December 12, 2016 - Marshall Coyle

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

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

The simple answer is, “all of the above”, but there are rules and differences for what goes best under and into each mattress.

Follow the rules and you will find happiness in bed.

The accurate answer depends on the type of mattress that will go on top.  If you follow these simple rules you will get the best possible sleep and the longest useful life for your new mattress and platform, foundation, or box spring.

A genuine coil box spring is a relic from the nineteenth century. It is an upholstered box with approximately  50-100 coil springs. The springs are much larger and heavier than any found in a mattress and are tied to each other by either four our eight pieces of natural twine. No space-age materials. They were so well designed and made early on that they survived unchanged until the end of the twentieth century. The success of never flip innerspring mattresses made them made them obsolete. Never-flip mattresses provide the most comfort and last longest when used on a solid deck, non-yielding platform bed,  or  foundation.   New hand-tied box springs are a very costly fringe item needed only under almost equally archaic two sided innerspring or solid latex mattresses. Box springs were created long before there were any successful mattresses with internal innersprings

From earliest recorded knowledge all cultures have sought out a way to soften whatever they are sleeping on. Technology has moved from soft leafy boughs or twigs found in a South African cave dated to use about 165,000 years ago, to stuffed-with-something mattresses in the past few hundred years. Mattresses in the Western world in the last four or five centuries have advanced from of a bag of anything on hand that was soft and/or resilient into high-tech innersprings and designer foams.  

All mattresses were home made in America, up until 1855 when an upholster in NYC started offering factory-made horsehair mattresses in the British style. We were a society where few lived in cities and almost everyone lived on or next to a farm. Mattress fillings were often animal hair shaved or sheared from most any domestic animal. Horse and cattle hair and sheep’s wool were the most common.  In the Deep South cotton was very commonly used to stuff mattresses for farmers and plantation owners. Slaves and poor farmers had to make do with straw and hay and weeds that had no commercial value as did cotton.  Poor city dwellers often filled their mattresses with straw or hay purchased for pennies from a local horse stable. Even parts of other reeds growing in shallow water were popular in small communities as was a fluffy water reed called kapok. Horse mane and tail hair was reserved mainly for the wealthy. When Charles P. Rogers started the mattress factory in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood in 1855, a first for this young country, a growing merchant class was happy to buy ready-made horsehair mattresses. The messy job didn’t have to be done by household servants and the mattresses were much higher quality.

These early professionally made mattresses were used on existing rope beds, a bed with tightly stretched heavy rope underneath a mattress.   Box springs soon appeared for the well-to-do. A brand new box spring from Shifman in New Jersey is virtually identical to one made almost 150 years ago by Charles P. Rogers. These retro box spring have a flexible top and edge.   The ‘box spring’ feels sort of “springy” when you sit on the edge. Look inside and you will see between about 63 to 180 sturdy heavy gauge wire coils tied to each other by twine/cord. The best have 8 cords tied and knotted on to each coil. This construction actually started some years earlier in buggy and stage coach seating.   You can often see the outline of the coils through the cloth top of the box spring.  

Coil Box springs are only suited for use under a two-sided old-fashioned (retro) reversible innerspring mattress, or a solid or layered latex foam mattress without internal springs. If you put a one-sided, no flip innerspring mattress on an old-fashioned coil box spring, the mattress will wear out very prematurely and never support you properly. And you will lose much of the comfort that the mattress could have delivered if used on a foundation.

A foundation looks exactly like a box spring from the outside but feels different. It is a cloth-covered box without the flexibility of springs. There are many ways of making a foundation and almost all of them with some kind of metal grid on top under the cover work very well. The most likely to fail are those made of wood sticks without a metal structure.  Almost all of the good ones regardless of the mattress name are made from components supplied by Leggett and Platt. There are varying qualities from L&P, but none that are bad.  They vary from good to excellent. You can feel the grid top by rubbing your open hand across it. Sometimes there is a thin padding directly under the top covering on these grid foundations. The grid is supported by heavy (very heavy) bent wire shapes that resemble springs but are mostly right angles. These “shaped wires” have virtually no springiness. Just enough to absorb shocks if someone sits down heavily or kids roughhouse. They provide perfect support for your never-flip one sided mattress and protect them from shocks.  You can easily test to see if your present under-mattress object is a box spring or a foundation by sitting heavily on one exposed corner. If it depresses more than ¼–1/2” under your weight it is a box spring

Old style two-sided connected-wire (wire-tied) “Holland Maid” flippable innersprings units, the kind that let you feel every motion, and still used inside “HAND MADE”  tufted Shifman innerspring mattress, and many mattresses from ES Kluft, Aireloom, ViSpring, and Sovereign are designed to work only on a flexible coil box spring. If you own a vintage ‘mint’ hand tied box spring it deserves one of these retro mattresses, but only if you don’t mind wrestling with 250# when you do the monthly flip. Bloomingdales and some other luxury retailers carry a selection of astronomically priced retro mattresses. These wire-tied relatively stiff innerspring mattresses are the only type of mattress this Old Bed Guy suggests if you are trying to get a few more years out of your old box spring.  Probably poor economics whatever you choose, but “to each, his own”.

Buying a new coil box spring is nearly impossible as almost all production ceased when one-sided mattresses came out fifteen years ago. “Almost” is the key word because if you have the cash, you can find a box spring maker. Just not in your local furniture or sleep shop. The mattress world has made the switch to easier to make and less costly look-alike foundations. Foundations have replaced box springs and made the one-sided never flip mattress practical. Marshall in Toronto, McCroskey in San Francisco, Shifman, and ES Kluft still make box springs for use with their newly made retro mattresses.  

