Like most people, I like my bed to be tall enough to easily get into and bouncy enough to maintain its shape. But if those properties also make it creak every time I roll over in my sleep, I may be willing to give them up. Now, a box spring isn’t really an unavoidable part of your sleeping setup anymore. Still, if you’d prefer to keep some of that height and bounce, you could look into some quiet box spring alternatives.
Of course, if money is a big concern, you can try to fix your old box spring before shopping for alternatives. However, in this article, you may discover that you don’t even need a box spring. So let’s start there — what are box springs, anyway, and are they a must?
What Are Box Springs?
Before we go any further, we need to have a clear idea of what a traditional box spring is. That should help us narrow down the list of things that could conceivably replace your squeaky mattress foundation.
And that’s basically what box springs are. While your mattress is there to support your body, a box spring should support the mattress.
Traditional box springs used to be simple wooden frames filled with wire coils, which made the compressed-cotton mattresses of yore more comfortable to sleep on. However, since we all tend to stick to certain sleeping positions, some of the coils would sag faster than others.
Between the sagging and corrosion, it’s only natural that those springs would eventually start squeaking. All of these factors made manufacturers reconsider the design of the box springs and introduce the torsion modular system.
Torsion units had a firm wooden base and strong bent wires that held up the flat metal grid top. The metal wires still had some give, but not as much as traditional coil springs.
Still, even that design fell out of vogue about a decade ago, but not before inspiring the next generation of mattress foundations. Those also had a wooden base and a metal grid top, supported by different wire patterns.
At that point, mattresses were mostly made of foam anyway, so there was no need for the box spring to add to their flexibility. Instead, it only had to provide additional height — as explained in this video.
The Benefits of Having a Box Spring
Initially, there were several benefits to using a box spring. It would:
- Increase the flexibility of the sleeping surface at a time when most mattresses were decidedly inflexible.
- Increase the height of the bed, allowing us to get on and off more easily.
- Prevent the flow of dust from the floor up onto the mattress, thanks to the fabric cover of the mattress foundation.
- Increase the flow of air to the mattress, thereby allowing it to maintain a comfortable temperature, which prevented bacterial growth.
Nowadays, we still appreciate many of these box spring features. As you will see, most of the quieter alternatives on my list should check off at least one of these boxes. However, there is one thing that shouldn’t be an issue.
As evidenced by the history of box spring design, we have slowly moved from more to less flexible units. As we have advanced past compressed cotton mattresses toward soft memory foam ones, flexibility has fallen down on the list of requirements for mattress foundations. That’s exactly what should make it easy to find quiet alternatives to box springs.
After all, the only way that a box spring can make your bed bouncier is by using flexible wire coils. And as we have established, those inevitably corrode and become squeaky. Fortunately, units that don’t have them are usually much quieter, so we should focus our search on them.
Are Box Springs Obsolete?
At this point, there is one question we should all be asking. Namely: do we even need box springs?
In short, most modern mattresses don’t require one. As I have mentioned above, memory foam and latex mattresses are so malleable that they wouldn’t get anything out of a springy base. However, they do usually need a firm surface, at least. That’s something you’ll have to keep in mind when shopping for box spring alternatives.
Now let’s take a moment to reflect on the other benefits of having a box spring. Are there any other products that could provide a sufficiently tall base to lay your mattress on? In a word: yes.
For example, bed frames come in all sorts of dimensions, and some even have adjustable heights. I would even say that some tall bed frames prove how utterly unnecessary box springs are. Instead of wasting all that space on a hollow box, you get to double the storage space under the bed.
What about airflow? Can any box spring alternative provide free airflow to your mattress while preventing dust from coming up? Well, some of the options on my list may still allow air to reach your mattress if you have a model that absolutely needs ventilation.
But that’s something you should check in your mattress warranty before worrying about it. So before you look through the box spring alternatives I’ve listed below, dig out those papers and find out if a mattress foundation is required to keep your warranty valid.
Quiet Box Spring Alternatives
Now that we know everything about box springs, let’s take a moment to consider some alternatives. Most of these solutions would give you at least some of the benefits I’ve listed above. However, they simply don’t produce the kind of noise box springs are (in)famous for.
