Slatted bases on foam mattresses

One of the frequently asked questions is ‘Are your beds suitable for slatted bases?’.  The quick answer is, not without some modification.  This is not to say that they can’t be used to provide the night’s sleep you expect, it’s just that unfortunately slatted bases are usually not constructed in a robust enough manner for foam mattresses, which need a firm consistent base.  Foam mattresses ideally require a platform top or sprung edged base to provide the stated tension, ensure longevity and avoid dips or damage.

Origins Platform Base

There are two types of slatted bed base.

  1. Sprung Slats
  2. Solid Slats

Sprung Slats

This is where the slats are humped or arched.  You may have heard of ‘the humpback bridge’ effect where the mattress develops a central dip due to this.  This is where the pressure from the arch is too firm for the mattress.  The middle of the slats is the lowest point and the foam conforms to this shape.   Whilst a solid quality pocket sprung traditional bed can sometimes overcome this, a foam beds sole purpose it to mould and contort to the sleeper and surface.  Therefore even the highest quality foam and Latex mattresses will not just mould to the sleeper on top, but also, the gaps and arches beneath.  This is where unidentified dips or sags come from.  It is due to the pressure from the slats and hump to the mattress.  Sprung slats aim to emulate a pocket sprung edge but fall short of providing the benefits.  Our advice is to choose a pocket sprung edge rather than sprung slats.

Solid Slats

Lower priced bed frames tend to use solid slats.  The issue is to cut costs they provide the bare minimum slats to rest the mattress on.  We have seen Kingsize beds with 4-5 inches between the slats, which is far too big a gap.  These gaps allow the mattress to conform to the gap and the excess pressure it causes allows them to ‘dip’ through the gap.  This is not to say the mattress has dipped, more it has simply followed the shape of the base. We sometimes refer to this as ‘falling through’.

What can I do to prevent issues with slats?

Our advice is always to board over the slats, if possible.  If the base has sprung slats we would advise that the horizontal slats are boarded over.  We advise either MDF or plywood to do this.  Pegboard can also be used to aid ventilation, though bear in mind the weight of the mattress and what it is resting on.  If the mattress feels and looks too heavy for the material you want to board the base in it probably is.  Also, don’t forget to consider the weight with you on it as well!  The image shown is an example of how to do this, particularly on sprung slats to avoid the ‘humpback bridge effect’.

What’s the ideal base for a foam mattress?

The best answer is to go for a platform or sprung edge divan ideally.  This ensures a consistent surface and removes the issue of slats causing dipping or damage to your mattress.  Whilst a nice looking bed frame is a consideration when buying a new bed, you also have to weigh this up against the impact of certain slatted bed frames.  Particularly against your mattresses longevity, comfort and consistency.

Summary

If you need more help on working out which exact base will work with your mattress then please get in touch with us.  All of our mattresses are paired up with suitable matching bases in our shop, but we are always here to provide tailored advice where needed.

We’re here to help

Speak to our small friendly team between 9am – 5pm and we’ll be happy to guide you through any questions you may have.

Call today 0161 945 3757

  • Jenny says:

    Hi, I have bought a tempur cloud mattress from Dreams a few weeks ago, its the cloud 22 deluxe I believe. I have a slatted base but have noticed the bed has started to sag and dip in places? Could this be down to the base or has the mattress failed? Please can you help?!

    Hi Jenny, Ideally the best base for a memory , hybrid or latex foam mattress is a platform top divan or platform top alternative. This is because foam will start to mould and take the shape of the surface it is placed on so it you have a slatted base then you run the risk of the foam confirming to the slats and spaces in between. This leads to lumps and what looks like sagging. I very much doubt the Tempur cloud will have sagged in two weeks, that said I’d try to board over the slats and if the problem still occurs get back in touch with Dreams- Lee (John Ryan Contemporary)

  • Jay says:

    Hi John/Ryan

    I have placed MDF pieces of two across the bed sprung slats covering the entire slats… Is this ok or should it be placed as you have placed them?

    Thanks

    Hi Jay, That should be fine, we use that picture as a demonstration as the minimum you can apply to get a consistent base for your mattress. It sounds like you have covered the slats appropriately. Lee

    • Jay says:

      Hi Lee

      Thanks for your response, its great, cheers.