 Be aware that the mattress industry has recently started to call anything that goes under a mattress and  covered with cloth a boxspring. This means that what was called a foundation a year ago, might be called a foundation this year. Not very likely it is not going to be a coil boxspring.  Doesn’t matter whether or not it has springs, making it important for you to shop carefully if you are only buying the ‘thing’ to put under an older mattress. It is easy enough to check before buying. Few retail salespeople are well informed on this topic.

A foundation is an upholstered box with the same dimensions and appearance as a traditional box spring.  Well-made foundations mimic the support and long mattress life that are normal on a well designed and crafted hardwood or plywood platform bed .  “Easy to Assemble” metal springs on legs, sometimes described as “Platform Beds”, sold on the Internet by stores like Wal-Mart, Sam’s, Amazon, Overstock, Costco,  with prices ranging from $39 to $249 for similar or identical products.  They are almost always a disappointment when used with any halfway decent innerspring mattress. The wires, straps, or angles that the mattress rests on are too widely spaced. The individual coils in good mattresses are designed to be used only on a flat solid surface or platform beds with the slats no further apart than 2.75″.. They rub through the bottom of the mattress and literally fall out ending the useful life of the mattress on one of these cheaply made Chinese imports. These flat metal springs are less bad when used under any synthetic foam mattress. 

No mattress maker, by law, can force you to buy a new foundation or box spring to get a warranty. However the warranty can require that the mattress be used either on a firm and flat strong surface. One sided, no flip, never flip, innerspring mattresses are only to be used on a firm and flat surface such as a suitable platform bed or foundation.  No exceptions. (a carpeted floor IS the exception that proves the rule)  If you buy a new one sided innerspring and attempt to save money by re-using an old coil box spring, your new mattress will too-soon become a denied warranty claim. The claim will be denied because every innerspring maker has that clause in his or her warranty.   If your old upholstered “something” under your mattress is less than ten years old, it very well may be a foundation.  If it has a heavy thick wire grid on the top surface and steel supports internally, it will have a much longer life than the mattress that came with it, and is probably still in good shape.  Re-using a good foundation will not violate the terms of your warranty as long as the top is smooth and firm.

Bed Buying Tips / Bedding / Casper / Keetsa / Mattresses / Misc Bed / Old-Bed-Guy / Pin and Needle / Saatva / Spindle and Other Unknown New Aireloom / Casper / charles p rogers / iFoam / Keetsa Consumer Reports / Kluft / McCroskey / Pin and Needle / Saatva / Shifman / Shifman Brothers / spindle / St. Regis /


  • Nicole Winchip says:

    I am in the process of doing research on purchasing a king mattress for myself and my husband. Would love some feedback on safe, non-chemical mattresses brands. I was looking at Avocado, Natures Spa at Macy’s and Saatva. A little background- I am 5′, 52 years old and mainly a side sleeper. My husband is 6′, 58 years old, and mainly a back sleeper but can sleep in any position. My problem is pressure points on my hips and shoulders. We purchased a Simmons Beauty Rest black series but it was horrible so I sold it. I have been told that the best thing for me would be spring coils with foam but majority of big box only have foams that are loaded with gels and chemicals. I have a credit at Macy’s of $1,800 so would prefer to re-purchase from them but the Natures Spa they carry which seems to be the least toxic starts at $8,500 and goes up to $13,000.00. This is to far out of my price range. We have a Pottery Barn bedframe that has wooden slots and I still currently have the Beauty Rest low profile box springs sitting on top of the wooden frame. These are approximately 7 months old. I am concerned about purchasing from websites without being able to try the mattresses first. Any help you could advise me with would be much appreciated.

  • Bev says:

    Purchased two sets from Raymour and Flanagan.
    Black Calista full and queen. Spent $4000.
    Both box springs delivered had punctures from springs along the box spring ridge and siding. Delivery guys showed up with supposedly new replacements. I was told the Queen on their truck had damage. I refused both the full and the Queen. They said many customers are complaining about damaged box springs.

    The Mgr. Of R/F has offered to replace the box springs with Airloom box springs.

    The box springs would be Airloom while the mattresses are Beautyrest.

    I am concerned that if I opt for a flawless beautyrest box spring that it could develop punctures shortly thereafter since they are having so many problems with them.

    I am disabled and a good mattress is of paramount importance for my ability to function within my limits.

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

  • Jess says:

    Oh man, I wish I had found your site before buying my new bed. I bought a Brooklyn Bedding #BestMattressEver and a knockdown wood foundation which it seems, according to you, are both complete wastes of money. Do you think they’ll last a few years at least? I’m really worried about the wood foundation since you said they fail a lot and I’m overweight. Any advice?

  • Mark says:

    Hi Marshall,
    We currently have a king sleep number bed that came with the modular foundation. It consists of 4 plastic boxes that set into a bed frame the same as the 2 twin box springs used too. This is a flat, solid surface and we hve had no trouble with it for the last 7 years.. We were wondering if this would suffice for a king size hybrid mattress? If not, i there anyway to modify them so they could? Maybe with a plywood top or something.

    Thanks! I really am enjoying your articles.

    • Marshall Coyle says:

      Dear Mark,

      Any contemporary design one sided mattress (no flip) will work on any smooth, strong, solid,and flat surface. If you use plywood make sure that you buy “smooth one side” wood. The bottom of your mattress could soon be worn away by rubbing against ordinary plywood. You can also use Masonite providing the underneath support is really strong and steady. You should not use any form of “engineered wood” or “manufactured wood” that is made of scraps glued together. The glue used is loaded with formaldehyde. Formaldehyde already gets into too many bedrooms because of the proliferation of non-CertiPur approved foams.

