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Let me say it straight away:
The difference between King vs California King mattresses is in their dimensions. A standard King mattress measures 76 x 80 inches, which makes it the widest option available. A California King bed, on the other hand, is the longest option and measures 72 x 84 inches.
Now, this difference in dimensions might not seem so drastic but in some cases, a couple of inches can play a huge role in your comfort.
So, let’s see who will benefit the most from each of these two mattress sizes.
King vs California King Side by Side
|Dimensions||76 x 80 inches||72 x 84 inches|
|Surface area||42.2 square feet||42 square feet|
|Recommended room area||13 x 13 feet minimum||13 x 12 feet minimum|
A Brief History of Mattresses
Before we dive into our comparison, let’s take a look at how both mattress sizes appeared on the market.
First of all, both King and Cal King mattresses aren’t that old.
Up to the late 60s, the only two mattress sizes on the market were Twin (or Single) and Full (Double). This simple differentiation allowed people to easily purchase mattresses from all the manufacturers around the country.
However, in the late 60s two major mattress manufacturers, Sealy and Simmons, introduced two larger bed sizes, known today as Queen and King. These mattresses were initially made for celebrities, athletes, and other wealthy people who lived in spacious mansions with large bedrooms.
When King and Queen sizes were launched into mass production, other users found them more comfortable than standard Full beds too, so these sizes quickly became a staple for most American homes.
And what about California King beds?
Well, the only location-driven mattress name, surprisingly, has a longer history than standard King. Some media sources mention that Cal King beds were introduced to the market between 1920 and 1930 years (1). One of the abovementioned manufacturers, Simmons, made a separate line of King mattresses for California state, and they quickly became a trend for several decades straight.
But because these mattresses had slightly different dimensions, the manufacturer had to label them as California King, or Western King, to avoid confusion with the standard King-sized mattress, which is also referred to as ‘Eastern King’ in some states.
Similarities Between King and Cal King Mattresses
Before we dive into the differences between the largest mattress sizes on the market, let’s check out what they have in common.
People often overlook mattress weight when shopping, and that’s easy to understand:
Most mattresses arrive at your doorstep in a compressed state, and their weight is lower than advertised until you rip off the seal on the plastic and let the mattress inflate.
However, since every mattress needs basic care like rotation and regular cleaning, large weight can be an obstacle for doing it single-handedly.
And both King and California King mattresses are among the heaviest on the market. Especially if you go for a thick hybrid.
King and Cal King mattresses, on average, weigh between 130 and 180 pounds. That’s the average weight of an adult human!
Adding the bulkiness of the mattress, you will probably need to ask your spouse or relative to help you rotate it.
Along with being the heaviest mattresses on the market, both King and Cal King sizes are usually the priciest. Most manufacturers have the same pricing for these mattresses, while others may add a couple of hundreds of bucks to a Cal King due to its lower market demand.
But the average price point of a medium-quality King mattress starts at $1,200 and goes up to $3,000-4,000 for lux brands. You can find King and Cal King mattresses lower than $1000 but their quality might be questionable.
King vs California King: Main Differences
It’s not a surprise that people keep confusing King-sized mattresses and their California cousins because they both look pretty similar, even despite the difference in dimensions.
But looks can be deceiving, you know.
That’s why I’ll try to familiarize you with the main features of both bed sizes right below so that you’ll be more confident when shopping for a new mattress.
You already know that the main difference between King and California King mattresses is in their dimensions. Basically, you get a California King mattress by subtracting 4 inches from the width of a standard King mattress and add them to the length.
Turns out that this simple shuffle affects the total mattress surface area.
Let me do the math here:
King mattress: 76 x 80 inches = 6080 square inches or 42.2 square feet;
Cal King mattress: 72 x 84 inches = 6048 square inches or 42 square feet.
Cal King appears to be even a bit smaller than King!
Still, the difference in surface area between the two sizes is tiny. But things get more interesting when it comes to space per person.
