January 24, 2011 - Marshall Coyle

Which Is Best : Platform Bed, Box Spring, or Foundation ?

By Marshall Coyle, the Old Bed Guy.

Have any questions?    Email Me

If whatever you have under your mattress or have seen in a store, it is only a BOX SPRING  if it has springs.  If it has springs , it will feel “springy”.    There are some hybrid bases with flexible springs in the middle third any stiff unyielding wires at the top and bottom.  The made up word, “POSTURIZED” is often used in connection with mattresses or foundations that are designed for extra support or flexibility in the center third.

A traditional BOX SPRING is a soft-surfaced lightly padded box containing upholstery grade coil  springs and thin smooth minimal padding.  When in good condition the surface will go down slightly when weight is applied.  Springs age and lose their springiness.  A queen size BOX SPRING HAS 60-80 large heavy wire round coils attached to each other with flexible wire or strong upholstery twine.   Better quality designs have a thin strong insulation on top of the springs and a layer of firm cotton felt directly under the top fabric.   Some lightweight hybrid waterbed mattresses may be used on a  FOUNDATION but are safer directly on a floor.

REVERSIBLE TWO-SIDED  INNERSPRING MATTRESSES  should be used on a BOX SPRING.   They lose much of their comfort life when used on a PLATFORM BED, or a FOUNDATION.

NEVER-FLIP ONE SIDED  INNERSPRING OR FOAM MATTRESSES  should always be used on a FOUNDATION or a PLATFORM BED.   They are not designed for use on a flexible base and may fail prematurely.

A new genuine spring filled box spring is a genuine rarity in today’s mattress market.   I  would estimate that 98.6% of all upholstered boxes found under a new mattress are some form of foundation.   This is not a bad thing unless the mattress is old style two sided innerspring.   Old style innerspring mattresses rely on the spring action of a genuine box spring to supply the desired comfort and durability.  The upper and lower unit work in a silent partnership.  Sometimes, BOX SPRINGS,  are not so silent.  When they were popular, better box springs were made with cloth strips between the metal coils and the wood slats that they were attached to.  A coil would move along with the sleeper’s motion and rub against wood making the traditional squeak that people under sixty have probably never heard.

If you purchase a new one-side innerspring mattress with the intent of using it on your old box spring, it is a false economy as you are not only shortening the comfort life of the mattress, but you are taking away much of the comfort designed into it.  One sided mattresses are not just mattresses with half of the filling omitted.    I am, and now you should be, aware that it is possible to buy just such a mattress if you deal with one of the minority of bad actors waiting to take your money under false pretenses.   If you have the strength to read  this blog and also study the available material at Consumer Reports, you probably will end up with a good mattress at a good price.  And, you will now what to look for when you shop.  Consumer Reports even has a chart with ratings for mattress sellers as well as mattresses.   When you take advice from almost any internet review site other than Consumer Reports, you have the very real risk of getting a mattress because the maker owns the site or pays a commission to recommend it.

If you did buy a one sided mattress and are using it on an old box spring, the best way to get the sleep you paid for is to convert the box spring into a sort of a platform bed.  Measure the length and width of your old box spring and buy  half inch or thicker, smooth one side, softwood plywood to place between the box spring and the mattress.  It is fine if you use three pieces equally divided or one long piece and one short piece.  If your lumberyard offers you some other board other than plywood, politely decline.  Only plywood is strong and durable enough.  More than 3/4″ thick is a waste of money.

There is a third type of under-mattress box shaped like a box spring  now finding its way into the market.  It is a foundation with wood slats across the top instead of the base. It is actually an upside down cheap foundation.   No one, to my knowledge has found a less costly way to make a foundation.  This is not a good thing.   The individual slats are invariably made with the cheapest available softwood, thinner than desirable, sometimes covered with a sheet of heavy new or re-used cardboard.    A store that lacks the experience or the integrity that should keep this junk out of their store or website does not deserve any of your business.

Fortunately few buyers will ever have to decide between a foundation and box spring as box springs are high on the endangered species list. No major mattress maker and certainly none that begin with “S” still offer old-style box springs.    It is a fact, not a supposition, virtually all mattress makers that sell foundations do not make them themselves.  Leggett and Platt, the major resource for all things good and otherwise that fill and cover a mattress will and do sell everything from pre-cut wood for the platform base, to complete uncovered foundations made with  a variety of formed and bent indurated heavy wire with little or no flexibility replacing the coil springs of old.  It costs makers like Simmons, Sealy, Serta, and almost 600 others no more to buy the ready-to-cover foundation than to pay workers in their factories.

Then the fun starts.  Since the products offered by almost every maker  in the store, even in sleep shops with a dozen brands,  are all virtually identical, each brand  pays  wordsmiths  to come up with countless phrases  and sentences.  You can change brand names around but they are all selling peas in a pod.   These foundations are strong, durable, and perform the job expected of them.  Minor variations that cost pennies to the maker can sometimes cost several hundred dollars to the under informed shopper.

