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Slatted base, box spring, spiral base or disc base: which bed base to choose?

6 Apr, 2024
Jürgen Swinnen

Why is a good bed base important?

A bed base, the bottom on which your mattress rests, has a very important function when you consider your overall sleeping comfort. I like to approach it as a “four-stage system.” An ideal bed set consists of a good mattress, an appropriate pillow, the right duvet and the right bed base. The bed base works together with the mattress in the ideal sleep comfort composition. That’s why it’s best to coordinate the two. In this blog, we would like to take a closer look at the characteristics of different bed bases so that you can make an informed choice.

Once upon a time…

Over the years, we as humans evolved quite a bit when it comes to sleep. It is assumed that we once slept in trees, high and safe from the ground. Our ancestors, Homo erectus, are considered the first avid ground sleepers. The fact is that we moved from soft foliage through an evolution of millions of years to stuffed bags of straw, seaweed, kapok or wool that we laid on the ground or on shelves.

Many steps were taken in the 1950s, thanks to the discovery of polyurethane foams, for example. As a result, the mattress in particular has evolved greatly in Western Europe and America. And with the mattress, more thought was quietly given to the correct bed base.

Thus, slatted bases, box springs, spiral bases and disc bases came into being. And over time, consideration was also given to whether or not these bases could be electrically adjusted. Meanwhile, there is a very wide range of products and brands available. And I do often hear people who have choice stress and are no longer so sure what is best to choose.

When to choose a slatted base?

A slatted bed is literally what it says, but make no mistake: there are many elements that differ from one another. Consider the number of slats, for example. As a general rule, the more slats there are in the bottom and the closer they are together, the easier it is to combine all mattress types.

The number of slats can vary, 28-slat and 42-slat are common. When slats are closer together, mattress support is better assured. Especially for mattresses with pocket springs, this is important because it is best for the springs not to press through the intermediate space of the slats. The mattress can then no longer support your body correctly. This is why many bed consultants recommend working with full mattress cores, without springs. Or they limit the warranty if you do want to go for a pocket version and the spacing between pairs of slats is too large.

Personally, I am a big proponent of combining mattresses without (pocket) springs on this type of base. Why? Well, a lot of the “better” slat bases are quite active in support. A mattress without springs will further enhance the active support which, as far as I am concerned, allows the symbiosis to be much more powerful.

What are the other mutual differences of a slatted bed besides the number of slats? There are slatted bases with overhanging slats or with slats that remain in the frame. You can choose composite wood or slats in plastic or fiberglass. The mechanism in which each bar is placed can be very simply constructed or very ingeniously moved with the body’s build or body movements.

There are variants with specifically differently built shoulder and/or hip zones. The quality of the caps used or the additional options for adjusting the height or hardness of an individual bar are also part of the gigantic range. There are slatted bases that are fully adjusted to your size and there are those that automatically follow your body contours. In subsequent blogs, we will discuss the different slat bases in more detail. For now, I can tell you that a “across the width” and more flexible slatted base with enough slats to support your mattress may suffice as a solid base.

What mattress do you combine with a spiral base?

Metal spirals stretched lengthwise or widthwise form the base of the spiral base. Current models are quasi always made of high-quality, hardened steel wire stretched transversely in the frame. This way, your mattress gets support everywhere. So you can actually combine both (pocket) spring and non-spring (full-core) mattresses with this bed base. Support is relatively good. An ergonomically built slatted base, box spring or disc base responds to this even better. Therefore, more “active” mattresses such as memory foam, gel mattresses or pocket spring mattresses are often combined. In fact, with these mattresses, the impact of the bed base is less noticeable.

A major advantage of a coil base is its air permeability and durability. A known disadvantage is that you can’t see as well when your soil needs replacing. You do notice that you start to hang more and over time you start to feel that in your back. If you purchased a quality model, you can count on a lifespan of about 20 years. This is roughly equivalent to the life of 2 quality mattresses. Another disadvantage is that a hard strip is created in the middle of two adjacent spiral bases. Especially if you want to use one large mattress and you often lie in the middle, this does not benefit the durability of the mattress.

