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Information overload -- how to decide? 17 Jan 2013 15:18 #1

  • CindyJ
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I've visited two local mattress showrooms, both of which manufacture their own mattresses, and both of which will customize a mattress according to my preferences. Great, right? Maybe, and maybe not.

Both of these places (Verlo in West Chester, PA and Magic Comfort in Pottstown, PA) have favorable mentions here on Mattress Underground. Both will adjust the firmness/softness of the mattress at no cost after I've slept on it for some reasonable period of time. Both appear to provide exceptional customer service and product support and both have very knowledgeable people. I've learned a lot about mattress construction over the past several days -- WAY more than I ever wanted to know, but I lack the ability to discriminate between the subtle differences in mattresses.

One thing I learned along the way is that for the past several years I've been sleeping on a very firm mattress. It's a Stearns & Foster and I've really liked it. Yet the firm mattresses I've been trying all seem much too hard for my liking. That's where it's nice to have the option to "build my own." But I'm driving myself nutzo.

I started off thinking that I wanted an inner spring mattress. It's what I'm used to and I don't like that "cradling" that happens when I'm on a memory foam mattress. Then I tried an all latex mattress. It was very comfortable but maybe a little too soft for me. The latex mattress has a core of 6" D 85 Dunlop latex, 35 ILD, topped with 2" of N3 Talalay, 19 ILD. But that's a relatively expensive mattress (~$2,000). By the way, I'm told that about 90% of the customers who come into that store as a result of reading about them on Mattress Underground, come in specifically for the all-latex mattress.

Another mattress I'm considering is 2-sided, has a heavy duty offset coil spring covered with 2 layers of some kind of compressed fiber padding, which is topped with 2" of 2.3 poly foam, 35 ILD. The cost of this mattress is $1299 and it carries a lifetime warranty -- hard to believe! A similar mattress is available in a 1-sided version for about $100 less. That one comes with (only) a 25-year warranty.

Then there's a variation of that mattress -- they call it "Design-Your-Own." Same spring coil, but 1-sided with a zipper-enclosed pillow-top. What's nice about this one is that you can easily select or even change the foam to customize the firmness of the mattress. Standard with this mattress is 2" of poly foam in a choice ranging from plush to firm. I tried it with the 2.3 density 35 ILD, and, not surprisingly, it felt quite similar to the 2-sided one I described above. The main difference I noticed was that the top edge of the mattress, which was noticeably rigid on the 2-sided mattress, was soft on the Design-Your-Own. But the "tweak" on this mattress that intrigues me is the option of replacing the 2" poly foam with Talalay latex. I don't know, because I didn't think of asking, whether I could get the Talalay with a higher ILD than 19. Replacing the poly foam with latex is a $400 upgrade, bringing the cost to $1,389.

I just don't know how to make a decision. Here are the questions I still have:

What is the relationship between ILD numbers? In other words, is 35 ILD approximately twice as firm as 19 ILD?

The first store I visited, which also customizes mattresses to order, layers different types of foam, and I'm wondering if that provides any advantage. For example, one mattress I liked had a top layer consisting of (from the bottom up) 2 layers of cotton padding, 1" of 1.5 36 ILD poly foam, and 1" of Talalay latex (unknown ILD). Is there an advantage or disadvantage of having 2 1-inch layers of foam rather than 1 2-inch layer?

How practical is a 2-sided king size mattress? It's clearly designed to be flipped, yet, I wonder if in reality it's just too big and bulky to flip. Do people who have 2-sided king mattresses really flip them as they should?

What do you think of the idea of topping a spring coil mattress with Talalay latex? Does that make for a good "hybrid," in other words, adding the comfort of latex to a more traditional coil mattress. It would certainly save a considerable amount of $$$ over the cost of all-latex. I hopped back and forth between the all-latex and latex-topped coil mattresses, and I couldn't discern much of a difference in the feel. I should say, though, that by that time I'd been in the store nearly 2 hours, and was experiencing some amount of "mattress fatigue."

How important is the type of foundation I choose? The foundations are all built in-house. The 2-sided mattress is on a heavy duty wood and metal box spring foundation. However, the Design-your-own comes with an all-wood foundation. The owner says it's to keep the cost of the set lower, and it has no effect on the comfort or durability of the mattress. I'd have the option of upgrading to the wood-and-metal box spring for $130, but I have no idea whether there'd be a reason to do that. The all-latex mattress, by the way, comes with a wood slat foundation which is comprised of many slats with little space between them.

My next question is much more subjective. The pricing of what appeared to be somewhat similar mattresses was substantially different in the two stores. The two-sided mattress in store #1 was priced about $700 higher than the 2-sided mattress in store #2 ~2,000 vs $1,300). I don't know how to determine whether I'm getting $700 more in value in store #1. Yes, there are still a few unknowns. I don't know what the material of the outside cover is on Store #2's mattress. I asked, but he couldn't tell me (strange, eh?). Store #1 uses plush quilted bamboo silk. I also don't know what comprises the 2 layers of pads that cover the springs on store #2's mattress. All he could tell me is that they're "compressed fiber pads made of shredded cloth." Store #1 describes these layers as "Cotton Pad Belly Bands" in their product literature. I realize an "apples-to-apples" comparison may be impossible, but there's so much similarity I couldn't help but compare the prices.