      I posted this earlier in the week would be great if you can help?

      I had a Sealy royal ortho posturepedic luxury deluxe 8 years old no issues, developing a dip after duration decided to select the bensons regal back care, after 4 weeks developing a dip causing much back ache.

      Following my complaint to bensons, I can re-select or have a replacement.

      I’ve had no issues with sealy’s first purchase until recently. I have viewed and tested a a backcare ultima, apparently made by myers. Pocket sprung supposed to be better.

      I have also viewed online a sealy millionaire ortho posturepedic.

      I am not familiar with dipping and would like to have a mattress that lasts without dips after 4 weeks and poor settlement.

      What can you advise to help me get a mattress that wont dip and is like my previous model with comfort and lastability.

      I am weigh about 13/14st

      Regards
      Jay

      Hi Jay,

      It’s strange given the firmness of both the mattresses you have listed, the Bensons Regal BackCare and Sealy Millionaire Ortho Posturepedic that you’re getting dipping and sagging so soon. Both of these mattresses are very firm in terms of comfort levels and support. We have an article which explains the difference between settlement in a mattress and a true dip. I’m mindful that the dip you mention is actually settlement in the mattress Jay. Either that or the mattress is faulty, but it does seem so strange in my experience for this to happen so soon. That said not impossible!!

      As for the back pain a number of people were told once upon a time that a firm bed is the best cure for a bad back. This is completely wrong, whats ‘helpful’ (there is no miracle cure and no one should advertise such) with any sort of back or hip issue is a supportive bed which is comfortable. The key is the comfort layers on top of the support. It’s the mix of support and comfort you need to find. It looks like this model has too much support and not enough comfort Jay.

      Given the firmness of the mattresses and the price point I wouldn’t recommend any of our beds as an alternative. I also am not sure what I would advise you to choose for that budget. In all honesty I’d choose a firm foam mattress with a softer memory or hybrid foam layer to help with the back issues. Alternatively to that I’d advise a firm bed but with a softer topper to place on the bed to help resolve your issue.

      Thanks – Lee

  • cole g says:

    I have a set of sprung bed slats for my king bed. I purchases a plush mattress and felt it was dipping very slightly in the middle already. I believe this is from the curved bed slats not flattening out when I sleep on it. It gets worse when sleeping with my partner, I tend to be pulled towards the middle of the bed.

    Would it be better to return the slats and purchase flat slats? Or keep the curved slats and layer a peice of plywood over that extends to the top of each arch as shown in your picture? I heard that the curved bed slats are better and more durable and will prolong the life of the mattress. Also if the playwood route is the best, what thickness of plywood is reasonable? I am 180lbs and my partner is 145lbs.

    Thanks

    Hi Cole, If you are suffering dips in your mattress from slats then I would advise you board over either type of slats. If you want to replace the sprung curved bed slats for flat ones it maybe easier to board but either way it will help improve the consistency of the base for your mattress. To be sure I’d replace the slats for flat ones and board then you have a definite flat consistent base.

    As for the the depth of the ply either 4-6mm should be fine. Use your own judgement to see if the board feels robust enough. You can also use pegboard if its easier to get hold of. Just remember that the aim to to even out the surface allowing the mattress to rest of a consistent surface so it can’t dip or sag to spaces or undulations in the slats. Lee

  • mel says:

    Hi,

    I have just bought a crystal t.v. bed and the base is slatted. the gaps in between are about 9cm. I have just ordered a sealy mattress 2400 alabama. Would this be ok for this bed if I was to board it like you say ?

    Hi Mel, I would always recommend boarding over a slatted base because for the cost of a few pounds you can help prevent a foam or foam based mattress from taking on the shape of the slats and thus potentially dipping or sagging. The alabama 2400 from Sealey is a mix of innegetic latex, we have written about this kind of latex here, a pillow top and is a one sided no turn mattress. We have written a detailed article on why we don’t rate pillow top mattresses such as the alabama detailing the failure potential of the pillowtop. We however always say if the bed is comfortable then thats all that matters, it just maybe something to bear in mind that you may want to rotate the mattress more often to reduce the wear of the pillowtop. Hope that helps Mel. Lee

  • sion says:

    Hi there my girlfriend and I have just bought a new bedframe (sprung slatted) and decadance mattress from bensons for beds… we previously had a divan base with memory foam mattress. We found that on the old bed we were often waking with a sore back. It was about 8yrs old. So we bought the new bed and mattress and found we are having the same problem.. when we tried the mattress in the store it was on a divan base and felt comfy. We were told that there is no difference on slatted base. We are away to try the plywood base today.

