Mattress Foundation Guide
Learn how to choose the right mattress foundation for your budget, space and personal comfort preferences.
Aug 12th, 2022 •
The mattress foundation you choose to support your bed can have a major impact on the way your bed feels and how long it lasts you. A foundation is important for supporting both your mattress and your sleep.
We get it…you’ve spent all this time finding the perfect mattress, and now you have to research the best foundation to put it on between box springs, a platform bed, slatted foundations and more. Once you find the bed that’s right for you, you don’t want to mess it up by picking the wrong type of support.
Don’t sweat it: we’re going to help you navigate the world of mattress foundations and choose the best option for your mattress, your space, and your budget.
What is a Mattress Foundation?
A mattress foundation or bed frame is the support system you use to hold up your mattress. A box spring is the most popular type, but there are other types of foundations like platform beds and slatted frames that you can place your mattress on to raise the height of the bed. Additionally, a mattress foundation protects your mattress from wear-and-tear by providing it with additional support, helping to increase its lifespan.
Mattress foundations can be made of many materials. While they are often covered with a layer of fabric to appear more welcoming, most foundations are made of wood or a combination of wood and metal.
Over the last few years, foundations have risen in popularity due to their versatility. If you have a bed frame that isn’t compatible with your new mattress, a mattress foundation can go on top of the frame to provide additional necessary support. Then, you can place your mattress on top of the foundation, combining comfort and support for a great night’s sleep.
There are many different types including box springs, metal box springs, platform bases, bunkie boards, slatted bed foundations, metal bed frames, and adjustable bed frames. Which is best for you depends on your mattress type, sleeping preferences, and budget. We’ll explain each of these options so you know what you’re in for, plus we’ll share some of our top picks for each type of foundation!
A box spring is a sturdy platform usually made up of a wooden or metal framework and covered in material. Traditional box springs were constructed with actual springs inside the framework, but modern box springs don’t contain the springs anymore, making them more lightweight and easy to ship/transport.
Box springs can be used alone or with a metal or wood platform base.
Related: Best Box Spring
- Price range: ~$100-$300
- Best used with: Most types of mattresses. Some memory foam mattresses require a sturdier platform, so be sure to see what your manufacturer recommends before choosing a box spring.
Split foundation box springs are another good option if you have a small space or need easier transportation. Two separate pieces make up the full size of your bed. If you decide to use a split foundation, you’ll want to make sure you have a platform base or bed frame to rest it on so the pieces don’t separate or move around.
Our Favorite Box Springs:
- Budget Option: Zinus 9” high profile smart box spring – $114 for queen (Read our review!)
- Easiest Assembly: Simple Life 8” mattress box foundation – $261 for queen
- Brand Name: Leesa 7.5” foundation – $295 for queen
Metal Bed Frame
Metal bed frames are most commonly used to help keep the box spring in place and add even more height to your bed. They are not designed to support a mattress alone. Some metal bed frames are adjustable to fit the size of your bed.
- Price range: ~$50-$150
- Best used with: Box springs. You won’t want to put your mattress directly on a metal bed frame – there’s not enough support and this will cause your mattress to sag in weird places.
Our Favorite Metal Bed Frames:
- Budget Option: Classic Brands 7” heavy-duty metal bed frame (fits twin to cal king sizes) – $50
- Super Sturdy: NOAH MEGATRON 7″ heavy-duty, 9-leg support metal bed frame – $88
- Brand Name: Stone & Beam Vintage Arced Metal Bed Frame – $219
Metal Platform Base
Metal platform bases are a great way to support and raise your mattress while getting great storage underneath your bed. You can also place your mattress right on top of these platforms – a box spring is not needed.
Some assembly is usually required, but it’s much easier to break down and transport than a box spring. If you plan on using a headboard, you may need to purchase additional connector pieces in some cases.
- Price range: ~$90 – $200
- Best used with: Most types of mattresses. Some memory foam mattresses require a studier or more solid platform, so be sure to see what your manufacturer recommends before choosing a platform base.
Our Favorite Metal Platform Bases:
- Budget Option: Zinus 16” deluxe mattress foundation – $94 for queen
- Adjustable Height: DHP Brooklyn metal iron bed frame (7″ or 11″) – $190
- Brand Name: Purple 16.5” platform base – $174
Slatted Bed Foundation
Slatted bed foundations are made of wood or metal frames with planks of wood, metal or other materials with spaced slats across the frame.
Depending on the height, slatted bed foundations can also offer great under-bed storage. They can also provide better airflow if you are placing your mattress directly on top of one.
- Price range: ~$90-$500
- Best used with: Most types of mattresses. Some memory foam mattresses require a certain distance between the slats or sturdier material (i.e. solid, non-flexible wood), so be sure to see what your manufacturer recommends before choosing this foundation.