When you see a box spring advertised, or demonstrated by a retail chain “sleep expert”, more than likely it is a foundation with no springs. These are rigid boxes 4-16” thick  designed to fit on a metal bed frame under a mattress to provide support and distance from the floor. Foundations can and be made in many ways and some are superficially better than some others, but they all have a slatted  bottom base, a smooth hard top, and something to full the space  between  top and bottom . Most frequently used are toughened rigid formed steel rods that are bent to provide a flat surface on top. Leggett and Platt is not the only supplier, but the minor ones mirror  the L&P technology.

Essentially, a well made foundation mirrors the sleep and support benefits of a platform bed. It will provide smooth, durable, strong, and predictable support. The quality of sleep comes 99% from the mattress and 1% from the platform or foundation.  Aside from aesthetics, there is no reason not to just put your new one sided mattress on your floor, carpeted or otherwise, and get the same quality sleep as you would get with the factory foundation.   Actually, the feel is improved by a padded carpet to the point of being better than most platform beds or any “foundation”.    A tiny number of platform bed makers lightly pad their platforms for added comfort. Ligne Roset, Flou, and Charles P. Rogers are the most significant. You still benefit from using a purpose designed and built platform mattress

Please be aware that all of the above advice assumes that you have or will buy a one-sided mattress.   A few mattress makers still make reversible, two sided models.  These were designed for use on flexible springs, open coil and box.  Most are either very inexpensive or very very expensive. Nothing in the middle. Nothing.   The inexpensive come from tiny local factories and mattress renovators.  Depending on whether the mattress is all new or has partially reused parts, such a mattress and foundation can be as cheap as three hundred dollars, rarely a bit more.    The other side of the spectrum are two wonderful mattress makers.  One on each coast.   McCroskey in the SF area and Shifman in the NYC area.   Thin,  reversible and deeply tufted.   McCroskey even makes their own vintage style  innerspring units, and both make some coil box springs.  Both still make the best mattress you could buy in 1951, the year I went into business.   Shifman was the best mattress in my store in the fifties and we slept on one.    In the postwar years, hard mattresses were considered the best and healthiest.  Maybe someday “hard” will again become popular.  However, they virtually disappeared when the competition started using new padding material and more flexible innersprings to make far more comfortable mattresses.  Both firms still use large, heavy gauge coils, and layers of felted cotton for the core of their beds.  Some concessions to comfort have been added, usually in the form of pillow tops, but they can’t compete with good pocketed coils and natural latex and other healthy foams.

SO WHICH SHOULD YOU CHOOSE?   Sorry, but you really don’t  have the luxury of choice with only minor exceptions.  You are going to get a FOUNDATION.    You have to be very patient and energetic to find a real coil box spring. If you seek a coil box spring, I mention a few sources in the previous paragraph.  There are others that I can supply if you request by email.  I am building a list and will publish it, but for now you have to write to me.

If you get either a new platform bed, or foundation, and you get a mattress properly designed for a solid base support, you can find your perfect bed. I know of no current mattress thicker than sixteen inches from upper to lower binding that will have the comfort life expectancy of a  normally obese purpose built platform mattress. You should only buy a box spring if your new mattress is reversible.  Shifman, Marshall, Hastens, McCroskey, EJ Kluft, and other makers of replica post-WW2 mattresses are major players. You should make certain that any mattress has genuine woven material on the bottom surface.  It is a false economy for a maker to use non-woven cloth on the bottom of a mattress, nevertheless, they are very common.  Ask and/or look before you buy.  If the maker claims that their mattress is platform-ready then you know it will do fine on a foundation or a platform bed that has a bit of padding on top.    

Marshall Coyle, The Old Bed Guy -

Email Me with your bed and mattress questions.

Bed Buying Tips / Bedding / Mattresses

Comments

  • Hope says:

    You are very kind to take the time to present such enlightening and incredible information. You have changed my purchasing habits forever. I am still trying to understand a little about foundations. Does Charles P. Rogers sell a foundation or do they only sell platform beds with which one can purchase an inner spring mattress? I looked at their website and do not see a foundation offered, but perhaps I am just missing it. Are you saying that when shopping for a mattress, a new foundation is not a necessary purchase (unless damaged in some way?) I know there is a huge push in every mattress store that I have ever experienced to purchase both the mattress and the foundation. The salespeople often say there are springs in the foundation that support the mattress and that the warranty is voided if both are not purchased. Again, thank you for all of the work that you have put into this site. Best, Hope

  • Marshall Coyle says:

    Dear Ms. Wong,
    Depending on the mattress thickness, your choice of foundation or bunkie board is about height, not comfort. A board is around 2″thick, made of softwood with cardboard stapled to it and covered in fabric. The best that I know of available on the net goes for $69. at the Mattress Firm—http://www.mattressfirm.com/2-Bunkie-Board-P211.aspx?utm_source=google&utm_medium=products&utm_content=2%20Bunkie%20Board&utm_campaign=Marketplace

    You would probably be better off with any good foundation as I think that the construction of a bunky board will inevitably lend to sagging in the middle, also depending on the weight of the occupants. However, a foundation with STEEL formed wire attached to a wooden base is simply stronger. Foundations made of only wood tend to be junk. Sealy, Simmons, and Serta all use formed wire foundations.

