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Your Complete Guide to Types of Mattress Bases

A good night’s sleep is critical for good health, so you want to make sure your bed is as comfortable as it can be. But did you know that what goes under your mattress also plays a big role in how well you feel when you wake up each morning?

Mattress bases — also known as mattress foundations — are supports that you place directly underneath your mattress. Mattress bases are what hold your mattress up, whether you have a bare-bones metal bed frame or a fancy bedstead with a wooden headboard, footboard and slats.

There are several different types of mattress foundations, and each one has its place. Here’s everything you need to know about mattress bases as you shop for the perfect new bed.

Bunky Boards

What Are They?

Bunky boards are the most low-profile choice for a mattress foundation and won’t add much height to your overall sleeping surface. A bunky board is a solid piece of wood, plywood or MDF that is cut to the same size as your mattress. The wood is wrapped in fabric to protect your mattress from pulls and reduce any tendency for sliding. A bunky board is the thinnest foundation available, and it’s often one of the most affordable options.

Bunky Board Benefits

Bunky boards provide support and stability for mattresses of all types, without adding height to the bed overall. This makes it a great choice for children’s beds and for anyone who prefers an ultra-modern, streamlined look in their bedroom. Bunky boards are a particularly good choice for memory foam mattresses, which need even support under their entire surface area to prevent foam from pressing between slats and breaking down over time.

Works Best With:

  • Bed frames with seven or more slats across the bottom
  • Memory foam mattresses
  • Thicker, pillow top mattresses that already offer ample height

bunky board

Box Springs

box spring

What Are They?

A box spring is a wooden frame that’s as big around as your mattress and eight inches high. Inside the frame — or the box — are metal coils that give a little when you sit or lie on your mattress, which dissipates excess energy and protects your mattress from wear and tear. A box spring is typically covered in a fabric to match your mattress. Box springs are the original mattress foundation, so many people use the term as a catchall phrase to refer to all types of bases.

Box Spring Benefits

Box springs add a good deal of height to your bed surface, in some cases doubling the height of a solitary mattress. This is perfect for traditional bed designs and for anyone who has trouble standing up from a lower position. Box springs provide shock-absorbing support to extend the life of an innerspring mattress. They also keep memory foam mattresses from sinking between bed slats.

Works Best With:

  • Bed frames with six or fewer slats across the bottom
  • All styles of mattress

Low-Profile Foundations

What Are They?

A low-profile foundation is an updated version of a traditional box spring that is designed to provide a sleeker look in contemporary and modern bedrooms. It’s only half the height of a traditional box spring: The four-inch wooden frame is wrapped in fabric and offers a happy medium when it comes to overall bed height.

Low-Profile Foundation Benefits

Low-profile foundations provide shock-absorbing support without additional height, which most people find makes it easier to get in and out of bed. These foundations offer a minimalist look for a transitional or modern decorating style.

Works Best With:

  • Bed frames with six or fewer slats across the bottom
  • All styles of mattress
Ultimately, choosing a bed foundation depends on your bed frame and mattress type. You'll want to take those factors into consideration, as well as your height preferences when you're shopping for a mattress base that’s best for you.

low-profile foundation

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