    Hi Sion, There definitely is difference between a slatted base and a say sprung divan base. A slatted base will make a mattress firmer than say a sprung edged divan base, this is because the mattress is doing all of the work. The base is firm and so theres no give in it. We always recommend you try a mattress on both slatted and a sprung edge if you want to feel the subtle difference.

    Even sprung slats will be firmer than a sprung edge divan and you also get the issue of the ‘humpback bridge’ effect in some cases. You are wise to board over the slats to stop dips and sinks in your mattress but it won’t soften the mattress. I would recommend that if you’re still having issues you give bensons beds a call as it sounds like you may have too firm a mattress. Even though the decadence mattress is listed as a medium tension mattress, it depends on your weight and preference. A medium tension to some can be a firm feeling mattress to others! If you can provide us with more specifics such as height and weight we maybe able to help further over the phone. Thanks. Lee

    • Chris says:

      My partner and I have had exactly the same problem – we originally bought a Silentnight bed from Bensons, with a sprung slat bedstead. I found the bed very uncomfortable – to the point where we exchanged it for the Decadence mattress through their ’40 night comfort’ guarantee. We had the same problem with the Decadence mattress – it felt much too firm, certainly a lot firmer than the mattress in the shop. Both mattresses felt like there was too much tension in them – there was a real feeling of something forcing upwards. At first, we were thinking we would have to buy another mattress and start all over again, then realised the problem could be the sprung slats. In Bensons, we were led to believe that the sprung slats would make the mattress feel very slightly softer – not harder, so I feel we weren’t well advised. We had a 3 inch thick piece of memory foam and put that over the slats, then put the mattress on top. That seemed to ‘dampen’ the ‘tension’ but didn’t solve the problem. Then we turned round the slats so that they were concave, rather than convex, put the foam on top, then the mattress on top of that. The result is a very comfortable bed! However, I am now concerned that the mattress won’t get the proper long-tern support with the slats turned round the wrong way and we’re considering removing them and boarding the bed. What do you think?

      Hi Chris, Thanks for posting and it sounds like you may have recieved some incorrect advice. Without knowing your weights I can’t advise on the mattress you have bought but from what you’ve said its simply too firm a mattress for you.

      I wouldn’t advise long term using the sprung slats upside down as I do believe this will damage the mattress or at least reduce the longevity over time. It may cause a sag in the centre of each slat where it curves. My guidance would be to get plain slats and board over them removing the issue with the sprung slats completely. This is the most consistent way to then adjust your mattress slightly if too firm. Have you considered adding a mattress topper to soften the top layer as well? – Lee

  • Dan says:

    I am interested in one of your mattresses (the Fusion 3 100% Natural Latex Medium) but I am not clear if the base will make any difference to the overall comfort? I would like to use it with my existing wooden bed base. Could you please advise if there would be a noticeable difference between using this mattress on top of an old wooden base (with some flex in it) vs one of your bases
    Thanks

    Hi Dan, The bases we sell alongside the fusion mattress range are platform top divans. This provides a consistent solid surface for the mattress, unlike slats and other wooden bases. The mattress tensions have been tested and selected using a platform top divan. A sprung edge divan for example would soften the over all feel of the bed so would change it slightly. Some argue that sprung edge divans take a mattress to the next level of comfort in adding another spring layer, this is of course personal preference! Sprung edge divans are more expensive and can out price some customers so we offer both options.

    Can you explain further what you mean by a wooden base with some flex, sprung slats perhaps? If the base is sound and consistent then I can see no problem in using it, if it is slatted I would definitely recommend boarding over the slats Dan.

    If you need any further information please give us a call. Lee

  • James H says:

    Hi,

    I recently purchased your Origins Pocket 1500 mattress and I have a solid wood bed with solid, flat slats which are spaced around 6cm apart.