      Marshall Coyle

  • Elise says:

    Hello – I was wondering your input on the company/bed Green Sleep (we’re looking at the Nest version). My husband and I are looking at new natural/non toxic mattresses and loved the comfort. However, I’m nervous given then 3500 price tag and what I can expect.

    Thanks for any guidance.


    • Marshall Coyle says:

      Please supply any information regarding the nature of the innerspring unit(s) and edge supports that are incorporated in any mattress you may have an interest. I do not know how I may have failed you in my instructions asking for people not to ask questions about individual mattresses without incorporating them as part of the free survey. I have no idea whether or if any mattress is suitable for any individual or couple without the benefit of the information you supply in the survey.

      As far as I know these, allegedly and non-proven to be healthy mattresses you aver to, have no reason to sell at any price. Let alone, far above the top rated actually green latex hybrids I and Consumer Reports think of so highly.

      I suggest that you go back to the my blog and do the survey. Otherwise you can include green sleep all with the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus in the wishful thinking department. please review any typographical errors as I am dictating this reply to some new software. My arthritis has stopped typing but not the trying to help people.

      I wish you the most happy possible new year that you find yourself sleeping on a real hybrid latex innerspring bed. in the event that you send in a survey please also email me using the same address at the same time so that I will be able to identify your survey in a timely fashion. Marshall Coyle

    • Marshall Coyle says:

      Dear Elise,

      if I can stop you in your path to victimhood, then I will perform at least some part of my mission. Get about $3500 and think about the fact that very little of what is in that website is true. the only guidance I can give you other to be a lot more prudent then you have been so far is to do exactly as requested on my website and send in a survey. Absent the survey I cannot give you any further advice. Knowledge is power and you have given me none. and as they say in the previous letters please please forgive my terrible spelling and grammar, it is me, is a high-priced dictation software program that I am having difficulty learning to use properly. as my arthritis isn’t going anywhere, my choice is a sloppy letter or no letter. I await your survey.

      Marshall Coyle

  • Jeff says:

    Dear Marshall, I am very lucky to have found this page. It’s great to see such a complete discussion on bedding. I’m tired of walking in the mattress store and being told that every bed is just wonderful (if they were all that great there wouldn’t be 100 different mattresses in a single store). They just lead you to believe that any mattress will work at any time with any setup. We just bought our child their first big bed (a twin loft bed). We got a double sided mattress for it for long term durability. Boy are they hard to find these days. Our concern is, what should we be using for the support under the mattress? Your paragraph suggests old school box springs, however with a platform bed this isn’t an option. I believe the bed comes with slats, do you suggest plywood or something else instead? My immediate concern is long term durability. We have only owned our $1000 Simmons Beautyrest for 3 years and it already has 1/2″ of sag which makes my neck and shoulders hurt. I want to avoid such a scenario in our child’s bed.

    • Marshall Coyle says:

      Thank you for your compliments. Your letter informs me that I did not do a good enough job in this area. Mattress durability is not related to the number of sides but the quality of the materials and the manufacture. Your statement that your bought two sided even though they were hard to get, and then put it on a flat unyielding surface may confuse my readership. The mattresses are hard to get because box springs mostly disappeared around fifteen years ago when the major makers, like the one you are complaining about, decided that there is no reason for a mattress to last more than 4-7 years, so they cut down on quality, and while they were at it, they decided that by switching to hard surface platforms, there was more money to be made.

      Because almost 100% of box springs are made by one company, and their customers, the giants like Simmons, Sealy, Serta, and more stopped buying ready-to-cover box springs, this fine company to protect its shareholders, stopped making them. They have started up a new production line making a limited number of box springs, ready-to-cover, but the coils, in my opinion, lack some of the virtues of their older product. Still good. These box springs are covered and sold at retail by the Original Mattress Factory and probably others I have yet to find. I think that retails are around $500.

      One sided mattress can be made to last longer and be more comfortable than two sided mattresses. I think that we sleep on the world’s most comfortable mattress, and it has one side and is on a platform bed. It would be just as stunningly comfortable if it was on a foundation.

      you bought the wrong mattress for your child. Not earthshaking, but you will be out shopping in two or three years even if you flip the mattress monthly. When I write that a two sided mattress requires a box spring, and you do not follow my advice, the worst thing is that maybe a spring will start working its way through the covering. If this is a very young child,he will miss the proper support that a properly shopped-for one sided mattress, chosen for firmness, would give to his soft growing bones. Putting plywood underneath does nothing in this case. Returning the mattress and getting a really firm one sided is what I recommend. I do not recommend mattresses on these messages, only on the free surveys. Send one in and be patient if you plan on taking my advice properly this time. Your $1,000 Beautyrest is doing exactly what the SertaSimmons company that made it designed it to do. $1,000 mattress to the Serta/Simmons company is something that they expect to be replaced average every five years. They make twice as much money as the old way, and it has absolutely nothing to do with the “one side” issue. It has to do with the fact that your cheap-to-make Beautyrest is padded almost 100% with synthetic foams and that is what synthetic foams do, they sag down.

      People in the know buy from factory direct firms such as I mention frequently, and make certain that they are sleeping on a hybrid latex innerspring. These one-sided wonders are still like new in fifteen years and average much more comfort life. You are now sleeping on a bag of petrochemicals whipped up into a foam with a finite short life. Simmons uses safer foams CertiPur approved as do many other firms. You should absolutely go to CertiPur’s website and see if your son is sleeping on approved foam like you are. It would be a shame if he isn’t as it costs no more and he will not be breathing in formaldehyde and 51 other chemicals used in making synthetic foams. The steel truss foundations work like a charm, so do not avoid them in the future, just avoid synthetic foam. It is the foundations made without steel that are the bummers.

