What is a bed base?
The bed base is the surface your mattress rests on. The base could be a box spring, a wooden slat platform, or a solid one. For many years, it has always been the box spring as the standard foundation for most mattresses.
Bases are used to support you during sleep, and most importantly, to ensure the mattress doesn’t sink or sag. But as mattresses are improving and changing, so should the bases.
How you choose the base largely depends on your mattress type. In the following content, we will analyze the best base options for each type of mattress. But first, let’s look at how important the bed base is.
A good base makes the mattress work better
Memory foam, latex, and hybrid mattresses support your muscles according to positions and pressure levels. These beds provide cushion and support to make sure your spine remains straight.
Without a good bed base, the mattress will sag in certain places, and in turn, the body sinks too. When the spine is not straight, our bodies will begin to adjust to different positions to find better support, resulting in an uncomfortable and struggling sleep.
Prolong the lifespan of the mattress
When you have a good mattress, you hope that it can last. Without a proper bed base, the best mattress can wear off quickly.
Because on average, people spend about 33 years in bed, which puts the mattress through a long test of time and pressure. Without proper support of a bed base, the mattress could deteriorate much quicker than it ought to.
A good bed base, as a result, could save you quite a sum instead of replacing the mattress.
A better sleeping condition
One might think that laying the mattress on the ground saves a lot of trouble, but on the contrary, it opens it to dust, dirt, and humidity, which you should never do to a good mattress, or any mattress.
There is a recommended height for the bed base. According to ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), it is recommended to have 20 to 23 inches high from the floor to the top of the mattress. It is easy to calculate the height of the bed base with this information.
Keep your mattress in place
Imagine the mattress on the ground sliding around as you sleep tossing and turning, which certainly is not going to bring satisfaction and comfort.
Types of foundations
Now that you’re familiar with the benefits of a bed base, we can now analyze which type of bed base is right for you.
What is a bed frame?
The bed frame is used together with the foundation. The bed frame is the decorative part surrounding the mattress, and the foundation is where the mattress rests. A-frame without a foundation is not a good base, but it’s not the other way around.
Two types of mattresses
There are two broad categories of mattresses for bed bases. These are traditional pocket sprung mattresses and then memory foam, latex, or hybrid foam mattresses.
Pocket sprung traditional mattresses
The first type is rather traditional mattresses, they are two-sided and have a very heavy content weight, and usually are paired up with a sprung edge or platform top divan. These bases are strong to take the weight and are consistent for the heavy mattress.
Latex/Memory foam mattresses
These types of mattresses are highly mouldable, adapting the pressure from the human body, and remaining flat, consistent sleeping surfaces. Pairing them up with sprung edge divans will soften the mattress. With a memory foam mattress, it’s best to use a slatted or solid mattress foundation, or modern platform beds.
Types of mattress base
There are 4 main types of mattress base you will be choosing from
- Divan Bases
- Slatted Bases, Bedsteads & Bed Frames
- Ottoman Bed Bases
- Electric Bed Bases
Divan bases are made specifically to take the weight of the mattress and provide the stability for you to sleep on. They are sturdy, robust, and come with drawers, neat and tidy.
Sprung edge divan mattress bases
Sprung edge bases are considered the best quality of divan bases. These springs can either be a Bonnell coil, i.e. continuous spring, or a set of pocket springs. The pocket springs are more responsive but are at a higher price point.
Whilst we never advocate the use of cage sprung or open coil springs, the exception to this is a sprung base. This is because the base has a solid frame which prevents the Bonnell coil or open coil from moving around as much as it does in a mattress.
Using a sprung edge base on other mattresses will give a softer feel, especially in latex/foam. It’s also worth bearing in mind that some people don’t notice the difference with a sprung edge base as the difference is quite subtle. If money is no problem then a sprung edge base is the best you can get.
Of course, if you do not prefer the extra sink with a sprung edge base so a platform top may be a more effective option to give a slightly firmer feel.
Platform top divan bases
A platform top divan uses the same construction method as above but doesn’t include a spring unit. Where the spring unit would be, sits a wooden platform top layer which is then padded and upholstered. It gives a firmer feel base and is cheaper than a sprung edge base given the construction method but still has multiple drawer options.
Do I need a box spring?
If you have a foam or hybrid mattress, you should not use a box spring. Because box springs don’t have a solid surface, they do not provide a good foundation for the mattress to rest on—some warranties actually prohibit the use of a box spring. For mattresses containing foam, we recommend a solid foundation or a bunkie board, which we will discuss further down.
