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Mattress and Boxspring Shopping Advice

Wallingford Mattress Box from Bedrooms & More Seattle
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One question we frequently hear from our Seattle shoppers is, do I need a mattress set (mattress plus boxspring, also called a box) or can I get by with a mattress only?

Ready for some Q&A? We’re here to help dispel some myths about mattress shopping and make the process easier and more transparent for you.

Q: What’s the value of a box? When shopping for a new mattress, do I NEED to buy a new box, or can I use my old boxspring? Is using a platform bed — a bed that supports the mattress all on its own on a raised, horizontal frame — as good as using a boxspring?

A: All of these are good questions, and the answer may vary. Most boxes these days are just fabric covered height. They have wooden slats across the top; oftentimes there will be cardboard over the slats. The few companies that still use coils or metal in their boxes use a rigid structure with little to no give. Therefore, a box is merely height to hold a mattress on a frame. This is one of the reasons platform beds have become more popular over the years. As boxes have become an unnecessary part of a bed’s support system, people have chosen to save money by selecting frames that no longer require a box.

It used to be that boxes were an integral part of a bed’s support system. If you go back far enough in the history of mattresses, you’ll find that batting materials like hay, wool, and cotton were the sleep surfaces of choice for most people (nowadays, we would liken these beds to futon mattresses). Back then, coil boxes would provide responsiveness to a sleep surface that was generally quite firm. As mattress companies evolved, coil systems were inserted into beds to increase their comfort life. These heat-tempered coils were able to maintain their shape for up to 2 million compressions, whereas batting materials compressed fairly quickly.

With coils now being part of the mattress, the coil boxes became a liability for mattress companies. The number of coils used in boxsprings were not numerous enough to handle the weight of a mattress plus people combined, and mattress companies were more likely to have warrant-able sags to mattress sets they sold. Often times, people needed to insert plywood between the mattress and box to firm up their sleep surface. When people didn’t firm up the bed themselves, sags in low coil count boxes led to problems for mattress manufacturers and consumers alike.

So mattress companies changed. Boxes are now manufactured with little to no give so that sags are less likely to be a result of the box, and are sometimes an unnecessary purchase.

Q: I’m in the market for a new bed, and my bed frame requires the use of a box. Do I need to buy a new one?

A: Unfortunately, you may. Mattress warranties require that you put the mattress on a good support system. Platform beds are almost always okay, but old boxsprings generally aren’t. As I said before, these old support systems can develop sags, and that will telegraph through, and potentially even damage a new mattress. If your old box has a slatted wood top and no give, then you should never need to replace it. These platform boxes are a permanent solution, and essentially all mattresses are okay on these.

Q: Then why did the salesperson tell me I HAVE to replace my box, or that it would void my warranty?

A: It may be that the salesperson doesn’t have enough education, or it could be that a rare mattress company has a unique policy. A platform box is equivalent to a platform bed. If there is center support under the middle of the box or mattress, you will meet the warranty requirements for nearly all mattress companies. If you are using a box, anything over a twin or full size mattress should have center support. If you’re using a platform bed, even a full needs that support.

Let’s talk. We’re listening.

What are your top questions about boxsprings or platform beds? Lay them on us. We’ll respond!

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10 Comments on "Mattress and Boxspring Shopping Advice"

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29 days 22 hours ago

I am replacing a 10 year old high quality mattress with a new latex mattress. My foundation appears to be of the solid platform type you mention,and I’d like to use them because i don’t want to give up the height that they provide (as opposed to a platform bed). I was thinking of putting the new mattress on the foundation, but i don’t think there are enough slats on it to support a latex mattress. Can I simply add another layer of wooden slats on top of the foundation and then use it? Thanks for any advice.

design bedrooms 2014
1 year 5 months ago

Very nice post. I simply stumbled upon your blog and
wished to mention that I’ve truly enjoyed surfing around your blog posts.
In any case I’ll be subscribing for your rss feed and I hope you write once more very soon!

2 years 4 months ago

Does anyone have any information about the Stearns and Foster bed the “Kathryn”. We are looking into purchasing a new bed but have a store credit for the last new bed we bought. It developed a “valley” within 6 months.


2 years 11 months ago

I have a Rice Bed. I bought a box spring (9″) and Serata Winding Creek Fm Mattress (10″). The height of the bed has gone up. If I put slates on the bed and remove the box spring ……will that be a good support to my mattress.

Seeking a new mattress
3 years 3 months ago

Your advice is awesome! I’m going to replace my 20 years old mattress but don’t know how to shop a new mattress. Your article helps me a lot! I have a question, which one is better the latex mattress or memory foam?

4 years 1 month ago

Very interesting point with a guarantee of the mattress. I understand that if the bed frame does not meet the standards of the mattress – a guarantee disappear? Some companies offer a lifetime limited warranty, they probably rely on ignorance of the buyer. Thank you that opened my eyes, I do not think about it.