Choosing a bed base is often overshadowed by deciding which mattress or bed frame to get. You might go for one, that comes with a mattress, or a bed frame. But this is not an ideal approach. A well-chosen bed base, properly matched with your mattress, can improve the comfort of your sleep, and also extend a mattresses lifetime, saving you money.
Not so long ago, we were looking for a new mattress, and we didn’t think much of a bed base. It was not until I came across an upholsterer, that also makes custom mattresses and repairs bed bases that I have learned, that bed base is a kind of mattress enhancer.
Note: If you want to learn about how to choose a mattress, check out my other post, that focuses solely on this topic.
Buying a mattress represents a significant investment which should last for a long time (a high-quality mattress should last 10-20 years, depending on the type of a mattress you have), but by choosing improper bed base, you might unwillingly shorten its lifetime.
Types of bed bases
There are three basic types of bed bases
- Solid (Platform) bed base
- Fixed slatted bed base
- Sprung slatted bed base
- with fixed slat holders
- with flexible slat holders (I haven’t found the technical term for “flexible slat holders” so keep reading to find out what do I mean by that.)
Solid (Platform) Bed Base
The solid (platform) bed base consists of a uniform panel that covers the whole surface under the mattress. The downside of such a base is the lack of airflow. It can result in hotter sleeping or accumulation of humidity under the mattress, which can lead to mold. Also, it does not adapt to your body shape at all.
Fixed Slatted Bed Base
The fixed slatted bed base is made out of straight slats that are positioned across the bed and fixed to the frame. Compared to the solid (platform) bed base, this option offers good airflow. However, same as the solid bed base, it will not adapt to your body shape. If you choose such a base, look for models, where the width between slats does not exceed 1,5″ (4 cm).
Sprung Slatted Bed Base
The sprung slatted bed base, same as the previous type, has slats going across the base. However, they are slightly curved. It allows them to adjust to your weight by bending down. This way, they absorb some of your weight, which reduces the pressure put on a mattress. In the case of solid or fixed slatted bed bases, a mattress absorbs all of your weight which strains the material much more. And that’s why a sprung slatted bed base can extend the lifetime of a mattress. Below you can see an illustration of such effect.
There are two basic types of sprung slatted bed bases.
With fixed slat holders
Fixed slat holders are mounted in the frame of a bed base, and they don’t move. The only movement of the base happens in curved slats, which bend downwards under pressure. In some cases the slat holders my pivot, but that’s it. In these bed bases, a problem may arise when you put a strain on slats since they might stretch the frame to the sides. However, this effect can be reduced by a sufficient amount of cross support bars that reinforce the frame (for more information about cross support bars keep reading or click here).
With flexible slat holders
Flexible slat holders are installed on top of the frame of a bed base. Their design allows them to compress under pressure, thanks to which the base adjusts to your body even more. When you are lying on a mattress that is placed on such a base you have three elements, that absorb your weight:
- the mattress
- curved slats
- flexible bed slat holders
This kind of bed base helps to extend the lifetime of your mattress and slats even more since they don’t carry all of your weight. Hence a mattress and bed base should last longer.
Adjustable bed base
If you are looking for extra comfort, you can find manually adjustable or motorized bed bases (e.g., sprung slatted type). Such bases allow you to adjust your position on the bed.
But be aware that not every mattress type can be used with an adjustable bed base. To find out, which types of mattresses are compatible, check out the table below. The mattress has to be able to mimic the profile of the bed and also withstand the increased strain that is caused by bending. Because of that, the best choice for long-lasting comfort is a latex or a cold (HR) high-density foam mattresses (optimally with zones).
Another thing to be mindful of is the fact, that motorized bed bases have a motor and lifting arms on the bottom, hence if you are planning on mounting it to a specific bed frame, make sure that it will fit.
How to recognize a high-quality bed base
Based on the structure and components of a bed base, you can get an idea, if you are looking at a high-quality product, that will last for a long time. The things to watch for are:
- A number of slats
- Slat spacing
- Slats material
- Bed slat holders material
- Tension sliders
- Cross support bars
A number of slats
There should be at least 16 slats.
The space between slats should not exceed 1,5″ (4 cm).
Slats should be varnished or laminated. Such a finish makes slats smooth, which protects the cover of the mattress from abrasions, and also it protects against humidity and dryness helping the slats last longer. If you have the choice, lamination is a better option than varnish since it is usually smoother, and it also protects better against humidity and dryness.
How does humidity or dryness damage a bed base?
If slats are not well treated, the moisture can get into the wood and deform them. They can also go moldy. Humidity can be a problem not only in a humid climate but also if you are using, e.g., a foam mattress from low-quality polyurethane foam which does not have a good airflow (for more information on foam types see my other post) or you use a low-quality mattress cover from material, that makes you sweat a lot. The humidity from your body transports through the mattress and the cover into slats.
If slats dry out, they can get less flexible or deform and get shorter, which can result in loose slats or even slats falling out of a bed frame.
SIGNS OF LOW-QUALITY SLATS
A high-quality slatted bed base should not have slats that
- look untreated or seem to have a small layer of varnish (e.g., IKEA),
- feel rough to touch,
- have gaps between veneers since there is not enough glue,
- are short (probably for easier installation, they tend to fall out under pressure).
Bed slat holders material
Ok, now I will be splitting hairs for some of you since probably a small percentage of people will be looking at bed slat holders material, but for the few that are interested. You probably already know, what bed slats holders are (if not, you can read it ABOVE). Bed slat holders differ not only in their shape but also in the materials used. The type of material (e.g., plastic, TPE-E, silicon, rubber, SBS, etc.) influences the holders quality. High-quality materials, which are used, e.g., in Belgian and German bases, are TPE-E and SBS. Low-quality holders, e.g., rubber ones, tend to deform, crack or when dried out – squeak. You can prevent the drying by applying, e.g., glycerine, but let’s be real, how many people will do that? It is probably better to choose a higher-quality bed base in the first place, of course, if the budget allows. But don’t worry, if your slat holders break, it is possible to buy spare ones and replace them.
Tension sliders represent a small piece of, e.g., rubber or plastic that is attached to a slat. By moving the slider, you can adjust the tension (firmness) of an individual salt based on your needs. It helps to support selected parts of your body. E.g., if you lie on your back, you can use it to adjust the tension under your bottom, if you lie on your side, you can use it to adjust the tension under your arm. By setting the slats correctly for your body, the slatted bed base should copy your silhouette even better. A good slatted bed base should have at least five slats with tension sliders. Heavier people should opt for a higher number of sliders (ca 6-8).
Cross support bars
A good bed frame should have cross support bars, that reinforce the bed base structure protecting it from splitting or twisting. The more, the better since the bed base will be sturdier (e.g., 10).
High-quality slatted bed bases have a height of ca 4.5-6″ (11-16 cm). The measurement is made from the bottom of the base to its highest point, which is the top of the arc of the slat. The rule of thumb is this, the higher the bed base, the better since it has higher sideboards which make the bed base sturdier. But be aware that you will not be able to install a high bed base into a bed with low sideboards. That’s why it is better to choose a bed base first. To clarify one more thing, the wider the bed base, the higher it will be since the slats have a higher arc. Because of that, you should compare bed bases with the same width.Note: High bed sideboards are a great feature since it makes the bed sturdier, you will be able to fit in a higher bed base and also a higher mattress.
Bed base and mattress pairing
Not every bed base is suitable for each mattress type. In the table below, you can find a rule of thumb of how to pair bed bases and mattresses.
! Lowers the durability of the mattress
✓ Good Match