What is a Boxspring and What Does it Really Do?

Here is a recent question we received via email:

Is a boxspring worth the extra money and does it help the mattress last?

Well for many years the answer was yes. However you might be surprised at today’s answer; in this article we’ll take a closer look at what a boxspring is, and what it really can do.

How the Boxspring Started

Many years ago a mattress would lay on a simple platform others were suspended by ropes, and then along came the mattresses mate the box spring. It was the theoretical shock absorber for your sleep system.  The idea that a box spring lengthens mattress life  and gives our bodies additional support has been the salesman’s pitch for years, but does it really?  It seems that box springs and our thinking have changed quite a bit since early mattress sets and we’ll show you how, but first let’s check out the old way of thinking.

What is a Boxspring and What Does it Really Do?

What is a Boxspring and What Does it Really Do?

According to the Better Sleep Council “the mattress and the boxspring is designed to work together as an integral set and were engineered as such”. The council goes on to say that “the boxspring or today the more commonly called foundation receives most of the wear & tear throughout the mattress life. The boxspring is the key component and is by and large the contributing factor to mattress comfort and overall support. Placing a new mattress upon an old box spring, or pairing it with a mismatched foundation that it was not originally designed to work with, may shorten the beds functional life significantly. Putting a board between the boxspring and mattress will reduce comfort and shorten overall mattress life along with possibly voiding the manufacturers warranty.

The above paragraph is true. Unfortunately the most common of today’s box springs are designs like the Leggett & Platt SEMI-FLEX™ or the Hickory Springs’ zero deflection PowerStack™. Both of these designs have virtually no give or absorption ability when compared to the traditional coil box spring and various other torsion bar designs. Not only that but these new “box springs” have significantly less steel in them. This lack of steel in the box spring makes itself evident from the moment you pick one up; there is little weight or beefiness to their design.

Other new “boxsprings” actually are what is called a foundation. It is a simple design that consists normally of a lightly framed wood box. They also use horizontal wood slats that span the overall width of the boxspring helping to distribute weight. Often lying across the top of wood slats is a sheet of cardboard that is covered with upholstery.

It is my opinion that “boxsprings” of the non-flexible designs neither flex nor do they extend the useful life of a mattress. I also feel that non and semi flexible “boxsprings” do not contribute to mattress support. It will however transfer less disturbances from one person to another.

Many people believe that anything with steel is going to be stronger overall, but this is simply untrue. There are very good quality wood foundations on the market that can outperform the so called “boxsprings” so be sure to do your homework. So the question is this, are “boxsprings” really stronger and do they make a bed last longer? Well many people would say no. I think it is easy to see it depends on what the definition of a “boxspring” really is.

We have a great selection of box springs – even all natural box springs. Browse our selection today and let us know how we can help you find the perfect fit for your body.


Doug Belleville and his father Dave own and run STLBeds - a specialty sleep store located in Arnold, MO. The staff at STLBeds is highly educated about sleep, comfort and their special sleep products. STLBeds only carries high quality mattresses and bed-related products. You won't find the brand names here - just call and ask us why!

21 Comments Leave your comment »

Do low profile box springs provide similar support to the regular ones?

Comment by Sleep Walker — April 18, 2012 @ 6:54 pm

Traditional boxsprings or now foundations are typically 8-9 inches in height and most are rigid and have no give. Low profile is nearly alway the exact same thing but lowered. The sole purpose is to lower the overall height of the mattress set for easier entry and exit, asthethic reasons, or to unblock a headboard that would otherwise not be seen because of thick bedding.

Comment by Doug Belleville — April 19, 2012 @ 6:54 am

I need to lower my mattress height by 6″. My current king size bed box springs are 9′ tall. Where can I find box springs that are 3″ tall? Do you have another solution? I have a very nice and comfortable 16″ mattress and do not wish to replace it.


Comment by Harry Trachy — November 11, 2012 @ 10:31 am

Harry I am not saying that they do not make one, but I have never heard of or seen a 3 inch box spring or foundation. I think a better solution might be a low profile steel bed frame. This should also be less costly. How To Lower A Tall Mattress & Boxspring

Comment by Douglas Belleville — November 14, 2012 @ 7:27 am

I do not have a box spring. When I sleep on the mattress I get a little back pain. Is this because of the absence of box spring? My mattress is relatively new and is in a great condition. When I put the mattress on the floor and sleep on it I do not get as much back pain as when it is on the bed. Please suggest if I should buy a new box spring?

Comment by Abhay — November 28, 2012 @ 1:38 pm

to lower our bed, we plan on removing the bottom half of the steel frame legs (rollers) and putting thick rubber matt to cushion the steel legs. our bed has a steel bed frame with six feet and pop in rollers. the wooden bed feet currently do not touch the floor. this should gain three inches. and compensate for a three inch thicker mattress.

