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What Is a Mattress Foundation? Guide To Foundations & Bases

What Is a Mattress Foundation? Guide To Foundations & Bases

by

Aoife O.
 | 
Mar 11, 2020

A mattress foundation is a structure that elevates and supports your mattress. Mattress foundations vary in materials and design, but they all provide a level plane that protects your mattress and promotes proper alignment while you sleep. In this guide, we’ll break down everything you need to know about foundations and help you choose the right fit for your mattress type, budget, and bedroom aesthetic.


What Is a Mattress Foundation?

A mattress foundation or mattress base is the structure your mattress rests on. It creates a flat surface for your mattress, adds support, and raises your mattress from the floor to keep it clean and ventilated while making it easier to access your bed.


As we’ll explore later in this guide, there are countless styles and types of mattress foundations. But the most common options include solid wood platforms, slatted platforms, metal platforms, bed frame and box spring combos, and adjustable bases.


Why Do You Need a Mattress Foundation?

So, what’s the purpose of a mattress base? Why not just sleep on the floor? 


While you technically can put your mattress directly on the floor, this practice has serious drawbacks. Our article 8 Things You Should Know Before Sleeping on a Mattress on the Floor explores the risks, like allergy flare-ups, spinal misalignment, and mattress damage. 


No matter what mattress type or brand you choose, we HIGHLY suggest using it with a proper base. Mattress foundations serve the following key functions: 

  • Foundations create a flat, sturdy surface for your mattress. This extra support helps with weight distribution, pressure relief, and spinal alignment. It also prevents sagging and unnecessary wear and tear.

  • A base raises your mattress off the floor where critters, dust, and other allergens congregate.

  • Raising your mattress off the floor also improves airflow into your mattress. Ventilation helps keep your mattress fresh and dry, preventing mold and odors.

  • Elevated foundations make it easier to get in and out of bed.

Depending on the type of foundation you buy, it may offer a few additional perks like:

  • Under-bed storage

  • An aesthetic headboard or footboard

  • Tech features like adjustability, massage, USB charging ports, under-bed lighting, etc.

A proper foundation prevents mattresses sagging and unnecessary wear and tear.


Different Types of Mattress Foundations

As previously mentioned, you’ll find many bed foundation styles in stores and online. Of course, you want to find a base that fits your budget and bedroom style, but these aren’t the only factors to consider. You also need to know what type of mattress you own to choose a compatible foundation. Below, we explore the most popular foundation options and which mattress types you can use them with.

1. Box Springs

What Is a Box Spring?

A box spring is a fabric-wrapped wood frame with steel coils inside. They’re built to sit on top of a bed frame, usually a metal rail frame with central and corner leg supports. Together, the box spring and bed frame elevate and support your mattress.

Box Spring Mattress Compatibility

Box spring/bed frame combos work best with innerspring mattresses. The flexible coils in the frame complement the coils in the mattress. However, box springs don’t provide the stability and rigid support many memory foam, foam, latex, and hybrid mattresses require.


While you can use a box spring with a Nolah all-foam or hybrid mattress, it’s not the optimal setup. We suggest another foundation option, such as a platform, for maximum support and longevity. If you own a memory foam, foam, latex, or hybrid mattress from another brand, check the manufacturer’s recommendation before purchasing a box spring.

Box Spring Pros

  • Box springs are generally more affordable than other bed foundation options.

  • They have a breathable structure, which helps ventilate your mattress.

  • Box springs are typically lighter than platforms, making them easier to move. Also, some box springs come as two pieces for larger mattress sizes.

Box Spring Cons

  • You need an independent bed frame to pair with a box spring.

  • Box springs aren’t ideal for memory foam, other foam, or latex mattresses.

  • Box springs aren’t as durable as other alternatives. Even the highest-quality box springs only last about 8 to 10 years.

2. Platform Bases

What Is a Platform Base?

As the name suggests, a platform base is a supportive structure with an elevated platform. Your mattress rests directly on the platform, so you don’t need a box spring. Depending on the design, your mattress may rest on a solid wood surface, wood slats, or a network of metal rails.

