Does your mattress need a box spring? Here's how to tell

A man lies on top of a comfy white mattress placed on a supportive box spring
(Image credit: Getty)

'What is a box spring?' is a question you may ask if you're of a certain age — namely if you've never slept on a traditional (innerspring) mattress. The best mattresses on the market are now memory foam or hybrids and these are better suited to platforms or foundations. However, box springs aren't totally obsolete, and depending on your sleep setup it could benefit you to have one.

Box springs are upholstered wooden or metal frames that contain coils or a grid. They rose to prominence in the 1930s alongside innerspring mattresses, which require box springs to prevent sagging and warping. Box springs also raise mattresses higher off the ground for better accessibility and ventilation. However, when paired with the wrong mattress or frame, a box spring can decrease the support and quality of the mattress. It could possibly void your warranty too.

To help you avoid making such a mistake, here we explain the instances when you should (and shouldn't) invest in a box spring. 

What is a box spring?

A box spring is an upholstered wood/metal frame with wire coils or a metal grid in the center. Its main purpose is to provide support for your mattress while increasing airflow and providing shock absorption — all of which can help extend your mattress's lifespan. (Find out how long does a mattress last, along with the key signs that it's time for an upgrade.)

Another benefit of a box spring is that it adds loft for sleepers who need their bed to be higher off the ground because they're tall or have accessibility issues. A box spring is typically 7 to 9 inches high, but if you don't need to add a lot of height to your bed, consider a low profile box spring, which is 4 to 5 inches tall.

Image shows a white mattress paired with a brown box spring and headboard

(Image credit: Getty)

Aside from its practical uses, there's also an aesthetic component to a box spring —  ideal if you want to give your bedroom a quick and simple refresh. After all, taller beds look more comfy and inviting, and models like the Zinus 9-Inch Metal Smart Box Spring can also add a touch of minimalist style.

Does my mattress need a box spring?

Box springs and innerspring mattresses are essentially viewed as a single entity. Without a box spring, an innerspring bed loses its shape and durability much quicker. In turn this will diminish its lifespan and your sleep quality. If you sleep on a coil spring mattress, then a box spring is a must.

A box spring is less of a necessity for other mattress types, although there are some situations when you'll still need one. If you sleep on a memory foam, hybrid or platform bed, keep reading to learn whether you'll have to keep your box spring handy (or secure a new one).

Does a memory foam mattress need a box spring?

Box springs are designed to add support, airflow and shock absorption to a mattress — qualities already built into most memory foam beds. As such, a box spring becomes redundant if you have a memory foam mattress.

But there is an exception: if you have a metal frame with a foam mattress, then you'll need to add a box spring. As-is, a metal frame only supports itself so it will need a separate apparatus to support a foam mattress (and your body).  

Barring that, a platform, foundation or adjustable base will suit a full-foam mattress fine. You can even forego a bed frame altogether and just place your memory foam bed on the floor, although we believe a separate foundational piece will yield a more comfortable sleep experience overall. You also risk mold issues when placing your mattress on the floor for sleeping.

A woman with blonde hair unpacks boxes while sat on a mattress placed on the floor

(Image credit: Getty)

Do hybrid mattresses need a box spring?

A hybrid mattress contains a mix of foam and innersprings. Despite the springs within it, a hybrid does not require a box spring. In fact, adding a box spring could actually lessen the stability a hybrid already provides through its individually-wrapped coils and foam layers. 

Instead, place your hybrid mattress atop a platform, foundation or an adjustable base. You can even go the minimalist route and use your bedroom floor as a base. But again, we stress that using a proper bed frame that's suitable for your hybrid will do wonders for your overall sleep quality and the long-term health of your mattress.

Do you need box springs for platform beds?

Platform beds do not require a box spring, but it won't hurt if you choose to use one either. Since platform beds sit low to the ground, a box spring is a viable option if you want to make your bed higher. (You can also rely on one of the best mattress toppers to add height while also adjusting your bed's firmness and comfort.)  

Another instance in which you may want to consider a box spring for your platform bed is if the platform's slats are too far apart. In this case, a box spring will prevent your mattress from sagging between the gaps; however, a bunkie board may be a more preferable choice, especially for a foam mattress.

Popular mattresses that don't need a box spring

Today, the most popular mattress manufacturers specialize in full foam and hybrid (foam/innerspring) beds — which are already quite sturdy on their own. So would you still need a box spring if you bought from Purple, Casper or another renowned mattress brand? Here's what you need to know about using a box spring with popular mattresses...

  • A Purple mattress does not need a box spring. However, the brand recommends pairing one of its beds with a Purple Bed Frame if you insist on adding height, support and even a little bit of panache to your space.
  • A Casper mattress does not need a box spring. Similar to its rival Purple, Casper suggests purchasing one of its bed frames if you'd like to lift your Casper mattress even higher and make it more firm, too.
  • A Tempur-Pedic mattress can't use a box spring. The manufacturer advises that you place a Tempur-Pedic mattress on a solid, sturdy base — whether it's a basic foundation or a high-tech, adjustable Tempur-Pedic Power Base.
  • A Saatva mattress does not need a box spring... but it can be used with a newer box spring if you wish. Alternatively, opt for a Saatva Mattress Foundation, which is designed to be more durable and supportive than a standard box spring. 

Image shows the Saatva Classic mattress placed on a bedframe with headboard

Saatva mattresses don't need box springs but can be used with a new one if you'd prefer (Image credit: Saatva)

Before making a purchase, read the mattress manufacturer's FAQs to find out if you can go without a box spring and to learn which bases are best for your prospective bed. Naturally, mattress companies will be inclined to recommend one of their own bed frames, but it's not absolutely necessary you go that route so do shop around.

Also, make sure to read your mattress warranty carefully before using a box spring. Using an old box spring — or any box spring — could render the terms null and void for a foam or hybrid model, which will be a major hassle if you need to activate your warranty for a defect beyond your control.

To further boost your sleep comfort and sleep hygiene, also consider investing in the best pillow for your body type, as well as the best mattress protector for keeping your bed fresh and safe from stains and spills. And if you need a new mattress, see below for some of our favorites.

Read more:

Alison Barretta

Alison is a freelance writer and editor from Philadelphia, USA. She is an expert mattress tester and sleep product reviewer, and has been sharing trusted buying advice and retail news for over a decade. When she isn't reviewing mattresses or hunting for deals, Alison can be found teaching/training in martial arts, fawning over skincare, and indulging in her quarantine-borne hobby: cooking.