Comment by justme — December 25, 2012 @ 12:11 am

justme, I have seen people do this before, however people that are considering doing this need to think about whether or not they will be attaching a headboard and footboard, a headboard only, or simply letting the mattress set free stand alone on the metal frame. Buy removing the plastic inserts, wheels or feet the frame will no longer set at a height that will allow it to either bolt up or hook into the original existing connection spaces provided on the headboard.

Comment by Douglas Belleville — December 27, 2012 @ 4:53 pm

My wife has a problem getting into our bed. My box springs and mattress is very thick and our bed is king size. Can I remove the box springs and maintain a degree of comfort? Could I place the mattress on a 3/4 inch plywood sheet and eliminate the box springs?

Comment by G. Grumbles — March 14, 2013 @ 12:18 am

Mr. Grumbles, while that may work there are solutions such as a low profile bed frame. a low profile boxspring, or low profile foundation that would likely be better solutions to your problem. Here is a link to an article on the subject. How to lower my tall mattress and boxspring

Comment by Douglas Belleville — March 16, 2013 @ 7:44 am

Is boxspring the same as frame or the bed set that we buy from the store. I am thinking of purchasing a mattress and I see a boxspring for a very reasonable price. Should I go ahead and buy the boxspring and leave out the bed set to save some money. Does the boxspring also come with headboard and serve the same purpose as the wood bed set with nightstand that we usually buy from stores.

Comment by Mandy — July 5, 2013 @ 10:04 pm

Hi Mandy, No the boxspring is the immediate support under the mattress that sits on top of the frame. We recommend purchasing both the mattress and boxspring together. Boxsprings are usually sold separately from the headboards (beds).

Comment by Douglas Belleville — July 9, 2013 @ 7:52 am

I need a box spring/foundation for a tempur-pedic mattress. King size. do I go 2 twin box springs, or the one solid ‘non giving’ type??? Thanks

Comment by Suzanne — July 30, 2013 @ 12:42 pm

Suzanne king size beds actually use twin extra long box springs / foundations. Twins end up being 5 inches too short. I cannot tell you the last time I saw a 1 piece king base.

Comment by Douglas Belleville — August 6, 2013 @ 9:56 am

We have a king bedbox with exrta long twin mattresses (not boxspring). We like a firm mattress feel. Do we still need a box sping? Our mattresses do not seem to hold up just laying on the solid bedbox.

Comment by mary H — October 11, 2013 @ 1:20 pm

Hi Mary, A flexible boxspring can actually soften the feel of your mattress. The less flex the firmer the feel, the more flex the firmer the feel. A solid box should offer the firmest feel. Would be the same as a solid non-giving foundation, placing the mattress on the floor, or putting plywood under the mattress.

Comment by Douglas Belleville — October 14, 2013 @ 8:11 am

My box spring is not the one that should go with the mattress, and now mattress is very stiff. I have an extra 2″ mattress topper(I have a 3″ topper on the actual mattress) – would it help to ease the firmness of the mattress if I placed that topper over the box spring?
Thanks – Cherie

Comment by Cherie W — November 15, 2013 @ 2:17 pm

I am not sure. I can tell you this Pure Latex Bliss is now upholstering the top of their rigid foundations as an option for their customers and it does change the feel of their various mattresses drastically. In their case it does soften the mattress. They are using talalay latex rubber. Please let us know what your experience is if you try this yourself. Thank you for contacting us. Doug Belleville

Comment by Douglas Belleville — November 18, 2013 @ 7:50 am

I have a new queen size bed with boxspring, after a month or so the boxspring is squeaking and making noise. why is this happening? I am not that large

Comment by rosa — November 19, 2013 @ 11:59 pm

Hi Douglas!
I’ve been looking around for the differences between a slat and a box spring and if i really needed a slat. That mostly is because I am looking for a more sleek bed frame for my room. At this moment i have a sleigh-like bed frame. I was looking through ikea and that’s when the confusion started, i was wondering if you could help me out… In ikea theres an option for nothing, luroy, or laxeby… if i choose neither luroy or laxeby could i still use my box spring without it falling through?

Comment by Nora — April 18, 2014 @ 1:07 am

Hi Nora, I took a look at the Ikea Sultan Laxeby Assembly it is simply a wooden slat package. If the frame work of something like this has proper safe support underneath of it I see no reason why it could not work. You may be able to use one of our quality steel middle support systems under that to keep it from falling through plus give it the extra support needed. Please call us toll free 1 888 785 2337. We will be happy to discuss some ideas with you and have you send photos that would give us a better idea if your idea would work. Thank you Douglas ;-)

Comment by Douglas Belleville — April 23, 2014 @ 7:25 am

No one in Europe uses box spring beds. The beds have slats or metal mesh instead, where the mattress sits on. In Europe box springs are considered a nest for bugs.
Don’t be scammed – go to IKEA and buy a Euro bed with no box springs. Less cost, less space and healthier (no bug nest).

Comment by Maxx — December 3, 2014 @ 5:34 pm

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