Mattress Foundation: A Complete Guide To Help

By: Ryan Poppie Reading Time: 12 minutes

Mattress Foundation Guide
Reading Time: 12 minutes

The quality of a mattress is vital for helping you get a great night’s sleep, as you likely know. But did you know that mattress foundations are just as necessary, not just for you, but also for your mattress?

What is a mattress foundation?

A mattress foundation is simply a base or frame that your mattress rests on top of. Historically, the most popular type of mattress foundation has been the box spring. But these days, you have choices.

Mattress foundations are typically between 4 and 18 inches in height or what is known as low, standard, or high profile. If you have an unusually thick mattress, maybe you opt for a low-profile foundation so climbing into bed each night doesn’t feel like exercise.

Mattress foundations are usually constructed of wood or metal and can come with or without legs.

Why do mattress foundations matter?

Your mattress foundation is vital for extending the lifespan of your mattress. A high-quality foundation protects a mattress from getting dirty, sagging, or sliding. Poor foundations can cause instability, increase partner disturbance, and make noise. A poor mattress foundation may negatively affect your mattress’ warranty, so read that fine print.

The best reason to choose your mattress foundation wisely may have more to do with your health. Ryan Poppie, Bedmaker

When a mattress sags – often due to a poor-quality foundation – you’re more likely to wake with aches and pains and a back screaming for more stability.

Air circulation is another consideration. A breathable mattress only works with a breathable mattress foundation. And staying cool will help keep you asleep throughout the night and make you feel more rested come morning.


Benefits of a mattress foundation

Besides the benefits of getting better sleep and all that comes with that – like improved daytime productivity and better long-term health – here are a few other reasons you don’t want your mattress sitting foundation-less on the floor.

Fewer trips to the mattress store: Your expensive mattress will last longer with a good foundation. If you like saving money, this benefit should appeal to you. And remember that some mattress warranties may be voided if your foundation isn’t befitting the mattress sitting on top of it, according to the manufacturer.

  • Added height: A mattress foundation will add height to your bed. This is great if your mattress sits lower than it should or on the floor, which we’ve determined to be a no-no. However, aim for around 25 inches from the floor to the top of your mattress. You can raise that if you’re as tall as Shaq and your shoe size is nearly 25 inches. In other words, whatever works for you.
  • A cleaner mattress: Even though you clean your house regularly, your floor still has hair, dust, dead skin, insects, bed bugs, mites, and allergens. Do you want your mattress closer to those things? Because these will find their way into your mattress. So, don’t let the bed bugs bite… by getting a mattress foundation.
  • Improved airflow: Better airflow equals a cooler mattress and a better night’s rest. However, it also supports your bed. If your mattress sits on a solid platform, like your floor, heat gets trapped inside it while you sleep. This heat is a breeding ground for mold and mildew, which can have catastrophic adverse health effects and completely ruin a mattress.
  • No more sliding: Sleeping in your bed shouldn’t feel like a day at Water World. If your mattress has a way of sliding around while you sleep and isn’t possessed, a suitable mattress foundation will fix that. Your sleep will improve, and you’ll stop waking up in the middle of the night thinking you’re on a water slide.

Types of Mattress Foundations

One size never fits all. Not when it comes to clothing. And not when it comes to mattress foundations.

Here are the most common foundation types and a little about each to help you choose what will work best for you.

Box spring / Foundation:

Box Spring - FoundationA box spring is a wooden frame with a layer of steel coils.

These cost between $300 and $600+ for a queen mattress and pair best with innerspring mattresses made with traditional knotted or offset coil systems.

The foundation looks like a box spring but doesn’t flex; it is rigid.

Foundations can be made entirely from wood or a welded steel grid system on top of a wood frame—foundations best suit Marshal-type (fabric-encased) coil systems, latex, hybrid, or memory foam mattresses.

If choosing a foundation, we recommend you consider a heavy-duty foundation that will last a lifetime and provide the best support.

Metal & Hybrid bed frames:

Metal Bed FrameMetal frames are not designed to support just a mattress.

These work best when paired with a foundation or box spring, as being off the floor has airflow benefits.

Metal bed frames cost between $50 and $300 for a queen.

A reasonable metal frame should come with a bracket to connect a headboard if you choose.

We carry and recommend the EmBrace hybrid bed frame from Knickerbocker.

Platform beds

Plarform Bed FrameThese mattress foundations are the most stylish and durable bed foundation options and a great box springs alternative.

Platform bases cost between $200 and $2,500+ and work well with any mattress type.

Platform bases are usually made of wood or metal and can be solid or slatted.

Remember, a solid base will have less breathability and poorer air circulation.

Slatted foundations

These are a variation of the platform bases. Slatted foundations have planks of wood, metal, or other materials with spaced slats across the frame.

Remember that wood-slatted foundations may cost less but can bend over time.

Slatted foundations cost between $100 to $300 for a queen and can be paired with any mattress type.

Adjustable bed frames

Adjustable Bed FrameThese frames allow you to adjust your bed’s head and foot elevation or angle to several positions, typically by remote control.

As you may have guessed, these bed foundations range in price, depending on the quality and key features, between $600 and $2,500 for a queen size.

