Mattress foundations are almost as important as the mattress in most beds. However, most people have no idea why a mattress foundation is important. This is why some replace mattresses instead of getting a proper mattress support. Here’s everything you need to know about mattress foundations.
What Is a Mattress Foundation?
What is mattress foundation or a mattress support? It is going to be something under the mattress that lifts if up and supports it. A secondary use of mattress foundations is to lift the bed up to a desired height so it is easier to get in and out of. Don’t confuse a mattress foundation with lifts that rise up the bed frame so you can more easily store things under it.
The Different Types of Mattress Foundations
There is no single type of mattress foundation. Here are the 5 main types of mattress foundations. We’ll cover both the pros and cons of each kind of mattress foundation.
- The Metal Frame
- Slatted Foundations
- Platform Beds
- The Bunkie Board
- The Floor
01.The Metal Frame
The most popular type of mattress foundation is the metal bed frame. It lifts the mattress of the ground. It frees up space beneath the bed for storage. It adds extra bounce. On the other hand, this can create extra noise and relays motion to anyone else in the bed.
Nor can you raise most of the bed frames to another elevation, though some can be. Adjustable metal frame beds exist, but they are harder to find and more expensive. You can replace either the frame or the mattress at any time.
One point in favor of metal bed frames is that they can be tilted up and put in storage or carried to another room. This is one reason why metal bed frames are a common choice for roll-away beds and guest beds. You can even find metal bed frames that can be folded up so they can be stored even more compactly.
Slatted foundations are similar to platform beds in that they’re generally made from wood. The individual slats can be replaced if broken. The slat bed is usually cheap to make. The design frees up space under the bed for storage. The downside is that the slats can be broken, as many parents of children who like to jump on the bed can attest. If too many slats break or shift, the bed becomes uncomfortable. However, a slatted wood bed frame is generally more comfortable than a bunkie board.
One issue with slatted bed frames is that the mattress really needs to be the right size for the frame or support. If the
mattress is bigger than the frame, it will either sit unevenly on top of the foundation or be uneven because the mattress is squeezed into the frame. If the mattress is smaller than the frame, the bed may shift around. You also get annoying gaps that things can fall into around the edge of the bed.
Metal slat bed frames do exist. However, we don’t recommend them. They create painful pressure points if the mattress doesn’t offer enough support to prevent you from feeling them. And your mattress will additionally get to that point. Most metal frame beds put wide gaps between the bars, and that can create low points in the bed.
Platform beds typically have a solid platform under the mattress. It is different from a slatted wood foundation in that it has a single large piece of wood, generally glued or nailed together. Remove the mattress, and it looks like a table.
What are the benefits of this type of mattress support? It is silent. It won’t create noise as someone gets in and out of bed. It is ultra-stable. It can’t tip over, and the legs can’t become unbalanced like a wood or metal frame bed.
It typically has no storage underneath, though you can find models with drawers built into the wood frame. It does have its downsides. It is heavy and hard to move. That is why it may remain in the master bedroom after the last residents moved out. It generally costs more than other types of beds. You can’t adjust its height.
04.The Bunky Board
We’re not talking about hard wood pieces put under the mattress, though that can be a source of discomfort if you can feel the board underneath the mattress. The bunky board is actually made from a number of wood slats or two large wood sheets covered with a cover. That doesn’t really add much padding. It has the benefit of being cheap to manufacture and easily replaced.
It may be sturdier than box springs. It takes up less space than the average bed platform. It can be most readily compared to the slatted wood frame except it has two to five large “slats” instead of the eight to fifteen found in a wood slat board.
With a slatted wood frame, the very fact that there are many boards under the mattress even out the load and prevent you from feeling any of them unless the mattress is too thin to be practical. One issue with boards and wooden bed frames in general is that they can attract insects, whether it is termites eating it or spiders who like spinning a nest there. Note that you can often replace broken or aging wood slats in a bed with appropriately sized bunky boards.
You can in theory put the mattress on the floor. This is certainly the cheapest option. Unfortunately, it means that you feel the floor if your mattress lets you sink down that far. Most beds are too low to comfortably sit on if you have it on the floor. You’re also closer to anything crawling on the floor.
And if the room floods, your mattress is definitely ruined. Your bed is also more prone to developing mold since any mold growing in the carpet is in contact with your bed. If your floor is cold, you’ll be colder if your mattress is on the floor instead of raised up a few feet.
What Are the Benefits of Having a Mattress Foundation?
The biggest benefit of a mattress foundation is support. If your mattress sags, odds are that the foundation will prevent it from losing all support. If you do see the bed sag, you may get additional support such as with a metal bed frame with springs. Then you have something between you and the floor.
Mattress foundations can improve the ergonomics of the bed. You can typically sit on the side of the bed and put your feet on the floor. This is a natural sitting position. Having to slide down onto the floor is problematic. It means it is hard to get into bed, and you’re at greater risk of injury if you slide or fall out of bed incorrectly. Being too low to the floor creates other problems.
You can’t sit on the bed as a sort of stool when getting dressed. And getting out of bed unassisted can be a problem if you’re injured or sick. Others have to reach down to you.
Platform beds and mattress foundations that create open space under the bed can help keep the bed cool due to circulation. That can be invaluable if you have a memory foam bed. That doesn’t happen if you have a mattress on a box spring sitting on the floor. A side benefit of the platform bed is that it doesn’t look bad if the mattress is a few inches narrower than the platform. Nor will the mattress shift much on a platform, though it would on a metal or wood bed frame.
Some platform beds put drawers and other storage under the mattress. This is a great choice if you’re a minimalist. Box springs and other types of bed frames don’t offer storage.
Do All Mattresses Require a Mattress Foundation?
The answer depends on what type of mattress you have. A memory foam mattress should always have a foundation underneath it. It will sag over time, and you don’t want to have the first hard support under that be the floor. Memory foam mattresses are generally so low that it is hard to get in and out of bed if it lies on the floor.
Spring mattresses are supposed to have a box spring or other foundation under it. This is so important that you may void the mattress warranty if you just put the metal coil mattress on the floor. However, you could opt for a solid wood platform in place of the traditional wood slat frame.
The question is whether you want a box spring that absorbs shock when someone sits down, stands up or bounces on the bed or not. If you consider bounce a bad thing, then you want a solid support. Spring mattresses benefit from mattress foundations with some give like box springs to help distribute weight on the bed. This helps reduce wear and tear on the bed.
Hybrid beds may or may not require a mattress foundation beneath them. That should be specified by the product description. However, you can always put a mattress foundation under it, such as when you need to raise the bed up a foot to make it more accessible.
Most mattress owners would benefit from owning a mattress foundation. The question is what type of mattress foundation is right for you.