are the alternatives? Fortunately, there are many new alternatives you can use instead so there are plenty of options to pick and choose from. Here are some of the most popular alternatives:

    Platform Bed

    Platform beds are bed frames that can add panache to your room. They typically come along with a headboard and legs and give you a complete look of a bed. Platform beds also tend to have some space underneath for storage. The bed has wooden slats in the frame on which the mattress can rest. The wooden slats are also spaced out enough to provide support to not only the mattress but also ventilation. Though it may be an expense up front, a platform bed will last you much longer than a box spring and is, therefore, a better investment.

    Wood Slats

    If you do not want an entire bed but are okay with just a foundation, you can skip the platform bed and stick to just the wooden slats. This is essentially a ready-to-assemble (RTA) or a knockdown (KD) bed which is affordable, easy to use, and convenient to place anywhere in the room. Again, the wooden slats provide the mattress with adequate support and ventilation, and at the same time, the frame also provides the room with a more sophisticated look than a box spring might.

    Innerspring Mattress

    If getting a bed foundation seems like an added expense, you can simply buy a mattress that does not require as much support. An innerspring mattress, as the name may suggest, has an inbuilt support system that can absorb shock. They are also quite economical to purchase and are not difficult to find. Any reputable mattress seller will have a collection of innerspring mattresses. They also do an excellent job of retaining heat so it’s the perfect affordable mattress to get for a cold climate or if you want to use it directly on the floor. But be careful to clean the mattress regularly to prevent dust and mites.

    Since the springs are inside the mattress and not underneath it, you may hear some squeaking when you change sides at night.

    Memory Foam Mattress

    A memory foam mattress can also be used without a box spring. It is better to use one without a box spring. The elasticity of the foam used to make the mattress will provide the right kind of support and flexibility to you when you sleep. It is the best mattress for physiotherapy or if you experience joint, neck, and back pain. They also repel allergens and are perfectly safe to use if you suffer from allergies. They are, however, rather heavy to move and do not provide support from edge to edge. If your body weight is not too high, it is best if you sleep in the center of the mattress.

    Final Thoughts

    So, that was all you needed to know about box springs. Like anything else, box springs have major factors going for them as well as against them. But it is up to you to decide if it is something you would want to invest in. Do not buy a box spring simply because the salesperson at the store insists you should, (unless, of course, you cannot get a warranty without it). If the climate you live in, the orientation of your room and your budget suggest you should go for a box spring alternative, by all means, do what is best for you. A box spring is extremely useful and has been used by households for decades now, but with technology moving as rapidly as it is, there are several more superior alternatives out there. So weigh out the pros and cons and before you choose. In the end, all that matters is how well you sleep at night.


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