Which Is The Best Bed Base – Divan or Bedstead/Bedframe?

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Choosing the best bed base for you requires you to consider a few questions.

Do you need a new bed base? Or can you get away with re-using the divan base or bedstead you’ve already got? Should you get a divan base or a bedframe? Which base is best for a pocket sprung mattress? What about memory foam?

Take a deep breath…here’s our simple guide. It is guaranteed to include 25% less jargon than your average bed buying guide.

What types of bed bases are there?

1. Divans

If you’re looking for something cheap then you can get a ‘platform top divan base’. It is basically a wooden box covered in material.

If you want a more luxurious divan than you can get a ‘sprung edge divan base’ which has its own layer of springs to add an extra layer of comfort. As a guide, the cheapest ‘platform top double divan’ base on Amazon was £90 when I checked, whilst the cheapest ‘sprung edge divan base’ was £300 on Amazon. 

You can buy divan bases from most mattress shops, but you’ll find a big range at AmazonDivan Base DirectDreams and John Lewis & Partners.

Dreams Divan base
A cheap double divan base such as this one costs £150 at Dreams..

2. Bedstead or bedframe

A bedstead (or bedframe) is usually made from wood or metal or fabric/upholstered and has a series of slats to support the mattress. You can get a basic double bedstead frame from Amazon for less than £100 or you can get one with ‘sprung slats’ from about £250. Sprung slats are more luxurious and comfortable, but cost more. There are other types, but those are the main two types of bed base (The National Bed Federation has more details if you are looking for bedtime reading).

Wooden bed frame by John Lewis
…whilst this wooden bedframe from John Lewis & Partners costs £199

Shop for bedframes and bedsteads at AmazonDreams (metalwooden and upholstered) and John Lewis & Partners

Which is the best bed base? 

Most people go for a divan base because they are generally cheaper than a bedstead of comparable quality.  There are also fewer issues of whether your mattress will get on well with the base as they provide a nice flat surface for the mattress.

However, many people much prefer the look of a bedstead and they also have other advantages such as allowing more air to flow and they come with a built in headboard, so you won’t need to buy a separate one. 

Is your bed base good for the planet?

There are other factors to consider, such as the environmental impact. 

Researchers Junge, Buchenauer et al published a paper in 2021 which explained that ‘Compared with other “non-wood” materials like concrete, steel or plastic, wood products usually have a lower quantity of greenhouse gas emissions during product manufacturing’ (2021). This appears to be an endorsement for wooden bedframes. It’s also an endorsement (to a lesser extent) for divan bases which are usually made using a wooden frame with a fabric on top.

Another study by academics Sathre and O’Connor made a similar point about the potential benefits of wood furniture in a 2010 research paper. They explained that there is a ‘clear climate rationale for increasing wood substitution in place of other products’. However, they added the important caveat that this is ‘provided that forests are sustainably managed and that wood residues are used responsibly’.

The counter argument

On the other hand, research has shown that wood bedframes emit some Volatile Organic Compounds, as they are a natural material. Pohleven, Bernard et al point out that softwoods such as pine which are used in most wooden bedframes ’emit the highest concentrations of wood VOCs’ whilst more expensive wooden bedframes which are from a hardwood such as oak have ‘considerably lower’ VOC emissions (‘approximately 50 times’ according to the researchers).

This might sound alarming but Junge, Buchenauer et als’ research into the impact on children concluded that ‘emissions from wood and wood products at levels commonly occurring in the living environment do not exert adverse effects concerning wheezing or asthma development’. Another study which exposed adults to emissions, found that ‘short-term exposure to high VOC concentrations…released from pinewood does not elicit sensory irritation or pulmonary effects in healthy humans under controlled conditions’ (Gminski, Marutzky et al, 2011).

Fibreboard is another material which is often used in bedframes and flatpack furniture. You’ll see it covered in fabric or plastic on some bedframes. There are some concerns about the health of fibreboard in the home. For example, Brown published a paper in 1999 called ‘Chamber assessment of formaldehyde and VOC emissions from wood-based panels’. He tested furniture within laboratory conditions and found that ‘Formaldehyde emission factors for all products were approximately double European low-emission specifications and did not decay to the latter for several months.’ However, it varied depending on the type of board (‘Volatile organic compounds (VOC) emissions were low for the MDF product, higher for particleboard, and highest for laminated office furniture’).