      None of this should be earthshaking. Enjoy the new grown up bed and only cover the slats if the are spaced more than 2.75 inches apart and you cannot add more.


  • Lindsay says:

    Dear Marshall,

    My husband and I bought a new Beauty Rest Ansleigh Black Plush Firm mattress just over 2 years ago. Unfortunately we did not do our homework ahead of time (I just found your site) and placed it atop an old coil bedspring of unknown provenance. Now, of course the bed is far less comfortable and sinks in several areas where we regularly sleep. We are considering purchasing a new boxspring, such as the Sultan Atna from IKEA, mainly because we could put legs on it and forego a bedframe (very small bedroom). However, do you think doing this would extend the life of the mattress at all? Would a platform bed be better? Or would it be best to get an all new mattress at this point?
    Thank you very much for your thoughts and wisdom.


    • Marshall Coyle says:

      Dear Lindsay, If you seek a comfortable bed that will provide you with your money’s worth, I will try to help you. The procedure starts with you filling out a mattress survey. The one that is freely offered all over my blog. If you have questions about third rate bed parts, even from IKEA, your questions, as appropriate will be answered. Some blog reading is in order if you think that the Sultan Atna is a box spring; it isn’t. But my blog is full of educational help for experimenters such as yourself. You should do search on the OBG for old coil boxsprings. I few days ago someone was looking to buy one and maybe yours could be it. You might even learn that NO contemporary one sided mattresses function very well or for very long on any surface other than a smooth and solid one. No slats and no coils. A platform bed such as the Madera would probably solve your problem
      All the best, Marshall Coyle

  • Marshall Coyle says:

    Dear Christine, No, is my answer to your apparent question, actually an emphatic one at that. And by now you must know that the route to further mattress enlightenment from me is available only via taking a survey exposing your needs as well as your wants. I have a mental picture of the shape of someone who might actually get some benefit from such a mattress and I would hate to him or her sitting next to me on long airline flight. I never ever would want the magical powers to be able to guess what you need from knowing your name. Can you imagine the downside to being so gifted? Advising you to re-read “Mattress 103” before you actually become a victim, something you seem determined to become. I strongly suspect that you have fallen for the BS on the website that takes commissions for peddling no-spring foam mattresses for Chinese importers. I also sent you an email before I realized that I had to deal with this post.

    When I see a misguided someone who does not have a chemistry degree or a minimum of mattress hands-on experience throw around terms like you do I am always reminded of a quote from someone who was quite famous when I was growing up and now forgotten.
    The delightfully cynical H.L. Mencken ( do a wikipedia search on this man) writes, “The agents of such quackeries gain their converts by the simple process of reducing the inordinately complex to the absurdly simple. Unless a man is already equipped with a considerable knowledge of chemistry, bacteriology and physiology, no one can ever hope to make him understand what is meant by the term anaphylaxis, but any man, if only he be idiot enough, can grasp the whole theory of chiropractic in twenty minutes

  • Marshall Coyle says:

    Dear Christine,

    You should read “Mattress 103” and see why I do not think this is a worthwhile product or a very sensible thing to do. Then, if you are seriously searching for the most suitable mattress for yourself, take the survey I offer. If you go through the trouble of emailing mail concurrently with doing the survey, just telling me that you took the survey and use the same email address for both, it is likely that you will be chosen for a quick reply. No guarantee as I am getting far more than I can handle during this recovery from my accident, but I do tend to take care of the squeaky wheels. It is just human nature. And you are only setting yourself up for a disappointment and that always makes me feel bad. My mission for doing this work is to help people find their way through the maze of bull like the one(s) that have captivated you.

  • Marshall Coyle says:

    Dear Brigette,

    Have no fear, I have my eyes out for your survey and will remember the King Koil thing. If you could, could you tell me the exact date that you filled out your survey. I have been receiving hundreds and only have time in my 16 waking hours to do about ten. No particular way of choosing, but I can and will do yours today, if I can find it. Problem is that the program stores them by date, no way to search names. I will check today, because maybe you sent today, but as soon as I get to see it, I will start the process that will end up with you a happy sleeper. Please do not post any more messages. I do not look at these things every day, but do constantly monitor the email. use the email address on this one.

  • Margie Aghion says:

    Thx for your interesting website. It spins my head though !
    Please would you recommend box springs to put under our 2 year old Kluft king mattress that we purchased at Bloomies in nyc? We kept our old box springs but now our sleeping sides of mattress are several inches lower than than the middle.
    Is this because of old box spring use?
    The mattress has 10 yr warrantee & I’ll have a rep look at it.
    We like our mattress firm & are in our 60’s
    Also, when we bought the mattress the salesman said no movement would be felt from one side to other.
    Is this true for any mattress? Feeling gullible..

    • Marshall Coyle says:

      Dear Margie Aghion,

      I regret that two year old advice by now is worthless. You have made at least two mistakes and might be headed for more as this unwinds. The first is to wait for troubles before seeking my unique advice. The second, and maybe related, is ignoring the Bloomies ten-percenter who must have done his or her best to get you to spend the money on box springs. There are more, and if you choose to follow my advice, there is a possibility that you will come out with what you need, a replacement mattress.