    If your shopping area has a major store clearance center, you can get your absolute best buy on a foundation there because they are one step away from worthless to them. Very few people buy only a foundation.

    I hope that you plan on putting the board or foundation under a Charles P. Rogers platform bed mattress if you simply want the best sleep experience. You won’t suffer if you don’t but you will be happy if you do.

    All the best,

    Marshall Coyle

    • Marshall Coyle says:

      You should give Charles P. Rogers a phone call. I re-visited the website and noted the word steel to describe their new foundations. All good current foundations on the market use formed wire. Never the less, a few high volume price-only makers such as Corsicana, have cheap softwood and empty space instead of steel. The wooden base is separated from the wood slatted, cardboard covered top by air. Rogers makes a steel product befitting their quality. To my knowledge Rogers does not use chemicals in their mattress. It is unlikely that they would in their foundation, but if you have a need for chemical-free products, I think you should get personal assurance for your peace of mind.

  • Great post. looking forward to see more great info from you. I am in the bed business and know that you write the truth. Why don’t you write and article about Tempurpedic?

  • Maggie says:

    Have you heard of Carolina beds? It’s made of a combination of latex & memory foams and springs. It has a breathable top fabric bamboo fibers. Warranty is 15 years. Any info would be great .

    • Marshall Coyle says:

      Maggie,
      I am aware of them, but have never seen their product. I analyzed their specifications as offered on their website and on the websites of several of their largest dealers. There is much more information of the dealer sites. Carolina Mattress Guild offers furniture stores an unknown virtually private label to offer at rather high profits to help them fight off some of the bargain outlets such as Sams Club, Costco, and others. Prices and quality is all over the lot.

      One can buy a Simmons or Serta mattress with as many coils, similar latex and soy foam, at far lower prices in a big-box store. When you see this brand, you see a retailer trying to make extra dollars because of customer inability to shop.

      For less than the cost of even the highest price Carolina Guild, you can cut out the retailer completely and buy beds directly from various makers. Charles P. Rogers Beds has far more pocketed coils, and absolutely top quality mattresses at lower retails. Another direct maker with stores in many states is “The Original Mattress Factory”. They are nice people to deal with, however, to my knowledge do not work with pocketed coils. If you check with Consumer Reports on the web, you can get a lot more honest information.

      Marshall

    • True Story says:

      Don’t ever buy a bed from Carolina Mattress Guild. Our was misrepresented by the store (Mattress Capital in Raleigh NC), was way overpriced, and had a 1.5 inch sag within the first week! I’m on this page because I’m trying to replace their junk foundation that they sell with their beds because it creaks very loudly every time I get off the bed.

      • Marshall Coyle says:

        Sure, Tempurpedic is the synthetic foam maker that recently bought Sealy and Stearns and Foster and is the throes of a re-organization. They make a very wide range of chemically base visco-elastic memory and ordinary chemical polyurethane foam.

        They must be the best of their type, only because so many questionable foam peddlers claim to be “Better Than” TempurPedic. In my highly subjective opinion should be a signal to walk away from anything that you offer.

        If someone wishes to buy a genuine Tempurpedic, I believe that he or she could take advantage of TempurPedics well run direct-to-the-customer operation

        Where you buy is as important as what you buy. If you buy a chemical foam mattress from a retailer, not as nice to deal with as Tempur Pedic, I have never heard a bad word about the company and applaud them for their merchandising wisdom.

        But back to the importance of buying this type of mattress that has received so many negative and controversial reviews. -Tempur Pedic sells through hundreds or possibly thousands of retailers. Their main similarity is that they have all agreed to never sell at a lower price than one authorized by Tempur Pedic .

        Their reliability and service policies are all over the place. You might buy your Tempur Pedic from Macy’s and will be taken care of no matter what. You might buy it from a hustler with a website and not much more and your future issues will be solely yours, or what you can accomplish by insisting on help from Tempur.

        My simple advice is that if you believe their wonderful and effective TV and print advertising, and want your own. Buy it from them.

  • Barb says:

    I am currently shopping for a new mattress set and have narrowed it down to two
    which both seem very comfortable in the showroom. Either the Charles P. Rogers
    Powercore Estate 5000 or a Bloomingdales Shifman Original Firm which I found at
    a great price. I am have some low back issues and a back/ side sleeper. Help I can’t decide?