These frames are best paired with more flexible mattresses like the Luxcore Spring system (fabric encased) coil spring, foam, or latex.

Bunkie boards

Bunkie BoardA bunkie board is a slim, slatted frame covered in fabric and set on top of slats. 

These were traditionally used for bunk beds but are more commonly used today on slat-style platform beds requiring additional support.

They work the same way as box springs but with a lower height profile.

Bunkie Boards cost between $50 and $250 for a queen.

 


Mattress foundation sizes and dimensions

You’ll find mattress foundations roughly the same size as the six standard mattress sizes: twin, twin XL, full, queen, king, and California king. Some foundations are sized precisely like mattresses; others are 2 to 3 inches wider or longer than the corresponding size.

Here are the standard dimensions of each mattress, including family-size beds:

  • Twin 38.5 inches by 74.5 inches
  • Twin XL 38.5 inches by 79.5 inches
  • Full 53.5 inches by 74.5 inches
  • Queen 59.5 inches by 79.5 inches
  • King is 75.5 inches by 79.5 inches
  • California King 71.5 inches by 83.5 inches
  • Family King Lite 107.5 inches by 79.5 inches
  • Family King 119.5 inches by 79.5 inches
  • Family King Max 143.5 inches by 83.5 inches

Some mattress manufacturers like us add ½ inch to these standard dimensions for more accuracy.

Learn more about what mattress size you need here.  (chart below updated 2-22-24)

 

Mattress Sizes Chart and Bed Dimensions Guide - The Beloit Mattress Company

 

It bears repeating that some foundation sizes are larger than the same size mattress.

So, if you’re short on space in your bedroom, you’ll want to keep this in mind as you shop for a mattress foundation.

Size does matter… sometimes.

 


What types of mattress foundations to avoid

Beware of cheap mattress foundation trends, like the popular bed-in-a-box brands. Yes, the prices are reasonable. And yes, the convenience is good, but the benefits mostly end there. Many foundations and frames today are designed to fit in a small box, not to support your new mattress properly.

Online retailers and importers need them to fit in a small box for shipping efficiency so UPS or FedEx can ship them.

If you want to make mattress and foundation shopping a fun yearly experience, why not? Otherwise, know that cheap foundations break down more quickly. They don’t provide the support you need for a good night’s rest. And they do nothing to support the life of the mattress.

Instead, consider investing in a solid, heavier foundation that will last longer than a football season.

Bottom line, when choosing a foundation type, look for more slats, stronger slats, and materials that won’t quickly begin to sag.


What to consider when choosing a mattress foundation

Here are six factors to consider when choosing your next mattress foundation:

  1. Your mattress: Regarding mattress foundations and mattresses, some combinations work well, and some do not. We’ll break this down entirely in the next section.
  2. Your budget: There is a lot of price variance regarding mattress foundations. And because you usually get what you pay for, you’ll have to balance your mattress foundation’s quality, price, and longevity.
  3. Quality is vital: You want to find a bed foundation that lasts, so pay close attention to the materials used to manufacture your new foundation. Durability and longevity are the goals here. It probably is if it looks like an angry stare away from falling apart.
  4. Setting up and breaking down: Assembly may be required. Do you have the necessary skills to assemble a mattress foundation? Do you have the tools, or just a hammer and screwdriver hiding in a kitchen drawer? Know what you’re getting yourself into, especially if you have happy feet and move every few years.
  5. Style and design: Once you have the practical figured out, it’s time to turn to eye-of-the-beholder concerns. Are you trying to make a statement or get a good night’s sleep? Also, if using a headboard, ensure it works with your new foundation.
  6. Warranties matter: Your mattress’ manufacturer would love it if your new foundation inspired your mattress to outlast the warranty. But if you choose a mattress foundation counterproductive to that goal, you may find your mattress warranty voided.

What type of base is best for your mattress?

Finding a mattress foundation that goes best with your mattress is essential, as some combinations work better than others. Below are the five most common types of mattresses and the best mattress foundations to pair with each.

Memory foam mattress

Memory FoamThe best foundations for memory foam are solid and flat and prevent sinking.

Ensure the slats are at most 2.75 inches apart, or be prepared to use a bunkie board.

Do not use a box spring or slatted foundations with wide gaps between beams.

Polyfoam mattress

Polyfoam MattressOtherwise known as a Polyurethane mattress and a common type in the bed in the box industry. 

This type can be used with most mattress foundations thanks to its durability.

However, a bunkie board or platform base should work the best and provide the most comfort.

Latex mattress

Latex MattressThis type is similar to memory foam yet combines latex with either springs or foam to create a supportive sleep surface.

In their natural form, latex mattresses come from the sap of a rubber tree. 

Latex mattresses are softer and require a solid base foundation and slats not more than 2.75 inches apart.

Hybrid mattress

Hybrid MattressesA Hybrid mattress combines features of innerspring, foam, and even latex. 

Hybrid mattresses also require more support due to the foam used inside the spring coil base.

Pairing this mattress type with a solid base foundation and slats not more than 2.75 inches apart is recommended.

