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


  • 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 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

  • 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 Marshall Coyle says:

      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. 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.


    • 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 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 Marshall Coyle says:


      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 #9000 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. 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?


    • Marshall Coyle 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 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 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 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.

  • 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)

    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 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 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.


    • Marshall Coyle 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.


  • Gloria says:

    Dear Mr. Coyle,

    We are currently looking for a new mattress and are literally at our wits end trying to find a quality queen
    flip/double-side inner coil mattress for under $1,000. We live in Southern California and every place we have looked don’t even carry double-sided mattresses. Any suggestions? Also, can we use a platform base for our new mattress, or should we be using a box spring, or can we put our new mattress on top of our old mattress (which is also a flip, double-sided mattress that is only four years old, but not as firm as we would like — we bought new from my brother who was transferred overseas just weeks after he purchased).

    Many thanks for your response and your most valued opinion and assistance.


    • Marshall Coyle Marshall Coyle says:


      I can understand why you are frustrated in your search. Can you imagine the difficulty you would find in you also wanted to buy a brand new 1950 technology television or automobile. Mattresses have evolved and what you seek has become a fossil. Never the less, you can find a double sided mattress in Southern California if you find a Macys or a Bloomingdales, or possibly a local sleep shop that carries Kluft and Aireloom brands. The Kluft company, in Northern California carefully hand assembles very good two sided mattresses. A problem for you will be the price as they can cost as much as an entry level automobile. You should start thinking about possibly compromising.

      Your plaint has so many contradictions of what is possible but I am trying. You use flippable/quality/queen size/ and <$1,000 in the same sentence. In reality, you cannot do any of these things.
      You can get a quality, actually a good quality queen in your price range if you buy it factory direct from one of the sources mentioned in various essays in this blog. But you will have to order on the internet. Nothing like it near you. The nearest is McCroskey Mattress in San Francisco and way out of your price range. Very good one. A retail priced queen sub $1,000 has quality compromises that affect the comfort and expected life. Only from a factory direct source mentioned in the blog, and ordering on the net or toll free phone will you find what you think you want. And then, you will have to make your own compromise and get a contemporary engineered one sided hybrid innerspring. If you lived in heartland America or even the Rust Belt, you would have access to the Original Mattress Factory’s 100 factory direct stores. They make a sub $600 two sided mattress that is just OK as you would see if you clicked on the link to them in my Mattress Buying tips or hints. They also make higher priced two sided, but, again, too much for your budget. To make it plain. Please spend an hour reading. You may not become a mattress expert, but you will stop making impossible demands on yourself.

      If your new mattress is too hard, and it one sided, it should be on a firm foundation or platform bed. A practical way to make it softer is with a latex topper. The operative word is latex. Unless you want to buy and return a chemical foam because it is less costly. You have to spend several hundred dollars to get a minimum 2″ soft latex high quality topper. If you buy on the cheap, you will soon discover why I took the trouble to advise you otherwise.

      I hope that this letter has been helpful. It is only a tiny bit of the advice available when you read the various essays in the Old Bed Guy blog.
      And continuing in your journey: A two sided mattress requires a coil box spring. You can read why and how in my article about box springs and foundations. It is plain that you just started typing without reading the laboriously typed advice that is freely given in the OBG blog. Putting your new mattress on top of your old mattress, without any consideration of what either mattress consists of is the least best idea of all your efforts to be different, but not better, in your choice of sleeping equipment.

  • becs says:

    Just purchased a king mattress and was wondering if I can do a sort of DIY platform bed using a metal bed frame and purchasing some wood from Lowes cut to the width of the frame to use as “slats” (maybe 1×6 boards). Would that be sufficient if we used about 10 of them?

    • Marshall Coyle Marshall Coyle says:

      The number of slats is adequate for proper support as the spaces will be quite small, however, if the bed frame does not have a center support running from head to toe, the slats will not be adequately strong by far. The will bend deeply in the middle and just fall out before they break, if they do not break first. Cheap pine over 6 feet long does not have much resistance to bending. And hardwood can be better, but a lot more costly and still will bend without center support. If you’re wallet is running on empty, check out steel bed frames from Amazon. Amazingly inexpensive way to keep your mattress off the floor/ get the ones with flat metal strips, not thin wires.


