What Type of Foundation Is Best for Memory Foam and Latex Mattresses?
I've been in the mattress industry over a decade, and the #1 question I hear from people is, "What type of foundation or support base should I use with my memory foam or latex mattress?"
As most of you know, a foundation is the support base or mechanism that sits underneath a mattress. Both memory foam and latex mattresses require a solid, uniform foundation to work properly.
In this article, we will discuss the following bed foundations:
- Platform Bed Frames
- Wood-Slat Mattress Foundations
- Foldable Metal Platform Foundations
- Adjustable Bases
- Box Spring Replacement Foundations
- Bunkie Boards
You will also find information about whether or not it is okay to put your memory foam mattress on the floor, how to protect your foam mattress, and the differences between memory foam and latex.
Two Basic Types of Mattress Foundations
There are two basic types of mattress foundations in the mattress world today: box springs and foundations.
- Box springs are, for the most part, a combination of wood and steel springs that act like shock absorbers for a traditional innerspring mattress.
- Foundations are a more solid structure, for use with memory foam or latex mattresses, and are typically a solid wood top or wood-slatted system with a cover.
Do You Need a Box Spring or a Solid Foundation With a Foam Mattress?
All you need for your foam mattress is a solid base. Closely laid wooden slats, a metal base, a bunkie board, or even the floor will all do just fine in place of a box spring. That said, if your box spring is rigid and firm (less than an inch of give), it should be okay to use with a memory foam or latex mattress.
Typical foundations on the market today are either steel frame and steel frame/wood slat combinations or come with a nice zippered cover, and a solid wood top or even tacked cardboard. They are ideal for memory foam or latex mattresses because they provide a solid, uniform bottom for the foam cores. The less give you have, the better.
Why Do Latex and Memory Foam Mattresses Need Solid Bases?
Compared to traditional mattresses, memory foam and latex mattresses are quite heavy. Naturally, this means they require more support!
Can I Use My Old Box Spring With My Memory Foam Mattress?
Older box springs (typically ones that are over 10 years old) typically have too much give in their spring systems and are not a good support base for foam mattresses. If you have an existing box spring that is less than 10 years old and still in good shape, test it by pushing against the springs in several spots. Make sure the entire box spring has the same consistency in feel and has no more than an inch of give.
1. Platform Bed Frame
This simple type of bed frame is designed for use without a box spring, meaning it already has the built-in support necessary for any kind of mattress. Seeing as these frames are fairly simple and do not require a box spring, they are often cheaper than traditional bed frames. Depending on the style, they also provide ample under-bed storage space, which can be a big bonus for those living in small spaces. (Low-profile or floating platform beds tend not to provide any storage space, however, so be sure to check the details!)
2. Wood-Slat Mattress Foundations
Wood-slat foundations work well too, as long as the slats are close enough together. We like to see the slats no more than 3” apart or less, preferably 2” apart. You’ll need to measure or make sure with a retailer that the slats are close enough together. Otherwise, you’ll need to put a ½-inch to ¾-inch cut plywood or pressboard over the slats to create that solid, uniform bottom (these boards will typically be in two cuts that you’ll butt together, the bigger the mattress you have).
This is super sturdy at a great price, and it has a clean, modern look. The assembled height is about 10 inches off the floor, so with the mattress, it sits at a nice height off of the floor. I had a 10-inch mattress on mine—not too low and not too high, so it was easy to get in and out of bed. Zinus wood-slat foundation
In addition to their other benefits, slatted mattress foundations are a great option because they allow mattresses to breathe.
3. Foldable Metal Platform Foundations
I recently tested the . The platform worked beautifully with both types. It unfolds easily and folds right back up in seconds to store. The metal support stands are close enough together to provide that much-needed congruous support. Pragma bed platform with both a memory foam and a latex mattress
This foundation is great for guest beds that need to be put away after use but would also work well for a main mattress with longterm use. I highly recommend this platform foundation. It comes in a surprisingly small box because it is collapsible. It is also lightweight, which makes it easy to move (as you'll see in the video below), so it is great for storage.
Pragma Bed Mattress Foundation
4. Adjustable Base
Which adjustable base would I recommend? By far, the ones manufactured by Leggett and Platt. They are durable, last a long time, are backed by a good warranty, and are built with quality components and craftsmanship. I own their , and in four years, I haven't had one problem with it (and I've moved twice in that time). ShipShape adjustable base
What amazed me the most when I received mine (and during my moves), was how easy it was to assemble and disassemble. They really had the consumer in mind when designing this base. Need more convincing? Check out the video below.
If my word isn't enough for you, the leading memory foam mattress company (which I dare not name because of their trademark restrictions, just think of the glass-of-wine test on the mattress) uses these adjustable bases almost exclusively with their models.
