Platform Bed vs. Box Spring

Most people want to keep their new mattress on some type of bed base because it keeps the mattress in good condition. A sturdy bed base supports the mattress and keeps it away from dust, dirt, and other stuff that settles on the floor, promoting greater mattress longevity.

When it comes to bed bases, two common options are platform beds and box springs. They have a few similarities and several differences, complicating the decision of which one is right for you. We discuss their qualities, strengths, and weaknesses to make the decision simpler.

About Platform Beds

Platform beds are low-profile beds with a solid or slatted surface—hence, the name “platform.” They are an excellent value when it comes to bed frames because they can support any kind of mattress on their own. More traditional bed frames like a sleigh bed or four-poster bed frame usually require a box spring or mattress foundation.

Platform beds with slats are also a good choice for hot sleepers, thanks to their aerated design. Air can slip between the slats and remove heat and heat moisture from the base, limiting the chances of mold. Breathable fabric often covers the slats to keep a mattress from sliding.

Platform beds can be a good choice for any mattress if their slats are no more than 3 inches apart. If a platform bed has slats farther apart, it will not provide the support that a memory foam, latex, or hybrid mattress needs. We also recommend solid wooden frames over cheaper particle board beds, which lack a solid wooden bed’s durability.

Pros of a Platform Bed

  • Does not require additional components like a box spring bed would
  • Simple and modern design goes with most bedroom styles
  • Affordable options in a range of different looks
  • Usually offers underbed storage options, such as drawers
  • Allows air to circulate through any type of mattress

Cons of a Platform Bed

  • Frame may be too close to the ground for some, making it difficult to get out of bed
  • Structure usually lightweight but bulky, usually hard to move once it’s set up
  • Surface supportive, but with little give, which can create a firmer feel

About Box Springs

A box spring’s construction usually consists of a wooden box containing a layer of metal springs. The top of a box spring should have a breathable fabric, while the bottom usually has a different fabric woven specifically to keep out dust. Instead of a wooden frame, some box springs have a steel frame for extra support.

Box springs were designed solely with traditional innerspring mattresses in mind, so they’re not suitable for other types of mattresses. The coils inside a box spring align with the coils inside an innerspring mattress, creating more cushion and increasing its durability and motion isolation properties.

Lastly, box springs have an airy design and encourage airflow. They can also increase the height of a mattress by 5 to 9 inches, depending on the profile you select.

Pros of a Box Spring

  • Cooling coil design
  • Increases an innerspring mattress’s give and shock absorption
  • Adds height to the mattress
  • Goes well with traditional bedroom decor

Cons of a Box Spring

  • Only designed to work with one mattress type
  • Springs can creak and squeak, especially as the box spring ages
  • Will lose support with time
  • No room for under bed storage unless paired with a panel bed

Difference Between Platform Beds and Box Springs

When it comes to platform beds and box springs, the main differences are:

  • How much height each adds
  • How much each one weighs
  • The type of support they provide
  • Their price
  • How much storage space they offer

Added Height

A typical platform bed is about 18 inches tall with a mattress; on its own, a platform bed may range between 5 to 12 inches high. A box spring is usually between 5 to 9 inches thick on its own.

Most people find beds that are between 16 to 24 inches tall comfortable. Bed height usually doesn’t affect how well you sleep, but it can determine how easy it is to move in and out of bed.

Weight

A platform bed is usually heavier than a box spring, but few people use a box spring on its own. If you combine a box spring with a traditional panel bed, you should find its weight equal to or even greater than a similarly sized platform bed.

Support

A platform bed’s wooden slats are less likely to lose support over time than a box spring’s coils. As the coils wear out, they sag and leave parts of a mattress unsupported. The typical box spring usually lasts no more than 10 years, while a platform bed can last longer than that with minimal care. However, a box spring’s coils are more responsive than a platform bed’s slats.

As a reminder, box springs were designed to support only one type of mattress, while a platform bed can support memory foam, latex, hybrid, and innerspring mattresses.

Price

Platform beds and box springs usually cost a few hundred dollars each, placing them within most people’s budgets. However, while you can buy a platform bed for a mattress, many shoppers don’t just buy a box spring for a mattress. They usually want to pair a box spring with a beautiful bed frame, which can significantly raise the expected costs.

Storage Options

Box springs don’t provide any storage space on their own. To have storage space with a box spring, you must pair it with a traditional bed.

On the other hand, platform beds usually provide at least a few inches of clearance. High-quality platform beds may even come with storage drawers for easier organization.

More Types of Bed Bases

Platform beds and box springs aren’t the only bed bases that can suit your needs. Shoppers can also consider mattress foundations, adjustable bed bases, and bunkie boards.

