Is a mattress foundation ideal for a memory foam mattress? Memory foam is considered one of the newer bedding options available today, so does something that is so modern really need something that some consider ‘old-fashioned’?
The most sensible answer is yes. Technically you can use a memory foam mattress without a mattress foundation, but in doing so you won’t get the most out of your investment in a new memory foam mattress, and you may even shorten its useful life, not exactly the thing you want for something that most people invest more than a little cash in!
Here we are going to look at just what a mattress foundation is, why you do need one if you have just invested in – or are planning to invest in – a memory foam mattress – and five of the best shopping choices you can make when searching for the right mattress foundation choice for you.
What is a Mattress Foundation?
A foundation is anything that supports, raises, and houses your mattress and usually consists of a wooden frame and slats. Foundations are firmer bed bases than box springs because they are spring-less, which makes them the perfect base for your foam or hybrid mattress.
In extremely basic terms, a mattress foundation is a bed sized piece of furniture that raises your mattress off the floor, supports it properly and helps ensure that it stays as clean and protected as possible.
When using the term mattress foundation some people often get it confused with a traditional box spring.
A box spring does serve a similar function, but it is constructed differently. A box spring -as its name suggests – is loaded with coils and springs, much in the way that a traditional mattress is.
A foundation, on the other hand, are firmer, spring free options that are perfect for use with a memory foam mattress.
In fact, most bedding manufacturers and sleep experts recommend against making use of a box spring with a memory foam mattress, even if that mattress is a ‘hybrid’ offering that makes use of both innersprings and layers of memory foam, which some of the best of them do.
The reason for this is that coils alone do not offer the support that a mattress foundation – which is usually a far more solid affair – and can even affect the performance of the memory foam mattress above.
Reasons Why You Need a Mattress Foundation
In addition to the reason we mentioned earlier – you paid, or will pay, a lot for your memory foam mattress so placing it directly on a hard, dusty floor is almost sure to lead to it getting too dirty too fast, there are other good reasons to make use of a mattress foundation with your memory foam bed.
A foundation will keep your memory foam mattress supportive longer
Even the best memory foam mattresses may eventually begin to sag, the reasons that manufacturers usually recommend that they be replaced every 6-8 years or so. But you can extend the useful life of memory foam mattress – and hold onto that wonderful, supportive feeling when you sleep – for longer if you make use of a mattress foundation.
That is because a mattress foundation helps prevent premature sagging, as it offers an extra layer of solid support that will help distribute the force your body exerts on your memory foam mattress more evenly.
A mattress foundation raises your bed to an optimum height
Most good memory foam mattresses range from nine to twelve inches – that is approximately 23 – 30 cm for those who ‘think’ in metric – which is just about a foot or less. This is almost always too low for people to sleep comfortably.
A mattress foundation adds at least the same again in terms of height, something that not only helps you sleep more comfortably but also makes getting in and out of bed easier and even safer. If you have ever tried to get up from a mattress laid flat on the floor, you will know what we mean!
A mattress foundation promotes good airflow
By lifting the mattress off the floor, you’ll be adding natural airflow beneath it, which will help keep it cooler as you sleep. Particularly helpful in the case of memory foam which is notorious for sleeping hot.
PRO TIP: Some mattress manufacturers’ warranties require that the mattress base is of a certain type. If you don’t use one, then you may not be able to file a warranty claim. If you are unsure of the warranty conditions of your mattress, then ask the vendor.
Types of Mattress Foundations
Now that you know why you need a mattress foundation for your memory foam bed you may be wondering just what your buying choices might be. In general, mattress foundations can be broadly divided into four types as follows:
A platform bed is exactly what it sounds like. It is a simple wooden or metal frame that features either a solid base or slats to support the mattress itself and stands on sturdy detachable legs of varying heights.
Most platform beds have a slightly lower profile than other options and are often designed for use without a headboard or footboard (although some can accommodate those things if you like to have them). They do usually have higher sides however, so your mattress ‘slots into’ the platform for great, solid support.
Platform beds also tend to have a very sleek, contemporary appearance that looks great when used with all kinds of bedroom decor, and they do an excellent job of supporting a memory foam mattress in just the right way.