Our Favorite Slatted Bed Foundations:
- Budget Option: Zinus 14” metal bed frame with wooden slat support – $91 for queen
- Sleek Design: Ecos Living 12″ solid wood platform bed frame with headboard – $265
- Sturdiest: Olee Sleep 14” heavy duty steel slat bed frame – $91 for queen
A bunkie board is a piece of wood (usually plywood) or metal that can be used with an older box spring, foundation or platform bed for additional support underneath your mattress.
A bunkie board may be a good option if you are purchasing a new memory foam mattress (which is heavier and requires a sturdier foundation than the traditional innerspring mattress), but you don’t have the proper support with your current bed set up. It’s also a good way to add additional support for bunk beds. (Hence the term, bunkie board.)
- Price range: ~$50 – $200
- Best used with: Older box springs, foundations or platform beds that need added support to hold a foam, latex or hybrid mattress.
Our Favorite Bunkie Boards:
- Budget Option: Zinus 1.6” steel bunkie board – $65 for queen
- Fully Assembled: Spring Sleep 1.5” wood bunkie board – $152 for queen
- Brand Name: Crate & Barrel pine wood bunkie board – $120 for queen
Solid Platform Bed
A solid platform bed will typically provide the most support and durability of all the bed frame options. They also tend to be the most stylish if that’s something that’s important to you. However, with that comes a higher price tag. You can still find affordable solid platforms, but more material means more money.
Another thing to keep in mind with a solid platform is that you’re cutting off most of the airflow through the mattress, so it can cause heat to get trapped in your mattress while you sleep.
- Price range: ~$200 – $2,000
- Best used with: Heavier memory foam, latex or hybrid mattresses that need additional support.
Our Favorite Solid Platform Beds:
- Budget Option: South Shore 54″ platform bed – $114
- With Storage: South Shore 54″ platform bed with storage – $128
- All the Bells & Whistles: Prepac coal harbor platform storage bed with headboard – $468
Adjustable Bed Frame
Adjustable bed frames allow you to adjust the angle or elevation of your bed to a number of different positions, typically by remote control. Basically, they’re the crème de la crème of mattress foundations.
Aside from being awesome, they can also provide a number of health benefits. This bed frame can help alleviate back and joint pain, sleep apnea, acid reflux and snoring. It can also help promote healthy blood circulation. (It’s the same concept as elevating a body part after an injury.)
As you may have guessed, adjustable bed frames can cost a pretty penny – sometimes even more than your mattress. If it’s time to treat yourself, then an adjustable bed frame might be for you.
- Price range: ~$650 – $2,000
- Best used with: Most types of mattresses but can work especially well with memory foam or hybrid mattresses that are a little more malleable.
Our Favorite Adjustable Bed Frames:
- Budget Option: Naomi Home idealBase adjustable massage frame – $459
- Brand Name: Purple Powerbase – $1,499 for queen
- All the Bells & Whistles: Nectar Adjustable Bed Frame – $799 for queen
Believe it or not, your floor can be a viable solution for a mattress foundation…in some cases. It’s sturdy, flat and can hold the weight of your mattress evenly.
If you decide to put your mattress directly on the floor, it won’t be able to breathe as easily as a lifted platform and will be more prone to dust, mold and allergens. Setting your mattress on the floor can also make getting in and out of bed more difficult, but you will be exercising those quad muscles more!
- Price range: As long as you have a floor, free?
- Best used with: Foam and hybrid mattresses tend to work best on the floor. However, before you get set on this option, make sure the floor is on the list of recommended foundations for your particular mattress. Some warranties won’t be honored if you’ve been using your mattress on the floor.
Why You Need a Good Foundation for Your Mattress
A good mattress foundation can offer many sleeping benefits you may not even realize exist. While it might just seem like another “add-on,” you actually should think of your mattress and foundation as a pair. Here’s why your foundation is important for your bed:
- It provides added support. Putting your mattress on a strong foundation can help prevent sagging and can also change the way your mattress feels (in a good way); having the right mattress support means you’re experiencing all the benefits of your mattress the way it was intended.
- It helps your mattress last longer. A good, sturdy foundation helps keep your mattress structurally intact by absorbing some of the motion and weight put on your mattress, which helps it keep its shape longer so you can get your money’s worth.
- It adds height. A foundation can add up to 16 inches of height to your mattress, which makes getting in and out of your bed easier (especially important for seniors). Most nightstands are constructed assuming you’re using some sort of foundation with your mattress so the height will be in-line with your overall bed height.
- It keeps your bed in place. Good foundations help keep your mattress from moving around while you’re getting in and out of it, or while performing other night-time activities. (You know what we’re talking about.)
- It helps keep it clean. Raising your mattress off the ground can help protect it from dirt, dust and mold.
- It helps with airflow. Depending on the type of foundation you choose, it can help promote mattress breathability, and therefore, help you get a cooler night’s sleep.