  • Christina says:

    We live in San Antonio Texas and would like to know it there is smaller independent mattress manufacturer here. I have heard there is a firm that makes reasonable and well made mattresses in San Antonio.

    • Marshall Coyle Marshall Coyle says:


      Not offhand, but I am searching and will post the answer as soon as I am sure of the quality available in your local shops.

    • Marshall Coyle Marshall Coyle says:

      Dear Christina, I have continued searching for a worthwhile local to San Antonio factory, and have not succeeded. If there is one, and there might be someone hiding in plain site with no internet representation, but from here in the northeast, invisible to me. What I did find was a retailer with the disingenuous name of “Factory Mattress” that sells the major brand names. http://www.factorymattresstexas.com/products/ will get you to their product page. They do not appear to have, or to have on their site, the most highly recommended Consumer Reports and OBG mattresses, but that is not necessarily the case in-store. From their site, they appeared to be the typical unimaginative sleep shop, and that is not necessarily a bad thing if they provide good service. The nature of the products on-offer tend to require service on the average of 20% so buying these mass-produced mattresses is best done where the service is good. I would NEVER recommend buying any of the major brands on the internet because of the service issues and the uncertainty of getting what you expect. The internet, for you, exists to shop for some of the excellent factory-direct providers where the mattresses rarely, if ever, need service, and the prices are much lower. You can see at least two of these institutions in the just published Consumer Reports recommendations, and they all will ship to San Antonio.
      Marshall Coyle

  • Midge Shawley says:

    Have you ever heard of mattresses made by Winndom in Hopewell, VA? Their website is winndom.com. I would appreciate your opinion.

    • Marshall Coyle Marshall Coyle says:

      Not until now. They appear to make interesting products. Nothing that they show on their website would be anything that I could recommend. Not because of poor workmanship. They appear to be be good tailors and have a great imagination, but you do not sleep on imagination. You sleep on coils and padding. And they only show the least best innerspring unit still in use. Almost 100% of quality makers no longer use this old fashioned wire tied low coil count unit. It is used mainly in the lowest priced products. They could, for money, order good pocketed coils from their supplier, get some high quality natural latex, and build you halfway decent hybrid latex. They cannot buy or make the highest quality coils as used by Charles P. Rogers in their Powercore Estate that Consumer Reports just rated the best mattress they ever tested for back sleepers. And it is the coils that count.

      What I really like on their site is the super fat polyester pillow big enough to make a mountainous bed. It has to feel terrific for at least an hour each night until the poly fibers mat down, the same as they will in any mattress that uses them instead of suitable foams. If I was twenty years younger and still owned my big home, I would, for a lark, buy one for a spare bedroom and use it to watch TV on. It looks like fun. You might want to direct the owner of Winndom to check out the Estate Powercore to use as a model for making you something better than he now shows. He cannot make it quite as good because he cannot obtain the Powercore support coils, but he can turn out a pretty darn good one using commercially available pocketed coils.

      Marshall Coyle

      • Ed says:

        Thanks for the best mattress information I have encountered. It is obvious that you are both honest and expert. Here is a bed height problem that I hope you can help solve. We have a Sealy latex king mattress (11 inches high) and Twin XL foundations (9.5 inches high) on a K52RS standard steel frame (7.25 inches high). Altogether, the bed is 27.25 inches high. I have two medical problems requiring me to simultaneously get the whole bed as close to the floor as possible, and also to raise the head above the feet by 7 inches (which precludes simply putting the mattress on the floor). The head of the frame is already up on 7-inch blocks; the question is how to lower the total height while keeping the very heavy latex mattress supported properly without needing another mortgage. After hours of reading, I have narrowed the solution down to the following choices: 1) Replace the standard frame with a low-profile version to save 3 inches and replace the two Twin XL foundations with low-profile models to save 4 inches so that the total height (not counting the blocks) will be 21 inches. 2) Replace the frame with a low-profile version to save 3 inches and replace the two Twin XL foundations with 1 x 6 wood slats (like those suggested by “becs” on February 15) so that the total height (not counting the blocks) will be about 17.5 inches. 3) Replace the frame with a low-profile version to save 3 inches and replace the two Twin XL foundations with Twin XL bunkie boards so that the total height (not counting the blocks) will be about 18.5 inches. Based on what I have learned from you already, the first solution will support the mattress enough, but will either of the other two do so? If either of the other two will work, I will both save money and get the bed closer to the floor. Can you suggest any other alternatives? Thanks very much.

