Do Memory Foam Mattresses Need Box Springs?

Do Memory Foam Mattresses Need Box Springs?

Key Takeaways

  • Compatibility Issues: Placing a memory foam mattress on top of a box spring can lead to sagging and premature wear, potentially voiding the mattress warranty. Memory foam mattresses require consistent, uniform support to maintain their shape, and the flexibility of the foam can cause issues when combined with the flexibility of a box spring.
  • Box Spring Limitations: Traditional box springs are not suitable for memory foam mattresses as their coils or slats can cause the mattress to dip between the gaps, leading to loss of support and premature wear. The flexibility of the box spring can also result in an indentation in the middle of the mattress, affecting sleep quality and comfort.
  • Alternative Support Options: Instead of a box spring, consider using a mattress foundation that offers a solid surface with closer-spaced slats, ensuring adequate support for the memory foam mattress. Other options such as platform beds, panel beds, and adjustable bases are also viable alternatives, providing the necessary support and customization for a comfortable sleep experience.

If you’re buying a new memory foam mattress and have a box spring you’ve been using for the past few years, you might be considering combining the two. And why not? Isn’t it a great way to give your new bed some bounce and height?

Actually, it’s not. Placing your new memory foam mattress on top of a box spring will likely cause it to sag within a few short years. Plus, most companies void a mattress warranty if you pair your memory foam mattress with a box spring. If your mattress loses support or falls apart because of a box spring, you won’t be able to file for a warranty claim.

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Construction of a Memory Foam Mattress

A memory foam mattress is not made up of just memory foam. Typically, only the top layer is memory foam, while the bottom layer or layers are stiffer, more supportive foams.

Since memory foam mattresses are made entirely out of foam, they can be heavy. Innerspring and hybrid mattresses can feel lighter because of the empty space in their coil bases.

The foams in the mattress are flexible, designed to conform to your body, and able to move with an adjustable base. However, this flexibility means the mattress requires consistent, uniform support to maintain its shape.

Construction of a Box Spring

As the name implies, a traditional box spring has a wooden box-like frame filled with steel springs. When used with a traditional mattress, it absorbs the shock from movements, deters sagging by holding up the mattress, and increases the bed’s height.

The coils or slats inside a box spring are traditionally more than 2.75 inches apart. When used with a foam mattress, the bed is liable to dip between the coils or slats, causing the mattress’s materials to lose support and wear down prematurely.

The box spring can also flex under the memory foam mattress, leaving your bed with an indentation in the middle. If your mattress develops this indentation, you’re likely to find yourself rolling into the middle of the mattress against your will.

Box Springs and Foundations

While a mattress foundation can look similar to a box spring with its supportive frame, it’s a completely different product. They provide a solid surface with wooden slats or another sturdy material. The material does not flex under the mattress’s weight, with closer spaced slats providing more support. Some foundations come with detachable legs, so that you can place them in a bed frame, much like you would with a traditional box spring.

Foundations and box springs come in low, medium, and standard profiles:

  • A low profile is 5.5 inches or lower
  • A medium profile is 6 to 8.5 inches
  • A standard profile is 9 inches or more

If you purchase a split queen or a split king mattress, you may need to buy a split mattress base. Split mattresses are essentially two separate mattresses pushed together so partners can personalize their side with their favorite firmness. Split mattresses can benefit from extra support in the middle, which a standard foundation may not be able to give.

You can read our mattress foundation sizes guide for more information about choosing the correct foundation size and dimensions.

More Box Spring Alternatives

When you’re shopping for the best foundation for a memory foam mattress, you’ll have a range of options. There are platform beds, panel beds, and adjustable bases, to name a few.

Just remember to check that your choice has the support a memory foam mattress needs. You might also want to check the height of the under-bed area, to calculate the amount of storage space the bed provides.

Platform Beds

Platform beds have a sleek, modern design that forgoes the traditional headboard and footboard. They’re relatively inexpensive since they’re just a wooden or metal base with legs, and may be solid or have a slatted foundation. We recommend slats for more airflow to wick away heat and moisture, but the slats must be at least 0.75 inches thick and no more than 2.75 inches apart.