Generally, you don’t want to put a brand new mattress on an old foundation. You wouldn’t build a new house on top of rotting wood, would you?
How to Choose the Best Mattress Foundation
When choosing your mattress foundation, there are a few things you’ll want to pay close attention to. Some might be more important to you than others, but ultimately you should be searching for something that offers supreme support for your comfort and well-being.
Pain is not beauty when it comes to mattress foundations, so make sure you’re prioritizing things like comfort and durability rather than aesthetics. Most of these foundations will be hidden under bed skirts or covers anyway.
Here are some factors that might influence which type of foundation you ultimately choose:
1. Consider the type of mattress you have
There are certain foundations that work best with the type of mattress you have (ie. memory foam, hybrid, innerspring).
For example, the best foundation types for memory foam mattresses are solid, flat foundations like a solid platform, slatted bed frame (as long as the materials are sturdy), or even the floor. Most mattress brands will include the types of foundations they recommend on their website.
The size of your mattress can also help inform how much support you need. For larger mattresses (queen, king and California king), you’ll want to make sure that your foundation can support the weight of your mattress as well as provide good center support so your mattress doesn’t sink in the middle.
2. Define your budget
Mattress foundations can cost anywhere between around $100-$2000 depending on preference. Luxury mattress foundations, like adjustable bed frames with remote controls, can end up costing more than $1,000, even more than your mattress.
A decent foundation typically costs between $200-$500. You shouldn’t skimp on your foundation since it’s an important part of your sleeping setup, but there are more budget-friendly options available, even below $100.
3. Shop for durability and longevity
Pay attention to the quality of materials your foundation is made from. You’ll want to make sure it lasts you a while and is also built to adequately support your mattress. If it looks cheap and you’re worried about it falling apart in a matter of weeks, you might want to raise your expectations.
4. Evaluate ease of setup and breakdown
Some foundations that are shipped online and require assembly can be like a life-size jigsaw puzzle, while others are much simpler to build. If ease of set-up is important to you, make sure you pay attention to how it ships and what kind of assembly is required.
5. Consider style and design
Many foundations will be covered by a bed skirt or other bedding materials, which makes this factor less relevant, but there are some beautiful bed frames that can really serve as a statement piece to your bedroom.
Even if style is not top on your list, you’ll definitely want to make sure your foundation fits your mattress and fits in your room. If you’re planning to use an existing headboard, make sure you map out the dimensions to see if it will still work with your new foundation.
6. Check the warranty
Not all mattress company warranties are covered if you use a foundation that’s not recommended by them. Make sure you take note of the policy for your mattress and whether it only covers damages or sagging if you’re using a recommended foundation.
If you’re not sure, just ask. Most mattress companies offer a live chat service or have a customer service representative you can contact to find out.
If you’re still not sure which foundation is going to work best with your mattress, it never hurts to reach out to the company you bought your mattress from and see what they recommend.
Let them know what you’re willing to spend and what size bed you have. Even if you don’t love what they come back with, it might at least help you narrow your search.
Just remember that what you put your mattress on can be just as important as the mattress itself. A strong foundation can help you experience all the benefits that your mattress has to offer.
If you have any questions about mattress foundations or have a foundation that you love, let us know in the comments below.
FAQs About Mattress Foundations
Do I need a foundation for my mattress?
While your mattress may not need a foundation, there are a few benefits to using a mattress foundation.
First, your mattress warranty may require a mattress foundation. If you end up needing to return your mattress for any reason, the mattress company may ask for images of your mattress set up in order to process the return, refund, or repair.
Some mattresses will sink if a mattress foundation isn’t used. This permanently damages the mattress, not to mention how you might feel after sleeping on an unsupported mattress.
Do memory foam mattresses need a box spring?
No, but they do best with some form of support. Memory foam mattresses can sometimes require a sturdier platform than a box spring offers, so be sure to check with your retailer/manufacturer. You can read more about the support memory foam mattresses require in our guide answering the question: Do memory foam mattresses need box springs?
Can I just put my mattress on the floor?
You can put your mattress on the floor, but it makes your mattress more prone to dust and mold. Memory foam and some of the best hybrid mattress brands work fine on the floor, but before you opt for this, be sure to check your mattress warranty. Some warranties will not be honored if you use your mattress on the floor.
How tall should a bed frame be?
The average bed height is about 25″ for ease of climbing in and out of bed. Consider the thickness of your mattress (generally between 6-14″) to decide how tall of a bed frame you need. The thicker/taller your mattress is, the shorter of a bed frame you will need. For thinner/shorter mattresses, you may want a taller bed frame.
What is a high-profile mattress foundation?
A high-profile mattress foundation is typically 9 inches high, while a low-profile foundation can range from 2-6 inches.
If you have a thinner mattress, a high-profile foundation will help to raise your mattress. If you’d like your mattress to sit higher, consider a high-profile mattress foundation.
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