      As you may be aware, Bloomingdales has built loads of dollars into the inflated price their customers pay for mattresses. This gives them some leverage to provide service you do not deserve. If you have already ruined your beautiful mattress, and I am almost positive that that is the case, you did so in violation of your warranty that has some sentences about using the mattress on top of proper support.
      Old box springs are not proper support. If a Bloomies employee shows up, not someone from a national “screw the customer” inspection service, you have at least a small chance to escape with a nice store credit or a new mattress.

      Kluft inner-tufted mattresses down to the lowest price versions have very strong borders, but can not take daily abuse for two years when used on defective bases. And the nature of the damage can never be the fault of the maker or the delivery service, or anyone but Mrs. Aghion. So, what will transpire is up to your skilled negotiating ability and good old luck. You are entitled to nothing more than sympathy from Bloomingdales, but sometimes outcomes are better than we deserve.

      As far as the annoying jiggling and motion transfer, not a warranty issue, but an out and out lie on the part of Bloomingdale’s representative. Re-visit the store one day and ask him or her to lie down next to you on the sample and move around. It will be very obvious that you bought into the untruth because you wanted to. Your mattress has individually pocketed coils that minimize to the extent that they can, . But when you put such a lovely mattress on any flexible box spring, new or old, cheap or expensive, and put the box springs on steel frame with nice plastic moveable wheels. As you have an the annoying amusement park ride every time either of you move. I guess you can understand the problem now. And as to credibility, ask yourself which one of us is getting paid based on your buying something!

      When Mrs. Coyle and I gifted ourselves a somewhat better mattress at about 1/3 the cost from the oldest mattress maker in the country, one that sells factory direct, and we wanted to avoid 99.9% of the motion transfer we did the one thing guaranteed to work. We eschewed box springs and foundations and steel frames completely. We added a solid mahogany lightly padded platform bed for around $600 at a popular bed and mattress company doing this for around 160 years. The beds can cost more, but we like simple. When a mattress base is built like an anvil by a 160 year old bed maker, like a magic wand, the jiggling disappears. I suspect that if you want to buy similar at Bloomingdales for an astounding $6-$9,000 (please don’t ask me to explain the difference here. It has nothing to do with quality as the department store version is not even padded. It is all over my blog) you would have some leverage in negotiating a deal for the new mattress you really need. If it costs more, is it really better?

      Stay in touch.


      PS: At least half of your perceived sinking down on the edge is caused by the non-supporting box springs, simply getting a strong platform bed will go at least half-way to solving the problem. Bloomies will now want to sell you around $4-5,000 of new box springs and they will still sink on the edge when you sit down, and will do a great job of telling you every time your companion moves. You may want to check in with me about the credit if you are offered one.

      • Marshall Coyle says:


  • Matt says:

    Great website! Really appreciate all of the good info you provide. We recently purchased a new cal king bed as well as a Sealy Cobalt firm hybrid mattress. The bed is made with a “euro slat” base. The slats have a slight curvature to them and are supported by a solid metal frame. The manufacturer of the bed states that we can use a mattress directly on the euro slat base without a box spring or foundation. Does that sound correct or should we also purchase a bunky board for better support under the mattress?

    • Marshall Coyle says:

      Dear Matt. The entry level innerspring synthetic foam Posturepedic is designed for use on any flat strong surface. Your Chinese knock-off “Euro” slats despite the fact that they are curved, flatten out under the weight our yourselves and this heavy mattress. Possibly some of them will even droop below level, all depending on your weight and shape. Unless this motion bothers you, it will not help or hurt the sleep process. What could be harmful is if these bentwood slats are not more than 2.75″ spaced apart. If the mattress is resting on a slot of air wider than 2.75#, you can hardly imagine how quickly the unsupported springs will tear through the cheap non-woven textile that Sealy uses for the bottoms of all except the highest quality mattresses. If the slats are closely spaced, just go with it. You will get used to the bouncing. Do not buy a bunky, but do, if you feel a need, but a piece of 1/2″ smooth one side plywood. It is expensive but all you need to cover is the middle third from side to side. While the purchase is fresh and your relations are still good with whomever sold you this bed, get yourself a goodly number of the plastic clips that hold them on, and at least half a dozens spare slats. When these bentwood slats came from Europe, they were wonderful lifetime purchases and could turn a lousy mattress into a good one. A handfull are still available on the internet for prices starting about $1,500, but when the Chinese imitations that look like them when new, and for another few hours, sell in Shanghai for $40, and should not be over $100 landed in the USA. If you have purchase a high end bed, imported from Europe and not Asia, I am sorry for giving you things to worry about that you didn’t need. Marshall Coyle

  • chuck waitman says:

    Hope your health is improving. I have enjoyed your site.

    Is ventilation a problem with a solid wood platform (such as plywood)? Should holes be drilled to provide ventilation. If so, how big, how many?

    • Marshall Coyle says:

      Dear Chuck Waitman,

      Ventilation is really not a problem. I am assuming that you would,after reading my advice, only be placing a nice hybrid innerspring mattress on top of the platform, and not any form of solid foam absent a lot of spring coil supports. Even a latex hybrid such as Consumer Reports gives their top ratings to, and Mrs. Coyle and I enjoy sleeping on has genuine air circulation possible through the mattress ticking. If you are putting a slab of synthetic foam on the plywood, drilling a million holes will do nothing good as what might leak through the woven covering will mostly consist of suspected carcinogens. You must alway be sure to use an air permeable mattress protector with a cool natural latex hybrid so you will get maximum benefits of the air circulation. Nevertheless, if I was “stuck” with a chemical foam synthetic mattress, I would want to cover it with some kind of neoprene cover to protect myself and my family. It can keep in most gas molecules, and if you are sleeping on memory foam, no amount of air circulation will help. The Sleep Number people are apparently now faced with a mold issue on some of their sleep sets. If mold is your concern, and you own a nice electric drill and a sharp 1/4″ or 3/8″ bit, go have your way with the board. The more the merrier as long as you do not weaken the board. It may not help, and the only way it will hurt is if you leave ragged edges around any of the holes.
      Most new big brand mattresses are now coming through with easily abraded non-woven mattress bottoms. Not an issue with any factory direct as of yet. Happy Sleeping, Marshall

