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1. Improvements in mattress technology have placed the box spring in an ambiguous position—useful, but not as necessary as it once was. If you're replacing your current mattress set, it's still probably a good idea to buy a new box spring. Mattress warranties specify continuous, sturdy support as a condition of warranty recognition. Pay attention to box spring types, however: instead of buying a set, you may be able to support your new mattress with a more affordable box spring.
2. The most affordable type of box spring is the foundation or platform, which typically consists of wooden slats and fiberboard. It's a supportive, zero-deflection foundation that's perfectly suitable for most innerspring mattresses. A coil box spring has shock-absorbing coils. It gives mattresses greater flexibility and bounce, and a softer feel, but beware: it may reduce mattress durability, as modern mattresses usually require a more solid base. A semi-flex box spring consists of low-gauge metal wire on a wood base. It's a zero-deflection box that's best used with thicker mattresses.
3. Today's mattresses are more comfortable than ever, which in some cases is due to their unprecedented thickness. Add a regular-sized box spring, and you're sleeping on a skyscraper. Low profile box springs provide solid mattress support in a thinner frame (about 5 or 5 1/2 inches versus 9 inches), and keep your sleeping surface in proportion to its frame. If moving a large box spring is likely to be a problem, bi-fold or split box springs would make corners and doorways easier to manage.
4. It's the simplest of shopping criteria and the most important one to get right: matching your mattress and box spring size. If you're having trouble recollecting which bed size you have, take a quick measure and check the stats: twin box spring (39W by 75L), twin XL box spring (39W by 80L), full box spring (54W by 75L), queen box spring (60W by 80L), king box spring (76W by 80L), and California king box spring (72W by 84L).
5. Box springs are standard for innerspring mattresses, but there are a number of mattress types that don't require a box, including air mattresses, memory foam mattresses, futons, and waterbeds. If you're in the market for an entirely new bed, a great way to save money—or spend more money on a higher-quality mattress—is to buy a platform bed or low profile bed, which substitutes as a box spring.