Do you really need a box spring? The answer is not quite as simple as yes or no. Box springs have been used for quite some time in the mattress world, with mixed results. In this article, we’re going to help you get to know a bit more about this popular mattress foundation. We’ll show you how the box springs function and discuss which mattresses they best suit. It’s best to use this article as a simple guideline for choosing the right base for your sleeping needs.
What is a box spring?
Before you decide if you need a box spring or not, you need to know what it is. A box spring is a type of bed base or foundation that was invented in 1883 by JP Legget. When you buy a mattress you will most likely have to pair it with a bed base or foundation. Some pairings work better than others, some are compulsory. The box spring has a wooden frame that is box-shaped and hollow. The frame usually sits on top of a metal frame for extra reinforcement and is covered in some form of cloth or fabric. The frame houses a set of coiled springs that are usually made from steel.
What does a box spring actually do?
You should now have a better idea of what box spring is, but what about its purpose? The box spring’s unique design allows it to provide support in a variety of ways. Below we’ve listed the primary functions of the box spring foundation.
Height and Aesthetic
The box spring considerably raises the overall height profile of your mattress. This makes it much easier for most sleepers to get and out of their beds. Raising your mattress off the floor also helps decrease the chance of getting bugs or critters in your bed. Having a raised bed generally adds to its overall aesthetic and can also provide a bit of space under the bed for some form of storage (shoes, books, etc).
Ventilation and Airflow
The hollow body of a box spring foundation means that the mattress that it supports won’t have any stunted airflow. If a mattress has insufficient airflow it can overheat. This is very evident in dense mattress designs, such as memory foam. Lack of airflow can also lead to moisture retention, which will severely decrease the lifespan of your mattress. Box springs are ideal for their highly efficient ventilation properties.
Support and Pressure Relief
The box spring is basically a large square shock absorber. The coiled springs that make up the body of this mattress are designed to reduce the impact or pressure caused by resting or moving sleepers. The box spring ideally adds an element of support and pressure relief to sleepers who need special attention given to these needs (such as side sleepers). Mattresses also generally perform better when sitting on top of a base as opposed to just resting on the floor.
This is usually a very vital, but overlooked benefit of having a box spring base. Some mattress companies will only offer their full warranty and return policies to customers who use their mattress with a box spring. This is usually because their mattress works best on a box spring, or may prematurely break down on another type of base.
Types of box springs
There are a handful of box springs designs, each one slightly different from the next. However, all of them serve the same overall purpose. It’s helpful to know how they differ so you can choose the right one for your sleeping requirements. We’ve listed the main types of box springs below to give you a better understanding of their design and subtle differences.
Coil Box Spring
These are the traditional box springs and one of the more frequently manufactured designs. As the name suggests, the base is made up of a box frame that houses a set of steel coils. These coils are placed evenly throughout the base and give your mattress extra bounce. These types of box springs work very well with innerspring mattresses. They have been known to sag or diminish prematurely under harsher conditions.
Zero Deflection Box Spring
These are the most popular types of box springs, as they suit a wider variety of mattress compared to the more traditional coil box spring. They are usually composed of wooden slats in the frame and are much sturdier and more durable than coil box springs. Some of these bases use steel wire to enhance the support of the springs in their design. As such, they are generally more expensive, but worth the extra money spent, due to their extra support and lifespan.
Semi-flex Grid Box Springs
Semi-flex box springs serve as a kind of compromise between traditional box springs and zero deflection box springs. While they do have the extra overall strength and support that the zero deflection bases offer, they also have a bit more elasticity in their overall framework. This can help add to the overall pressure relief that a mattress provides to sleepers and can really help enhance the general firmness and comfort levels of a mattress.
Low-Profile Box Springs
While these may come in a variety of heights, they are generally identified as either low or ultra-low profile box springs. Low profile box springs are around half the average height of a standard box spring, and ultra-low box springs are about a further half of that height. These bases are perfect for sleepers who don’t need expensive support or pressure relief from their beds, or for someone who does not want their bed to stand too high in their room.
Split box springs have the same design and support as regular box springs, but their focus is on mobility and accessibility. This type of base is usually split into two halves or more to help for easier movement in tighter spaces. While they may not have the exact level of support and comfort that regular box springs offer, they can be very useful in situations where space is very limited.
Box spring bases vs other foundations
Box springs are just one type of bed base/foundation that is on offer to mattress users. If you do not wish to use a box spring you might want to know what your other options are. Have a look through these alternatives listed below to help you decide if a box spring is really necessary for you.
- Solid Platform – These bases are much stronger in overall support compared to box spring mattresses. They usually consist of a wooden frame that houses a solid board or other textile used as a platform for the mattress. One major issue with these bases is that they drastically reduce ventilation in mattresses as the solid surface prevents the airflow beneath the body of the mattress.
- Slatted Frame – Slatted frames are quite popular amongst mattress users, especially because they are generally more affordable than other bases. They are made up of a wooden or metal frame with slats that run perpendicular to the body of the mattress for support. These base types provide very reliable support for most mattresses but don’t allow for much bounce or pressure relief compared to box springs.
- Adjustable Base – Adjustable bases usually cost quite a bit more than other bases, but they come with a variety of impressive features. These bases have two or more resting positions that you can switch yourself. They can come with luxurious add-ons such as USB charging ports, massagers, and a remote control but that will depend on the make and model you select. Even though these bases seem very appealing they can actually cause some mattresses to degrade prematurely.
Mattresses and box springs
The most important factor the determines your need for a box spring will be your mattress. As mentioned earlier, some mattresses work better with box springs than others. Innerspring mattresses usually work best with these types of bases as the base complement the bouncy design of the innersprings. However, box springs can be a bit too weak for larger or heavy mattresses, and their springs can sometimes damage softer textiles like memory foam, or latex.
Final thoughts: Do you really need A box spring?
- If used with the right mattress, box springs can really enhance the overall comfort levels and performance of a mattress. They are a time tested bed base that has a unique but simple design.
- One of the more appealing aspects of the box spring is that it allows for very efficient airflow and ventilation. This plays a large part in increasing the total lifespan of a mattress, as well as helping overly warm sleepers rest comfortably.
- We found that box springs work best with innerspring mattresses, but using traditional coil box springs can also lead to premature depreciation of your mattress.