What Mattress Base is Best for You?

Once you’ve selected the best mattress for your needs, it’s important to double-check if you have a suitable mattress base. The right base can support a mattress and maintain its condition, while the wrong base can lead to premature sagging and other issues.

Mattress bases fall into one of seven categories. Not every base is suitable for every type of mattress, and there are other shopping considerations such as your bedroom size and how easy it is to put the base together.

1. Box Spring

As the name suggests, a box spring is essentially a wooden box filled with springs. Manufacturers lay out the springs so that they line up with a traditional innerspring mattress’s springs. This design allows a box spring to absorb shock, increasing the mattress’s comfort and durability.

Remember, box springs are designed for innerspring mattresses only. A box spring is not suitable for memory foam mattresses and other foam beds. If you wish to use a box spring for extra height, you can do so by slipping a sturdy piece of plywood between the box spring and mattress.

2. Mattress Foundation

A mattress foundation is a wooden or metal frame with a slatted surface to support a mattress. For the best support, a mattress foundation’s slats should be no more than 3 inches apart. If the distance between the slats is too much, the mattress can sink between the slats and stretch out of shape.

Many mattress foundations include an attachable set of legs, allowing you to transform the base into a simple platform bed frame. This also creates under-bed storage space.

3. Platform Bed Frame

As mentioned above, a platform bed frame is essentially a mattress foundation on legs. It has a slatted surface, allowing air to flow through the bottom of the mattress. This cooling feature also prevents moisture from building up, which can promote mold and mildew growth.

Platform bed frames are self-sufficient, unlike a traditional bed frame designed to work with a box spring and innerspring mattress. They have a simple, modern design that fits well in any bedroom. Often, you can add on a headboard or footboard for a more traditional look.

4. Panel Bed Frame

Panel beds are the traditional bed frame with a headboard, footboard, and side rails. Typically, they have a few support beams in the center of the frame. Common styles of panel beds include sleigh beds, poster beds, bunk beds, canopy beds, and murphy beds.

Panel bed frames usually need to be supplemented with another foundation. Innerspring mattresses often require the use of a box spring, while hybrid and foam mattresses might need a mattress foundation or a bunkie board.

5. Plywood Boards/Bunkie Boards

Plywood boards and bunkie boards can be used on their own or with a traditional bed frame. If your current bed frame is too unsupportive for your new mattress, one of these inexpensive wooden boards can create a flat, even surface.

If you have an old box spring you want to use with a memory foam mattress for extra height, you can place a plywood board on top of the box spring. Doing so leaves no room for the memory foam mattress to sag and lose its shape.

Any plywood board you use should be at least 0.75 inches thick and have a moisture-resistant coating. Without the coating, mold may grow.

Bunkie boards are often nicer than a piece of plywood bought from a hardware store. They’re often 1 to 3 inches thick and may have a cloth covering. Bunkie boards take their names from bunk beds. Originally, people used bunkie boards in place of box springs with bunk beds since a traditional box spring would add too much height to the bed.

6. Adjustable Bed Base

Adjustable bed frames are mechanical mattress bases with a surface separated into different sections. Each section has hinges and can be positioned with a remote. With the simple press of a button, the mattress’s head and foot can be raised and lowered, customizing a sleeper’s comfort.

Adjustable beds were once confined to hospital use, but they’re now available commercially for home use. The benefits of an adjustable bed include alleviating health issues, such as:

Many adjustable bed models include extra features like massagers, USB charging ports, and under-bed lighting. Couples often enjoy split adjustable base models, with each half designed to operate independently of the other.

7. The Floor

Many people use their floor as a temporary or permanent mattress foundation. After all, it’s a flat, even surface that’s completely free to use. It also makes the mattress feel firmer, which can be good for stomach and back sleepers.

While the floor is fine to use temporarily while you shop around for a good bed base, we do not recommend it as a permanent place to keep your mattress. The floor exposes your mattress to moisture, pests, dust, and dirt that a proper bed base would protect against.

