What's the Difference Between a Box Spring and Foundation?

Learn the difference between these two common bases used to support your mattress

By Alesandra Woolley

Aug 11th, 2022

When it comes to purchasing a new mattress and bed frame, there’s an important decision to make before deciding on the type of bed you want to buy. You need to determine whether to purchase a foundation or box spring to support your new mattress.

Your choice of base will determine the type of mattress and bed frame that you will need, and vice versa. There are a variety of pros and cons for both box springs and foundations to consider. So without further ado, let’s dive into the box spring vs. foundation debate in an effort to help make your bed purchasing journey a bit easier.

What’s a Box Spring?

A traditional box spring is a type of mattress base traditionally designed to support an innerspring mattress. Box springs are made with a wooden frame, steel support springs, and a cloth cover. There is also a chance that instead of wood, a box spring may be entirely made of steel.

A box spring can fit atop a small, foldable metal frame that allows for a headboard and optional footboard to be attached to it, or a more solid bed frame should you choose to use one. However, box springs can also remove the need for a bed frame for support should that be your preference. The best innerspring mattresses perform extremely well on box springs because they provide the support needed to prevent sagging and keep the mattress’ form. With some mattresses, you may have to ask – do you need a box spring?

Pros

Economical

Motion absorption

Support that prevents sagging and evenly distributes body weight

Raising the bed off the ground

Box springs allow a mattress to sit higher off the ground and this makes getting in and out of bed a bit easier. They also help extend the life of a mattress through the prevention of sagging caused by the weight of the sleeper ,as they absorb the shock from the body and distribute body weight evenly. The shock absorbers in box springs help to reduce movement when a sleeper tosses and turns throughout the night. Box springs can also save money since you don’t necessarily need a bed frame when you have a box spring to support your mattress.

Cons

Not as good for latex or memory foam mattresses

❌Can be heavy

Squeak as they break down over time

Box springs aren’t ideal for supporting mattresses that do not have springs. In fact, using a box spring for memory foam mattresses or latex mattresses can sometimes void their warranty. They are also heavy and take up extra space in the bedroom. Furthermore, a box spring will break down over time and can become uneven as the wood becomes less flexible and brittle. This can lead to mattress sagging and bed squeaking as it’s no longer being properly supported. The wooden slats inside a box spring can also break, and this may go unnoticed due to the cloth wrapping. If you’re mattress is sagging, head over to our guide on the best mattresses that won’t sag for some new recommendations.

What’s a Foundation?

A foundation is a solid wooden or metal frame that is designed to support a mattress. Some are designed to sit on the floor, while others may be placed atop a bed frame. There are foundation designs that are a bit like box springs with a breathable fabric covering the frame and wooden slats, while others are solid wooden structures without any gaps. The solid types of foundations are very similar to platform beds.

Foundations are typically made with a flat corrugated board that is attached to the top of the foundation. Bunkie boards may also be placed atop a mattress foundation for added support. Foundations do not need to be used with a bed frame and are great space savers as they can be placed directly on the floor. This may be ideal for a person who has a king size mattress and doesn’t want to take up much more space. Foundations or platform bed frames are best used for mattresses that are not innerspring, such as latex mattresses and memory foam mattresses, although they can be used with any type of mattress.

Pros

✅Exceptional support

✅Sturdy; do not break down over time easily

✅Great for all mattress types, especially memory foam and latex

Foundations offer the same benefits as box springs in terms of support and bringing a mattress to a height that makes getting in and out of bed easier. Solid foundations do not break down over time like box springs do. They also offer greater support and prevent sagging more—increasing the life expectancy of the mattress.

Cons

❌Heavy

❌Non-Flex

Foundations can be heavy and solid varieties are not ideal for a sleeper who doesn’t require a firm sleeping surface. This is because of the nature of the solid material and construction. It doesn’t allow for any give, and this could cause a person to wake up with body aches and headaches if he/she sleeps in the same position throughout the night.

Box Spring vs Foundations: What’s the Difference?

While it may seem like box springs and foundations are interchangeable, they aren’t the same. Below are the key differences for you to consider.

Mattress Compatibility

When most mattresses were made with springs, a box spring was required to absorb some of the strain put on the mattress support system. Today, box springs continue to be an ideal option for many traditional innerspring mattresses.

Latex, memory foam, and hybrid mattresses often require more support than a box spring can offer, which is why a foundation is typically more ideal for these types of mattresses.

To confirm if a box spring or foundation is better for your mattress, be sure to read the mattress warranty, which will clearly state which type your mattress requires.

Construction

While a foundation and box spring can look similar, their constructions are quite different. A box spring is a frame, made from either wood or metal, that contains supportive coils and is wrapped in some type of fabric. A foundation is a frame made up of slats or wooden panels laid across its top.

Support

Box springs offer sleepers more bounce and give due to their spring support system, while foundations provide more solid support to prevent mattresses from sagging over time. A box spring will certainly provide some additional support, but its primary purpose is to absorb shock as a sleeper moves around on a mattress. If you require firmer support, a foundation is probably the best option for you.

Durability

Box springs rely on support from their inner coils. Over time, and depending on the frequency of use, these coils can wear out, compromising the support they provide for your mattress.

Foundations are often more durable because they don’t rely on coils for support and instead rely on wooden slats that are less subject to wear and tear over the years.

Price

The cost of a box spring or foundation is highly dependent on the size you need to support your mattress. Like mattresses, a smaller size box spring or foundation will be cheaper than a larger option. In general though, foundations typically cost a bit more than box springs. The average cost of a box spring for a queen mattress is $200, while the average cost of a foundation for a queen mattress is $350.

Alternatives to Box Springs and Foundations

In addition to box springs and foundations, there are several other options for supporting a mattress during the night. These include adjustable bases and platform beds. Adjustable bases are ideal for snorers, or sufferers of sleep apnea, as they have a remote that allows the for the bed to be adjusted in terms of elevation and angle between 40 and 70 degrees.

Platform beds are simple bed frames that sit on the ground and do not require a box spring or foundation. They are solid pieces of wood that are space saving and have a modern design appeal. The ideal foundation for your mattress will largely depend upon your unique sleep preferences and desired mattress type, so if you’re unsure of the type of mattress you are looking for, it may help to review our mattress guides to help narrow down your options.

Box Spring vs. Foundation FAQs

While most newer mattresses do not require a box spring, make sure to read your mattress warranty. Your warranty will clearly outline what type of box spring or foundation your mattress needs so that you’re supported thoroughly throughout the night.

While some floor mattresses don’t require a foundation, most mattresses require the support that a foundation provides.