Innerspring mattress

Innerspring MattressesInnerspring mattresses use metal coil (mostly steel) support systems in single units or individually wrapped pocketed coils.

These mattresses are durable and will work on most mattress foundations.

You can choose between box springs if you have a traditional knotted or offset coil system, solid bases, and slatted foundations if you have an open-end offset or a Marshal-type (fabric-encased) coil system.

SHOP MATTRESSES


What are the best mattress foundations?

Perhaps we’re a little biased, but if you’re looking for durability, quality, and style, The Beloit Mattress Company’s Amish-built, heavy-duty mattress foundation offers 3X the slats of industry standards (18 instead 6) and double center support to help reduce motion transfer and extend the life of your mattress.

If you want a foundation that lasts a lifetime and can be used every 8-10 years when you purchase a new mattress, a Queen is only $305.

Check it out today!

SHOP FOUNDATIONS

 


FAQ

Do I need a box spring and a bed frame?

We recommend it. Bed frames are designed to support box springs. If your mattress manufacturer recommends a new box spring for your mattress type, we recommend getting a bed frame to help it.

Do mattress foundations need to be replaced?

If there is any damage or wear and tear to your current box spring/foundation, such as tears, bowing, cracks, bending, or even creaking, we highly recommend replacing it. A new foundation will help you maximize comfort, support, and the lifespan of your new mattress while experiencing the best sleep.

How do I determine if my mattress foundation needs to be replaced?

Most mattresses should sit on top of a rigid, hard foundation. To test if your foundation is in good shape:

  1. Take your mattress off the foundation.
  2. Look at the box springs and make sure they’re entirely level. We recommend placing the box spring if you run your hands across and feel any high or low spots.

If your box spring is ten years old, replace it. If it’s less than ten years, perform steps #1 & 2 above.

How often should you replace mattress foundations?

Foundations don’t last forever. A well-built box spring lasts about ten years before it needs replacement. We recommend replacing it if it is more than ten years old. For example, if your foundation is already 15 years old and you get a new mattress that you expect to last 10 to 15 years, that means you would be asking that foundation to last 25 to 30 years.

The likelihood is even if the foundation is still okay right now, it will probably fail sometime during the life of the new mattress, and you will have to replace it then. It makes more sense and will cost less to replace when you buy your new mattress.

Do mattress foundations wear out?

Depending on the foundation’s manufacturer and frequency of use, coils in a box spring can wear out over time. We recommend an Amish-built foundation from The Beloit Mattress Company. Our heavy-duty foundation offers 3X the slats of industrial standards (18 slats, not 6) with double center support for superior support to help reduce motion transfer and extend the life of your mattress.

Can I place my mattress directly on a bed frame?

No, we do not recommend you place your mattress directly on a bed frame. While the average bed frame may include 2 or 3 slats, they are made for a box spring, not to support your mattress. Placing your mattress directly on a bed frame will ultimately cause your mattress to sag and would most likely void your mattress warranty.

Are platform beds a good choice?

Platform beds are okay if it is a natural platform. Ridged platforms work well. However, some are made with slats.

If you get a slat-style platform bed, ensure the slats are close together. We recommend getting a platform with slats no more than 4″ apart.

Also, ensure the slats are solid and don’t flex or bow. If you have a platform bed that is not solid, consider adding a bunkie for support.

What’s the difference between a box spring and a foundation?

A box spring is a wooden or metal frame covered in breathable fabric that contains steel coils. A foundation is a material frame with a solid surface or slats across the top.

Do you need a foundation under the mattress?

The short answer is no. But if you’re looking for a better night’s sleep and are concerned about extending the life of your mattress, saving money, and eliminating hassles, it’s best to use some mattress foundation.

Do memory foam mattresses need a box spring?

Memory foam mattresses do require a foundation. However, it’s best to use a more solid foundation with memory foam, as outlined in the above section. A box spring would be a poor choice.

Can I put my mattress on the floor?

You can and you may. But your sleep will suffer. Your mattress won’t last as long. And whatever bacteria, hair, dust, and bugs are on your floor will eventually make their way into your mattress. So, I guess it’s up to you.

How high should a bed frame be?

The typical bed heights of bed frames (top of mattress) range from 18 to 36 inches off the floor, with the average being around 25 inches. But it also depends on your size and personal circumstances.

Are there low-profile mattress foundations?

Yes, mattress foundations are typically between 4 and 18 inches in height or what is known as low, standard, or high profile.

Can I put a mattress foundation on a bed frame?

Yes, but it depends on the mattress foundation. Some include their frame. And some, like box springs, are designed to be used with or without a frame.

 

Have more questions? 

Please chat with us!!


Are you in the market for a new foundation?

 

About Ryan Poppie

Ryan Poppie, President and Chief Bedmaker at The Beloit Mattress Company. He's not just a mattress maker but a true expert in sleep. Leading a 4th generation family business, Ryan uses his deep sleep knowledge to ensure every mattress made gives his customers the best rest possible. Each custom mattress is handcrafted to show his love for sleep and how it can improve our lives. With his team, Ryan's passion is to improve your quality of life through a better night's sleep.

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