What Is a Box Spring and Do You Need One?

A bed is more than a mattress—it’s your complete sleep setup, including the structure that elevates and supports it. You have a lot of options for this foundational component, and box springs are among the most common choices.

So, what is a box spring? It’s a type of bed base made with a wooden or metal frame and a cloth cover. Many box springs also include coils, hence the name, but not all. People typically use box springs in conjunction with a metal bed frame. 

What Is the Purpose of a Box Spring? 

Why bother with a box spring? Box springs serve three key purposes: 

  1. Box springs provide a solid foundation for your mattress, keeping it stable and buttressing its support. 

  2. They elevate your mattress, raising your sleep surface to a comfortable height for getting in and out of bed. Sleeping further from the floor is also more hygienic, and many people find a higher bed aesthetically pleasing. 

  3. Box springs allow air to flow in and out of your mattress. This helps keep your mattress clean and dry, extending its lifespan. 

While some sleepers like the look of placing their mattress directly on the floor, we strongly discourage it. A box spring or foundation provides the necessary support for your mattress; if you don't use a proper base, it may even invalidate your mattress warranty. Elevation from the floor is also good for hygiene, as dust mites and other allergens collect on the ground. And lastly, putting your mattress directly on the floor cuts off air circulation, which you need to keep your mattress fresh and dry. 

That said, box springs aren't your only option for supporting your mattress. You may also want to consider:

A Platform Base 

A platform base essentially combines the function of a bed frame and a box spring or foundation. The platform elevates your bed and provides a flat surface to stabilize and support your mattress. Most platforms have a solid surface or utilize a slatted design. You’ll find platform bases in a wide range of styles and materials, including metal, wood, and upholstered options.

An Adjustable Base 

Adjustable bases, also known as adjustable bed frames, let you control your bed’s positioning. You can elevate the head and foot of the bed to relieve pressure, combat snorting, and increase circulation, among other benefits. Your mattress rests directly on the adjustable frame, so you don't need to purchase any additional supports.  

There are pros and cons to each type of foundation, including box springs. Hopefully, this list of advantages and disadvantages will help you decide if a box spring is right for your sleep setup. 

Benefits of Using a Bed Box Spring

  • Box springs are among the most affordable options for bed foundations. 
  • They have a naturally breathable construction, letting air flow freely. 
  • Box springs weigh less than some foundation alternatives, making them easier to reposition. 

Disadvantages of Using a Bed Box Spring 

  • You need a bed frame to elevate and support your box spring. Typically, you have to buy the bed frame separately. 
  • Box springs don’t provide as much support as other foundation types. They generally aren’t a good fit for memory foam, latex, or hybrid mattresses. However, they do work well with traditional innerspring mattresses.
  • You can’t disassemble a box spring to make it more compact for moving or storage. 

Do You Need a Box Spring?

All beds require some form of foundational support, but whether or not you need a box spring depends on the rest of your sleep setup. 

If you have a platform bed, adjustable base, or another supportive foundation with a flat surface (solid or slatted), you do not need a box spring. If you have just a bed frame without a surface to support your mattress, then yes, you need a box spring. You should also take into consideration the type of mattress you own or intend to buy. 

Box Springs and Mattress Types

When setting up your bed, make sure the mattress and foundation that you own or plan to purchase are compatible with one another. Below, we’ve included a general guide to box spring and mattress compatibility. However, the support a mattress requires varies between brands and models, so be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions for proper setup. 

  • Innerspring Mattresses– Box springs and innerspring mattresses work well together. This is a pretty standard pairing that provides ample support, elevation, and airflow. 

  • Memory Foam Mattresses– Box springs are not an ideal fit for memory foam mattresses. Memory foam mattresses typically require more structure and support than a box spring provides. Instead, opt for a foundation or platform with a solid or slatted surface. 
  • AirFoam™ Mattresses– While you can use a box spring with your Nolah AirFoam™ mattress, we recommend a stronger alternative for maximum support and the longevity of your mattress. 
  • Latex Mattresses– Box springs also don’t pair well with latex mattresses. Latex weighs more than other mattress materials and requires a firmer, more supportive foundation than a box spring. 

  • Hybrid Mattresses– Hybrid mattresses also tend to weigh more and need more support than a box spring offers. 

Set Up for Quality Rest 

With a proper base, supportive mattress, cozy bedding, and plush pillow, you have everything you need for quality sleep. Each component of your sleep setup is essential for overnight comfort, including the foundation your mattress rests on. Without a foundation your bed will lack the stability and support you need for healthy, pain-free sleep. Plus, foundations help preserve your mattress, ensuring it lasts for the long haul.