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Have you ever thought about making your own mattress?
It might seem like a long-term and complicated goal, but the result might turn out tailored precisely to your sleeper demands and significantly cheaper than mattresses sold in online stores.
Oh, and you can make absolutely any mattress type!
So, do you want to give it a try?
Then let’s dive into this article for the answers!
The Basics of Mattress Design
Before we dig in, let’s break down the average mattress into its core components, so you can learn how to combine them. Starting from the bottom, here are the main four parts of the mattress:
- Base layer, or the support core. This can be made of inexpensive polyfoam for coil-less mattresses, or have a thin foam layer with the coil unit on top in mattresses with coils. The foundation of the mattress supports all the layers above and preserves the shape of the mattress when you move it around.
- Transitional layers. These layers connect the foundation with the comfort layers and serve for transitioning your weight to the base, so it can support your body properly. They also lock the motion and ensure peaceful sleep, if you share a bed with an active partner. Transition layers can be made of polyfoam, memory foam, latex, coils, or other materials.
- Comfort layers. These layers play the main role in pain relief, spinal support, and temperature regulation. These layers are typically made of memory foam, either open-cell or infused with gel because its properties allow it to easily adjust to your body shape and relieve the pressure (1).
- Cover. The cover encloses all the layers and keeps the dirt and bacteria away. It can be removable or stitched together, depending on your preferences. Also, the cover absorbs excess moisture that your body produces at night.
You can look at our selection of the most comfortable mattresses here and see that each of them resembles this structure, more or less. Some of them can skip transitional layers or have a cover with a sewn-in pillow top, but you get the idea.
How to Achieve the Right Firmness for DIY Mattress?
Firmness directly impacts the amount of comfort you’ll get from your mattress.
Most mattress manufacturers use the standard firmness scale that rates the mattress firmness from 1 to 10:
- Soft (1-4): mattresses with the most pronounced cushioning that may feel more like a featherbed.
- Medium (5-6): these mattresses have a good balance between motion absorption and spinal support and suit the majority of sleepers who have a light complexion. It's ideal firmness for lightweight people. By the way, there is our selection of the best mattresses for lightweight people on this page.
- Medium-firm (7-7.5): these mattresses are believed to be the most common firmness choice among users, regardless of their sleeping style and weight.
- Firm (8-8.5). Firm mattresses don’t give you that hugging feeling that you may expect from a memory foam bed, and they generally have more of a rigid structure. Also, firm mattresses are great for overweight people because they can better distribute the large weight of your abdomen.
- Extra-firm (9-9.5). Extra-firm mattresses are a bit rare — we prepared a selection of them for you on this link — and may suit those who suffer from chronic pain and limited mobility because these mattresses have little to no sinkage, and you can move on the bed freely.
Now, manufacturers usually have technologies to make their mattresses in various firmness, but how can you use this information to make your own mattress?
To determine the firmness of the foam or latex, you need to know the term ‘Impression Load Deflection” (ILD). It describes how much pressure is required to make a 25% indentation on the foam sample.
Memory foam and natural latex have different pore structure, and this results in different ILD measurements for different firmness.
If you purchase foam for your mattress, here are the measurements you need to look for:
- Very soft: 16 and below for latex foam, below 8 for memory foam;
- Soft: 19-21 for latex foam, 8-10 for memory foam;
- Medium: 24-26 for latex foam, 11-13 for memory foam;
- Medium-firm: 29-31 for latex foam, 14-15 for memory foam;
- Firm: 34-36 for latex foam, 16-18 for memory foam;
- Extra-firm: above 36 for latex foam, 19-21 for memory foam.
Along with that, for a memory foam mattress, you should look at the foam density. Density is important for seeing if the mattress can support your body weight properly and how the foam, in general, holds its shape because it’s essential for the longevity of your mattress.
Density is measured in pounds per cubic foot (PCF). The denser the foam, the heavier and more temperature-sensitive it is. That’s why high-density foam is typically used for base layers, whereas low-density foams work best for comfort layers because they’re more breathable.
Opt for these numbers for different foam density:
- Low: 2.5-3.9 PCF;
- Medium: 4-5.5 PCF;
High: 5.6 PCF and higher.