Many people, particularly older individuals with arthritis or another movement disability, also find it difficult to rise from the floor in the morning. Finally, keeping your mattress permanently on the floor can void your mattress warranty.

Benefits of a Mattress Base

Mattress bases are helpful for a few different reasons:

  • Their supportive surface limits premature sagging, ensuring your mattress lasts as long as it should. A good bed base also keeps your mattress from slipping and sliding.
  • Bases add height that makes it easier to move in and out of bed. Lifting your mattress off the ground with a base also limits its exposure to dirt, pests, and other allergens.
  • Slatted foundations increase airflow through the bottom of your mattress, making it easier for heat and moisture to escape. Even if you have a naturally cooling mattress, the right bed base ensures it keeps cool throughout the night.

Mattress Types and Suitable Bed Bases

The type of mattress you sleep on influences what bed base is best for you. Most mattresses fall into one of four categories—memory foam, latex, innerspring, and hybrid.

As a reminder, we recommend only slatted surfaces where the slats are spaced at most 3 inches apart.

Memory Foam

Memory foam mattresses have a top layer of memory foam and a base layer of stiff poly-foam. High-quality memory foam mattresses usually add a transition layer to increase the bed’s responsiveness, ensuring a person doesn’t get stuck in the mattress.

You can use a memory foam mattress with a solid, flat surface or a slatted foundation. Slats are often preferred because they make it easier for air to flow through the mattress and wick away heat and moisture.

Latex

Latex mattresses have a conforming feel similar to memory foam mattresses. However, while a memory foam mattress must contain synthetic material, a latex mattress can be made with all-natural rubber and other organic materials. If you’re unsure whether a latex or memory foam mattress is the better option, check out our memory foam vs. latex guide.

Latex mattresses can be paired with a solid or slatted foundation, like a memory foam mattress.

Innerspring

Innerspring mattresses have a simple design, with a coil layer sandwiched between two layers of fabric and padding. While they were once the more common type of mattress, they’ve fallen out of favor because other types offer more pressure-relieving cushion.

Innerspring mattresses can be kept on a box spring, a slatted foundation, or a solid surface. We do not recommend using an innerspring mattress with an adjustable base because they do not flex well and may become damaged.

Hybrid

Hybrid mattresses are a combination of innerspring and foam mattress qualities. A true hybrid mattress has a coil layer topped with at least 2 to 3 inches of conforming comfort foam. Hybrids are often chosen because they’re bouncier than a foam bed and relieve more pressure than an innerspring mattress.

Hybrid mattresses can be used with solid or slatted surfaces and adjustable beds.

Mattress Sizes and Dimensions

For every mattress size, there is a corresponding bed frame and mattress foundation size.

Standard Mattress SizesDimensions
Twin38 inches wide and 74 inches long
Twin XL38 inches wide and 80 inches long
Full54 inches wide and 75 inches long
Queen60 inches wide and 80 inches long
King76 inches wide and 80 inches long
California king72 inches wide and 84 inches long

There are also non standard mattress sizes to consider, like full XL, California queen, Olympic queen, and oversized king mattresses

Nonstandard Mattress SizeDimensions
Small single30 inches wide and 75 inches long
Full XL54 inches wide and 80 inches long
California queen60 inches wide and 84 inches long
Olympic queen66 inches wide and 80 inches long
Wyoming king84 inches wide and 84 inches long
Texas king80 inches wide and 90 inches long
Alaska king108 inches wide and 108 inches long

Oversized beds such as Texas, Wyoming, and Alaska kings typically have to be custom ordered from a mattress manufacturer.

Other Considerations

Mattress type and size aren’t the only things to think about when you’re browsing mattress bases. You also want to think about your bedroom size and bed height, along with the base’s weight capacity and assembly time.

Room Size

Most bedrooms contain more than just a bed, so you want to make sure you leave room for any other furniture. Some bases are more streamlined than others, leaving more space to walk around or arrange furniture. You may also want to consider ceiling height when it comes to headboards and footboards.