Panel Beds

The traditional bed frame with a headboard and footboard is also known as the panel bed, named for how they’re made with panels of wood. The bed’s side panels traditionally hide a box spring from view.

Older panels may not have the number of wooden slats needed for support. You may have to purchase a set of slats or a piece of plywood from a home goods store to provide your memory foam mattress with enough support.

Adjustable Base

Perhaps the best way to customize your sleep experience is with an adjustable bed frame. An adjustable bed allows you to raise and lower the head and foot of your mattress.

An adjustable bed offers many benefits. If you snore or have sleep apnea, raising your mattress’s head can help your airway remain clear. Elevating your legs and knees can improve blood flow and take the pressure off your lower back.

Plus, a memory foam mattress is one of the best mattresses for an adjustable bed. The mattress must be able to adapt to the base’s movements without damaging its materials. A memory foam mattress can be flexed and bent and still feel comfortable and supportive.

This flexibility is why memory foam mattresses are commonly bundled in an adjustable bed and mattress combo.

Is There a Way to Use a Box Spring with a Memory Foam Mattress?

While you shouldn’t directly use a memory foam mattress with a box spring, you can still use it to make your bed taller by slipping a bunkie board between your mattress and box spring. Bunkie boards are pieces of plywood or particleboard that are two or three inches thick, which provides a flat surface with enough support to prevent your mattress from sagging.

If you choose to shop for a bunkie board, double-check that it’s moisture resistant. Since a bunkie board is a solid base, it’s difficult for air to flow through and remove the moisture that collects at the bottom of your mattress. This is how stinky mold and mildew can grow underneath your mattress.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I use instead of a box spring?

You have a variety of foundations and bed frames to pick from when selecting what’s best for your memory foam mattress. Options include a platform bed, a traditional bed frame, or an adjustable base. You can choose a wooden or metal framework, depending on what goes better with your bedroom decor.

Are box springs obsolete?

Box springs are no longer as necessary for a bed’s comfort as they once were, but they’re still used today. Some customers find that they give their innerspring mattress an extra lift that improves the bed’s feel. Others use a box spring to increase the height of their mattress.

Can a memory foam mattress go on a slatted base?

You can place your memory foam mattress on a slatted platform as long as the slats are no more than 2.75 inches apart. If the slats are too far apart, the mattress can sink between them, causing premature sagging that will reduce the mattress’s comfort and support. Slatted bases are one of the best choices for a memory foam mattress because the design promotes airflow through the bottom of the mattress.

Are beds without box springs comfortable?

They absolutely can be. Many modern mattresses are designed not to need a box spring to feel fully comfortable or to prevent sagging.

Still, comfort and sag prevention isn’t the only purpose a box spring has. A box spring helps you give your mattress some extra height. You can also slip a detachable foundation inside a bed frame to raise your mattress higher.

Can I use an old box spring with a new mattress?

If your new mattress is compatible with a box spring, such as an innerspring mattress, you might be able to reuse your box spring if it’s in good condition. The average box spring lasts about 10 years, which can be longer than a mattress’s lifespan. However, the coils inside a box spring will sag eventually, just as the coils inside a spring or hybrid mattress do.

How do you know if your box spring has worn out? Check for damage or any signs of bending, sagging, or bowing across the base. Squeaky coils can also mean that the box spring is losing support.

Did We Help?

It would be best if you never placed a memory foam mattress directly on top of a box spring. Memory foam beds need a solid foundation or one with slats no more than 2.75 inches apart. A slatted base provides the most cooling night’s rest.

This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.

Sarah Anderson, Certified Sleep Science Coach Sarah Anderson

Sarah Anderson is a sleep, health, and wellness writer and product reviewer. She has written articles on changing and improving your sleep schedule, choosing the right mattress for chronic pain conditions, and finding the best pillow for you. Sarah Anderson has her Bachelor of Arts degree from Arizona State University in Journalism and Mass Communications. Prior to working for Zoma, she wrote for a variety of news publications. Sarah's work has been featured on Bustle, PureWow, and other publications.

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  1. What an education I received reading this literature about mattresses and foundations, etc.
    I will definitely have the knowledge to be confident when I choose my mattress. Thanks for this helpful information.

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