Do You Need a Boxspring?
Jake Comfort | Updated: April 2, 2021
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One of the most common questions that people ask us is if they need a boxspring or not. This is a good question to ask, as boxsprings aren’t cheap, and if your mattress requires one then the price of the mattress isn’t the true price you’ll have to pay to be able to use the mattress.
A boxspring is the mattress-like item that lies underneath a mattress but on top of the frame. This guide will help you understand the functions of a boxspring, the circumstances under which you need a boxspring and when you don’t, the differences between a boxspring and a foundation, and end with a brief discussion about putting a mattress on the floor.
What does a Boxspring Do?
A boxspring has two primary functions, acting as a foundation for a mattress and increasing the height of the mattress. A stable foundation helps you get the best performance out of your mattress, and helps make sure the surface is level so that you can get a restful night’s sleep.
Having the mattress at a higher elevation can help you get into or out of bed. It also assists with many of the other activities that you use a bed for, like sitting down while putting on socks, keeping your clothes in easy reach when you’re getting dressed in the morning, and adult playtime.
It’s also worth noting that many mattress companies require you to use a boxspring as part of the conditions for their warranty. That’s why it’s especially important to understand all of the terms of your warranty before going through with a mattress purchase or making a decision about your need for a boxspring.
When do You Need a Boxspring?
Traditionally, most innerspring mattresses need a box spring. The foundation gives these mattresses the ability to push back against you and function properly without causing damage to the bottom of the mattress. However, as technology and our understanding of fabrics, textiles, and materials has advanced, there are many modern innerspring mattresses that don’t require a boxspring.
One of the most important considerations in determining if you need a boxspring or not is what kind of bedframe you have. We’ll list some of the more common bedframes, explain if each requires a boxspring and the reason for our judgement.
It’s important to note that when we talk about bedframes we are talking about the actual structure the bed sits on, not the headboard of a bed, which plays a more decorative than structural role.
Collapsible Metal Frame
A collapsible metal frame is one of the most common types of bed frame. They’re used by people who plan on moving, and those who aren’t as concerned about the appearance of their bedframe. It consists of a series of metal rails with a lip to hold the bed. The frame, as its name implies, collapses when disassembled. This allows for easy transport or storage. Moreover, collapsible metal frames are usually made to accommodate all of the standard mattresses sizes. This makes them relatively cheap as they can be mass produced and used with any mattress.
While a collapsible metal frame does a good job of keeping your bed off the ground, it doesn’t have any kind of structural support under the middle of the mattress, only around the edges. As a result, this type of frame requires a box spring to provide a solid foundation for the mattress. After all, there’s no point in buying a nice mattress if it’s going to collapse into the frame that you’ve purchased.
Reinforced Metal Frame
A reinforced metal frame shares many qualities with a collapsible metal frame, with one important difference. A reinforced metal frame has a series of metal supports that run across the bottom of the frame. These supports provide a good deal of support and can work as the foundation for your mattress. As a result, they do an admirable job of limiting the amount of wear and tear on a mattress, as well as the sagging that you can get when your mattress lacks a proper foundation.
A solid platform bedframe is becoming an increasingly popular choice, especially with the rise of foam mattresses. It offers solid support for your mattress and does not require the use of a boxspring. In fact, not needing a boxspring is one of the major appeals of this frame for foam mattress owners, as the springs in a boxspring can alter some of the qualities of a foam mattress. Therefore, electing to go with this option helps you preserve the purity of the mattress sensation you spent your hard-earned money on.
Solid platform bedframes without a boxspring might not be a good option for people with bad knees, or older individuals. The platform frame is usually quite low, so these people might find they have a hard time getting into or out of bed without the extra height a boxspring provides.
A slats platform resembles a combination of the collapsible metal frame and solid platform designs. It consists of a metal frame with a lip running around the inside of it, and one or more sets of wood or plastic slates, bound together in a “Jacob’s Ladder” fashion. The slats are laid down the interior of the bedframe and act as a foundation for the mattress.
As you can tell, this design offers the foundation of the platform bed, along with some of the mobility and cost savings that you get from a collapsible metal frame. They’re one of the most popular options for young couples, first time bed-buyers, and those who move a lot but don’t want the hassle of a boxspring or full platform frame.
However, a slats platform bedframe also shares some of the downsides of the collapsible metal frame and the solid platform, especially issues with a lack of height when a boxspring is not utilized. Therefore, people with certain medical conditions and older individuals might have a hard time getting into and out of bed.
An adjustable bedframe raises and lowers the head and/or foot of the mattress it supports. You do not need a boxspring with an adjustable bedframe. The frames are designed to be able to fully support a mattress on their own. Moreover, if you decide that you want a boxspring, then you will have to buy a specialized product that can bend with the adjustable frame.
One alternative to boxsprings for an adjustable frame is an adjustable foundation. We’ll cover the difference between a boxspring and a foundation in more detail in the next section, but an adjustable foundation can give you the benefits of a boxspring while preserving the functionality of an adjustable bedframe.
The Difference Between a Box Spring and Foundation
While these terms are sometimes used interchangeably, the primary difference between a boxspring and a foundation is the use of springs. A boxspring actually contains springs, whereas a foundation does not.
The springs in a boxspring can give a mattress a bit more bounce than it has on its own. Moreover, some people feel that they do a better job of accommodating the mattress because they are slightly responsive to pressure because of the springs. A foundation is a solid surface and lacks springs, so it does not contribute to the bounce of a mattress, nor does it do a very good job of responding to pressure from above. If you’re purchasing a high-quality mattress like the ones we review on this site, then you won’t need to worry about the lack of response from a foundation, as a good mattress will provide enough support to prevent you interacting with the foundation level.
Putting a Mattress on the Floor
Some people question the need for a bedframe entirely, boxspring or no. However, there are several good reasons why you should avoid placing your mattress on the floor if you can possibly help it.
The first reason that you don’t want to put your mattress on the floor is that it reduces the airflow of the mattress. We’ve covered the importance of airflow in several of our guides, but you should know that it is the biggest factor in keeping your mattress cool. If the mattress is on the ground then it is cut off from where most of the airflow in a bedroom happens.
Putting a mattress on the floor is also less hygienic than using a frame. Everything that you find on a floor can get all over your mattress. That means you’ll be in closer contact with dirt, dust, crumbs, and other unsavory items. Having your mattress on the floor also means it’s easier for pests like dust mites or bed bugs to gain access to it, which is clearly something to avoid. Finally, putting your mattress on the floor creates a higher risk of exposure to toxic molds that can cause serious or even fatal medical ramifications.
When you place your mattress on the floor, you’re sleeping very close to the floor. As a result, it can be incredibly difficult to get back up once you’re laying down. This is especially important for those with medical conditions, or older individuals.
Finally, placing your mattress on the floor can void your warranty. As we covered in our guide to getting the best value, a good warranty can mean the difference between a mattress being an excellent deal or just being a mattress.