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Different Types of Mattress Foundations - How to Choose

Updated on March 3, 2016
Luxury Mattress on matching platform base foundation.
Luxury Mattress on matching platform base foundation. | Source

Choosing a Mattress Foundation - Metal Frame & Box, Platform Bed, Adjustable Base or Great-Grandma's Hand-Carved, Mahogany Antique Frame: Decisions, Decisions..

You should probably make this decision before you choose a mattress so that you know what your parameters are going to be - like the height of a mattress possibly covering up pretty designs on a headboard, for instance.

Also, if you know you are eventually going to want an adjustable base in your bedroom, but are not planning on purchasing it yet - you can plan for that ahead of time.

Here's some things to think about:

How much money do you have to spend on the mattress foundation?

What kind of style do you prefer? Do you like the simplicity of a metal frame & box (maybe with a headboard); or do you want a platform bed made of wood, maybe with drawers underneath for additional storage? Or do you want something 'really fancy' like an Antique or Contemporary Bedroom Set?

Simple - Box Foundation on Metal Bed Frame
Simple - Box Foundation on Metal Bed Frame | Source


This kind of setup is the least expensive AND most versatile option for a few different reasons - because you can add pieces to it as you need to, it will roll around the room easier for cleaning & rearranging, etc., and you can fancy-it-up with a headboard.

Almost ALL metal frames have a way to attach headboards to them.

Here's how they can be versatile:

  1. If you're strapped for cash, always buy the best mattress you can for you at the time. Don't worry about the box & frame, yet. They are FINE on the floor for a few months until money becomes available. (Put a blanket or something underneath it if you're on a hardwood floor to prevent mold from forming on the bottom of it).
  2. This is also a good, temporary idea for people who are indecisive about their bedroom furniture, but need a mattress NOW - like people who are just moving to a new town who may not be moving with their furniture.
  3. This is a GREAT option for small children... When they are toddlers and are having a hard time climbing up into their new big boy/big girl bed; it can start out on the floor for easier access for them until you're ready to update the furniture in their bedroom.

Mattress on Wooden Platform Base with Drawer Storage Underneath
Mattress on Wooden Platform Base with Drawer Storage Underneath | Source


These are very popular because you can really personalize and organize your sleep space with them - if you buy one with storage underneath it.

Platform beds can either be space-hogs or space-savers, depending. For instance, in a child's room, you can find a nice top bunk bed with a futon or desk beneath it. There are also bunkbed sets that fit a bottom Full-size mattress with an additional Twin-size on top.

For bulkier platform beds, be SURE to include the ENTIRE outline of the platform base you're thinking about in your measuring calculations. You might need a larger space than simply for the size of a Twin or Queen mattress, etc.

Usually, you have to put a platform bed together - are you handy? Do you like to put furniture together or will you need to pay someone to do it for you? Many mattress stores offer this service for an additional fee.

You can often find some relatively inexpensive platforms at places like Ikea and big chain stores - but, if you are planning on doing much moving around; try to find one that comes apart and is easy to put back together.

Also, make sure it's sturdy without a lot of little parts needed to put it together. Less little parts usually means stronger structural integrity and less 'wobbling' as screws loosen over time.

YES, adjustable bases can often be used with a platform base, also!

Adjustable Base Foundations

Adjustable Base Mattress Foundations - not just for hospital rooms, anymore!

Do you need to sleep at an incline? Maybe you need to sleep with your legs up a bit? Maybe you just like to stay up late and read or watch TV? An adjustable base makes these things comfortably possible.

Adjustable bases come at different upgraded levels. For example, only the head will lift on the least expensive ones, or some will be without a massage feature, etc.

The largest manufacturer of adjustable bases is Leggett & Platt - I believe their 'S-Cape' model is the biggest seller, with the 'Prodigy' (which has an app to work with your iPhone) also being the popular Luxury model.

These two models - as well as most good adjustable bases - are nice because they have a 'wall-hugger' feature that moves the mattress BACK as it also rises - to keep the bed from moving away from the wall, and you close to your nightstand.

There is also another adjustable base by Anatomic Global that is really nice...

Ascent Contour Adjustable Base by Anatomic Global - Feet can also go DOWN like a Recliner, as well as up.
Ascent Contour Adjustable Base by Anatomic Global - Feet can also go DOWN like a Recliner, as well as up.

A Cool New Adjustable Base Option - Ascent Contour Adjustable Base

It's called the Ascent Contour Adjustable Base - and the nifty things about it are that it is just as powerful and yet quieter - truly whisper quiet - than other brands; and the legs can go DOWN as well as UP just like your favorite recliner.

While you can find Innerspring mattresses that will 'bend' with an adjustable base - especially Individual Pocketed Coils; most of the time, Polyfoam, Memory Foam or Latex mattresses that have no coils are used.

Anatomic Global also specifically manufactures mattresses that are 'bent' in just the right places to move with this adjustable base. I'm telling you, it's neat - try out the massage!

If you are a couple sharing this bed and you are in a Queen-size bed now... It is possible to get a single, Queen adjustable base; HOWEVER, at some point, you will probably each wish that you had your own side to adjust. While they can also be made as a 'Split Queen' base - you'll find that you each have more room for yourselves if you have the ability to jump up to a King-size base (which will give you each the width & length of an XL Twin).