If you prefer an innerspring mattress, these are still typically sold with a box spring. But an innerspring mattress is sturdy enough on its own that it doesn’t require a box spring.
Slatted bases, bedsteads & bed frames
Bedstead/Bed frame mattress bases cover a wide variety of bed base styles. They can offer a far greater array of designs and styles when compared to divan bases. A slatted foundation consists of solid wood planks or metal beams that lay across the bed frame, attaching to the sides of the frame. They can be individual slats, or they may be connected in a series of planks.
With a memory foam mattress, it's best to use a slatted or solid mattress foundation. If you go with a slatted foundation, the slats should be no further than 2.75 inches apart. Any further apart and you’ll need to buy extra slats or a bunkie board to create a more stable surface for your memory foam mattress.
Modern platform beds are another good bed frame for memory foam mattresses. Platform beds are essentially just a more decorative mattress foundation, as they often contain features like built-in headboards or under-bed storage drawers. When you opt for a platform bed, you can skip the extra foundation and save money.
Metal vs. Wood
As the most common type, the wooden slats may sag or bend over time, which brings indents to your mattress. New metal slats are durable and won’t bend like some wooden slats.
However, if you opt for wood slats made from solid pine or oak, warping is very rare. Some metal slats are also adjustable, so you can form them to fit the exact width of your bed frame.
European flexible slats
These foundations consist of a series of wooden slats connected and placed inside a wood frame, similar to a box spring. They are unique because they feature an adjustable suspension beneath each wooden slat, allowing you to change the bounce and flexibility of the bed.
How far apart should bed slats be?
Bed slats too far apart will not support the mattress correctly—this is especially true with memory foam or latex mattresses since these beds can sag between wide gaps.
Typically, it is best to keep slats no more than 2.75 inches apart. This distance will provide adequate support and keep air circulating through the bed.
Solid foundations/platform base
A solid mattress foundation, also called a platform base, is typically made of a series of wood beams covered in durable material—so there is no space between slats. The beams then fit inside a supportive, solid wood platform with a center support beam.
Solid foundations are designed to replace traditional box springs and provide a supportive base for more advanced memory foam, latex foam, and hybrid mattresses. These bases are typically 8.5 to 10 inches and lift your mattress to a safe and comfortable height.
Many foundations also come with adjustable legs to accommodate your preferred height. If you enjoy a low-profile look, you can lower it as far down as 4 to 6 inches.
Solid foundations are easy to put together and require no tools to assemble. You can pair them with most bed frames (headboard, footboard, and two side panels). However, these foundations should not be placed on top of a slatted foundation.
To pair a solid base with a bed frame, you would simply remove the slats and replace them with your new solid foundation (with the solid foundation resting on the floor).
Do I need a solid foundation?
If you have memory foam, latex foam, or a hybrid mattress, a platform bed frame provides a sturdy support system for these beds. Since slats can’t be more than 2.75 inches apart for foam beds, it’s sometimes easier to opt for a solid foundation rather than worrying about the distance between each slat. These foundations ensure weight is evenly distributed, and the entire mattress is protected.
Ottoman storage bases
Ottoman bases offer you the maximum storage capacity in a bed base with the minimal space required. An ottoman base features a hinged lifting lid that allows you to utilize the storage directly under the mattress.
They are always platform topped so contain no springs, which is a consideration you need to factor in. However, in small rooms or apartments Ottomans can help free up space and increase the storage!
Again, there are many cheap low-quality ottomans out there and you need to keep your wits about you to ensure it can lift your mattress and will last.
Electric bed bases
Electric bed bases are relative newcomers to the mattress world with more and more varieties being sold now in retailers. They allow you to raise and lower parts of the bed base to put you either in a sitting or inclined position when in bed. Think about reading a newspaper in bed, but without using pillows to prop yourself up, you can push a button and raise the head end of the bed.
However, you need very specific mattresses and motor requirements depending on what you are using the electric bed for. Electric beds usually are marketed to two distinct customer bases.
Deciding on a new mattress is hard enough, but getting the right base is just about of the same importance. The type of base to match influences how your mattress feels and performs over time.
The type of bed base that you choose will depend on several factors and bed bases range from under $100 all the way up to several thousand (queen-size) so in terms of price, there is a huge variation.
Many bed bases can be purchased fully assembled and ‘ready to use whilst others require assembling. If you are buying a bed base that is ready to use, make sure that it will fit through the spaces into your bedroom. With this in mind, a bed base that can be assembled and disassembled may be a more practical option.