    • Marshall Coyle says:

      Barb,

      You have narrowed your choice down to two excellent mattresses. However, they could hardly be more different. Way back in 1950 “Mrs. Coyle” and I slept on a wedding present Shifman “Original which was then about all they made in those days. It was Sanotufted through heavy wide striped eight ounce cotton ticking, a clever way of tufting to conceal the tuft-bumps before competition convinced them to add a thin quilt. This was before queen and king size appeared on the horizon and the full size set retailed around $99 with free delivery. A button-tufted Simmons Beautyrest with similar hard wearing ticking and a far better innerspring unit was only $79.00 for the two piece set and considered high price.

      We soon opened our first store and for fifty years whenever something new and allegedly better came out, it went home for personal testing. My back has had more experiential learning than most. Mattress manufacturing used to be very local. The few name brands had strategically located factories and every major area had its small craft shops. Englander and Simmons ruled nationally, and although both still exist, Englander is now a group of disparate franchises, and Simmons has toughed it out through many ownerships and changes of philosophy. Simmons had the best innerspring unit then, and except for Charles P. Rogers, still has. Shifman, Charles P. Rogers, and Beckley, all NY area high quality makers have survived the growth of national brands by sticking to what they do best, making unique good mattresses and protecting their brands.

      I am giving you this history so you will better understand how my opinion(s) have formed. If given a choice of the two brands, Shifman and Charles P. Rogers, I wouldn’t think twice. The Roger’s mattress you have selected is a bit too firm for anyone with skeletal pain, certainly anyone over fifty, but one could get accustomed to it. We recently visited their NYC showroom and tried out the whole Estate line. They all are more conforming than most other mattresses owing to their unique proprietary innerspring unit, but they have distinctively different feels owing to the padding layers. As the style number and price escalates, the amount of cool latex grows and the ability to soothe painful hips and shoulder blades grows exponentially. We decided on the #7000 after I lost the “argument” with “Mrs Coyle”. She kept reminding me with my own quotes that if we buy a mattress that is too soft we are stuck with it and no longer are in the mattress business, but if we buy one too hard, we can put a nice thick latex topper on it and sleep happily ever after. Now this makes perfect sense and quite recently, I had a letter from someone who bought a Shifman DaVinci in an out-of-business New Jersey retailer, Valley Furniture, and apparently as the retailer must be involved, not service was forthcoming. This Shifman is a much higher priced and thicker version than the Shifman Original that you are contemplating. She asked for help getting some sleep after wasting thousands on a too hard mattress built so well that it may never soften. I gave her a link to a 3″ good quality latex topper pad at Amazon. She bought it with expedited overnight delivery and can’t stop thanking me.

      The “original” Shifman uses only very high quality cotton felt for comfort padding over a heavy gauge hard innerspring low-coil count innerspring. Should last at least ten years and maybe longer, hard every night. People loved hard mattresses two generations ago and actually eschewed the comfort of a Beautyrest to sleep on the new mattress on the block, Sealy PosturePedic. “No Morning Backache From Sleeping On a Too Soft Mattress”. When tastes changed Sealy had to knock off the pocketed coils that made Beautyrests so comfortable and durable and have maintained market share. I do not believe that their imitation Beautyrests are as good as the Simmons product, but that is someone else’s problem. At this moment, my only problem is giving you good advice.

      Rogers uses highest quality cool latex in the Estate line for support and comfort padding. Many other premium brands also do, but not at their low prices because Rogers makes and sells direct to you. The important difference is that only Rogers has the proprietary PowerCore springs. They are the latest version of the hundred year old pocketed coil and the one that senses any protuberances like elbows or hips and gently eases down under the weight, all but eliminating pressure on your sensitive nervous system. Rogers used to also sell exclusively through well known designers, and two stores B.Altman and W&J Sloan in the sixties and seventies, but when these highest end stores bit the dust, they went back to their nineteenth century roots to deal with top designers and directly with the people who will sleep on their beds. This saves the shopper in-store or on the web at least fifty percent compared to any department or furniture store and more than that where you may have been shopping. I am writing this without knowledge whether or not you visited the Charles P. Rogers factory showroom in Chelsea. If you did and chose the #5000 after trying the two more cushy versions, then, by all means buy it. If you haven’t been there, and are mobile, you really should. But as I said above, you can easily make a mattress softer and no less durable with an appropriate latex, (not chemical foam/feathers/wool/or organic miracle) just good easy to buy latex.

      And last, lower back issues often are ameliorated by really sleeping on your side. Gravity apparently is your friend as you sleep and does its best to align your spine a bit. Based upon personal experience I have recommended to dozens of my correspondents with stenosis, scoliosis, past surgery, and spinal arthritis, a method to fall asleep on your side and stay that way. It will only work if your mattress has enough padding as I describe above. You have to invest a bit under $100 in a nice body pillow. The 9-10 long pillows favored by many women in late pregnancy. You wrap it around yourself with your head on top of inverted U and one leg over and one leg under lying on your left or right side with the pillow between the knees. If you have a PowerCore, your hips will settle down enough for your spine to be in a straight line. If you have a competitive pocketed coil such as Beautyrest or the Sealy imitation, it might work, but just a gamble that your weight and body mass are correct for that mattress. The PowerCore obviates a need to worry, you don’t fit it, it fits you. Another and lots less expensive way is to sew an old (or new) tennis ball into the back of a loose cotton tee shirt that will annoy you every time you roll onto your back. Everyone tosses and turns somewhat, but stiff springs like the Shifman double offset with 12.5 or 13 gauge tempered wire, to me, is no different than sleeping on a well padded thick woolen carpet. The feeling is very similar as the only real give is the rug pile and the foam padding.