    As this isn’t a memory foam mattress and the gap between the slats is small would you still recommend boarding the bed base? Would putting an old duvet over the slats help? Still do both?

    I love the new mattress and just want to make sure I take the best care of it.

    Thanks a lot,

    James

    Hi James, we recommend that if the slats are more than 2cm apart that you do board over them. This will help give the mattress a more consistent surface to work on. It will also help keep your mattress in tip top condition! Hope that helps James- Lee

  • ian walker says:

    ive got an £800 slay slatted base from john lewis. What matress type do I need for this base also the base seems to bump up on center beam. Should I take legs off the beam to make it a bit more flexible?

    Hi Ian, You can in theory put any mattress on this, providing you board over it if its a foam or latex mattress. You can see more on slatted bases here. If you can give us a call with your body weight I can help advise on a suitable mattress. I wouldn’t advise taking the legs off the centre beam as they are there for stability and it may put undue strain on your slats. Thanks – Lee

  • Karen says:

    Hi,

    I am really hoping that you can help me – I live in Canada and did not buy one of your mattresses, but am desperate for advice and came across your article on slatted bases and foam mattresses (https://johnryanbydesign.co.uk/understanding-beds/slatted-bases-and-foam-mattresses/)

    I have a king size bed frame with sprung slats and a foam mattress and I am finding that if I kneel on the bed (or stand up on the mattress to open the window) the slats will break. Also, the mattress feels so much softer than it did in the store because of the base.

    I saw your guide to boarding over the slats and the picture and I have a question… In the picture the sides of the slats are not covered (i.e. there is a board at the top and down the centre so that it is in the shape of a ‘T’. Is this to allow the slats to move or should I be covering the slats completely with plywood. Also, would you use one sheet or a few?

    Thanks very much in advance for you advice!

    Hi Karen.

    Thanks for your email. The picture is just an example so you can see where the slats are in relation to the boards.

    Providing you board over the base to bridge the central bar (where it dips down) it doesn’t matter whether you use the the diagram as shown or entirely board over the slats. If you want to ensure complete ventilation, ie if your not regularly turning or flipping your mattress, where possible, you can use pegboard which has tiny circular holes cut out to reduce chances of condensation getting trapped etc.

    I personally don’t think the softness of your mattress is unduly due to your base, although I can’t be entirely sure why the model in the store felt different (firmer) to the model you received. Furthermore, if you are standing on one are of the mattress – and there is insufficient mattress (ie a thin mattress) then the pressure on the slats will cause them to break as you describe. I do think the boarding out of your base will spread the load more evenly and should help.

    Hope that helps Karen. Any more questions just give us a call. Lee

  • Jo Mayes says:

    Hi there,
    I wonder if you can help – although reading your other comments I realise I had made a bad choice!
    I have a pocket sprung mattress with a memory foam topper and was happy with it on a flat slatted bed until the centre support broke. Rather than trying to mend it (single, working mother – not carpenter!!) I bought a replacement sprung slatted base – as it does not need a centre support. I had never tried sprung slats and assumed they would make things softer.
    After 2 very uncomfortable nights I realise this does not work – or do I just need to get used to a different support system? I was never aware of the springs before, they now seem to be pushing up and I can really feel them. The memory topper also feels much hotter. What type of mattress should work on sprung slats I wonder?
    I don’t know whether to simply go back to flat slats and get a someone to make me a centre support or look at getting an expensive sprung divan base – I can’t bear the look of them, but maybe that’s a sacrifice I have to make.
    I would be so grateful for any tips.
    Thank you.

    Hi Jo, Unfortunately sprung slats are a bit of a false economy as neither the spring effect or support is that brilliant. It kind of does neither job very well and can cause arches oin your mattress over time, the hump back bridge effect. There is a solution however. If they are uncomfortable you can simply take them all off and replace with regular slats. It may take a bit of measuring and some handywork but its the only alternative to replacing the entire base. The alternative is a sprung edge or platform top divan in all honesty regardless of their aesthetic. They are the best choice for mattress consistency etc.