1. Get a Bunkie Board (aka Slats)
Bunkie boards or slats are the simplest type of mattress foundation you could imagine. They can be either metal or wood — which can affect their general shape.
For example, metal units like this one from Zinus are generally rectangular frames with slats running along the length of the frame. If they’re supposed to fit into a large bed frame, they often have a support beam in the middle that prevents the slats from dipping.
While you could conceivably find a welder to make you a custom metal bunkie board, the ones you can find online will do the job just fine. Better still, most of them are incredibly easy to assemble with next to no tools.
Wooden bunkie boards are a simplified version of what we’ve just seen. Instead of having complete rectangular frames that support the slats, these yellow pine slats are held together by two strips that have been stapled to the bottom of the boards. Wooden slats can be as sturdy as metal ones and more flexible, especially if you get the curved kind.
Overall, though, I wouldn’t say that these kinds of products can give your bed any additional height or bounce. However, they provide a firm base and plenty of ventilation, should your mattress need it.
What’s more, bunkie boards are also easy to customize if you want to prevent dust from wafting up into the mattress from the floor under the bed. Just lay some fabric over the slats,and your mattress will be free of dust bunnies.
2. Platform Bed
If you’re looking to achieve great height and airflow, the simplest solution would be to get a tall platform bed. I’ve recommended several of them in my article about quiet bed frames. As you’ll notice if you look through my list of favorites, they come in all shapes and sizes.
For example, the Shawn mattress base from Zinus has a very basic design. It looks like a simple metal bunkie board with three pairs of legs. The metal platform beds from Dikapa and Simlife are much more intricate due to the addition of headboards and footboards. But of course, metal isn’t the only material you can work with.
I have included several wooden platform beds on my list, as well as one upholstered unit with a steel frame. Ultimately, these beds are everything you could ever want — and most of them can’t be used with a box spring anyway. But do they provide any of the box spring benefits I’ve listed above?
Well, depending on the frame you get, the mattress platform could be anywhere between seven and fourteen inches off the ground. Granted, those numbers are taken from the products I’ve mentioned in my previous article. So really, your bed could be even taller than that! Remember, you’ll have to take the thickness of your mattress into account, which would add 4–14 inches.
Clearly, most modern mattresses don’t need the enhanced flexibility a box spring used to provide. However, if you feel like you need that extra bounce, you could pair your platform bed with curved slats. Slats, in general, are going to be your best friend when it comes to ventilation as well. So, you see, platform beds can give you pretty much everything a box spring would.
Wooden pallets are a great option if you want to give your mattress the support and ventilation it truly needs. Not only are pallet beds insanely picturesque, but they’re also incredibly customizable. You’ll get the exact height and size that would suit you and your mattress. And since pallets are made to support and transport heavy items, they should have no problem holding your mattress.
Best of all, the materials should be pretty easy to come by. You’ll just have to hop over to any home improvement store and get a bunch of pallets. Alternatively, you could ask a friend who works in construction or storage to give you some at a discount price.
Once you have the pallets, you can stain or paint them before building your bed. Furthermore, when you decide to set them up, you may not even have to use tools. If you’re going to stack more than two layers on top of each other, though, I recommend using nails or screws to hold them in place.
The results will vary depending on the stain, setup, and accessories you use. You might want to look at photos of similar projects for inspiration before you start crafting.
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If you keep your pallet bed plain and put it against a brick wall, it’ll give off an industrial vibe. But if you use a dark stain and surround it with plants, it’ll look more natural and earthy. And you don’t even have to make the bed match the room — if your space needs an accent piece, you can paint the pallets yellow or red!
4. Adjustable Bed
Adjustable beds may look similar to platform units at first glance, but they’re anything but. In fact, the similarities end at the basic shape the bed has while it’s in the horizontal position. But — you guessed it — adjustable beds have motorized bases that can change their shape for more upright or prone (horizontal) resting.
Originally, adjustable beds only had two positions and sliding controls that let you choose any stage between the two. That’s still how many hospital beds work. You can be completely horizontal, upright, or choose a position between those two extremes.
