A platform bed is designed to support your mattress without the use of a boxspring or foundation. Platform bed frames are available in many different styles from very simple to more traditional designs with a head and footboard. Platform beds are usually made with solid wood slats running from side to side, which are preferably no more than 3″ apart. This slat system is what will provide proper support for your mattress without the need for a boxspring or foundation. A traditional bed can also have wood slats, but typically has only 1-3 to help support a foundation or box spring. With a traditional bed, you would place a box spring or foundation upon the bed frame and then your mattress would be placed on top. So, the main difference between a traditional bed and a platform bed, is that you can place a mattress directly on a platform bed without a box spring or foundation. One thing to keep in mind when shopping for a platform bed is that your sleep surface will often be lower to the ground than it would be on a traditional bed.
Traditionally a box spring is a rectangular “box” made with metal springs inside that flex along with the mattress. It allows a firm mattress to feel a little softer due to the flexing of the metal springs. Box springs are primarily used with innerspring mattresses.
More common these days is to pair a mattress with a foundation instead of a box spring. A foundation is also a “box” but provides a flat, rigid surface. Foundations are typically made out of wood, with many wood slats running from side to side, like a platform bed. However, a foundation is covered with fabric such that the appearance is the same as a box spring. Foundations are generally recommended for use with natural latex mattresses or mattresses made with other dense flexible materials (like memory foam) that need something sturdy to rest on. Unlike innerspring or pocket coil mattresses that derive some flexibility from the box spring, the feel of a natural latex mattress is somewhat independent from the surface it’s resting on. A foundation allows for support of the mattress, rather than acting as a shock absorber like the box spring. Standard height is usually from 7-9”, but there are many other profiles that are available.
Check with your mattress manufacturer to find out the recommended support for your mattress. Some manufacturers say that you can place your natural latex mattress on a box spring if it is in good condition, however, the weight of the mattress could eventually make the box spring bend and “sag.” Most organic latex mattress manufacturers we work with require that your natural latex mattress be placed on a proper foundation or platform bed such as not to void the warranty.
To summarize, if you have a platform bed, you can place any type of mattress directly upon it without using a foundation or box spring. If you have a traditional bed frame, you would need a box spring or foundation to place your mattress on. Innerspring mattresses are traditionally used with a box spring, but will work fine with a foundation. It is best to pair a latex mattress with a foundation or a platform bed, but some manufacturers may allow you to place a natural latex mattress directly on a box spring provided it is in good shape.
Original post published June 29, 2010, post edited April 13, 2022.