    As for the heat issue I very much doubt this is the base. Memory foam is renowned for being really really warm and retaining heat. It’s more probable that either you’re room is too warm matched with the heat retention thats causing it to feel overly warm. The only alternative is to use a less heat retentive topper such as latex. I hope this helps. Lee

  • Amy says:

    I have a super king size bed with sprung slates. Our mattress is pocket sprung and on the soft side it’s turnable. My husbands side of the bed has a dip in it and I want to try MDF or plywood sheets under the mattress to prevent this and created a firmer feel before replacing. I saw on your comments below 3mm to 5mm was a recommended width. I’m around 10 stone my husband is around 13.4 stone. The Woodyard did not think this size would support the weight. My worry is a thicker width may put to much strain on the frame. Any advice you have would be appreciated.
    Regards Amy

    Hi Amy. Your not looking to replace the slats with boarding more cover them so that wood would be fine as it’s not taking all the weight just evening out the surface. If your mattress has dipped unfortunately there’s no easy way to return it to its original shape. Please give us a call to discuss further on 0161 9453757. Many thanks. Lee

  • John Smith says:

    We have had a memory foam mattress for some time now it is on a base with drawers in it.
    Lately I have noticed my sleep q,quality has reduced.Could this be due to mismatching mattress and base?
    PS I am a rather large person.my wxife at least five stone lighter and smaller build.

    Hi John. It maybe that John but its unlikely. Unless the base has changed or become damaged I doubt it. Changes in sleep pattern like this can usually be attributed to either a change in lifestyle, weight or a change in the quality of mattress. ie a mattress which has degraded. It would help if you could tell me how old the mattress is. Also memory foam is not really ideally for a heavier sleeper as it will compress and degrade far quicker than a lighter sleeper. We do have a range of mattresses specifically built for the heavier sleeper that gives both comfort and longevity. Please get back in touch John for some more tailored advice and we will be happy to help. Lee

  • Joanna Nikolic says:

    do you sell pegboards?


    Hi Joanna,
    We don’t, but your local DIY store may have it and they may be able to cut it to size for you. Regards Mike.

  • John says:

    Hi

    I wondered if you guys could give me some advice on what kind of slats to go for. I am looking at buying a memflex pocket sprung mattress that has a layer of memory foam and I’m planning on buying a wooden bed frame. Could you tell me if solid or sprung slats would work best with this mattress?

    Thanks
    John


    Hi John,
    It really depends upon what type of feel is required from the mattress, obviously, sprung slats will provide more give, however, the solid slats will make any mattress feel firmer. I cannot provide advice as to which is best as you have omitted to advise your body weight(s) and preferred feel. With any slatted base, dependent upon the gap between the slats, it may be necessary to place a barrier between the slats and the mattress to avoid the mattress ridging. Sometimes, the barrier may need to be 2-3mm of MDF, which on a sprung slatted base, will firm up the mattress. I trust that this helps, kind regards Mike.

  • Polly says:

    Dear John Ryan Contemporary,

    I found your article after a desperate search online to find the answer to my problem.

    I have an inexpensive, but excellently-kept solid pine slatted 4’6″ base (the slats are 12cm apart and there is a thick central wooden support column/block at right-angles to the floor) which for 20 years was partnered with a simple foam mattress and I had no issues whatsoever with the bed as a whole. I am a single lady, petite, weighing 7 stone and the old mattress never rucked, dipped or sank.

    However, I felt that it was probably time to replace the mattress as, for the last three years I have developed an unexplained chronic low back pain (actually in my coccyx), and although the mattress was not known to be contributing to my pain, I thought that, due to its age, it was probably a good time to replace it.

    After months and months of searching I finally decided on a Tempur pocket sprung mattress costing £560. After just one nights’ sleep however, the mattress dipped in the pelvic area by 5cm. An impartial mattress team came later to inspect it and the diagnosis was that the mattress was faulty. They had a good look at the base so it cannot have be unsuitable or they wouldn’t have decided that the fault was in the manufacture of the mattress.

    The mattress was returned and I was refunded. But now I had to find another mattress. Rather than go for another Tempur (once bitten…) I went instead for a cheaper (but still equally comfortable and good make) Silentnight Pocket Essentials (1000) mattress costing £200.