      Barb, I have gone on an on in the hope that you will be another happy sleeper. I keep thinking about retiring again, but every day when I get the smiling thank-you-for-my-best-nite-sleep letters, I am back to the keyboard.

      “Marshall Coyle”

  • Barb says:

    Hi Marshall,
    I have been to the Rogers showroom in NJ and tried the Powercore Estate 5000
    for 10 minutes and liked it. One my concerns is if it sleeps warm even though
    they say latex is suppose to be cool. I may go back and try it again. They do
    have a buy back guarantee as stated on their website. I’m not to thrilled
    with the idea of flipping a heavy Shifman mattress. Thanks for your advise.

  • Barb says:

    One more thing…I sleep well on my back and would never consider torturing myself
    with a tennis ball!

  • Bita says:

    Hello, Thank you for a very helpful blog. What is your recomendation for a less than 12 inch mattress thickness which is one sided (for platform bed). Challenge is finding a good quality mattress that is not so deep and thick.

    Lastly, what are your thoughts about the firm mattresses made by Room and Board or BoConcept which are meant for platform beds they sell?

    Thanks,
    Bita

    • Marshall Coyle says:

      Dear Bita,
      Thank you for your interest in my hard-to-read blog. If your work your way through, you should notice that I do not recommend particular mattresses for particular beds. I do recommend different mattress constructions for using on different bases. On a platform bed, you would be well advised not to use a two-sided innerspring mattress as they are designed to be on a flexible coil box spring that moves up and down with the mattress. If you are own or are planning to buy a platform bed, my recommendation will vary depending on the way the base is made. If the bed has a solid no-slat base, or the best base,such as the one in a Charles P. Rogers platform, a base with a thin layer of padding to emulate a platform, any one-sided mattress will serve. Obviously, the difference in actual use and comfort will vary more with your choice of mattress. You certainly, at the price they sell for, get better mattresses than sold by these furniture stores. You are paying a maker’s profit and a retailer’s profit, and in the case of BoConcept, a franchisor’s cut. The Bo mattress competes in quality with Ikea but will probably be less satisfactory than a similar cost coil and foam from Ikea. If you are only planning to use it as long as a typical NYC one or two year lease, you might want to go to your neighborhood futon shop and get one of their better ones for the same as the Bo. The futon is made for a hard base and usually has no cheap springs to break as does the BoConcept. From their website, it shows absolutely no reason for it to last at all. No internal or external support or structure and no details about the type of coil other than pocketed. I would not be comfortable recommending it when it so easy for you to do better.

      The Room and Board is a much better product. It is a real mattress. Not a great real mattress, but better than the BoConcept by far. Room and Board has lovely to look at furniture. You want lovely to sleep on mattresses and theirs have too many compromises for me to recommend. What I do recommend is for you to go back to my blog which “orders” you to actually read the current Consumer Reports mattress tests, and if you still need advice, write a letter to me that tells me enough about you for me to make an informed recommendation only for you. I don’t really do general recommendations as there are no “general” customers. You are all individuals and you especially have had the good fortune to find one of the two “honest’ websites. Alone on a crowded internet, Consumer Reports and the Old Bed guy can be totally honest and candid. ALL the others accept money from makers and sellers to promote the sales of their products. Bad for you, good for the advertisers. If you want specific advice , my email is oldbedguy@gmail.com. If you include the data about yourself and anyone else who will sleep regularly in your new bed, you will get a thorough reasoned reply.

      Marshall Coyle

  • Paul Bullen says:

    Are there any good reasons to buy a metal frame? If so, what are they?
    Are there any good reasons to buy a (hard) foundation? If so, what are they?

    I gather two-sided mattresses work best when on a spring mattress (as opposed to the floor or a platform bed).

    I can think of one good reason for both–they both constitute one way to make the top of the bed higher from the ground–which for some people may be a good thing. It would be one reason to opt for a platform bed instead too. Possible reason #2. I suppose a frame gives bugs fewer places from which to move from the floor on which they are walking onto the bed. (Also, a foundation would give bugs further to walk to get to where the people sleep).

    Relatedly, is “foundation” a genus of which hard foundations and box springs are two genera (with adjustable bases a possible third), or is a box spring not a kind of foundation (this is a terminological question)? I’ve been in the habit of using the word ‘foundation’ to cover both, pointing out that single-sided mattresses should not be used with box springs.

