adjustable base vs box spring mattress foundation images

Adjustable Base vs. Box Spring: Dimensions, Benefits, and Drawbacks

by
/ November 19, 2021

Two of the most popular bed base options are adjustable bed frames and box springs. What exactly are the differences between the two, and which one will best suit your needs? 

Here, we've put together an adjustable base vs. box spring guide to help you determine which of these mattress foundations is right for you.

Adjustable bed vs. box spring: key differences

Adjustable bases and box springs are very different mattress foundation options. Let's take a look at the key differences between the two:

Adjustable bases are motorized and allow you to raise your head and feet to create different resting positions with a remote control. 

Box springs are a solid foundation covered in cloth. They sometimes use a metal coil system for support but more commonly use a wooden slat system.

Adjustable base features

Some of the most notable features of an adjustable base include:

  • Customizable resting positions
  • “Zero gravity” feeling during transitions
  • Remote-controlled movement of both the head and feet. The head will generally rise to a maximum of 58 to 80 degrees, while the feet will rise to a maximum of 30 to 45 degrees. 

Box spring features

Some of the most notable features of a box spring foundation include:

  • Sturdy and durable support
  • Low cost
  • Protects your mattress by absorbing some impact
  • Improved airflow to help you sleep cooler

Comparing adjustable beds and box springs

To better understand the differences between adjustable bases and box springs, let's explore the differences in height, mattress compatibility, benefits, drawbacks, and more:

Comparison

Adjustable Base

Box Spring

Average Height

25"

25"

Mattress Compatibility

Works best with memory foam or latex foam mattresses

Works best with innerspring or hybrid mattresses

Bed Frame

Not needed

Needed

Benefits

- Allows you to find the perfect position for reading and watching TV from bed

- Adjustability helps alleviate snoring, acid reflux, and back pain

-Massage setting helps soothe sore muscles

- Least expensive mattress foundation option

- Provides adequate support for most mattresses

- High-quality box spring should last full life of mattress

Drawbacks

- Expensive

- Difficult to move

- Motor can be noisy

- Can be bulky (not a good option if you prefer a minimalist look)
- Might make your bed too high

Average Price (Queen)

$1,000-$3,500

$200-$500

Benefits of using an adjustable bed

Over the past few years, adjustable bases have risen in popularity immensely—in fact, their sales jumped a whopping 200% between 2011 and 2015, according to Consumer Reports, and for good reason. For most people, an adjustable base is a worthy investment that offers quite a few benefits.

  • An adjustable base can support your body perfectly in any position whether you're reading, sleeping, or watching TV. No more sore neck because you tried to work on your laptop while sitting in bed (not that we recommend using your laptop in bed, but hey, sometimes life happens).
  • If you have a medical issue such as snoring or acid reflux, you can elevate your head to a perfect angle to help mitigate symptoms for an undisturbed full night's sleep.
  • If you suffer from back pain, an adjustable base will let you raise your legs to help alleviate the discomfort.
  • The massage setting on an adjustable bed can do miracles for sore muscles—an indispensable feature for athletes or anyone leading an active lifestyle.
  • A split top (typically available in queen and king sizes) or fully split adjustable base (typically available in king size) allows for maximum customization for couples. That's because each sleeper can set their own position.

Illustration of an adjustable base with description underneath:

Suggested types of mattresses

When looking at adjustable bed bases, the best mattresses will primarily be made of foam. Because you'll be bending the mattress to adjust positions, you'll want to avoid anything made with coils. Flexing innerspring and hybrid mattresses with an adjustable bed can cut down on the lifespan of your mattress. 

Here are a few mattresses that will work well with adjustable bases:

  • Latex mattresses: The foam is dense but still flexible.
  • Memory foam mattresses: The foam is soft, plush, and very flexible. 

Drawbacks of an adjustable base

With all the advantages, adjustable bases do have some drawbacks.

  • They can be expensive. An adjustable base will set you back $1,000 to $3,500.
  • They're heavy. The average adjustable base weighs around 150 to 200 pounds. If you move frequently or simply don't want to deal with a heavy piece of furniture, it might not be for you. (Some companies, like Saatva, offer free white-glove delivery, which means they'll set up the adjustable base for you.)
  • The noise from some adjustable bases, especially when in massage mode, may disturb your other housemates or downstairs neighbors. Put an adjustable base on a carpet to help mitigate the noise heard in other rooms.

Benefits of using a box spring

A traditional box spring foundation is one of the most popular mattress support systems. Here's why:

  • They provide adequate support for your mattress and are usually the least expensive option. You can typically find a box spring for $200 to $500.
  • high-quality box spring foundation should support your mattress for the entirety of its life.
  • Box springs are made with a breathable fabric that promotes air circulation throughout the night. This is great for hot sleepers.

illustration of a box spring with description underneath:

Suggested types of mattresses

Modern box springs with slats instead of coils are best paired with a mattress that has a solid base. This usually means mattresses with coils on the inside. Foam mattresses may sag below the slats in your box spring.

We recommend these mattresses for a box spring:

  • Innerspring mattresses: These beds can vary in firmness levels but offer a solid level of support. They won't be affected by sagging. 
  • Hybrid mattresses: These beds are usually softer than an innerspring, but since the dense foam isn't on the bottom of the mattress, it won't be affected by sagging. 

Drawbacks of using a box spring

Although it's popular, a traditional box spring foundation does have a few downsides.

  • A box spring can be bulky. If you're after a minimalistic look, a box spring may not be the right foundation choice for you. A platform bed might be a better option if you prefer a minimalist style.
  • It might also make your bed too high, which is something to consider if you have mobility issues or don't like the feeling of “climbing" into bed. The optimal height off the floor for a new mattress is 25 inches—but if you choose a standard 9-inch box spring foundation and pair it with a thick mattress and 7.5-inch metal frame, you could be looking at a bed that's 30 inches or more off the ground. Low-profile foundations, which measure around 5 or 6 inches, work with especially thick mattresses or higher-than-standard bed frames.

If you're choosing a box spring, always measure the distance from the floor to the top of the surface on which you'll place the mattress so you know what you're getting into. (See the diagram below for a handy visual reference.)

illustration showing the ideal mattress height for a box spring foundation

Other types of mattress bases

Beds are not a one-size-fits-all product. Everyone has their own unique sleeping preferences, so you may not be drawn to a box spring or adjustable base. Lucky for you, there are still plenty of different types of bed bases on the market, including:

  • Platform bed frames: These bed frames are a great alternative to a mattress base. They're usually made out of metal or wood and are lifted off the ground. Additionally, they're light, easy to move, and have plenty of storage space underneath. These bed frames work best with hybrid or innerspring mattresses.
  • Slatted foundations: These bed bases are very similar to a box spring but have one key difference: There are no coils on the inside. Instead, your mattress is supported by sturdy slats made out of metal or wood. These work best with innerspring or hybrid beds but can be used on a foam mattress if the slats are less than 3 inches apart.
  • Bunkie boards are solid pieces of wood that lay on the bottom of your mattress. This bed base is particularly useful for foam mattresses because it gives them a flat surface that won’t cause sagging. 

Get a high-quality mattress base from Saatva

Everybody has a unique sleep style and sleeping preferences—you just need to find a bed that matches yours. With the right mattress, bed frame, and foundation, you can make sure you're getting a good night's sleep every night. 

Saatva has a wide selection of mattress foundations, from adjustable bed bases to simple box springs. No matter how you prefer to sleep, we have options for everybody. Check out our wide selection of bed foundations and start getting better sleep tonight.

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