Box Spring vs. Foundation

If you’re buying a mattress set for the first time in a long while, you might be a little confused about the difference between a foundation and a box spring. You might be thinking things like “What the heck is a foundation?” or “Aunt Nancy always told me that a good box spring is the key to a good night’s sleep. Was she lying to me? Do I need to reevaluate everything else Aunt Nancy told me? Does Uncle Frank know about this?” or “Great, another decision I have to make. This is all I need!” But try not to get too upset. The truth is, there really isn’t a difference between a box spring and a foundation.

Traditional box springs used to have coils inside of a wood casing that provided a slightly softer feeling to the sleep surface. Today, a box spring is made with steel flex rods rather than coils. The rods give slightly under pressure, so they perform the same function as a coil. A foundation is made of the same components. In fact, many retailers use the terms box spring and foundation interchangeably. Since box springs and foundations come in a range of heights, you might notice that lower profile boxes are referred to as foundations, and taller ones are labeled as box springs.

Low Profile Box Spring (Foundation)

Low Profile Foundation

Standard Box Spring (Foundation)

High Profile Foundation

So, as you can see, the differences between box springs and foundations are mostly phonetic and aesthetic. When you buy your mattress set, know how high you want your bed to stand off of the ground. Today’s mattress heights are higher than those in years past, so you might want to consider a low profile foundation to keep you from having to pole vault onto your bed at night. If your bed lies low to the ground, then a standard box spring might be the best option for you.

4 Responses to Box Spring vs. Foundation

  1. Annie says:

    a box is a box so why call it a box springs when there NO SPRINGS IN IT?


    • Sarah says:

      Hi Annie,
      I’m sorry for the delay in my response. Even though mattress support technology has changed with the evolution of mattresses, the term “box spring” is still used because everyone knows what it is. “Box spring” and “foundation” are typically interchangeable names for the same thing. So even though most box springs don’t have traditional coils in them anymore, the name has stuck because it’s been around for so long. Thanks for your question!
      The Snooze Guru


      • Anne says:

        The word “springs” should not even be in the description of the foundation, it’s still false advertising no matter which way you turn the phrase.


      • Sarah says:

        We understand the confusion, which is why we try to make it clear on our site that the terms “foundation” and “box spring” are interchangeable. However, we cannot pretend that the phrase “box spring” does not exist, since so many people still use it to describe a foundation. Eventually, the phrase may slip out of use as more and more people understand that modern foundations do not have traditional coils, but until then, we will include the phrase in an effort to reach those who still say “box spring.”


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