    • Marshall Coyle says:

      Paul, I am unsure of what you are calling a metal bed frame. If it is what once was universally called a hollywood bed frame that fits under a boxspring and keeps it off the floor and provides a means for attaching a headboard, it makes perfect sense to me. Attaching six inch or so metal or wood legs to the bottom of a bed also works well esthetically but usually has no wheels for easy moving. The other choice is to put your foundation or box spring directly on the floor.

      If you are talking about the ready to assemble springs on legs with a wire grid top, sure they make sense. They make sense to the Chinese entrepreneur that is grinding them out. They make sense to the websites whose unique selling proposition is to sell cheap stuff cheaply regardless of the outcome. They make sense to consumers who have little disposable money and want something cheaper than a foundation that also might have storage room underneath. People who are the market for this type of product tend to live in more cramped quarters and extra storage is a good selling point. I once recommended one, about three years ago, to someone who I meet dog walking. She needed storage and something without cloth to meet the needs of an emotionally challenged destructive teenager. It came from Amazon and has worked well in twin size. The Amazon webpages for these products are so full of five star reviews suspiciously similar to each other that only the one and two star writers should be given credence.

      Two sided mattresses become softer and more flexible on a real box spring where the coils have some up and down movement. They feel and act differently. On a platform, a medium firm mattress may feel hard and the same mattress on a coil box spring might feel soft. The foundation became ubiquitous when one sided mattresses took over. Most of them would not do to well on a box spring as they are not designed to have a flexible support and inside parts will move around and eventually break away. A very few makers, the one’s who make their own springs, can make a two sided mattress that can cope with a box spring but few to none are now available.

      Your bed bug pondering is way off. The cute little buggies don’t wander aimlessly. They sense the warm carbon dioxide emanating from any human or animal in their proximity and walk right over for a snack. The semi-scamming bed bug cover makers conveniently have forgotten that the bugs are just as happy, maybe more so, living in cracks in the wall, electric outlets, any furniture at all, not out in the open. Not unlike our NYC Metropolitan insect, the roach. Only leave the dark to feed. This old bed guy has never seen a bed bug, but there are many other more interesting things still left to see before I make it my business to see one.Y

  • Paul Bullen says:

    It would seem that you, at least, use “base” as the genus term, such that box springs and “foundations’ are two species of bases. But I see that Leggett and Platt use “box springs” to refer to solid bases, aka, foundations: http://www.beddingcomponents.com/boxsprings.asp.
    You would think they would be terminologically more careful.
    Adjustable bases replace both bases and frames. So perhaps, it is not good to treat adjustable bases as a third species of base. They are more accurately, adjustable base-frames.

    • Marshall Coyle says:

      Leggett and Platt, the single entity that makes the components for most of the mattresses assemble in the USA and Canada, has made an internal decision to call any box that is as long and wide as a mattress that contains steel in any form is a box spring. They sell both coil box springs and grid top foundations with a large variety of formed metal rods that support the top grid. Until recently this type of bedding was called a “foundation” and still mostly is. Nevertheless, L&P has decided to call them all “Box springs” as long as they have some steel in their construction. Those with coils usually have a flexible top and are my preference when used with a double sided mattress, tempering the hard springs in the mattress. Those with formed wires bent with many different angles attached to a metal grid and stapled to a wooden base, have just been christened “box springs” spring or not. They are distinguished by their rigid platform type top. One sided mattresses fare best on this type of base.

      The L&P adustable bases have a boardlike surface and are not box springs as are most of the rest of the world’s supply. A conspicuous outlier is Duxiana who has an adjustable bed filled with resilient coils and, in my opinion, at this time is the very best. If you visit the L&P website, you may get a clearer understanding of why there is very little differentiation between the design and manufacture of innerspring mattresses. They all use the same parts bin and can keep busy knocking off each other’s original work.

    • Marshall Coyle says:

      The Leggett and Platt company has apparently decided that if it looks like a box spring, and can squeak like a box spring, then it must be a box spring. One defining criteria is the presence of steel. Absent steel and present wooden slats, it is a foundation and (they say) foundations are awful. In retrospect, when costly box springs started to be replaced by not costly formed wire filled foundations, I was not happy. At least fifteen years have passed and the wire grid foundation is under virtually every new mass produced innerspring mattress made in America. Leggett and Platt has reimagined box spring construction to sharply lower labor and material costs. I predict that they will come roaring back with higher priced mattresses. This is a good development. If you want to see what a good old-fashioned hand tied box spring looks like, visit the McCroskey Mattress site. Except for Duxiana which has coils in the base of its adjustable beds, and some non-powered wooden slat adjustable bases sold overseas, to my knowledge every adjustable bed supports the mattress on a foundation.
      Marshall Coyle

  • Ch40 says:

    I’ve learned more in this article than from all the salespeople we’ve dealt with over the years – thank you. We just learned the hard way that we should not have bought a heavy one sided king mattress for our platform frame – it’s impossible to make the bed! I feel like a good salesperson would have warned us but it was our fault for not being informed – it never occurred to us that even my 6’3″ husband would struggle to lift it.We just ordered a 2 sided mattress with a low pro boxspring and were advised to go down one level in firmness if we opted for a Bunky board instead of the boxspring. Am I correct in thinking we must have springs in our boxspring? All of our discussions were about the mattress and trying to achieve the correct depth – we never thought about the boxspring being a complicated issue too. We are buying from an old fashion mattress manufacturer with a good reputation, Gardner Mattress.