A mattress foundation is usually the simple option you can choose, both in terms of design and set up. These are simple slatted wooden frames covered with a topper of some kind, and they are designed to sit flat on the floor with the mattress placed on top.
These are not usually meant to be shown off as a part of your bedroom decor, as their purpose is almost purely functional. That does mean however that you can choose some great looking bedding and be sure that it’s going to be the ‘star of the show’.
Adjustable Bed Base
Not everyone uses their bed just for sleeping, for some it is a wonderful place to relax with a book before bed, or to end their day watching a little TV. Some people also struggle with sleeping on a bed that is completely flat, especially those who suffer from sleep apnea or chronic back or neck pain.
For these folks, an adjustable base for their memory foam mattress is often an almost life changing choice. These bases raise at head, lifting the mattress so you can sleep – or sit – ‘propped up’, without the need for a half dozen extra pillows!
In terms of looks adjustable bed bases come in all kinds. Some are quite simple, while others feature fancier options like under bed lighting, heat and/or massage functionality and more.
A box spring is the traditional mattress foundation we discussed earlier. It is wooden frame lined with springs that is then topped with a thin cloth cover. Box springs have been in use for decades and that’s probably what your mattress was set on top of when you were a kid! A box spring may also be exactly what you are sleeping on now if you have not replaced your mattress in the last eight to ten years.
We already discussed the reason why a box spring is not the right choice for use with a memory foam mattress, but what if a new mattress foundation is simply not something you can/want to invest in right now? You can make use of something called a ‘bunkie board’, at least for a while and keep on using your old box spring.
A bunkie board is simply a flat piece of plywood. It gets its name from the fact they are often used to support the top mattress of a bunk bed. You can ‘create’ one very inexpensively, by heading to a home store and having a piece of plywood cut (just make sure that you take the right measurements!)
A bunkie board will provide some protection against sag and safeguard your investment in your memory foam mattress. But sleeping on a board – even on a memory foam mattress – is not the most comfortable thing, so we really would suggest investing in a real mattress foundation as soon as you are able.
Recommended Foundations For Your Memory Foam Mattress
As you begin to shop, you’ll discover there are lots of mattress foundation choices out there!
To help you make the right shopping decision for you here is a look at four of our favorites.
Zinus 14 Inch SmartBase Deluxe Platform Bed Frame
See Zinus Bed Frame on Amazon
This metal mattress foundation is a wonderful way to support your memory foam mattress efficiently and affordably. Set on sturdy metal legs the frame features heavy duty steel slats and is finished in a sleek black. There is even room for under bed storage, which for some people is another big plus!
Available in Twin through Cal King
Best paired with: Latex, memory, hybrid or spring mattress
Plush Beds 8” Orthopedic Foundation
See the Orthopedic Foundation on PlushBeds
This deceptively simple looking spruce wood foundation offers lots of extra support (up to 1200 lbs of weight) and height and will prevent your memory foam mattress from falling victim to premature sag while also being very eco-friendly, as it is crafted using both wood that is more easily renewable than many others and features a cooling organic cover for the supportive slats that are 2 1/2 inches apart. Easily assembled in minutes and no squeaks!
Available in Twin through Split Cal King
Best paired with: Any mattress type
Mellow Naturalista Classic Platform Bed
See the platform bed on Amazon
Not only is this wooden platform bed durable and extra supportive but it is also incredibly good looking! Crafted from a darker cherry wood and featuring sturdy mid-century modern inspired legs this platform bed will add as much to your bedroom decor as it does to your enjoyment of your memory foam mattress!
Available in Twin, Full, Queen and King
Best paired with: Any mattress type
Nolah Adjustable Base
See the adjustable bed on Nolah
Prefer a simpler, more affordable adjustable base? The Nolah Adjustable Base is an extremely attractive brushed steel foundation that features a whisper quiet motor that adjusts the head and foot height of the frame smoothly and almost silently while supporting your mattress in just the way you need it too.
Available in Twin Xl, Queen and Split King
Best paired with: Any mattress type