  • Arlene Lager says:

    Dear Bobbie,
    I value your opinion so here goes my story. I have herniated discs at the shoulder,
    neck and lower back. I have arthritis also in my neck and knees. My arm and fingers
    get numb sometimes during sleeping. I toss and turn and sweat at night ( not too

    I have tried a Temper pedic mattress and was not able to turn over. But that was
    before they had various models to choose from. It was also very hot.
    I have purchased a Sterns and Foster Swiss Mountain Villa CF Mattress in Sept 20 2012. Right away I felt there was sagging going on in the mattress. The company made a warranty service report and noted that the mattress had a 1/2 compression in the center of the top panel. This was done approximately less than one month after
    the purchase date. I purchased the mattress from Ortho. Terrible service and basically
    no warranty service.

    I then purchased a 3 inch wool topper. That helped a little but bunched up on the sides
    and sagged in the middle. Then I purchased a Latex Bliss 3 inch latex mattress topper.
    That started sagging because I believe the mattress was a cause of the sagging. I
    then removed the topper and I am using the wool topper again. Not sleeping well
    because the top hip that is up always hurts. Don’t know why.

    Can you help? I also tried an all latex matttress that was 8 or 9 inches from Alexbloom
    and it was not comfortable. I forgot to mention I have Fibromyalagia also.

    I am willing to spend money in order to have a consistent good nights sleep.
    Which mattress do you recommend? Your help is greatly appreciated.

    Thanks again,

    Arlene Lager

    • Marshall Coyle says:

      Dear Arlene,

      I really can not help you on this forum. As you might have noticed, every article in the website has an email address to deal with such personal data. Maybe it is my age, but I do not believe in letting it all hang out on the internet, including your email address. In any event, from your questions, it is self-evident that you have not taken the trouble to read the self-help articles in my blog, or at Consumer Reports. Your latex mattress was uncomfortable because you also did not have it on a coil box spring, or as part of a latex cushioned hybrid mattress. Consumer Reports articles that are posted on the clearly have the answers as do my own efforts. So, work a bit with some quality reading instead of spending time and money wastefully buying and trying every gimmick you can find. I am surprised, and happy for you that you did not yet try memory foam or an air bladder mattress. You might want to listen to this before you do.
      Marshall Coyle (who the heck is Bobby?)

    • Marshall Coyle says:

      Dear Arlene Lager,
      I am leaving this post up but removing your posted email. This “comments” venue is inappropriate for such a personal-information loaded request. I don’t understand how you could have missed the address that is posted 42 times on the Old Bed Guy help essays. I suggest that you read a bit more, and then get back to me. If I receive an email from you, I will answer it properly. I do not visit these comments nearly as often as I do my never-empty mail box. I know that you must be miserable every night, and I am sympathetic, but, I have read your post several times and maybe I am getting senile, but I am uncertain as to what you are currently sleeping on.

      The most important way you can help yourself is to understand that no mattress is or can be a panacea. You have aches and pains that can be discouraging, and no mattress either gives or relieves fibromyalgia, the right mattress, the one in hundreds that can let you fall asleep and stay asleep can give you the morning energy to deal with. Certainly one of the current crop of top rated mattresses in Consumer Reports is a likely choice to comfort your spinal and arthritis issues, but only if it is properly matched to your body mass index and other qualifiers. You have my email address and if you write with a bit more clarity about what you now have and any other pertinent information, I will try to enlighten you. Thank you for reading my essays. If you had sent an email instead of this post, you might already have your new mattress on the way.

      Marshall Coyle

  • Bobbie says:

    I have a one sided innerspring that I bought from the poorly desired American Freight company… the “foundation” used was a poorly made all wood foundation bought less than 8 months ago the across beams all busted I don’t want to buy another foundation for fear of this again. My initial intention was to buy slats with a bunkie board but I’ve heard bunkies aren’t the best thing to use because of mold growth by not allowing the mattress to “breathe” would using just regular plain slats and a metal frame be sufficient, comfortable and durable for more than 600 lbs? As my other foundation busted with under 450 lbs.

    • Marshall Coyle says:

      Dear Bobbie,

      Most bunky boards are outright junk made with the same kind of softwood sticks you now own, and covered with some new or reused cardboard. If you are expecting it to last with 450#, your expectations will have to be limited to seconds at best. The mildew story is just as much hokum as how wonderful is memory foam, water, or air, for making excellent mattresses. A platform bed made with hardwood bed slats spaced no more than 2.5″ has a chance to survive for tens of years even with 600#. But only if it is real hardboard, made in the USA, and not imported from Asia. About the strongest platform bed around is made by the Charles P. Rogers company. They make a lot more than top rated mattresses. They are , as far as I know, the only ones available with their exclusive padded deck over. The wood choices are limited to SOLID mahogany or solid American Cherry. Flou also makes a good platform bed. And most cities have a local shop that makes them out of strong plywood, so you have lots of choices besides the bad ones you have made lately.

