How long can a box spring last?

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Written By Jim J Neal

If you’re sleeping on a box spring, here’s info that will help you determine its condition and its future.

If you’ve ever stayed at a rustic cabin or roadside motel, do you remember the sound the mattress made? It’s somewhere between a high-pitched squeak and a creak, and it didn’t take much to generate it.

These old mattresses almost always had box springs that contributed to the noise. If you’ve heard of box springs but never really knew what they were, here’s what you need to know.

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What Is a Box Spring?

A box spring is a bed-sized wooden box of steel springs (or, in cheaper models, metal grid patterns) wrapped in fabric. It’s primarily used with innerspring mattresses, sandwiched between the mattress and the bed frame.

A box spring provides support, absorbs impact and improves airflow, which keeps the mattress cooler. It also raises the mattress to a comfortable height so that you’re not performing a sumo squat each time you get out of bed.

Box springs are still sold but are less common than years past, thanks to changes by the two industry leaders, Serta Simmons Bedding and Tempur-Sealy International. They started selling wood foundations about ten years ago. Box springs don’t provide the rigid support needed for many newer foam and latex beds.

Box Spring Alternatives

Most mattresses function fine when placed directly on the floor, but this restricts airflow and can lead to a buildup of dust, moisture and mold. Thus, the need for some sort of base. Until the industry-wide change a decade ago, the box spring was the most common type of mattress foundation.

“Most of today’s mattresses have tempered coils or a support layer that does not need to interact with a box spring,” says Noah Meicler, head of sales for Texas Mattress Makers in Houston. “So there are no box springs, really, any more in the bedding industry.

“The way most mattresses are created, the support comes from a tempered coil in a mattress that sits on a foundation. The mattress doesn’t need to interact with a box spring like it used to. So a box spring is a legacy term.”

Depending on the type of mattress you prefer, there are other types of supports, including:

Foundation

Made of wooden slats or a flat solid frame, foundations have no metal springs. These offer a firm surface typically for foam beds. Most foundations go with a bed frame, although some companies offer freestanding versions.

Platform bed

This is a low-profile frame with a sturdy base (wood, metal, or slatted) that holds up the mattress. No box spring required. Most have wooden legs to elevate the frame, while some include storage drawers that go to the floor. Platform beds offer an all-in-one solution but can be pricier than other options.

Signs That Box Springs Are Wearing Out

While you probably won’t buy a box spring with your next mattress, you may still use one with your current mattress, which may be just fine. Or not. Too many aches and pains and bad nights of sleep should make you question what you’re sleeping on.

“There are some customers who inherited a box spring and mattress from their grandparents,” says Meicler, whose family has been in the mattress business for four generations. “There are people who’ve had a mattress set for more than 30 years. They come in and cringe and make that full-of-teeth face and say, ‘I don’t want to tell you how old my mattress is.’ ”

You’ll know your box spring is nearing the end of its usefulness if:

  • It creaks or squeaks when you put weight or pressure on it;
  • It sags or bows at the edges;
  • You see bending or damage to the steel wire that organizes the springs. If you notice this on the perimeter, the interior is probably bad as well.

How Long Does a Box Spring Last?

Good ones can last more than 20 years, inferior ones two or three. According to the Sleep Foundation, most last about 10 years. The less it’s used and the lighter the person using it, the longer the lifespan.

What To Do With a Worn Out Box Spring?

Drop it off at your local recycling center.

“In Texas at least, you can’t throw a box spring in a dumpster,” says Meicler. “Our company hauls away your old one, and we break it down at our factory and send the parts for recycling or scrap. Otherwise, you’d have to call a company like 1-800-GOT-JUNK?”

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