Nolah Platform Base

Platform Mattress Compatibility

Most platform bases are compatible with any mattress type, including memory foam, foam, latex, hybrid, and innerspring models.


However, you should always check the foundation recommendations from your mattress manufacturer. For example, they may have specifications for the space between slats on a slatted platform. You should also look up the base’s weight tolerance if you own a heavier mattress.

Platform Bed Types

Platform bases come in wide-ranging materials and styles, some minimalist and others highly decorative. The platforms vary in design (solid platforms, slatted platforms, and metal platforms), as do the leg support sizes, heights, and construction. Below, we’ve listed some popular platform bed types to choose from.

  • Wood Platforms– Wood platforms have a classic look that suits many bedroom aesthetics. Platforms crafted with solid wood are highly durable, making them a long-term investment that will last you through multiple mattresses.

  • Metal Platforms– A metal platform is a sleek, supportive, and versatile option. They’re also more affordable and often easier to set up and move than their wood counterparts.

  • Upholstered Platforms– An upholstered platform base can add texture and color to your bed setup.

  • Floating Platforms– Modern, minimalist floating platforms create the illusion that your bed is levitating off the ground.

  • Storage Platforms Beds– For added bedroom storage, you can buy a platform base with built-in drawers.

  • Sleigh Beds– These elegant platforms have built-in headboards and footboards for a luxurious look.

  • Four-Poster/Canopy Beds– With vertical posts in each corner, canopy beds add dimension. They let you experiment with curtains and can add privacy.

Platform Pros

  • Platform bases are compatible with all mattress types.

  • A platform base can add style to your bedroom, and you have countless designs to choose from.

  • A high-quality platform base will last for the long haul.

Platform Cons

  • Platforms tend to be large and heavy, making them more difficult to set up or move.

  • Platform bases cost more than box springs and bed frames.

  • Solid platforms don’t ventilate your mattress as well as foundations with a more open structure. (Platforms with slats or rails don't have this issue.)

The Nolah Platform Base

At Nolah, we offer a sturdy and supportive Platform Base. It features durable wood and steel rails, which are upholstered for a finished look. The base ships free, and you can assemble it in just 15 minutes.

3. Adjustable Bases

What Is an Adjustable Base?

An adjustable base is a bed foundation with a mechanical component that lets you raise the head and foot of the bed. With the head fully inclined, you can sit up while you relax in bed. Or, you can find your perfect head and foot incline combo for comfortable sleep.


Most modern adjustable bases have a zero-gravity setting, a pre-programmed position optimized for neutral body posture. Our Benefits of Zero-Gravity article explains the zero-G position and its advantages in depth.


You’ll also see options with additional technical features, such as wireless remote controls, a mobile app, voice activation, auto adjustment, built-in massage motors, under-bed lighting, and charging ports for your phone or other devices.


Want to learn more about adjustable bases? Check out our Shopper’s Manual for Adjustable Beds.

Nolah Adjustable Base with Headboard

Adjustable Base Mattress Compatibility

If you own a memory foam, foam, or latex mattress, it will work great with an adjustable base! But because adjustable bases require flexibility, they aren’t compatible with most innerspring mattresses. Some hybrid mattresses with individually-wrapped coils have the flexibility to use with an adjustable base, but you should always check the manufacturer’s recommendations. The hybrid Nolah Evolution and Nolah Natural are compatible with adjustable bed frames.

Adjustable Base Pros

  • Adjustable bed frames allow for maximum customization while you sleep and while you relax in bed (for example, sitting up to read or watch TV).

  • An adjustable base with head and foot elevation may improve pressure relief, relieve snoring or sleep apnea symptoms, promote better circulation, help digestion, and more.

  • Split adjustable bases are great for couples, as they allow each sleeper to adjust their side of the bed independently. (Note: For this full functionality, you need both a split adjustable base and a split mattress. Click here to learn more about split king beds.)