    I have just spent one night in it and – horror or horrors – I awoke to find that middle has a slight dip to it!! Surely I can’t be unlucky twice? Is this the ‘hump back bridge’ effect you mention?? Yet my base has solid slats, not sprung ones – also I am very light! – and the mattress is not protruding through the slats on the underside. I am puzzled, perplexed and distressed at having this experience twice.

    Why is this happening? Have I unwittingly ruined the mattress because of the base? Could the problem sort itself out if I go out and get some MDF to cover the slats today? Will the dip go?.. Please help… Thank you.


    Hi Polly,
    Our advice to anyone with a slatted base where the slats are more that 6cm apart would be for them to place a barrier between the base and the mattress. Usually, this would be 2-3mm of MDF sheeting providing the mattress with a uniform surface upon which to sit. It may appear that when you view the bed from underneath that the mattress does not at that point protrude through the gaps, however, when you are lying on the bed it will be completely different and your body weight is likely to press the mattress into the gaps. In your situation, I would try the MDF sheeting as this is likely to provide an immediate result. Please let me know how you get on. Kind regards Mike.

  • Joseph Burton says:

    Awaiting delivery of latex mattress from you and want to board over sprung slats. Bed is six feet long by five feet wide. What size of MDF board do I require and how thick should it be?


    Hi Joseph,
    The thickness of the MDF should be 2-3mm and you should purchase enough to cover the whole area of your base. Most DIY stores will cut the MDF to size for you. Kind regards Mike.

  • Patrick says:

    Please can you confirm if a sprung slated base will give a pocket sprung mattress a firmer feel than solid slats, or is it the other way around?

    Hi Patrick, A sprung slatted base will give a slightly softer feel given they have a small amount of compression in them. That said it won’t be as significant as say a sprung edge divan. Hope that helps. Lee
    Thanks Lee

    Is the same true when using MDF boards over sprung slats?

    Hi Patrick, The MDF will ever so slightly firm up the feel of the mattress compared to ‘bare’ sprung slats. We’re talking ever so slightly and the boarding actually prevents a number of other problems that can occur if the slats are left without boarding. Hope that helps.

  • Chris Miller says:

    Hello, I have lower back pain and would be grateful if you could advise me on the best mattress for a hand made wooden bed with solid, flat slats which are spaced around 6cm apart. Weight in the region of 11 stone.


    Hi Chris,
    All of our mattresses can be used on a slatted bed frame, however, if the slats are in excess of 6cm apart, you should look to place a barrier between the mattress and the base in the form of 3-5mm MDF or peg board sheeting. This will provide the mattress with a uniform surface upon which to sit and prevent ridging occurring as a result of the mattress depressing into the gaps.
    Your body dictates that you ought to be looking at a medium tension mattress and without knowledge of your budget and preferred type of mattress, it is difficult to recommend one of our products. Having said that, I would suggest that you look at the Origins Pocket 1500, which is a standard medium feel with synthetic upholstery layers providing the comfort. Alternatively and if your budget permits, look at the Artisan Naturals, which has 85% natural upholstery layers and has a selective spring tension. If, after viewing these products, you require any more specific advice as to suitability, please call our office. Kind regards Mike.

  • Anne Harris says:

    I’d be really grateful for some advice please.
    We’ve had a single swing-away bed for some years now and decided it was time for a new mattress. The old one was held to the slatted base by 2 straps across the bed for when the bed was swung against the wall out of the way and we never had any problem with it.
    Now, of course , we’ve bought a memory foam mattress, and although we’re using the straps whenever you lean against it it slides over the base. What can I use to hold it in place? Did we do wrong buying it?

    I’ve read the recommendations about covering the slats and as all who are likely to use the bed are probably each in excess of 14 stone that’s obviously something we’ll have to do.

    Some help as to how to hold it in place is my top priority though, please.

    Thanks in anticipation.


    Hi Anne,
    I am sorry to hear of the issues you are experiencing with your mattress and base. Whilst I sypathise, I am only able to suggest that you try and buy some strong straps that actually pull the mattress tight against the base at both the head and foot end outside the normal sleep area. Unfortunately, I am not aware of where you may be able to purchase these straps, but you may be able to locate some on the internet. I think, that in your case, contrary to our usual advice, it would be better to leave the base as it is and not board it as this may assist in keeping the mattress from slipping when stored away. Kind regards Mike.

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