What is a suitable mattress with a saucer base?

Compared to spiral and slatted bases, this base type was developed more recently. They are made of plastic dishes that are mounted, with or without a spring support, on bottom slats. The idea is that the dishes act as a kind of 3-dimensional carriers. Therefore, depending on price and quality, they also include shoulder, lumbar and hip zones, and the individual plates can sometimes be manually adjusted harder or softer.

The advantage is that this type of base provides good and often active support for the mattress. Air permeability is also good. Sometimes slatted bases are fitted with baffles only in the shoulder zone. This creates a smooth shoulder zone. These bed bases are relatively durable and will last at least 10 years. The downside is that not all dish bases are easy to fit into an existing bed frame. Careful handling during a move, for example, is recommended, as the parts dare to break off.

Since this base also supports quite actively, again I favor mattresses without (pocket) springs or full core mattresses, just as with slatted bases. Memory foam mattresses, gel mattresses, latex mattresses and cold foam mattresses combine perfectly with a disc base.

Why choose a box spring?

Especially over the past 20 years, the box spring has become very popular in Belgian and Dutch bedrooms. All too often, the bed base is confused with the complete sleep system. Of course, that’s not a bad thing at all! Actually, box spring refers to the bottom. So a box spring bed consists of a box spring (base) with a box spring mattress. A box spring is very similar to a spring mattress. Only then the box spring is provided with a support with legs and this frame is given a beautiful furniture fabric.

This also explains its popularity because slatted, dish and spiral bases are often placed in a crib. A box spring is usually set in the room standalone and fitted with a headboard and/or footboard. So you sleep directly on what you see. Because a true box spring, as the word implies, contains springs (AND) or springs, mattresses with springs are often combined. Especially in the Netherlands, you see that the mattress is not offered with a typical mattress cover, but is made in the same furniture fabric cover as the base. An additional topper is placed on this composition. This optional topper makes the sleep system softer.

Box springs are often placed in hotels. Be careful, though, because there are also hotel boxes. Nothing wrong with it, but this is not a box spring. In fact, there are no springs used in the bed base, but wooden or plastic boards that are upholstered, like box springs. Lying comfort is hard and thus very much depends on the mattress you choose.

So a box spring is often easy to fit and provides relatively good mattress support. Box springs built on a base of pocket springs offer more correct support. A quality model can easily serve 2 mattresses and thus will last about 20 years.

One disadvantage of box springs is that their ventilation depends greatly on the materials used. A lot of people with house dust mite allergies avoid upholstery fabrics. This is not always necessary, as most furniture fabrics are easy to maintain and often have a dust mite-resistant coating.

A box spring can also be combined with all other mattress types, especially mattresses without springs. Although this combination is not always routinely displayed in bed stores.

Choosing bed base: conclusion

If you are looking for a new bed base, you have a number of options. Do you plan to use your current mattress for a while longer? Then start looking for a suitable base for your mattress. If you want to test in a bed store, see if you can try with a mattress that is very similar to your model at home.

Starting from a blank sheet, look at bottom and mattress as one unit. And from the very first moment align both well. I must say that I always get a little suspicious when people tell me that soil is not that important. And that it is mainly the mattress that you should invest in. I disagree. A mattress has a big impact on comfort, but with the right bed base included, your mattress is even better supported, proper moisture management and ventilation are guaranteed, and your overall bed will simply be much more comfortable.

Preferably choose a mattress without (pocket) springs. And still want to combine a spring mattress? Then pay close attention to the distance between each slat. Depending on the springs used in the mattress, it is best to limit the distance to a maximum of 3 cm.

As with a slatted base, we recommend combining a mattress without (pocket) springs for optimal results.

Often (pocket) spring mattresses are combined with a box spring, but not necessarily. Actually, all mattress types can be combined without difficulty.

Virtually all mattress types can be combined with a spiral base. Pay close attention when you put 2 bottoms side by side: the middle may feel firm.

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