So can I use any bed base with any mattress?

Well, it depends who you ask. 

There are loads of advice guides and you’ll sometimes find contradictory advice. 

My conclusions after reading enough bed and mattress guides to publish a thesis are:

  • Divans are fine for any mattress. Some posh mattresses demand a ‘sprung edge divan base’ which is more expensive.
  • Bedsteads are fine for open coil mattresses, which are the cheap and nasty end of the mattress market. Preferably get a bedstead without massive gaps between the slats.
  • Some bedsteads aren’t ideal for pocket sprung mattresses. The issue is that a pocket spring mattress won’t get proper support if it is sat on slats. That could reduce the life of the bed as it won’t wear evenly. It’s a more significant issue if you have big gaps between your slats. 
  • Meanwhile, The Sleep Council says that memory foam and latex mattresses are ‘particularly suited’ for bedsteads with slatted bases. Using a bedstead seems to be less of an issue with memory foam mattresses than with pocket sprung mattresses. That’s particularly true if you have a good quality slatted base without huge gaps between the bits of wood. I’m not saying it’s not an issue, but I can see the problems with a pocket sprung mattress more easily. 
  • Some cheap metal beds use thin rungs rather than flat wooden slats. I would avoid using these if you can afford to upgrade to a sprung base or solid slats as they don’t spread the weight out as well as flat slats.

How wide are the slats on the best bed base?

  • There’s varying advice about how big the gaps should be between the slats on a bedstead. One guide, by Which?, said that the slats should be between 4cm and 6cm apart. Another guide said it should be less than 9cm. Other guides suggest covering over the whole base with boards. The National Bed Federation says that ‘as a general rule, it is advisable to ensure the maximum gap is no greater than 7.5cm’. Confusing eh?

    My best advice is to look at the terms and conditions of a mattress warranty and see what it says. Several mattress manufacturers either demand a maximum gap as part of the terms of a warranty. Others offer a recommendation of what will be best for their mattress. As you can see on our graph below, Eve Sleep which makes memory foam mattresses says that your warranty won’t be valid if the gaps between the slats are more than 7.5cm. Several others give this 7.5cm figure including Hypnos, Dormeo and Emma whilst Ergoflex and Simba Sleep suggest 3 inches and Silentnight say 10cm for a memory foam mattress.
Bar chart showing maximum width between bedframe slats for Silentnight, Hypnos and Emma mattresses

Can I re-use an old bed base with a new mattress?

This is a tricky one to sift through, since most people offering advice are also trying to sell divan bases. Respected bed manufacturer Hypnos say you should buy a new base but it’s tempting to assume they would say that and it could save you a few hundred pounds if you re-use one you’ve already got.

The Sleep Council ‘always recommend you buy a base and mattress together because the two are designed and manufactured to complement one another in terms of support’ (the Sleep Council is ‘funded by the National Bed Federation, the trade association for British bed manufacturers’). The Sleep Council also says that ‘It can also invalidate manufacturers’ warranties or guarantees’ if you use a different base. 

A more budget-friendly approach

Another guide I found was a bit more pragmatic. They suggest that if you are using a bedstead then a thorough inspection that it’s not falling to pieces will be sufficient (I’m paraphrasing). As for divans, the impression I’ve got is that it’s more of an issue if you are using a ‘sprung edge divan base’ (one that contains a layer of springs) as it has probably been carefully designed to work with a particular mattress. It will also wear out in the same way as a pocket sprung mattress so it will have dips. That will then impact on your new mattress.

If you are using a cheap divan frame (a ‘platform top divan base’) then it is little more than a wooden frame covered in fabric so whilst it would be ideal to replace it, my hunch is that it’s probably less important. However, you would certainly want to give it a good inspection and check the wheels aren’t falling apart, or the wood isn’t split etc. Remember too that it’s fabric, so after 20 years it will be mostly constructed of dust…

Where can I buy the best bedsteads/bed frames?