Adjustable Base Cons

  • Adjustable bases aren’t compatible with traditional innerspring mattresses and some hybrid mattresses.

  • With premium features, adjustable bases cost more than other foundation options.

  • Like platforms, adjustable bases can be large and heavy, so they’re harder to set up and move.

  • Because of their moving parts, adjustable bases don’t last as long as high-quality platform bases. However, many adjustable bases use reinforced steel, making them still quite durable.

Nolah Adjustable Bases

Nolah currently offers three adjustable base options: our Smart Adjustable Base, Adjustable Base, and Adjustable Base with Headboard. All options include wireless controls, zero-G, and more.


What Is The Best Foundation for My Mattress?

If you love your mattress and you’re looking for the right base to support it, you’ve come to the right place. Below, we take a look at the best foundations for each mattress type.

What Is the Best Foundation for a Nolah Mattress?

We design our mattresses with versatility in mind. You can set up your Nolah mattress with almost any type of base, including solid platform bases, slatted platform bases (with slats no more than 5 inches apart), adjustable bases, and box spring/bed frame combos. That said, box springs aren’t the BEST fit for our all-foam and hybrid mattresses, which we explore below.

Best Mattress Foundation for Memory Foam and Other All-Foam Mattresses

Best Fit: Platform base or adjustable base

Memory foam and other all-foam mattresses work best with platforms and adjustable bases. Your foam mattress may be compatible with a bed frame and box spring (depending on the manufacturer), but this setup doesn’t provide optimal structure and support. To prolong your memory foam or other foam mattress’s lifespan, opt for a sturdier foundation like a platform base. Foam mattresses also work particularly well with adjustable bases because of their flexibility.


What’s the difference between memory foam and Nolah AirFoam™? The Nolah Technology page explains the benefits of our pressure-relieving and cooling foam.

Best Mattress Foundation for Latex Mattresses

Best Fit: Platform base or adjustable base

Latex foam—made with the sap-like serum from rubber trees—is a highly durable, supportive, and comfortable mattress material. Latex mattresses pair best with platforms and adjustable bases. They tend to weigh more than memory foam options and need more structure than a box spring provides.

Best Mattress Foundation for Innerspring Mattresses

Best Fit: Bed frame with box spring

If you own a traditional innerspring mattress, opt for a bed frame and box spring combo. The coils in the mattress and the coils in the box spring will work together for support and even weight distribution. Innerspring mattresses are also compatible with platform bases, but most don’t have the flexibility for an adjustable base.

Best Mattress Foundation for Hybrid Mattresses

Best Fit: Platform bases

Hybrid mattresses combine coils with foam or latex layers on top for added comfort and contouring. These advanced mattresses can vary widely in construction, height, and weight, so it’s important to check the manufacturer’s specific foundation recommendations.


That said, a platform base is a great fit for most hybrid mattresses. They provide ample structure, support, and stability for these heavy-duty mattress models. Our Nolah Evolution and Nolah Natural hybrid mattresses are also compatible with adjustable bases because they use flexible, individually-wrapped coils.


Final Tips for Finding the Best Bed Foundation

Finding the right foundation is not only good for your mattress, but it’s good for your sleep. Whether you prefer a high-tech adjustable base with the latest bells and whistles or a solid wood sleigh bed with an antique flair, there’s a foundation for you!


Hopefully, this guide has helped you find a comfortable fit that matches your bedroom style and your mattress construction. We’ll leave you with a few final tips to help you narrow down your options:

  • When choosing a mattress foundation, consider the combined height of the base and your mattress. Bed height can be an aesthetic choice, but it also matters for accessibility.

  • Make sure the foundation you buy matches your mattress size.

  • Shoppers should know that using an improper base (or forgoing a foundation altogether) may invalidate your mattress warranty. Be sure to read your mattress’s warranty terms for details.

Disclaimer: Nolah does not provide medical advice. All resources on the Nolah blog, including this article, are informational only and do not replace professional medical counsel. Talk to your doctor about any health, mental health, or sleep-related issues.

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