Bed Height

Bed height refers to the combined height of a mattress and base. Most people find a bed height 16 to 25 inches high makes getting up in the morning easy. If the base is too high, you might need assistance with getting into bed, such as a stepstool. Too low of a base, and it’s a struggle to stand up in the morning.

To check if your bed height feels comfortable, sit on the side of the bed. Your feet should rest flat on the ground and your knees should be aligned with your hips.

Weight Capacity

Every bed base has a weight limit, though the company may not openly advertise it. Often, a smaller size bed frame for one person can hold up to 500 pounds of weight. Still, if you’re unsure whether a base can support you and your mattress, reach out to customer service about the base’s weight capacity.

Ease of Assembly

Some bed bases are simpler to put together than others. For example, a high-quality wooden foundation for a memory foam mattress may take only a few minutes to assemble. Companies may also offer in-home installation with their bed frames and adjustable bases, saving you the trouble of putting it together.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you put a new mattress on an old base?

It’s not a bad idea to buy a new bed base with a mattress, though it’s usually not needed. Before you place a mattress on your current bed base, you should double-check its condition and make sure it’s suitable for your mattress. Make sure there are no sagging slats or springs, no visible damage, and that the bed base doesn’t make noises when you move around.

Remember, a box spring isn’t suitable for a foam mattress, regardless of whether it’s old or new.

What can I put under my mattress to make it higher?

There are quite a few ways you can raise the height of your bed:

  • You can pair a mattress foundation with a bed frame. Alternatively, you can use a box spring covered with a flat piece of plywood to create an evenly supportive surface.
  • You can buy a pair of bed risers to increase a bed frame’s height. If you want a more portable bed frame, you can try a set of attachable wheels instead.
  • You can invest in a mattress topper to create a thicker mattress.
  • You can raise the head of your mattress with a bed wedge, which slips under the mattress. A bed wedge is a good alternative to a wedge pillow.

Is it bad to put a mattress on top of another mattress?

Yes, it’s a bad idea to stack two mattresses because the mattress on top will not be properly supported. A mattress is designed to be somewhat conforming, meaning the bottom one may sag under the weight of your top mattress. The top mattress is likely to not last as long as it should.

Most mattress companies will also consider your mattress warranty void if you keep it on top of another mattress. Instead of reusing an old mattress, explore how you can dispose of a mattress.

Does bed height affect sleep?

How high your bed is shouldn’t affect how well you rest. However, it can determine how easy it is for you to get in and out of bed. If it’s not the right height, you may stumble when you get up in the morning.

A good bed height lets your feet rest flat on the floor, your knees level with your hips, when you sit on the edge of your mattress.

Can you put a mattress directly on slats?

You can put a mattress directly on wooden slats, although the bed may shift if there’s no non-skid fabric covering to keep it in place. If your bed base lacks such a covering, you can keep your mattress from sliding with rubber matting or a non-slip pad.

Remember, a slatted surface shouldn’t have gaps more than 3 inches wide. If the slats are too far apart, the mattress may dip between the slats and lose its shape.

Know What Mattress Base is Best for You?

Many high-quality bed bases work with different kinds of mattresses. They not only support your mattress but increase its lifespan and protect it from grime, moisture, and pests.

If you want to keep your shopping simple, you can always buy a matching base from the same company as your new mattress. Some mattress companies even offer discounts if you buy a new mattress and base together.

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

Andrew Russell, Wellness Writer Andrew Russell

Andrew Russell is a part-time writer and full-time sleep enthusiast. At Zoma, Andrew lends his sleep expertise and writes many of our “better sleep” guides. Outside of Zoma, Andrew puts his advice to the test, always trying new ways to get deeper, more restorative sleep. We appreciate Andrew because he doesn’t give advice that he doesn’t follow himself, so you can feel confident his solutions for better sleep really do the trick. Andrew's work has been featured on Ladders, Bright Side, and several other publications.

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