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, or box spring
, supports the mattress. The foundation is comparable to the shocks in a car. It is responsible for absorbing the bulk of the weight load placed on a mattress. A foundation can have springs (in which case it is known as a box spring) or no springs. Springs offer the foundation a little more give and allow the weight load to be more evenly distributed for better wear. The foundation can be a plain fiberboard-covered wooden frame, a wooden frame with springs, a metal frame with springs, or a wood frame with covering to keep it uniform in feel.
A plain wooden frame is usually found with foam mattresses, as they do not provide any spring-back effect. There are different grades of wood frames that increase the level of solidity and durability. Cheaper sleep sets, do not absorb weight as well, and have a shorter lifespan than other foundations. The nice part about solid wood or fiber board foundations is that you won’t usually hear any potential squeaking of the springs, and there will be less motion transfer.
A foam foundation is also available, but it should only be used with a foam mattress. It is almost always advisable to purchase the foundation and mattress together as part of a set, since certain mattresses require a specialty foundation.
European style slat foundations are now made and sold in North America. Closely-spaced wooden slats provide a springy give, but without metal coils. Depending on the flexibility, width and spacing of the slats, a European foundation can be made suitable for innerspring or specialty mattresses.
Mixing and matching often leads to mattresses that don’t quite fit, leading to increased wear and tear on the mattress and foundation. In addition, putting a new mattress on an old box spring may void your warranty in some cases!