Space Per Person
Despite almost identical surface area with Cal King, a King mattress gives you 38 x 80 inches of space per person, which is an equivalent of a Twin XL mattress. Cal King, on the other hand, is slightly narrower and longer than that, measuring 36 x 84 inches per single sleeper.
Although Cal King gives some extra space for legs, the width might not be sufficient for some sleepers.
This aspect is often overlooked, but motion transfer is crucial for partnered sleepers (especially if one of them tends to be restless).
Now, mattresses that give each person more space perform better in terms of motion isolation. In other words, wider mattresses allow for less motion transfer. Therefore, it’s easy to assume that standard King beds would perform better in this case, as they are slightly wider than Cal King models. Yes, the difference isn’t that big, but it may still play a role when it comes to partnered sleep.
Required Bedroom Space
Another important thing you should consider when choosing between King and California King is whether your bedroom is actually able to fit such a large bed in.
Fortunately, the required bedroom space is an equal parameter for both mattress sizes:
To comfortably place a King or Cal King bed in your bedroom and still have enough space to walk around and lay out your furniture, your room should measure at least 13 x 13 feet.
A California King mattress technically can fit into narrower spaces, such as 13 x 12 feet. However, it’s advisable to downsize the mattress if you live in a small apartment so that the bedroom won’t look disproportionate and cluttered.
“Speaking of the cost, both King and California King beds tend to be the priciest. However, thanks to the diverse mattress market, today you can easily find a decent Cal King or King mattress under $1,000 that will serve you for years.”
The Pros and Cons of King vs Cal King
Now, it’s obvious that King and Cal King mattresses were designed with different users in mind. So, let me outline the main features and drawbacks of each size so that you would understand which one is better for you personally.
Pros and Cons of King
So, what does a King mattress holds for us?
I’ll start with the good:
- Comfortable for couples and families. The surface of a King mattress can easily accommodate two adults, and even if your little one asks to sleep with you, you will still feel comfortable.
- Suits heavy sleepers. Due to a wider surface, King mattresses can accommodate larger sleepers more comfortably and give them more room to move.
- Easy to find sheets and accessories for. Most of the bedding brands have King-sized sheets in their lineup, so making your bed shouldn’t be a problem.
And now, the bad:
- Requires a larger bedroom. If your bedroom is a bit smaller than 13 x 13 feet, a King mattress might look disproportionate in it, so California King could be a better option to avoid feeling cramped.
- May not work for taller people. If you’re a tall individual who loves to curl up in the fetal position, then a King mattress may offer you enough space. In other cases, your legs might uncomfortably hang off of the bed.
“Both King and California King are often available in a Split configuration. That means you can buy two separate halves of a mattress and customize each one for each sleeper personally.”
Pros and Cons of California King
Now, let’s look at Cal King beds.
First, the pros:
- Great for taller individuals. If you’re 5’5’’ and higher, then definitely choose a Cal King bed. Some extra space for legs will really pump up your comfort.
- Perfect for those who sleep in the log position. If you don’t toss and turn much, or prefer to tightly hug your partner during sleep, then less space per person than what King offers won’t bother you.
- Good for narrower bedrooms. Technically, a Cal King mattress can fit into a 13 x 12 feet bedroom — as long as you keep other furniture minimalistic and don’t clutter the room.
And here are the weak points:
- Harder to find sheets and accessories for. Some major bedding brands still consider Cal King a non-standard mattress size, so they might simply not offer sheets of this size.
- Offers less space per person. Larger sleepers and those who toss a lot might find a California King mattress less comfortable.
So, have you managed to decide which size is your perfect fit? Let us know in the comments!
NINA SHEN RASTOGI (Aug. 12, 2011), Is the California King Bed the Sexiest Kind of Bed?, Retrieved from https://slate.com/culture/2011/08/rihannas-california-king-bed-a-short-history-of-the-worlds-sexiest-bed.html