​We’ve picked out three bed frames which get good reviews and offer decent value for money:

John Lewis & Partners Wilton Wooden Bed – £199 (for a double size)

If you want a budget bedstead from a decent retailer then you won’t get much better than the John Lewis & Partners Wilton. It comes in four colours and gets consistently strong customer reviews (4.3/5 from 400+ reviews). The main downside is that it has solid slats for your mattress to sit on rather than sprung slats. I would try to stop your grandchildren from jumping on the bed. Solid slats give a firmer feel than sprung slats. Also available in King Size.

See our full guide to the best wooden bedframes or our guide to metal bedframes.

John Lewis Wilton bed base
The Wilton comes in four colours and gets good reviews
Woman sleeping on bed
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Birlea Atlas Metal Bedframe – £175

The Birlea Atlas is a good value option if you want a metal bed frame in white or black. It has a 5 year guarantee and it’s strong enough for up to 250kg. That’s about 15-18 stone per person, once you’ve allowed for the mattress. The downside is that it only comes in single or double. It scores 4.3/5 on Amazon or 4.7/5 on Happy Beds.

See our metal beds top 5 for king size metal beds and more options.

Birlea atlas metal bed base in black
A metal bed frame like this one is easy to clean and comes with a built in headboard
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5 year warranty + good weight capacity
5 year warranty + good weight capacity Show Less

John Lewis & Partners Rouen Fabric Bed – £650

I’d consider the John Lewis & Partners Rouen if you can afford the upgrade. It has sprung slats and just looks classier than most bed frames I’ve seen. Personally I prefer a bed frame which is upholstered rather than wooden as I’m somewhat inclined to wallop my leg on a wooden bedstead on a daily basis. Also in King Size, and there are storage versions too.

See our guide to 5 of the best sleigh beds for more fabric beds.

John Lewis Rouen best bed base
The John Lewis Rouen gets outstanding customer reviews
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Sprung slats + John Lewis quality + Storage options
Sprung slats + John Lewis quality + Storage options Show Less

Where can I buy the best divan bases?

There are hundreds of divan bases to choose from. We’ve picked out three which we think offer good value and which are popular with reviewers

Dreams Classic Divan Base – £150 (double, without drawers)

It’s hard to get excited about a wooden box covered in fabric but this is a perfectly adequate divan base that gets consistently strong reviews. It had more than 2500 five star ratings when I checked. It’s not got any springs in it so it won’t add to the overall comfort of your mattress. However, it is cheap and it comes with free delivery. You’ll pay more if you want drawers or a king size or super king size.
Also available in brown and blue.

Dreams Classic Divan base
This popular divan base is a cheap option with great reviews
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A great value base with 5 star reviews
A great value base with 5 star reviews Show Less

Dreams Classic Ottoman Base – £450

If you like the look of divan bases but want space for stuffing in big winter duvets then an ottoman base is a good option. It’s available in blue, beige, mocha or silver. It comes in various sizes.

See our full guide to the best ottoman beds.

Dreams classic ottoman base
An ottoman base offers loads of extra space for hiding your bedding
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Extra Storage + Positive Reviews
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John Lewis & Partners Natural Collection Pocket Spring Base – £550

Cheap divan bases are basically a wooden box covered in fabric. A sprung divan base actually adds to the overall comfort. The Natural Collection Pocket Spring base includes a layer of 2500 springs and gets good reviews. Available in several sizes, including king size.

John Lewis natural collection divan base
A sprung divan base costs more, but it adds a bit of extra comfort

Where can I buy cheap bed bases?

We’ve looked at lots of retailers to find out which are the cheapest for mattresses and divan bases. You won’t be surprised to hear that cheap mattress retailers also tend to be cheap bed base retailers – check out our guide to cheap bed shops.

Alternatively, you might like to start your search with Divan Base DirectAmazonDreams (metalupholstered and wooden) and John Lewis & Partners.

So which type of bed base would you buy?

Personally, I like divan bases as they are cheap and if you upgrade to drawers they are practical to use. Some people think they look a bit like the kind of thing your grandma would have, along with flowery bedsheets and frilly pillows, but you can get various colours now so they can look pretty stylish.