Box Spring vs. Foundation: Which Do You Need?

November 24, 2021 | Casper Editorial Team
Box spring vs foundation

If you’re on the hunt for a new mattress, you might have realized you’ll need a box spring or foundation, too. The two often get confused, but there are differences you need to know.

Box springs and foundations both provide an extra layer of support under your mattress. They add a little height while absorbing some of the weight, keeping your bed in peak condition.

Box springs — though a little outdated — add more airflow and give. Foundations — made for most modern mattresses — are durable and provide firmer support

But there’s a little more to it than that. Read on for our complete box spring vs. foundation guide to give your mattress the right support it needs. We promise, you’ll never confuse a box spring for a foundation again. 

Box Spring and Foundation Comparison

Though box springs and foundations serve a similar purpose, they aren’t quite the same. Here’s an overview of the main differences. 

  Box Spring Foundation
Construction Frame with steel coils inside Box with wooden slats across top
Cover Fabric Fabric
Support More bounce and give Firmer support
Durability Less durable, coils can break More durable, slats last longer
Breathability More airflow Less airflow
Compatible Mattresses  Innerspring Innerspring, latex, memory foam, hybrid 
Average Price of a Queen Size Less expensive More expensive

Construction

A box spring is a wooden or metal frame containing steel coils. It’s usually covered in a breathable fabric. 

A foundation, on the other hand, is a frame of any material with wooden panels, or slats, laid across the top. This is also usually covered with a light fabric. 

Best option: Depends on preference

Support

Because it’s made of coils, a box spring allows for a little more give. That can be good for those who like bounce, but not the best for support. A foundation is designed for firmer support, so it wins out on this one. 

Best option: Foundation

Durability

Over time, the coils in a box spring can break, leading to even less support. If coils are broken or old, they can also start to make a squeaking noise that some may find annoying. 

Foundations are the more durable option. They have a strong construction that tends to last much longer than box springs. 

Best option: Foundation

Breathability

Aside from the coils, a box spring is quite empty and light. That lends way to lots of airflow and breathability for your bed — great for those who sleep hot

A foundation isn’t quite as lightweight as a box spring, but the evenly spaced slats and breathable fabric still allow it to stay cool. 

Best option: Box spring

Compatible Mattresses

Box springs were all the rage when most mattresses were produced with springs. Therefore, they’re compatible with innerspring mattresses. However, box springs do not do well with foam or latex mattresses. Those mattress types need something flatter and more solid to keep their support and prevent sagging.

Thankfully, a foundation is compatible with most mattress types, including innerspring, latex, memory foam, and hybrid mattresses. A foundation is designed to hold up just about any mattress and keep it firm for years.

Best option: Foundation

Average Price of a Queen Size

The price of a box spring or foundation will vary depending on size, brand, and material. A box spring fitted to the size of a queen mattress will cost an average of $100 to $300. A queen-sized foundation is slightly pricier, costing anywhere from $200 to $500. 

Best option: Box spring

What Is a Box Spring?

A box spring is a wood or metal frame that includes coiled springs inside. It’s usually covered by cloth. The frame is similar to the size of your mattress, and the coils add some bounce and help absorb shock. 

So, do you need a box spring? When most mattresses were designed with coils, box springs were essential. Nowadays, coil mattresses are going out of style in favor of options like memory foam and hybrid mattresses, which alleviate stress on pressure points, create better spinal alignment, and keep you cooler at night. 

While box springs still work well with traditional spring mattresses, they’re not as compatible with more modern foam and latex ones.

Illustration of a box spring showing breathable fabric, coiled springs, and a wood or metal frame

Box Spring Pros and Cons

Though box springs might be phasing out, they still have their benefits. Here’s an overview of the pros and cons. 

Pros:

  •  Adds bounce and give
  • Provides good airflow and breathability
  • Lightweight and easy to transport

Cons: 

  • Coils can break with wear and tear 
  • Over time, can start to sag
  • Not compatible with latex or memory foam mattresses

What Is a Foundation?

A foundation is a wood or metal bed base that sometimes includes slats lying across the top. This is also usually covered in fabric. The slats are spaced apart to provide air circulation and add strong structural support. A foundation makes for a durable, protective base for your mattress.

As memory foam and latex mattresses have risen in popularity compared to spring mattresses, so have foundations. Foundations have largely replaced box springs because they are compatible with modern mattresses, add better support, and last longer. 

Illustration of a foundation with breathable fabric, wooden slats, and a wood or metal frame

While there are many types of foundations out there, the Casper Foundation provides excellent support under any Casper mattress and can be assembled in minutes. Engineered with solid wood, the foundation has been rigorously tested for durability and proven to stand up to years of sleep.

Foundation Pros and Cons

Foundations might be compatible with more mattress types, but they aren’t without shortcomings. Here’s a look at the perks and drawbacks. 

Pros:

  • Compatible with most types of mattresses
  • Built to be long-lasting
  • Provides firm support

Cons: 

  • Less bounce and give
  • May feel too firm for some
  • Heavier and harder to transport

Alternative Bed Base Options

There are several other bed base options besides box springs and foundations. We’ll go through three alternatives below. 

  • A bunkie board is a thin barrier that rests underneath your mattress to provide support. Originally designed for bunk beds, they now come in all mattress sizes. A bunkie board can be placed over a box spring to add a little more support.
  • An adjustable bed base allows you to raise the head or foot of the mattress for a customizable sleep position. They sometimes come with massagers and can provide comfort for those with disabilities and the elderly. 
  • A platform bed is a low profile bed frame with a built-in foundation. This sturdy base doesn’t require an additional support layer under your mattress. When weighing a platform bed against a box spring, consider that though it’s not needed, you can place a box spring on a platform bed if you’d like. 

If you’re looking for an easy mattress base option, the Casper Platform Bed Frame offers stylish, direct support for your mattress — no foundation or box spring necessary.  

FAQs

Can You Put Box Springs or Foundations on the Floor?

While you could place a box spring on the ground, it’s not advisable. Most people choose to place them on top of a bed frame. This added height and support lets you get in and out of bed with ease. Plus, a bed frame adds storage space underneath the bed. 

We don’t recommend putting the Casper Foundation directly on the floor, as it can wear away at the upholstery. Instead, an existing bed frame or platform base will seamlessly lift the foundation off the ground at an ideal height and keep it in good condition.

What Is the Standard Height of a Bed Base?

Ideally, a foundation should be between six and 12 inches. Combined with the bed frame and mattress, the whole bed comes out to be around two feet thick. We’ve found the best bed height to be around 25 inches, but it’s all a matter of personal preference. 

The Casper foundation is seven and a half inches high, so it’s compatible with most beds out there. 

Is a Box Spring or Foundation Necessary for a Mattress?

A bed base like a box spring or foundation adds crucial support for your bed. It can help keep your mattress in its best shape by preventing sagging and absorbing shock. 

Make sure you’re supporting your mattress with exactly what it needs. If you’ve decided to make the move from an old box spring and coil mattress to a modern mattress and foundation, we’ve got you covered. Check out our award-winning foam mattresses, bed frames, and foundation to start snoozing better.