  • Susan says:

    I really enjoyed reading your article and all your advice! I am basically going nuts trying to find the right mattress. I bought and returned a Casper and Leesa. I am now thinking of trying a Saavta, since they have coils. I had back surgery and I can’t get comfortable on anything so far. I started w/ a Gold Bond expensive pillow top and after 10 years with that decided to try the new latex mattress. I have a very low budget to work with. I have purchased a platform bed, it has the wooden slats ;you talk about so I’m going to look into purchasing a metal support like you also talked about. Do you have any advise on the Saatva mattress or any suggestions? I would so much appreciate any advise you can give.
    Thank you again!!!

  • Ray says:

    Marshall, Firstly thank you for the advise, I can get 9g no problem I was just afraid that they might be to firm so wanted to check!
    I would have a latex mattress in the morning but I am slightly allergic to the stuff so it’s a big NO.
    Your story reminded me of an incident with myself in Boston.
    I had been staying for an extended vacation with my brother and he was talking about getting a new settee.
    You really shouldn’t say things like that to me unless your serious.
    Anyway walking home along Main St the night after didn’t I find a beauty, 8ft long in a quarter circle shape hand tied springs hair seat with rolled edge. OK so the back legs were broken and it had seen better days but ” I ” was in love and could see no fault that could not be attended to.
    OK so their was no beautiful blond hair like yours, but I still dream of a find like that.
    Anyway, I rushed home excitedly and dragged my poor worn out brother round to see it. Well he just wasn’t impressed but I was not taking NO for an answer and waxed lyrical about all the positive aspects and ignored the only bits that he could see,,, I can still remember the look of something just not quite reaching disgust on his face.
    We got it on his truck and to the house and he just wasn’t happy for about a week, but he didn’t want to offend me, and I was determined to win the day.
    I got it striped and knocked into shape,, bought a nice broad burgundy and gold stripe chenille with a fine black line between the stripes that he loved!
    Then I found nobody had a decent sewing machine I could borrow so it was off to a large well known department store that did a 30 Day return,,, yes I’m resourceful and I was feed up looking at that sewing machine after a week so back it went it just wasn’t all I expected.
    It was channel cushions and feathers all the way and I had to buy duck feather pillows the get the filling.
    Anyway I did win the day as he loved the settee as did all his friends when it was finished, he kept it for about 14 years.
    Interestingly he seems to buy a new settee ever couple of years from he got rid of that old thing.
    They just don’t put the materials in the stuff today,,, but that isn’t a problem for me most of my soft furnishing is from around 1890 and I have one open armchair from around 1760,,, just love the stuff and don’t think any of the newly fangled foam will ever tear me away from it allergic to it or not.
    Interestingly the price of my mattress is about $17.000 but that’s another story for a rainy day!

    Best Wishes Always, Ray

    • Marshall Coyle says:

      Ray, Good luck with your project. When it is finished, please send me a photograph and If I have learned how to post pictures on this blog by then, I will. I always have to have a neighbor’s kid come in and help me with anything technical, so you see very few pictures on the blog. And as far as the guage goes, no harm in ten, but not softer. I saw a movie on YouTube from Hastens showing the process of hand tying their strange box springs. They were doing a four way hand tie and this was for a $25,000 set. I am sure that you will do the whole eight ties.


  • Ray says:


    I am a mere 50 and found your hand tied box spring talk very interesting, but I love traditional upholstery.
    Yes you still get the occasional oddball that loves the old ways where stuff was not disposable.
    I live in Ireland, and would like a little advise if you would be so kind to indulge me.
    I have did traditional upholstery for many years as a hobby, I am familiar with tying springs and working with hair and twine.
    I have recently acquired a very nice Vi-Spring Sublime Superb Model mattress 6ft by 6ft 6′ in a medium tension.
    My weight is 13 stone!
    I intend building a traditional cane edge box spring similar to Shifman or Savoir’s offerings.
    I have the ability and already have about 20Lbs of nice curled horse tail sitting here.
    I will probably use an 8″ or 9″ spring and intend using ten springs in length and ten across.
    Would you please give me you opinion as to what gauge of spring you think I should use?

    Thank you, Ray

    • Marshall Coyle says:

      Bravo. If you can get 9 gauge + or – a bit, you should be just fine. Shifman uses 8.75, Kluft 9.0. You should sell your nice mattress and use the proceeds to make your own latex/innerspring hybrid. I am not a fan of retro mattress padding. I have been enamored with the comfort potential of latex foam for at least the last 65 years. Sometimes letters like yours stir up old memories, and yours really did. Back in 1950, my fiance and I were parking my car on a city street near her parents apartment and I spotted a folded mattress on the curb. A nice hand rolled edge with an imperial edge sew border. I took out my pocket knife and made a cut exposing the more than 20# of white horse-tail and mane hair. My soon-to-be-wife was, to put it mildly, upset at my behavior: putting an old mattress into the trunk (boot), but she calmed down when I told her that it was probably worth about $50, a weeks pay for me in those days.

      In any case, no matter how many layers of animal and vegetable fibers and the countless hours of tedious labor invested in your trophy mattress, there is no way that it could be as comfortable and supportive, not to even stress long-lasting, as a nice new latex hybrid mattress, or a good slab of latex on your hand tied box spring.

      I hope the technical information is useful, and if you actually take my advice and arrange for yourself to sleep on latex, you drop me a note one day.