    • Marshall Coyle says:

      CH40?,
      I would really like to provide you with a useful answer. I am familiar with the Gardner product up to a point, but I can only match specific comfort to specific individuals with their unique bodies, life style, and any medical conditions that interfere with sleep. As you read the provided laundry list, you may get an idea of how many small things can make or break your sleep experience. You mention that you already chose, but did not supply a description of the mattress. Very few two sided mattresses will feel very good for very long if not used with a flexible coil box spring. From the picture on the Gardner Web Site, their box spring is the lowest cost spring on the market. It even lacks the necessary cloth strips between the machine tied coils and the thin softwood base. If you like the night music from a squeaky spring, this is the prescription for it. They might have a better quality spring, and in fact, if you decide to go with a coil box spring, you might very well ask them about a better box spring. The one’s in the website are made by an outside maker and Gardner simply assembles them. The same source also has higher grade coils tied with italian twine like good old fashioned living room furniture. I am not against technology dating back to the Victorian era, when it is still the best. Innerspring coils and upholstery foams have had quantum leaps in goodness as recently as last year. Mrs. Coyle and I sleep on a new-tech mattress that is light years ahead of anything the same 167 year old craft shop made in 2013. It took them more than a century and a half of tinkering and designing, but they hit the bullseye this time. They make their own coils and don’t share with other makers. Our former mattress was very similar to Gardner’s top of the line, it worked extremely well for about eight years, and as our aging bodies didn’t do as well, required a soft latex topper to return the comfort. Our new one has no compressible cotton or wool fibers to pack down and harden. It is just coils, and the goodness of clean and cool foamed latex, the best padding since 1928.

      If you want a personal detailed recommendation, share the answers with me:
      (for both if the bed is shared) write a tiny essay and return it to oldbedguy@gmail.com. You don’t want any personal details on the internet/
      your age, height, weight, BMI if known.
      Occupation
      Non-work related physical activity and any regular exercise?
      Present mattress brand and style
      Allergies
      Heat reactions from any cushioning product such as chemical memory foam?
      Do you smoke?
      Drink more two ounce or more at night regularly?
      Snore loudly enough to disturb a partner
      Ever diagnosed with Sleep Apnea and any treatment
      Any Physical Condition. injury, or disease that interferes with falling and staying asleep?
      Any pets more than twenty pounds with the run of the bed and use it?
      Zip Code where you shop or live so I can recommend local suppliers when good for you.
      Have you ever bought a mattress without first trying it?
      Would you buy a mattress on the internet or from an 800#
      How many times a night do you wake up and get out of bed?
      And last, please describe your sleeping pillows.

      Gardner deserves to take pride in surviving 81 years through good and bad times. They apparently made good mattresses in 1933 and still make the same good mattresses in 2014. Except for taking advantage of high speed quilting machines to make the exterior more attractive, and a small amount of chemical foams as they deem appropriate, while the mattress industry continues to design more comfortable and durable mattresses, they are not on offer at Gardner. This is a frequently repeated pattern for tiny shops to survive. I want to put myself on record to say that several of the mattresses that appear on their websites are fine, if a bit overpriced, but when compared to current technological changes, especially in the innerspring arena, you can do better. If you want to check the check list and get back to me, I will lead you through a process. If you can send me a snapshot of the bed that this important purchase will be sitting in, it may be important in working out the various depth choices available. Also, please explain your concern with the height. Is it the problem of climbing into and/or making the bed, or some other.

      I await your email

      Marshall Coyle

  • Cheryl Khan says:

    I love my platform bed. I’ve never gone back to the old box spring of my childhood. There’s really no need for them. If you’re worried about platform beds being stiff, take advice from a soft sleeper, it’s really not that big of a difference. It ultimately depends on your mattress. Here’s some tips you should look at:

    Get a platform bed. You won’t look back! :)

    (I have deleted a link to the platform bed seller, Cheryl Khan, that tried to get you to visit her website by fooling you into thinking that this praise is legitimate. Mrs. Coyle and I sleep on a good platform bed, and as “Cheryl” wants you to believe, makes box-springs unnecessary. This is not good advice. Firm flat foundations or platforms are necessary under most solid or layered foam mattresses as well as one sided, no flip, innerspring mattresses. Old fashioned innersprings with padding on two sides still needs the extra bounce of old fashioned coil box springs.

