Do you need a box spring or mattress foundation? What is the difference?

We get this question often, and most of our team wasn’t really quite sure for some time—what is the difference between a box spring and a foundation? It almost seems like the terms are interchangeable, but when you’re looking at mattress sets, it’s important to know what you’re sleeping on and what you need. Let us guide you in figuring out which one you need.

What Is A Box Spring?

Before foam mattresses entered the scene, the box spring actually looked pretty different from its modern counterpart. Originally, we used a set of springs that was used as a mattress base, referred to as bedsprings, made of bare sets of metal coils. You might be asking yourself, what is the purpose of a box spring? Well these springs helped the firmer mattresses of this time have a little give. This created a more comfortable feel and carried on to become wooden frames filled with springs.

As other materials became popular for mattresses, like innersprings, the bedsprings became redundant and more and more box springs started using mostly wood frames. Now, with foam beds being so common, most mattresses don’t require one at all.

In other words, that thing that you probably call a box spring probably isn’t one at all. In all likelihood what you really have is a foundation. A lot of people now actually have foundations, but they call them box springs because they don’t really know the difference.

So let’s talk about foundations now so you can know the difference between the two.

Beautiful bedroom.

What Is A Foundation?

Mattress foundations take the concept of the box spring and remove the springs. These are great to add height to your mattress if your frame needs it, as well as providing the smooth and firm surface your bed needs to be comfortable. Most mattresses today have their own bounce and give, so springs aren’t required to get the pressure relief you need.

Most bed foundations are wooden pieces that fit together to create a frame with both horizontal and vertical support to provide an even surface. They usually come with a cover that slips over the wood to give it a more aesthetic appeal.

Chances are good that you could easily use a bed foundation instead of a box spring if you were looking for an alternative. That’s especially true considering how most mattresses either have springs built into them or have their own internal support system making additional box spring springs no longer necessary.

Are box springs necessary? Does a memory foam mattress need a box spring?

In short, no. memory foam mattresses might not have their own internal springs but the foam is designed in such a way where it provides itself with its own support. A mattress foundation is probably more than enough support for a memory foam bed, With memory foam, you should be more concerned with creating a flat, even surface than necessarily propping up the mattress with additional springs.

If you’re using an all-natural mattress, you may find that a set of box springs helps give your mattress a little extra bounce. If you’re using an innerspring or foam bed, you could go either way if your frame needs added height or doesn’t have enough support.

If you don’t have slats or a platform style frame, you’ll probably need to add a foundation to make sure your mattress isn’t sagging or unevenly supported. For a Tuft & Needle mattress, a bed foundation will certainly help but isn’t required if you have support at least every 5 inches built into your bed frame! Always check with the mattress manufacturer if you aren’t sure, if your mattress is sagging for a prolonged amount of time, you'll lose support much sooner than you should.
If it turns out you need a mattress foundation for your bed frame, here's an inexpensive one we recommend:
T&N Mattress Foundation

In closing here are a few pros and cons.


  • Gives firm mattresses a little more give.
  • Motion & shock absorption.
  • Supports the mattress.
  • Raises bed off of the ground.
  • Improved airflow.
  • Cost efficient.


  • Not meant for memory foam.
  • Heavy.
  • Squeaky - especially as they break down over time.
  • Sagging of mattress can happen over time.


  • Durable - doesn't break down over time easily.
  • Good for all mattress types.
  • Prevents sagging of mattress. Even support.
  • Raises bed off of the ground.


  • Heavy
  • Doesn't provide give like a box spring does.
  • Higher cost.

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Shelly Weaver-Cather
Shelly Weaver-Cather

Shelly Weaver is part of the Content Team at Tuft & Needle, leading the writing and editing of our blog. Not quite a Phoenix native, (They take that sort of thing super seriously.) Shelly has spent most of her life in the Phoenix Metro area and has no plans of leaving anytime soon. She made the unexpected jump out of wedding photography and onto T&N’s team in 2016, and found a passion for the people that keep the lights on. She still finds herself shooting in her free time, though these days there are less bridal portraits and more masterpieces of her first child, Duke, a lab-pit mix with an unparalleled love for both T&N mattress hogging and couch destroying.

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