      Marshall Coyle

    • Laurie says:

      Thank you for both the great post and informative responses! I started by looking for a new topper, then a new mattress. By two months I was so fed up with both the smoke-and-mirrors mattress industry and the mandatory fire retardant chemical cocktails which no makers has to disclose I’d seen enough to decide I’ll make my own. It’ll be a hand tied box springs with my own mix between several high end mattress makers.
      Even finding information in the US (I’m embarrassed to say) was absolutely absurd! My husband sent me your link tonight, wish I’d found this earlier, I’d have come to some conclusions much faster! Most of clarity in information came from the British isles or France, so if anyone else is looking, check those regions out.

  • Rob says:

    Hi Marshall,

    Love the refreshing honesty!

    I just bought a Sealy Posturepedic Proback from a Leon’s in Toronto Canada; however, I opted to not go for the matching box spring in an effort to save money. I still have 2 more days to add it to the order for an additional $250. I currently support my mattress with IKEAs LÖNSET Slatted bed base (which I have actually doubled up the slats for a firmer feel). Do you think I am making a mistake by not replacing the slats with the matching box spring? I would really prefer to keep the slats for the overall convenience and savings – but do not want to ruin this recent purchase.

    Please let me know your thoughts. Hoping you might be able to please respond before 1/12/2015.

    Thanks in advance.


    • Marshall Coyle says:

      Dear Rob,

      Save your money if you like the way the bed feels to you. The only real benefit of the matching foundation is to help you win an argument with Leon’s or Sealy’s inspector, when and/or if the mattress starts to develop unsightly or uncomfortable depressions. These so called “sags”are a result of the manufacturer choosing to pad the mattress with foams or fibers that are designed to feel great when on display in a store, or even for the first few months in your home. You may be fortunate in this case because until recently, and possible continuing, Sealy Canada made a better product than Sealy US. TempurPedic recently bought Sealy at fire sale prices, changed the corporate name to Tempur/Sealy and is in the arduous process of integrating two very different companies. More than you need to know, but bulletin board is for the benefit of any of my readers. If your mattress feels too soft, put something firmer underneath, if it doesn’t, just leave it alone. Your warranty does not force you to buy the matching foundation.

  • Carlos says:

    Mr Coyle,
    How can I start, great great info, I’m about to start building a “box” for my bed but now I know that is called a platform as I have a one side no flip mattress. I’m decreasing my slats spacing to 2.5 inches from 3.5. Your site is saved on my bookmarks.

    • Marshall Coyle says:


      Make sure that your slats are supported in the middle if for anything larger than a twin. Also be aware of the importance of protecting the bottom of your mattress from abrasion.

      Happy sleeping,

      Marshall Coyle

  • Josh says:

    Well, I hope I’m not asking an ignorant question:

    Can you give some advice in regards to building a platform bed? I want to custom build a platform bed but I stumbled upon your site and entered a world of information I didnt know existed. I was planning a bed with slats (which I think is called a platform bed). If I were to build a platform bed would you suggest:

    Using only hardwood slats
    Spacing them 3″ or less apart
    And placing some type of fabric on the slats to cushion it?

    I realize that much of this depends on the mattress, but i think I am just overwhelmed by all the info here! Thanks in advance.

    • Marshall Coyle says:

      Dear Josh,
      All of your questions deserve a yes answer. The slat spacing should not exceed 2.5 inches if you intend to use it with a good innerspring mattress. High coil count means that each coil has limited real estate and can be less than 3″ in diameter. If the spring can fit through the space between the slats, gravity exerts enough pressure on the thinly or non-padded mattress bottom. Eventually, as air is not a good support, coils will start popping through the bottom of the mattress. Goodby your mattress investment. The very best quality platform beds currently available have lightly padded solid bases. There is one supplier of platform beds with these superior bases in North America, Charles P. Rogers, Est 1855.

      I am sure that you are undertaking this project for the pleasure of doing it yourself. A short internet search should turn up numerous kits and plans for sale. I sold inexpensive pine platform beds in my chain as a customer convenience in the ’90s. I am not current with lumber prices, but firsts and seconds clear pine purchased and pre-cut at Home Depot used to cost around ten dollars more than I sold a complete bed. This kind of furniture grade lumber fluctuates wildly in price depending on when and where. Obviously, the factories that churn out this kind of furniture and use the majority of the supply, pay the lowest prices. So, you had better be doing this for the pleasure it gives you, not for any perceived economy.

      I have jumped to the conclusion that you are planning to use an innerspring mattress. The answer would be close to the same for most chemical foams such as Visco or Poly. Not the same for latex. If and when you find the need for some mattress help, you have my address.

      When you build your own bed, hardwood slats from the right trees are optimal. Ash, Birch, Oak, Mahogany, are all appropriate. You can also use the above mentioned clear pine 2″ thick and 3-4″ wide and should have a trouble free slat system. But only if the bed rails are properly engineered. You do not want your bed slats slipping and sliding and moving closer or further away from each other.

      If you are on a budget, the market is flooded with Asian imports, some better than others, all cheap. They mostly use Hevea hardwood. This comes from harvesting old rubber trees that have stopped producing enough sap for commercial purposes. Many wood producers in South East Asia have perfected techniques for making engineered Hevea wood. They take small pieces and bond them together. This is more than strong enough for any compression members like uprights or short legs, but totally useless, if fact dangerous, when used in a bending situation like slats.

      Whatever bed you buy or make, you are going to need a comfortable and serviceable mattress. Virtually all no-flip mattresses are made with technical fabric on the bottom. Technical fabric is cheap non-woven cloth substitute. It can be made almost half as strong in puncture resistance as woven cloth, but tends to rub through when resting on poorly sanded or finished slats. I can give you a list of all manufacturers that always use cloth on four sides. It is the same very old company that makes the padded platform. The padded platform does not add any measurable comfort, but it can add years to the life of a mattress.

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