Box Spring, Foundation, or Platform, Which One Is Best For You?

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.

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13 Responses to Box Spring, Foundation, or Platform, Which One Is Best For You?

  1. 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

  2. Cassandra Wong says:

    Recently, I purchased a queen-sized Paris iron bed, without footboard, from Charles P. Rogers. Since this is not a platform bed, normally I’d need to buy a foundation and mattress. However, I have been educated by your comments about the Charles P. Rogers platform mattresses and would like to purchase one of them. What are your thoughts about my purchasing a bunkie board to use in place of a foundation with this bed? If this is acceptable, do you have any recommendations for where to purchase a bunkie board? If I need to buy a foundation, would you recommend a particular foundation to pair with a Charles P. Rogers platform mattress?

    • 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

      • Cassandra W says:

        Do you know anything about the foundations Charles P. Rogers has started selling? I am thinking about buying a mattress from them, but my bed also requires a foundation. I can’t tell from the product description whether their foundations have steel formed wire attached to a wooden base or whether there is any chemical fire retardant used.

        • 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.

  3. 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?

  4. 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. You also get the advantage of dealing with a company that has survived 156 years by making and selling only top quality. I don’t know where you live, but if I did, I might be able to recommend a factory to you store in your area that also has 1000 coil construction, not 600 like Carolina.

      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.

  5. 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 #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. 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”

  6. 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.

  7. Barb says:

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

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