For older folks, especially - make sure to think about height issues to make sure they can get in and out of it, easily. Adjustable Bases often come with adjustable heights, but sometimes - depending - you'll have to order extra parts for that.

They also often come with headboard brackets so that you can still attach a headboard to them.

What Can You Expect to Spend on a Bed Foundation?

Bed Size
Metal Bed Frame + Box
Platform Base
Adjustable Base
Twin/XL Twin
$50-$80 + $80-$120
$65-$120 + $100-$130
$100-$150 + $100-$200
King/Cal King
$100-$250 + $100-$300
*Approximate Pricing Expectations
Here's a beautiful Victorian antique bed frame that needs a center support beam.
Here's a beautiful Victorian antique bed frame that needs a center support beam.


These are a little tricky, because so many times the structure of their foundations may either have become rickety with time as they have been moved around the World, taken apart and put together again and again; or they may have inadequate support beneath them to begin with.

If you're thinking about using an old Antique bed frame, put it together and check it out. You may find that some of the parts/pieces are missing and need to be replaced. Visit your local hardware store - they can usually help you out with that. If possible, bring the piece you need with you in case you need to improvise an alternative part.

Does the frame have slats going across it? Are they still Okay or are they worn? Are some of them missing? Again, visit your local hardware, lumber or home store - someone should be able to help you replace them. Bring a slat along with you for their reference.

After you get it together: Does the frame wobble and/or squeak? Does it have a center support beam down the middle if it is a Queenish-size or larger? A full-size frame doesn't usually have one, but it never hurts.

If it doesn't have a center support and you really want to use this frame; hire a reputable carpenter to update the frame and/or fix anything about it.

Standard US Mattress Dimensions

Mattress Size
Twin XL
California King
Keep in mind that these are the dimensions of the BOX FOUNDATION. The mattress is usually slightly smaller to fit just inside the box.

This will not only make it possible for you to use with confidence; but for you to be able to pass it onto the next blessed family member who receives it complete with *warm fuzzies* - knowing you contributed to the salvation and preservation of this beautiful family heirloom.

If it's something you really love, this additional cost will probably be worth it for you.

Often, these beds are just a little bit off from our standard sizes, today. That may also be a factor in finding a mattress for it.

Take measurements on the inside of the frame where the mattress and/or box will sit. In taking your measurements, make sure you're going to have room for your hands to make the bed and tuck sheets/blankets in.

If the measurements are similar to the ones in the mattress-size charts above (you can be off by a couple inches either way for 'just a mattress'), you'll be able to choose from the many mattress options on the market.

If it turns out that you need a custom-sized mattress for that frame - don't lose heart, there ARE places around that will make one for you, tailored to your size/comfort needs. Do another search on 'custom mattress manufacturers' in your area.


© 2013 Catherine Mostly


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    • Misfit Chick profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Mostly 

      3 years ago from Seattle, WA - USA - The WORLD

      No, they must be fairly new; but I'm not surprised they exist now. :)

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Great article on adjustable beds, I am searching for an affordable adjustable bed because I have limited funds. There is so much information out there. It really got overwhelming. Your article helped a lot. I have acid reflux I saw an adjustable bed that elevates on this site They sell the Leggett and Platt too. Have you seen any other adjustable beds that elevate too like that? It was the only one I saw.

    • Misfit Chick profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Mostly 

      5 years ago from Seattle, WA - USA - The WORLD

      Oh yeah... Like I said, when you need to replace the old foundation; steel foundations work as well as any. Most studier box foundations - especially the big S brands - are a mix of steel & wood construction. I hesitate to go off on a glowing review about the steel construction from this site; because I don't want to unintentionally-promote anyone. If you're a consumer looking at something 'different' like this, do your research. I'd say it's a matter of preference in your case - which 'look' do you prefer? ;)

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Thank you!

      Yes, but most of that doesn't apply here. My original spring mattress and box springs were purchased at a furniture store's going out of business sale, and it was a floor model (17 years ago). That was our first mistake. Our latex mattress was purchased from the Foam Factory (7 years ago), not a mattress manufacturer. They don't sell foundations at all. So, either we buy new box springs, or we get a steel foundation, or a platform base. For me, platform beds conjure up fears of bruised shins and stubbed toes. I asked what you thought of the Forever Foundation system since you don't cover steel foundations your article. It sounds like you approve of the option.

    • Misfit Chick profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Mostly 

      5 years ago from Seattle, WA - USA - The WORLD

      If you're looking to go long-term; and of course you would with a Latex mattress - steel foundations might be a good choice. However, most manufacturer's sell a foundation with a mattress; and that is always the first, best choice.

      This is because many times - a mattress manufacturer will not honor a warranty if a mattress is not on one of their foundations that was purchased at the same time as the mattress. If you've been out shopping around for mattresses, you've probably been hearing that over and over again like a stuck record.

      Also, a foundation is also covered by a warranty. It SHOULD last as long as the manufacturer claims it will; and if not, they should replace it. If anything, I'd wait until the original foundation failed before I go out and buy something that doesn't go with it.


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