Nowadays, most home units, like this one from Leggett & Platt, understandably have a greater range of motion. Users can individually adjust the head, body, and feet sections, and even the overall angle of the bed. That also means that you’ll have a pretty decent selection of heights to choose from. After all, these units can become taller at the press of a button, even if only at the head or foot side of the bed.
Of course, adjustable beds are also incredibly flexible — they have to be. But they also need to provide a firm base for your mattress. Some manufacturers claim that their beds can accommodate any kind of mattress, though I’d recommend sticking with memory foam ones.
The one thing I am not able to promise, though, is that your mattress will have plenty of ventilation. But at least the closed mattress platform will prevent dust from getting inside it.
Having expanded on the benefits of adjustable beds, I ought to note one disadvantage. Because they are motorized, many of them can be pretty loud. That’s not to say that you can’t find a quiet unit if you try.
5. Don’t Use a Bed Frame at All
To be clear, setting your mattress directly on the floor won’t give you any of the benefits I’ve listed above. It won’t make your mattress any bouncier or allow it to cool from below. However, you should keep in mind that some mattresses don’t require any help to maintain a reasonable temperature or flexibility.
It’s not as if keeping your mattress on the floor is a new trend. Cultures all over the world have practiced sleeping on the floor — in a sense — for centuries! Naturally, they often use some kind of barrier between the floor and the body. In many East Asian countries, people think nothing of setting a futon down and snoozing on the floor.
But if that’s too adventurous for you, you can stick to your memory foam mattress. Unlike some mattresses I’ll warn you against later on, foam ones don’t emit any kind of noise. What’s more, their warranties usually state that it’s best to use them without any kind of box spring. All they need is a flat, hard surface to maintain their shape — so a floor should work.
But if you want to be fancy about it, there are a few ways to ensure that your mattress doesn’t get dusty, at least. You could put down:
Alternatively, you could put your mattress in a waterproof but breathable hypoallergenic case to protect it from all sorts of mites and mishaps.
So, even though this alternative doesn’t provide any of the benefits a box spring might give you, it’s still an undeniably silent base for your mattress. I would wholeheartedly recommend at least trying it out.
Why I Don’t Recommend Spring Mattresses as Alternatives
In the course of my research, I came across some box spring alternatives I wouldn’t be able to recommend. So, I wanted to take a moment to explain why I didn’t mention some of them.
Innerspring mattresses are my least favorite option. These products were a huge hit when they first flooded the market because they incorporated the flexibility of a box spring into the mattress design.
The mostly cotton stuffing was supported by a network of wire coils. But remember: coils actually made most traditional box springs super noisy. Even worse, many double-sided innerspring mattresses still require box springs to maintain their shape! Essentially, you would have to get not one, but two potentially noisy products.
Hybrid mattresses are similarly deficient, as they have both foam and coil layers. However, unlike the previous type of mattress I explained, this one clearly separates the two. Usually, the coils make up the base of the mattress, while the foam is on top, which eliminates the springy feeling of sleeping on top of wires.
Still, I’d much rather avoid springs altogether when looking for quiet box spring alternatives. After all, they’re generally the sole culprit behind most noises you hear coming from your mattress foundation.
Did We Find the Ultimate Box Spring Alternative?
As we have established, box springs are, by no means, a mandatory part of your sleeping setup. Their main job is to provide a firm yet pliable base for your mattress and thereby extend its lifespan. What’s more, they need to raise the mattress to a more traditional height. But even if you like sleeping on clouds, some of them take it way too far.
Ultimately, your bed doesn’t need to be any taller than 20 inches. However, if that’s your thing, several of the products I’ve mentioned will get you over that mark if you use them together with a thick mattress. If your biggest concern is avoiding any kind of creaking whatsoever, though, you can’t go wrong with setting your mattress down on the floor — that is, as long as that floor isn’t creaky.
So, what do you say? Did I manage to find a quiet box spring alternative you like? If one of the products I’ve mentioned has caught your eye, I encourage you to keep doing your research. After all, the Internet is full of wonderful bedroom ideas — you might be a Pinterest dive away from your perfect boudoir.