By Marshall Coyle, the Old Bed Guy. Email Me
A traditional box spring is a soft surfaced lightly padded box containing upholstery grade coil or torsion bar springs and minimal padding. It will deflect slightly when weight is applied. A benefit is that if the mattress on top of the box spring is flexible, it can conform to the compressing of the coils from the sleeper’s weight, providing a softer feel to the bed. Solid felted natural cotton mattresses from yesteryear may gain some added resilience on a good box spring. However, most innerspring mattresses, especially no-flip and extra thick ones may actually wear out faster because of the flexing of the box spring.
Fortunately this is a problem that few buyers will ever have because 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.
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 placed on a metal bed frame under a mattress to provide support and distance from the floor. Foundations can be made in many ways and some are better than others, but they all have a bottom base, a smooth hard top, and something to create height between them. Most frequently used are toughened rigid formed steel rods that are bent to provide a flat surface on top.
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. It would be 100% except that a handful of quality platform bed makers go to the expense of lightly padding the platform. Charles P. Rogers Beds and Ligne Roset both have the lightly padded platform available. Pompanoosic Mills has some very good platform beds but only conventional bases.
The answer is simple. 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 thirteen inches from upper to lower binding that will have the comfort life expectancy of a purpose built platform mattress. You should make certain that the mattress has genuine woven material on the bottom surface. If you choose a foundation verify that it has woven cloth on the top. Many brand name manufacturers have been economizing with non-woven fabrics that may wear out prematurely.
Now that you know that there is no comfort difference between platforms and foundations, the importance of the mattress “feel” becomes paramount. If you are out of school less than twenty years, you can find a good night’s sleep on virtually anything. As your body matures, it really craves the softer comfort provided by a plush bed. Your brain craves the comfort of knowing that you have spent your money wisely.
Look for the following features in any mattress you buy and you won’t go wrong:
• Foam encased innerspring with 1000 158mm individually pocketed mattress coils in queen size and 1200 in king, to provide maximum comfort, flexibility, long life, and support on a platform or foundation.
• Fully built up foam border plus tempered steel perimeter wire to provide a strong edge.
• A Chemical free cotton/synthetic blend, knit top cover quilted to a naturally fire resistant soft textile fire barrier. [Avoid mattresses with chemically treated foam fire barriers like the plague because of real or suspected health hazards.]
• Quilted border with 4 sewn handles to spare your back when positioning the mattress
• Heavy duty border wire embedded in high density foam border around perimeter to prevent edge sag
• Woven fabric on all four sides for long life.
In conclusion, if I were buying a new bed for myself and spouse, I would get a good solid wood lightly padded platform bed only because I prefer the style. A foundation would prefer the same comfort life. I would get a purpose designed platform mattresses, like the Biltmore, or the St.Regis, and if Mrs. Coyle has her way, maybe add a snazzy new padded leather headboard. I have nothing against a foundation, but I prefer the style of a platform bed.
Marshall Coyle, The Old Bed Guy – Email Me with your bed and mattress questions.