    To all the nice people out there who sell bed products, please don’t foul up one of the two or three review sites on the net that do not accept pay for praise. Marshall Coyle )

  • diane says:

    What a great blog! Thx for taking the time to educate us all! I recently purchased a storage bed. my traditional boxspring made it way too high so I got rid of it. Now my back is suffering. I just moved and am on a budget so I won’t be investing in a good mattress for another year of so. In the meantime, I’ve heard people say to try either: putting a piece of plywood under the mattress, buying a bunky board (2 in) or low profile box spring (5 in). The bunky board would be a good size since it looks like the bed looks best the way it is now without the additional height. There is nothing solid under the mattress now, it’s about 5 slats, which I think are causing the problem with support. Your suggestion for a temporary (1-2 year fix)?

    • Marshall Coyle says:

      Dear Diane,

      The most suitable fix, and so suitable that I will call it the only sensible fix, is getting a lumber yard to cut you one or two pieces of 1/2″ or thicker plywood (smooth one side) equal to the exact size of your mattress (you did not mention one). Remove enough slats so that only three survive. One in the exact middle, and one proportionately between the slat and each end of the bed. Three is the perfect number to prevent any rocking or being high or low. Don’t second guess on this magic number 3. Save any good ones left over, for “just in case”. Place plywood with messy side down facing the floor. If this bed is twin or full size, I can send you a slightly more complicated fix that should cost a few dollars less. Either “fix” will provide proper support for any purpose designed platform bed innerspring mattress. If I am still surviving when you have saved$6-800 I will be happy to save you from the snake-oil salesmen that now sell mattresses on the internet. You can read about this on the blog, and it might keep you from buying a new mattress and then having to do it all over again in as little a two or three months.

      I am not kidding about the surviving. I started this blog when I was eighty years old and have helped thousands of people save literally hundreds of thousands of dollars. Now, five years later, I am sort of beyond my use-by date and there is no one around with my kind of mattress and bed knowledge to turn it over to. If you go to the blog again, or quickly search around these comments, you will find a list that I require before I can help anyone actually get the most perfect mattress for their needs. It is in your interest to do this as soon as convenient, because “years” is what I do not have any longer.

      Good luck with the bed fix up. I would appreciate any before and after pictures if you have a picture phone or camera.

      Marshall Coyle, the OldBedguy@gmail.com

  • Becky says:

    Hi Marshall – thank you for your time and expertise! I have a fast question: I’m looking at a latex/foam mattress from Lucid. Its a 9″ inch thick mattress with a 3″ natural latex comfort layer and a 7″ high-density polyurethane foam support base. They say use of a platform or box spring will void the warranty. Why do you think that is? Are they meant to be put on the floor only? Thanks for your help! Becky

    • Marshall Coyle says:

      Because the importer who is peddling this cheapest of Chinese chemical crud masquerading as a mattress, brings in packages of all the parts including the base in the shipping container. They can not eat the leftovers. You buy complete sets or nothing as they have no retail business or warehouse or place to store the base that you do not buy. If I were you, I would continue to shop, but this time, make sure that you are dealing with a real merchant. If the web site does not have a land address, a store, any kind of history, and is offering miracles that no one else seems to have, you would be well advised to continue your shopping.

  • Jenny says:

    Hi Marshall,
    I’m so glad to find your page when I was out of ideas on what to do!!
    Long story short, I bought a platform bed online for a new mattress. The package came but without nuts/washer and one of the leg was bent. I have no time to wait for the parts to be resent/replaced as my guest arrives in two days and I need something quick and easy. (easy because I’m a DIY idiot…sadly) I have an old box spring so i thought I’d do what you suggested and place a 1/2″ plywood between the new mattress and old box spring. I went to Homdepot but they said they can’t cut it as one big piece. Your Blog mentioned multiple piece is workable. So, here comes my stupid question. Do I nee to find a way to “join” the plywood together if I get 3 pieces (running in the width direction)? Will them slid/move around if it is not one big piece? Truthfully, I don’t know how to “join” them together. The gentleman from Homedepot suggest a mending plate that has teeth so I can just hammer it along the seam of plywood plates. (I guess that side would be facing down, towards the box, in this case) But that way, ultimately the mending plate would bend/deform along the seam of the plywood?

    Thank you very much for your help.

    Jenny

    • Marshall Coyle says:

      Dear Jenny,

      Duct tape, wonderful duct tape. Buy a small roll of at least 3″ width, with 4″ being better. Apply three pieces of tape to each seam, one right smack in the middle, edge to edge but not wrapped around, and the other two meeting in the middle. This will make for years of use. Tape only one side, the smooth top side. This will permit a minor hinging action with little or no wear to the tape. If you do it on the bottom, it will quickly tear. If you do it on both sides, it will tear even more quickly. Then you can Google “duct tape projects” and learn how to make wallets and many other things out of your lots of leftover tape. If the “expert” at Home Depot can figure out how to make one of the plywood pieces larger than the other two, then the large piece should be supporting the torso.

      If you bought an appropriate platform-specific mattress your guests should be delighted.

      Marshall

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