Note: Adjustable bases allow you to choose the angle of your bed (i.e., by raising the foot and/or head sections. They usually come with either remote or manual controls (which are cheaper but more difficult to deal with).
5. Box Spring Replacement Foundations
If you like the height that your box spring provides but it's too old to use with your new foam mattress, a box spring replacement foundation is the way to go. That way, you still have the height you're used to without sacrificing any support.
6. Bunkie Boards
A bunkie board (or bunky board) is a flat object used to support your mattress. It is usually made of plywood or particleboard and is a simple and cost-effective way to provide a solid base for your memory foam or latex mattress.
Bunkie boards are particularly great because they can be used to update your existing setup to get it ready for your new mattress. This means you can top your old box spring, other foundation, or platform bed with a bunkie board to make sure it will be able to support your new mattress.
Strapped for cash? You can make your own super-simplified bunkie board with a piece of plywood. Be aware, however, that if you take this route, you should treat or cover they plywood immediately. Plywood is prone to chipping, meaning it could easily snag your mattress or sheets if left alone.
Is It Okay to Put Memory Foam on the Floor?
I get this question a lot: Is it ok to put a memory foam mattress directly on the floor? The simple answer is yes. Why? Because these mattresses need a solid, uniform bottom, and a floor provides that. The floor functions like a foundation.
Now, this will be a very low-profile bed because you don't have the elevation that a foundation and frame would give you. This means getting out of bed will be a bit difficult. However, many people do this, particularly folks who are just starting out and trying to save some money.
Before Foregoing a Mattress Foundation . . .
Be sure to check your mattress' warranty to determine whether it is affected or voided by not using a traditional foundation. If this is the case, you should consider using a base covered by your warranty.
How to Protect Your Foam Mattress
While providing a proper base for your foam mattress is essential to protecting it and extending its lifetime, caring for your it doesn't stop there. Here are a few more ways you can protect your foam mattress.
- Rotate and/or Flip Your Mattress Every 3–6 Months. This will ensure that pressure is spread evenly over the mattress, keeping any one part from becoming overly worn.
- Let Your Mattress Breathe. If possible, choose a breathable support base (e.g., wooden slats). This will help extend the life of your mattress.
- Use a Mattress Cover. Using a cover that's easy to remove and clean will help keep your mattress in great shape by keeping it from coming into contact with UV rays, promoting good hygiene, and preventing spills from penetrating its dense (and tough-to-dry) material.
- Keep Your Mattress Out of Direct Sunlight. Foam mattresses can break down and turn yellowish when exposed to harsh sunlight, reducing their longevity.
- Don't Jump on Your Mattress. This type of sudden and "unnatural" pressure can cause permanent sagging.
Memory Foam vs. Latex
These mattress types probably seem nearly identical to anyone who isn't a mattress specialist, so allow me to explain a few of the ways they differ.
Conforms to the *exact* shape of your body
Conforms to the general impression of your body
Doesn't allow for motion transfer (i.e. you will hardly feel your partner's movements)
Allows for a good amount of motion transfer (i.e. you will feel your partner toss and turn)
Made of polyurethane and a series of chemicals
Available in both all-natural and synthetic options
What's Special About Memory Foam Mattresses?
Memory foam is special because it adjusts to the exact contours of your body and bounces back slowly (i.e. if you press into the material and lift up, it will take a little while to resume its original shape).
Pros of memory foam mattresses:
- Ideal for back and side sleepers because in these positions, memory foam aids spine and neck-bone alignment and provides better hip and shoulder comfort than traditional mattresses.
- Ideal for couples who are light sleepers, as movement on one side of the bed will hardly be felt on the other.
- Ideal for people with allergies, as memory foam is hypoallergenic and dense enough to keep dust mites, dirt, and bacteria from penetrating the mattress.
What's Special About Latex Mattresses?
Latex is far more bouncy than memory foam (it would recover far more quickly from the hand test above). It is also much firmer. There are two different types of latex used for mattresses—natural and synthetic. Synthetic latex mattresses have a bit less bounce and may feel more similar to memory foam.
Pros of latex mattresses:
- Natural latex is all-natural and easy on the environment, making it a great choice for environmentally conscious people.
- Latex mattresses have lots of little holes punched in them, helping to promote air flow and keep the bed cool while you're sleeping.
- This increased air circulation means latex mattresses are less prone to developing mold and bacteria.
If you're considering latex, the is an excellent choice. It's a bit pricey, but the quality is very high and the components are all natural—100% natural latex foam, organic wool, and organic cotton. Pure Green Natural Latex Mattress
© 2009 Brian Anderson