Mattress Foundations

A mattress foundation is a wooden box with slats, creating a supportive surface. There’s a little bit of overlap between mattress foundations and platform beds. Often, a mattress foundation includes detachable legs, allowing you to convert it into a simple platform bed.

Most slatted foundations have non-slip fabric covering the slats to immobilize a mattress. A foundation is compatible with all four major types of mattresses.

Adjustable Bed Bases

Adjustable bed frames offer a greater potential for customization than any other mattress base. With the touch of a button, you can raise and lower the mattress’s head and foot. High-quality adjustable frames keep you within reaching distance of your nightstand as you raise the mattress’s head, moving the mattress back instead of pushing you forward.

Adjustable beds let you discover the most comfortable way for you to sleep. Many people with sleep apnea and acid reflux find they sleep better when they raise their head. Back pain sufferers often get a good night’s sleep by elevating their legs and minimizing pressure on their lower back.

The downside to an adjustable base is the expense, with most models costing more than $1000 for a queen size frame. If you’re considering an adjustable bed to alleviate snoring or GERD, you might be able to ease symptoms with a wedge pillow.

Bunkie Boards

Bunkie boards were originally used in bunk beds instead of box springs. However, they’ve since become a common bed base, particularly for people who want to pair a new memory foam mattress with a traditional panel bed that wasn’t designed to support it.

A bunkie or “bunky board” is usually 1 to 3 inches thick and sized to fit a bed frame. Quality bunkie boards have a non-skid fabric covering to keep the mattress in place.

Why is a bunkie board a good choice for a foam mattress? The surface is even and provides consistent support, keeping the mattress from sagging prematurely. You can slip the board inside a bed like you would a traditional box spring.

Why is a Bed Base Necessary?

Why should you invest in a bed base? Why not just keep your mattress on the floor to give your new mattress a solid base?

The floor isn’t a good place to keep a bed permanently for a few reasons. First, the floor isn’t the best choice when it comes to cleanliness, making it easier for dirt, dust, and pests to settle in your mattress. A bed frame provides distance from the floor and the nasty stuff it accumulates.

Plus, the floor doesn’t allow air to flow through the bottom of your mattress, leaving heat and moisture to collect inside the bed. A mattress on the floor is more likely to become moldy, although you can reduce the risk if you prop your mattress against a wall to let it air out.

The floor can also promote a too-firm feel. Lastly, many sleepers, particularly elderly ones, may find it difficult to stand upright from the floor during the morning.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you need a box spring with a memory foam mattress?

No, a box spring is not meant for memory foam mattresses. Box springs were designed to increase a traditional innerspring mattress’s comfort and durability.

You can pair a foundation with a memory foam mattress instead of a box spring.

Can I put a box spring on a platform bed?

You can technically put a box spring on a platform bed, but it’s usually not necessary to do so. If you stack a box spring on top of a platform bed and then put a mattress on top, we can’t guarantee that mattress won’t slip and slide.

Do you want to raise your mattress’s height? Better methods include bed risers or mattress toppers.

Are bed skirts out of style?

Bed skirts can be a stylish way to hide anything you’re keeping under your bed frame, giving your room a less cluttered look. Similarly, bed skirts can keep dust from accumulating under the bed and limit under-bed drafts in colder climates. If you choose to use a bed skirt, you want to wash it every couple of months.

How much weight can a platform bed hold?

The average platform bed holds 500 pounds of evenly distributed weight. For queen and king size bed frames, that’s usually a 1000-pound total weight limit. Remember, the weight limit is meant to encompass both your mattress and your body weight.

How do you secure a mattress on a platform bed?

Many quality platform beds have an upholstered surface to keep a mattress from slipping and sliding. If yours does not, you can keep your mattress in place with rubber matting and velcro strips.

Your mattress may also slip and slide if it’s lost its original non-skidding capabilities. In other words, if it may be time to replace your mattress if it won’t stay in place.

Should I Choose a Platform Bed or Box Spring?

The perfect bed base for you usually depends on your budget and what kind of mattress you have. An innerspring mattress can be used with a box spring, while a platform bed can support an innerspring bed along with memory foam, latex, or hybrid mattresses. Both are relatively affordable options, so  ask yourself what kind of support your bed needs before deciding.

Remember, the best mattresses deserve excellent support that will maintain their condition for years to come.

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

Michelle Zhang, Wellness Writer Michelle Zhang

Michelle Zhang is a regular contributor to our Zoma blog and is our go-to sleep researcher. In her time with Zoma, Michelle has researched and published many articles on widespread sleeping habits and troubles. In her time outside of Zoma, Michelle is an occupational therapist and long-distance runner. She believes leading a healthy lifestyle is the key to getting better sleep at night. Michelle's work has been featured on Men's Journal, The Frisky, and The Mighty.

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