Choosing Between Mattress Or Boxspring?
August 17, 2011 12:03 PM   Subscribe

Boxspring? Mattress? Or Both?

I've got a king-size bed and need to purchase a new mattress. Looking at former MeFi posts it looks as if IKEA mattresses have been getting the best responses. My question is would I need both a boxspring and mattress? And how does a boxspring benefit the mattress?
posted by goalyeehah to Shopping (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Dunno about the IKEA stuff, but when we bought a new mattress a couple of years ago, part of the warranty agreement (on a mattress, for all love) was that we had to use the boxsprings sold with it and not our old ones. I have to believe that other than raising the thing up off the bedframe a good 9 or 10 inches, it's giving the mattress something yielding to mash against and (hopefully) preserving its proper squishiness lifespan.
posted by jquinby at 12:06 PM on August 17, 2011

It depends on the bed. If your bed is just, say, a flat platform, you probably won't need a boxspring (unless you want the added height). My bed is just a wood frame (sort of mission style) with two metal beams going across the bottom. The beams would not be nice to like on with just a mattress (and the mattress would probably fall through, eventually). The box spring supports the mattress, and those metal beams support the box spring.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:07 PM on August 17, 2011

It depends on your bedframe. Some frames require box-springs (ie there is no support for the mattress without it); for others they are optional or would just look wrong. A lot of Ikea frames are slat-supported and don't need boxsprings.

I'm anti-boxspring myself - big, awkward things that get very dusty and take away from your under-bed storage space. But then, I also prefer Ikea's cheapest foam mattresses to higher quality ones.
posted by jb at 12:08 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

An old Slate article on mattresses said:
Box Springs: I find them wholly unnecessary. Think about it: Presumably, you could put a box spring under your box spring for even more "give" and "support." Another box spring under those two. Where do you draw the line? Also, remember that box springs add significantly to your cost. One reasonable argument I heard for them is that they save wear on your mattress, but I had no way to prove or disprove this.

Many Europeans use platform beds without box springs. Do you hear them complaining? I don't use a box spring, and I don't miss it. It's a princess/pea thing. If you need 17 layers, OK. If you only need one, don't buy a box spring, unless you don't like platforms and can't think of anything better to put your mattress on.
posted by John Cohen at 12:11 PM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I've got a metal bed designed by artist. Steel frame and bracing with a 1/2 inch thick piece of heavy plywood on top.
posted by goalyeehah at 12:12 PM on August 17, 2011

That Slate article seems pretty far off-based. A box spring isn't just to provide support. It's to provide support with a very specific type of bed frame. Platform and slate frames don't (usually) need a box spring. IKEA beds are designed not to need a box spring, for example.

But, a very basic bed frame like this one will require a box spring to support the mattress.

The short answer to your question is: it depends on the kind of bed/bed frame that you have.
posted by asnider at 12:14 PM on August 17, 2011

It seems I posted a moment too soon. It sounds like your bed doesn't need a box spring.
posted by asnider at 12:15 PM on August 17, 2011

I've got a metal bed designed by artist. Steel frame and bracing with a 1/2 inch thick piece of heavy plywood on top.

I don't have a box spring. My Ikea foam mattress is sitting on 1/2 or 3/4 inch plywood. (I think my bed was designed as a platform bed, but the plywood was added by the previous owners because the bed frame itself wasn't up to the job, apparently.)
posted by hoyland at 12:26 PM on August 17, 2011

Agreeing with others that the type of bed affects whether you need a box spring more than anything. Don't let box springs vs not affect your decision, because there's not a consistent correlation between boxsprings and comfort or price. Just find the most comfortable mattress you can afford and worry about the rest later.

Boxsprings are about $50-$75, for one thing, which is rarely budget busting when you're looking at the price of a mattress and a bedframe. For example, you might find the frame that doesn't require a boxspring is more expensive than the one that does, so there's your $50-$75 right there.

In my case, I just went mattress shopping and found that the cheap Ikea mattresses were uncomfortable and not worth it, but the more comfortable Ikea mattresses were more expensive than a comparably comfortable Serta* set. Neither Ikea mattress came with boxsprings, but the Serta did -- and it was still cheaper than the Ikea sans boxspring. Also, the Serta warranty would have been invalid without the boxspring, even though, in my experience, it would have felt just fine to put the plain Serta mattress on a bed that doesn't require a boxspring.

*It might have been a Sealy, I can't remember; it's not actually my bed, but I helped pick it out.
posted by lesli212 at 12:41 PM on August 17, 2011

If you have a stout plywood platform under the mattress, you don't need a box spring. It adds a little bit of "give" to the mattress but isn't strictly necessary as long as you're supporting the mattress uniformly and not letting bars dig into the bottom, etc.
posted by introp at 12:42 PM on August 17, 2011

Something I've found is that unless you're shopping at Ikea, have fun finding a mattress retailer that will sell you a mattress without a boxspring. I have an Ikea slat-base bed, and when I went looking around for non-Ikea mattresses (to replace a damaged Ikea mattress), and couldn't find even a single retailer that would sell me just a mattress by itself.
posted by deadmessenger at 12:50 PM on August 17, 2011

I had no problems buying mattresses without box springs. They may pressure you into buying one, but I guarantee any salesperson would rather sell you a mattress without a box spring than no mattress.

FWIW, we upgraded to a memory foam mattress from Keetsa last year. Yes, they're more money than a coil or foam from IKEA (about $1k), but that was Money Well Spent. Chronic shoulder pain evaporated, and for a while we were sleeping so deeply it was hard to get out of bed. You're spending about 1/3 of your day on it- don't skimp.
posted by mkultra at 12:57 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Steel frame and bracing with a 1/2 inch thick piece of heavy plywood on top.

This is what we have too. We use just a matress, a Sealy we bought at the local matress store. Both of us think it's the best bed we've ever had. It seems to be wearing just fine.

I'd only buy a box if you want the extra height.
posted by bonehead at 1:08 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Skip the box springs. They're just added expense.
posted by gregr at 1:14 PM on August 17, 2011

Note that these days the under-mattress object is sometimes just a "foundation" which is like a covered wooden frame, containing no springs (so it's not as heavy).
posted by Rash at 1:31 PM on August 17, 2011

If you have access to a Sam's (or similar warehouse store) check out their mattresses - not sold as a 'set' with a box spring, and far cheaper for similar quality than any Mattress store I went in last year.
posted by pupdog at 2:27 PM on August 17, 2011

I just bought a mattress without a box spring. I probably looked at 5 or 6 places before I bought one and nobody said I had to buy a box spring or even tried to pressure me about it. I think the dealers must be getting used to more people having platform beds.
posted by interplanetjanet at 2:44 PM on August 17, 2011

I always thought you needed a boxspring, but now I just have a (thick, pillowtop) mattress laid over particle board. Works awesome.
posted by Acer_saccharum at 2:51 PM on August 17, 2011

One thing a box spring does do is allow your mattress to breathe right through. If you put your mattress directly on plywood or similar any moisture is going to condense at this barrier and potentially create mold or other problems.
I know this only because this is exactly what has happened under my mattress, on the wood slats of my bed - but then, I do live in a leaky old house in a rather moist climate. Your mold might vary.
posted by Flashman at 3:12 PM on August 17, 2011

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