        • Marshall Coyle Marshall Coyle says:

          to “Ed” Re angled bed/Bed Height

          Think about this: Invest in a custom platform made from a minimum 1/2″ smooth one side plywood, or 3/4″ if you can afford it. You need approximately 76X80 which will involve a serious carpenter piecing two boards together. You need a nice flat surface that can be elevated the 7″ on one end without sagging in the middle. If you have access to a competent carpenter, the 1/2″ will do but he will have to make a support a few inches high halfway between the front lip that will be resting on the floor, and the head end up 7″. It would be good to put a lip on the bottom, but not totally needed. This, even with the better wood, will not, or should not cost more than a couple of not needed metal frames. And if your health returns, a simple set of legs and you have a normal platform. The other ideas are too complicated and messy, especially the slats. You do not need foundations if you have a real solid old latex, Sealy brand or otherwise. In a perfect world, that mattress should be on real box springs, and you would be getting the comfort that is inherently in it, that you may never have felt. If money is no object, just comfort, I urge that you get a good latex/hybrid combination such as I mention all over my blog. And now top rated by Consumer Reports. I am completely vindicated. I have been touting hybrids for years, mostly alone, but apparently 2015 is the year when a lot of people will be sleeping better. The wonderful innerspring core, not the same as others, brings out all of the inherent wonderful comfort that latex comes with– and is lost on a slab or a foundation. If you never tried it, you have no idea what you are missing. If you take this mattress advice, please write to me first so I can try to guide you to get the most appropriate for your body type and sleeping habits.

          Marshall Coyle

  • Linda Hurley says:

    Dear Marshall,
    I see that one of the top-rated Consumer Reports foam mattresses is on sale (1/2 price!) at our local Costco, although not online. It is the same mattress as the one on the Costco website, however. My question is regarding the appropriate base for the Novaform 14″ mattress. We currently have a Sleep Number bed, which has a solid platform under the container which holds the air bladders (king size bed). I think the Novaform is supposed to have either box springs or a slatted base, and from your blog, I’ve ruled out the box spring idea. Do you know of any reason we could not use the Sleep Number platform? The new mattress is significantly heavier (128#) than the air bed. If the Sleep Number platform is not a good idea, could you suggest what might work?
    Thank you!

    • Marshall Coyle Marshall Coyle says:

      http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/home-garden/bed-bath/mattresses/mattress-ratings/models/overview/novaform-altabella-costco-99051115.htm will tell you a lot more about your intended purchase. The base you own is worth trying. You can buy a similar mattress, a slab of the cheapest kind of synthetic chemical foam with a push of the button on Amazon and lay out only about $300 or often a lot less. I wonder if you bothered to read the helpful posts on the Old Bed Guy. The 2015 Consumer Reports list on the blog shows you several (my opinion)better synthetic visco memory foam layered slabs with better Consumer Report ratings at less than half the price. Do yourself a favor and read a bit more before you get a hot and hard bed, no matter how cheap it is. You can do a whole lot better. Marshall Coyle.

  • Brad says:

    Greets Marshall,

    I purchased this queen sized metal bed frame from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00R6OXJWE/

    I plan on putting a memory foam mattress on it. The frame has 9 feet, which I read is good, but the spaces between the metal bars is too far for a foam mattress to sit nicely. I plan on getting some 3/4″ plywood to place on it (two 30″x80″ pieces I think, unless you have a better thought?). Do you think that will be a nice solution for this frame? Also, I’ve read that placing foam mattresses on plywood can lead to possible mold on the bottom, since moisture has no way of escaping. In your experience, is that a concern? Would drilling 1″ holes in the plywood somehow help with airflow? I also thought I may cover the plywood with some sort of canvas fabric, if I’m feeling spunky.

    Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks in advance!

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