How to Choose the Right Firmness for a DIY Mattress
One of the best things about making a DIY mattress is that users can pick any mattress firmness they want.
But which option would be the comfiest and the healthiest?
This question can be answered by looking at the way readers sleep. Each sleeping style requires different levels of support and cushioning, so it’s better to pick the firmness level according to one’s favorite position.
Here are some general recommendations:
- Side sleepers usually feel the most comfortable when they receive plenty of cushioning for the body parts that protrude in this position (shoulders and hips). Therefore, softer mattresses work better for this sleeping style.
- Back sleepers need a balanced combination of sturdy support (for the spine) and cradling (for the hips). That’s why they are typically advised to choose medium to medium-firm mattresses.
- The most important thing for stomach sleepers is to prevent sinkage in the stomach area, as this can put a lot of strain on the spine. That’s why this sleeping style calls for firmer support.
- Combination sleepers usually pick medium to medium-firm mattresses as they can work for multiple sleeping styles and allow for ease of movement when changing positions.
That being said, each of these options can be affected by the sleeper’s weight. Thus, petite individuals ( who weigh less than 130 pounds) need to go slightly softer. Their weight isn’t always enough to compress the mattress materials, leading to pressure build-up.
As for heavier people (over 230 pounds), they need slightly firmer mattresses for each sleeping style. After all, they typically compress the mattress materials more and require sturdier support to enjoy proper alignment.
How to Build an Innerspring Mattress Yourself?
Now you can start building your homemade mattress!
We recommend starting from an innerspring mattress because it has the simplest construction: a solid coil unit and one comfort layer from each side encased in the cover.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Take the mattress cover, unzip it, and spread it on the floor. You can choose a mattress protector to serve as a cover. This is a good ready-made solution, and it gives you a rough idea of the size of your mattress (2).
- Place the layer of foam on the cover. Innerspring mattresses are designed to be flipped, so they have comfort layers on both sides. You can choose different firmness for these layers, but if you don’t plan to flip your mattress, choose a firmer and denser polyfoam 2-3 inches thick.
- Place the coil unit on the foam. The coil layer is the main supportive structure of your mattress, and it should be 6-7 inches high. To make a mattress with coils firmer, choose thicker coils or a higher coil count. This will allow you to achieve a uniform surface and extend longevity.
- Place the comfort layer on top. You can choose gel memory foam, natural latex, or traditional memory foam, depending on your preferences 2-3 inches thick. Note that if you have a firm core, you might want to choose a softer comfort layer to compensate for it.
- Wrap the mattress in the cover and zip it.
Innerspring mattresses are 8-12 inches thick on average and might be pretty heavy because of the coil system.
But will your DIY mattress be cheaper than a pre-made one? Let’s see:
- 2-3’’ memory foam slab (Queen size) — $30-50;
- coil unit — $200-300;
- 2-3’’ gel memory foam slab — $50-200;
- mattress cover — $50-100.
Thus, a Queen innerspring mattress will cost you $320-650 depending on the materials and their quality.
How to Build a Hybrid Mattress Yourself?
Hybrid mattresses combine different support systems, typically a coil block and foam layers. You can see our beautiful selection of hybrid mattresses and check the construction, so you will have an idea about it.
A hybrid DIY mattress can reach 18 inches in height and be pretty heavy, but the main thing you need to focus on is its edge support and comfort layers. Here’s how to make a hybrid mattress from scratch:
- Unzip the mattress cover and place it on the floor.
- Place the thin layer of dense and firm memory foam on the bottom cover. This layer will hold your coil system and keep it even. Note that hybrid mattresses, in most cases, are one-sided, which means that after the core layer you will be just stacking layers until you reach the desired feel.
- Place the coil system on the base foam layer. You can choose a solid coil block or individually wrapped coils. The latter will require reinforcing the perimeter with dense polyfoam, so make sure you define your mattress height before you start building it.
- Place the transition layer(s). You can go for a single transition layer or a couple, and the best materials for it are polyfoam, natural latex, synthetic latex, or any material that has a good bounce and quickly restores its shape.
