Bed Slats vs Box Springs: What You Need To Know

Written by
Purple Staff
Last Updated
December 7, 2022
min read

The main difference between bed slats and box springs is that bed slats are planks of wood or metal that go across your bed frame while Box springs are metal or wooden boxes with spring coils in them. These two types of mattress foundations have their own unique properties and only work well with specific kinds of bed materials.

Even a high-quality mattress is only as comfortable as the base supporting it. And if your foundation doesn’t suit your mattress, the bed may sag and cause tension in the body. If you want to avoid sleep disturbances, your mattress foundation should be sturdy, comfortable, and long-lasting. 

Choosing between bed slats and box springs is often confusing for first-time shoppers, so read on for everything you need to know!

What Are Bed Slats?

Bed slats are wooden or metal planks that stretch horizontally across your bed frame. The slats typically have gaps two to three inches wide to provide optimal support for your mattress.

Bed slats pair well with most mattresses, though they may not be compatible with memory foam or an innerspring mattress because of the lack of support.

Bed slats can help make your mattress more firm, giving your mattress a solid foundation to rest on.

Advantages Of Using Bed Slats

A slatted base for your mattress offers many advantages, including the following:

  • Even weight distribution
  • Affordability
  • Long lifespan
  • Easy assembly
  • Gaps that increase airflow for hot sleepers, preventing night sweats and overheating
  • Lower profile foundation for sleepers who don’t require additional height
  • Lightweight and easy-to-move frame

Disadvantages Of Using Bed Slats

Despite its benefits, a slatted foundation isn’t for everyone. Here are a few reasons why:

  • The gaps may be too widely spaced and can cause premature sagging
  • Improper installation can cause shifting
  • It may create a bed that is too close to the ground for taller sleepers

Are Bed Slats Bad For Mattresses?

Whether bed slats are bad for your mattress depends on the type of mattress you use. For instance, if your mattress is too heavy for your wooden slats, you could risk breakage. Hybrid and memory foam mattresses with multiple layers tend to be on the heavier side, so you may have to opt for metal slats if you go for these materials.

In addition, how you assemble your slats can affect your mattress. For instance, if you have a memory foam mattress, you shouldn’t build the slats more than 2.75 inches apart, or you’ll risk sagging.

What Is A Box Spring?

Box springs are metal or wooden boxes containing springs to absorb shock and distribute weight evenly. They are typically covered in fabric.

Traditional box springs were manufactured to push against the coils inside innerspring mattresses, though some modern box springs have an additional steel frame for extra support.

Conventional box springs have undergone significant redesigns and now have springs without spring coils. In addition, they no longer provide the support they once intended to and are instead decorative, adding height to your mattress.

A standard box spring is best for innerspring mattresses. You should avoid using box springs with other types of mattresses.

Like bed shams and ornate headboards, box springs are sometimes seen as rather "old-fashioned" compared with other types of mattress foundations.

See: Mattress foundation and Sizes guide

Advantages Of Using Box Springs

Despite being outdated, modern box springs do have some advantages, including the following:

  • Added height for low-profile mattresses
  • Slight bounce and responsiveness if purchasing traditional box springs with coils
  • Support for people with mobility issues

Disadvantages Of Using Box Springs

While traditional box springs have undergone a significant makeover, they are not as widely compatible.  Below are the primary cons of box springs:

  • Not collapsible, making them difficult to move
  • Provide very little support, especially without coils
  • Can cause sagging and indentions in mattresses
  • Are not compatible with some mattresses

Types Of Bed Slats

There are two primary types of bed slats. Wooden slats are lightweight and easy to install. Metal slats are typically more durable but not nearly as flexible as their wooden counterparts.

Bed Slats Dimensions

Below, you’ll find the average measurements of bed slats for different mattress types:

Twin: 38 inches

Twin XL: 38 inches

Full: 54 inches

Queen: 60 inches

King: 76 inches

Slats vs. Other Mattress Foundations

While bed slats are not uncommon, there are many alternatives you might want to consider, including the following.

Bunkie Board

Bunkie boards are wood, particleboard, or plywood barriers 1 to 3 inches thick. They are best for bunk bed mattresses that don’t require too much height. In addition, you can place a bunkie board between your mattress and bed frame to create a sturdier foundation.

Adjustable Base

Adjustable bed frames are mechanical structures that allow sleepers to raise the head or foot of their mattress. Unlike bed slats, they can provide ample pressure relief and comfort. They are ideal for people that suffer from medical conditions like arthritis or sleep apnea.

In addition, they are highly customizable and can support dozens of add-ons like sleep trackers and temperature regulation.

However, adjustable bases are far more expensive than slats.

Platform Beds

Platform beds are compatible with any type of mattress and don’t require a box spring or foundation. Sometimes, platform beds come with headboards and footboards. These beds are suitable for sleepers who prefer low-profile structures and want additional wall space for storage or decoration. You can attach these frames directly to the wall.

Solid Foundation

Solid wood foundations are comparable to slats, albeit without slatted gaps. These foundations have metal or wooden support beams that require no assembly. While they are easier to use than slatted foundations, they are typically heavier and more expensive.

Foundations can give you bed style that you may not have otherwise.

Should I Use Metal Or Wood Slats?

You should use the slats that best fit your needs. Wooden slats are the more common type of slatted foundation, and they are also more affordable than metal slats. However, depending on the type of mattress you use, they may be an inadequate support base. For instance, wooden slats tend to cause lumps and sagging in memory foam beds. If the weight of your mattress is on the heavy side, you may experience creaking sounds coming from your foundation as well.

On the other hand, metal slats are less likely to break and can offer ample mattress bed support. While they are compatible with all mattress types, metal slats are ideal for heavier products like a hybrid or latex mattress.

Bed Slats FAQs

Can you buy slats for a bed frame?

Yes, you can buy slats separately for your bed frame if you would rather not spend more money on a box spring.

Do bed slats break easily?

Bed slats can break easily if you assemble them poorly or apply too much weight to them. When purchasing bed slats, you’ll want to review their weight limit.

Keep in mind that wooden slats break easier than metal ones.

Can you use plywood instead of bed slats?

Yes, you can replace bed slats with plywood, which can create a more supportive base and is an affordable option. Individual pieces of plywood are thicker and wider than regular slats, so you won’t need as many pieces to fill a frame.