What Is a Bed Frame?
A bed frame is the scaffolding that supports your mattress and its foundation. It can be as simple as a foldout metal frame that locks in place to support a box spring or as complex as an elegant furniture piece with an integrated headboard, footboard and side rails. No matter how they look, bed frames are typically used with (or include) a foundation for a mattress, whether that is a box spring, a platform or slats.
A bed frame is not a must, but many people find it more comfortable to get in and out of an elevated mattress than one that is on the floor.
1. Know your mattress size. You probably know if your mattress is a twin, full, queen, king or California king. If not, measure it to confirm what standard bed frame it will fit. Note that some mattresses come in long as well as standard lengths.
Typical mattress sizes:
- Twin is 38 by 75 inches.
- Full or double is 53 or 54 by 75 inches.
- Queen is 60 by 80 inches.
- King is 76 by 80 inches.
- California king is 72 by 84 inches.
2. Consider your space. Measure your room to see what size of bed will work in your bedroom. Think about the other furniture you want in the room and how much space you need to move around comfortably.
3. Find your style. Is your existing furniture traditional, modern or eclectic? Look at bedroom images and browse bed frames to help zero in on your style. If you’re working on a whole bedroom makeover, you can work with an interior designer to help with your choice.
4. Consider mattress height. Think about how high you’d like your bed to be, and choose a foundation that brings your mattress to the right height for you.
A good general rule of thumb is that you should be able to place your feet flat on the ground when you are seated on the edge of your mattress. Your knees and hips should be in a straight line. If your knees are higher than your hips, your bed is probably too low. If your feet don’t touch the floor, your bed is too high. This is especially important for people with poor mobility or who suffer from pain.
3 Ways to Support Your Mattress
1. Box spring. Box springs were traditionally the way to provide firm, level support for your mattress. But the name has become a bit of a misnomer, since most box springs today don’t actually contain springs. Instead, they are often no more than wood frames covered in fabric.
“Mattresses used to be much more floppy,” says Lisa Faulkner, founder of The Beautiful Bed, in Los Angeles. “You’d have a box spring which had springs in it and that would give support to the mattress.” But as mattresses became more structured over the years, box springs became less so.
If your bed frame is designed to be used with a box spring, then it’s smart to use one. Otherwise, you may not need one. “Most of the beds we’re seeing nowadays do not require a box spring,” says Nic Allen, store manager at the Boho Furniture Gallery, in Las Vegas. Popular platform beds often don’t require a box spring, nor do most beds with slats.
However, box springs are not exactly obsolete — using one is actually a great way to customize your mattress height. You can choose the box spring that will raise your mattress to the best height for you.
- Standard box springs are typically about 9 inches high.
- Low-profile box springs are 5 to 6 inches high.
- An alternative known as a bunkie board (typically made out of plywood or particleboard) is 1 to 2 inches high.
Keep in mind that some companies won’t honor the mattress warranty if the mattress is not used with the recommended foundation.
Bed frames sold with slats typically raise the mattress to a lower height than bed frames designed to be used with box springs. A lower mattress generally looks more contemporary, so if you like a contemporary style, a bed frame with slats may be a good option.
This type is also for renters or people who live in apartment buildings or homes with tight staircases, as it is usually easier to carry slats up stairs than it is to maneuver inflexible box springs up stairs.
This is a particular concern with foam mattresses, says Colleen Gala, co-owner of Fairhaven Furniture, in New Haven, Connecticut. “The slats need to be close enough together so that the mattress doesn’t start sagging within the slats,” Gala says.
If you are worried about slats that are too far apart for your mattress, or children jumping on the bed and damaging the slats, you could add a box spring, a bunkie board or a sheet of flat plywood or MDF on top of your bed frame’s slats. This will provide extra support.