- Place the comfort layer(s). Again, hybrid mattresses can have up to 5 comfort layers, but the final choice is up to you. Note that to secure different foam layers, you will need adhesive, and this can affect breathability. Generally, for the upper comfort layer, you need to choose the material that you like the most because this will be the main layer you will feel.
- Wrap the mattress in a top cover and zip it.
Depending on the thickness of the mattress, building a hybrid will cost you about $700-1,000. The average cost of a manufactured mattress varies greatly, but most mattresses fall into the $1,000-1,500 price tag. So, the crafted mattress will still be cheaper for you.
How to Build a DIY Memory Foam Mattress?
Next up, let’s see how to craft a DIY memory foam mattress.
Memory foam mattresses can be standard or dual-sided, with different firmness levels. They consist of a firmer core and comfort layers that define the final firmness. And, since these mattresses don’t have coils, they have one of the best motion isolation on the market, which is great if you or your partners are active sleepers.
To have some references, you can check our list of mattresses with good motion isolation and see general information about it.
So, to make your memory foam mattress, you will need:
- Unzip the mattress cover, and place the bottom half on the floor. If you plan to make a standard mattress, you can place the base foam layer right on the cover. It should be 4-6 inches thick. If you want to make a mattress with different firmness levels, then you need to place a 1-2” comfort layer before you secure the base with the glue.
- Place the transition layer. This layer will ensure your spine stays in the natural position during sleep and help distribute your weight on the mattress. This can be a 2-inch polyfoam layer or an open-cell memory foam layer.
- Secure the comfort layer. Memory foam is temperature-sensitive material, so to prevent your DIY mattress from retaining heat, choose cooling foams for the comfort layers and don’t make this layer thicker than 3 inches.
- After letting your adhesives dry, zip up the top cover, and you can sleep on your mattress right away.
The average cost of a homemade memory foam mattress might vary greatly depending on the number of layers, foam used (memory foam or polyfoam), and size. Generally, a Queen memory foam mattress might cost you $700-900, which is equal to a medium-priced memory foam mattress at the store. Costs of the RV short queen mattress will be similar to a regular queen mattress, so it's easier to buy one. You can check the best short queen RV mattresses here.
How to Build an Organic Mattress Yourself?
Finally, let’s talk about eco-friendly home mattresses.
Yes, you can craft a DIY mattress without memory foam! Here’s how:
- Choose cotton, Tencel, or bamboo covers.
- If you want a mattress without coils, go for natural latex or plant-based memory foam. The latter are more eco-friendly and can be upcycled — just cut your mattress and use the foam for pets, for example.
- For mattresses with coils, you can use upcycled mattress springs from your old bed, if they’re in a good condition. This also will help make your mattress cheap because spring blocks can reach up to $300 in price.
- For cooling layers, you can use brushed cotton or natural wool. These are natural, and you can also recycle them at the time of disposal.
Also, you can discard adhesives and replace them with hand-stitching. However, this will increase the time of mattress production, so if you’re short on time, you can still use adhesives, just be sure to choose eco-friendly varieties.
Is it more efficient to build a mattress yourself instead of buying it?
In terms of resources, it’s not. You will have to choose, buy, transport, and build the mattress by yourself. However, if you have spare time and want a more cost-efficient mattress, the DIY method might be better for you.
Are DIY mattresses more affordable than regular beds in a box?
You can find mattresses in a box for any budget today. Crafted mattresses are usually cheaper than manufactured, so if you have enough resources, you can choose the DIY method.
Making homemade mattresses might seem like a long-time project, but in fact, it’s all a matter of planning. If you define the mattress construction, choose quality materials, and dedicate some time to the crafting of your mattress, it will serve you no less than a standard bed.
So, what do you think about making a custom mattress for yourself? What type will you choose? Share your answers in the comments!
- Carlye Jones (n.d.). Do Different Foam Layers Really Make a Difference in a Mattress? Retrieved from https://homeguides.sfgate.com/memory-foam-vs-poly-foam-96154.html
- Andrew Tennyson (n.d.) What Are the Dimensions of Full and Queen-Size Mattresses? Retrieved from https://www.hunker.com/13403365/what-are-the-dimensions-of-full-and-queen-size-mattresses
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