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Support your sleep with a sturdy mattress frame

You know how important the foundation on your house is, but did you also know that having a great foundation for your bed is equally as crucial? Metal mattress frames provide the necessary support to keep you comfortable, and they also offer a host of other benefits. From keeping your mattress in better condition by increasing the airflow around it to creating underbed storage space, metal bed frames are a necessary component of your sleep setup. Here are some things to consider while you're shopping.

What are bed frames and rails?

Bed frames are underbed structures made up of connected metal rails. Generally, the perimeters of these frames match the different bed dimensions, whether you have a twin, double, queen or king bed. There are two metal railings down each side, one each at the foot and head of the bed and, in queen and king mattress frames, a railing across the middle of the structure to keep the mattress and box spring from sagging in the center. Bed frames typically have metal legs and feet that elevate them up off the floor.

Bed rails are similar to frames, but they're missing the metal slats at the head and foot of the bed. This is because these H-shaped frame styles are intended for use with a headboard and footboard. The rails attach to these pieces directly to support the mattress, and the metal rails can't stand on their own without these decorative components secured to them. If you have a headboard and footboard you plan to use with your mattress for some extra style in your bedroom, you'll want to choose rails. If you want your mattress and box spring to stand alone in the room, choose a bed frame. It's important to note that these basic metal bed frames don't work in conjunction with larger bed structures, such as canopy beds, that already have their own bases and feet.

Bed frame options

Most standard bed frames are immovable, standalone structures that you set up in your bedroom or guest room. However, there are several other elements to consider as you're shopping for your frame.

  • Size: One of the primary ways you'll size your frame is based on the dimensions of the mattress you already own or are planning to purchase. Frames are typically sold based on the names of these mattress types, not by their measurements in inches. To be sure you're purchasing the right size, however, it's a helpful idea to compare measurements. Common mattress sizes include:
    • Twin: 38x74 inches
    • Twin XL: 38x80 inches
    • Full: 54x74 inches
    • Queen: 60x80 inches
    • King: 76x80 inches
    • California king: 72x84 inches
  • Height: Most bed frames are 7 or 8 inches tall, leaving space under the mattress for storage boxes and to raise the mattress and box spring to a comfortable level for people of average heights to get out of bed. However, frames are also available with 12 inches or more of space beneath, and in shorter heights to assist people with mobility issues in getting up from bed. If you're unsure whether you need a specific frame height, choose a model with adjustable legs that raise and lower to your preferred level.
  • Adjustability: Most bed frames are completely flat and remain that way to serve as a basic support system. However, you can also find designs that adjust to improve comfort or help you recuperate from an injury. Look for designs that have adjustable head and foot sections to allow you to sit up in bed or elevate your legs. Many of these models have remote controls that adjust the frame — and thus, the mattress — at the touch of a button, but others require you to manually set the frame to enjoy the ergonomic benefits.
  • Space savers: If you don't have a guest room but want to be able to accommodate overnight visitors at a moment's notice, consider a bed frame that folds up in half. These cot-style frames are typically twin-sized and feature casters on their legs so you can roll them into and out of a storage space. Trundle bed frames are another option to consider. These frames rest directly on casters, not legs, and slide into the area under your main mattress to save space. They're ideal for sleepover guests in kids' rooms or anywhere you don't plan to use the space under your bed for other storage.

Helpful extras

Most bed frames come with all the necessary attachment hardware required to set them up, but there are a few additional components you might need to maintain your frame.

  • Gliders are cup-shaped plastic pads, typically with felt cushioning on the bottom, that slide under the feet of your bed frame. The metal legs and feet can scratch hardwood floors and dig into carpeting, and gliders help distribute the pressure more evenly and prevent the frame's metal feet from making direct contact with surfaces you want to protect.
  • Attachment brackets make it easy to secure your headboard and footboard to a set of bed rails. This hardware typically screws directly onto the corners of the frame. Slots in the brackets allow you to hook or screw the headboard and footboard to the rails.