Are you ruining your mattress by placing it on the wrong bed frame? 5 clear signs to look for

Helix Midnight Luxe Mattress
(Image credit: Future)

When buying a bed it's important to consider your entire sleep setup, and that includes ensuring your new mattress is on the right bed frame. The wrong bed frame can damage the supportive interior of your mattress, but it isn't always obvious you've chosen a bad base. 

Every bed in our best mattress guide can potentially provide you with comfortable sleep, but to do so, the mattress needs the correct support itself. The right bed frame will hold your mattress stable, improve air flow, and even enhance the feel. But pick the wrong bed frame and you might find your mattress is sagging and squeaking, and your sleep is suffering.

With the 4th of July mattress sales getting started, now is a great time to invest in a new bed. And with this guide, you can ensure that your aren't ruining your new mattress with the wrong bed frame. Let's get started...

Why is your bed frame important?

To get the best out of your mattress, it needs to be properly supported with the right bed frame, platform, or base. However, even the best bed frame and bases aren't a one-size-fits-all solution. A good mattress requires a compatible bed frame.

There are several types of bases that can go under a mattress, from box springs to platforms to bunkie boards. A good bed frame primarily provides your mattress with sturdy support, as well as elevating it off the ground and enhancing airflow. The wrong bed frame is rarely easly apparent (unless you've picked the wrong size), but there are signs that can indicate your mattress isn't being properly supported. 

A man kneels on the floor as he attaches the metal poles of his metal bed frame to the headboard

(Image credit: Getty Images)

5 signs your bed frame is wrong for your mattress

1. Your mattress is sinking

If your mattress is relatively new and already sinking, it could be that the slats of your bed frame are damaged – or spaced too far apart. A slatted bed frame is a versatile and supportive choice that can enhance airflow for the mattress, but if the slats aren't spaced correctly it can damage the interior of your bed. 

To properly support a memory foam mattress and avoid sinking, slats should measure between 3.5 to 6 inches wide and be spaced no more than 2.75 inches apart. You need a similar level of support for hybrid mattresses. This prevents the materials from sinking through the slats while aiding stability. 

2. There's a musty smell

A musty smell is an indication that your bed isn't getting enough air circulation, leading to a build-up of moisture and mildew. Proper ventilation is one of the reasons we advise against keeping your mattress on the floor. A bed frame, even a low profile frame such as a bunkie board, raises the mattress off the ground, providing room for moisture to dissipate. Slatted bed frames are best for increasing ventilation, and might be a better choice than a board bed base if you live in a humid area.

Images shows black mold on a white mattress

(Image credit: Getty Images)

3. There's an overhang

If your mattress doesn't fit your bed frame properly, it will overhang the outer perimeter. When this happens, your mattress isn't getting the support it needs, which can affect both your comfort levels and the lifespan of the mattress.

Overhang means you can't use the full surface of the mattress as there won't be enough support at the edges. You might also find your bed shifts about in the night, especially if you're a restless sleepers. And without proper stability for the entire mattress, the interior layers can start to shift and wear.

4. The bed frame is squeaking and creaking

Mattresses are heavy items, but the right bed frame should be capable of supporting the weight of the mattress itself plus whoever is using the bed. Squeaking and creaking often indicates your bed frame is aging, but if your new bed frame has started getting noisy, it might be a sign your base can't support the bed on top. A lack of stable base puts strain on the mattress, and you'll find your bed starts sagging.

5. Your mattress doesn't feel right

Bed frames can, perhaps surprisingly, affect the overall feel of your mattress. For example, a box spring absorbs the bounce and impact of an innerspring, but it won't offer the stable base your heavy hybrid needs. And while a platform bed can make even a soft mattress feel firmer, it could make your very firm mattress rock hard. 

woman in bed, rubbing her face

(Image credit: Getty)

This sign isn't quite as easy to notice as the others on this list, but it's still worth paying attention to. If your mattress doesn't feel quite like you expected, it could mean that your bed frame isn't compatible. 

How often should you change your bed frame?

A bed frame doesn't last forever, and you can typically expect a good frame to last for around seven to 10 years. That's roughly the lifespan of a mattress, so it should be easy enough to know when to replace your bed base.

However there are several factors that can affect longevity, primarily the type of bed frame. A box spring, for example, will often last five to seven years, while a wooden base should last up to 10 years, a metal frame can last up to 15 years, and an adjustable bed base has a potential lifespan of 20 years (with proper maintenance). 

The most obvious sign that your bed frame needs replacing is squeaking or creaking. A sagging mattress can also indicate a worn out bed frame (but it might mean your mattress needs replacing). Otherwise, make sure to give your bed frame a once over every few months to check for loose screws, worn out joints, or damaged slats.

Ruth Jones
Sleep staff Writer

Ruth Jones has recently joined the Tom's Guide team as a sleep staff writer, covering all things mattresses and sleep. Ruth previously worked as a sleep and mattress writer for our sister website TechRadar, and has a deep interest in sleep and how it affects our day to day wellbeing. Ruth is a self-confessed stomach sleeper with a penchant for medium-firm mattresses, and also loves a good eye mask for helping her to fall asleep easier at night.