I wonder, too, how negotiable these prices are. We know the pricing games that are played with mattresses in the broader retail market. Is there pricing flexibility, though, with these made-to-order mattress manufacturers?

This has been long-winded, and I apologize for that. I'll probably re-visit Store #1 just because I feel more knowledgeable now than when I first went in. Still, I don't want this decision-making process to drag on. Is there any way you can help me to focus on the most important considerations as I move ahead? Thanks!!!

Information overload -- how to decide? 17 Jan 2013 20:11 #2

  • phoenix
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Hi CindyJ,

I think the first thing I would suggest to bypass the information overload is to ignore ILD information (which is a comfort spec not a quality spec) when you are testing mattresses locally. Let your body tell you the level of softness and firmness that is best for you in both the comfort and support layers. Not enough information usually leads to poor choices but too much information or information that may not translate into telling you what you need and prefer can also lead to "paralysis by analysis".

I would take your testing in 3 stages. The first is testing for comfort (see the guidelines in this article ) and is what you feel when you first lie on a mattress. The next step in testing is testing for alignment/support (see the guidelines in this article and post #11 here ) which is what you feel when you wake up in the morning either with or without back pain or discomfort. The final step can't be tested because you can't feel the quality of the materials in a mattress and this is to make sure you know the quality/value specs which is the thickness of the layers and the quality of the materials (density in the case of polyfoam and memory foam and the type and blend in the case of latex). This 3 step process can lead you to choosing the most suitable mattress (based on the messages from your body when you are testing) with the best possible quality, durability, and value (based on the specs of the materials and components).

The goal is to find the "best" mattress at each manufacturer you are working with and then compare your top choice at each place based on all the different objective, subjective, and intangible factors that are the most important parts of your personal value equation .

This process will help you bypass "information overload". I would also keep in mind that you are working with two good manufacturers so that no matter what choice you make it will be better than the choices made by the vast majority of consumers when they go to the typical mainstream retailers and buy a major brand.

Then I tried an all latex mattress. It was very comfortable but maybe a little too soft for me.


I would keep in mind as well that latex itself (as a material) isn't soft or firm because like all materials it comes in a wide range of softness and firmness levels. How a mattress feels will have more to do with the design of the mattress and the softness and firmness of the layering than it will with the actual material itself.

The subject of ILD and the softness and firmness of a mattress is also a very complex subject because the softness/firmness of a mattress isn't just about the ILD of the materials and ILD is tested in different ways with different types of foam so they are not directly comparable anyway. Compression modulus for example (how quickly a foam gets firmer with deeper compression) can have as much or more to do with how a material feels than ILD. Compression modulus, ILD, layer thicknesses, resiliency, point elasticity, hysteresis curve, and temperature sensitivity can all play a big role in how soft or firm mattrerss feels and focusing on only one of these can sometimes mislead as much as help ... especially when it all boils down to how your body (and mind in the case of more subjective factors) interacts with the mattress anyway. Your body doesn't understand ILD's or any of the other specs ... it only knows when it feels pressure and when it has good alignment.

What is the relationship between ILD numbers? In other words, is 35 ILD approximately twice as firm as 19 ILD?


If you are testing the same type of material (not different materials) ... then an ILD that is twice as high means that it takes twice as much force to compress the layer by 25% of its thickness. It is only accurate if you happen to sink in to that layer exactly 25% and no more and no less. It can be used as a very rough guideline keeping in mind that your body will tell you much more than the specs.

The first store I visited, which also customizes mattresses to order, layers different types of foam, and I'm wondering if that provides any advantage. For example, one mattress I liked had a top layer consisting of (from the bottom up) 2 layers of cotton padding, 1" of 1.5 36 ILD poly foam, and 1" of Talalay latex (unknown ILD). Is there an advantage or disadvantage of having 2 1-inch layers of foam rather than 1 2-inch layer?


This is just a matter of different designs not a matter of "better worse". Again your body will tell you which design works best for you. While multiple separate layers will feel and perform slightly differently compared to a single thickness of exactly the same material (multiple layers if they are exactly the same material and unglued will feel a little softer than a single layer of the same material and thickness for example) ... neither one is better or worse than the other ... only different. Different types of layering are just part of designing in the combination of pressure relief, support and alignment, and "feel" that makes one mattress more suitable than another for a particular person. For some people ... the "perfect" mattress may be a single layer of one material covered with a high quality ticking/quilting while for another it may be a much more complex design.

How practical is a 2-sided king size mattress? It's clearly designed to be flipped, yet, I wonder if in reality it's just too big and bulky to flip. Do people who have 2-sided king mattresses really flip them as they should?


I personally think it's very practical and regular flipping (every week or wo for the first 90 days and then seasonally after that) can significantly extend the life of a mattress. It can be a bit of a hassle at first (when flipping is more frequent) but after that it's not that big a problem for most people (a seasonal chore) and the benefits are well worth it in terms of maintaining the feel and performance of the mattress. Of course the willingness to do this would be a personal decision and for someone that didn't do this the benefits of a two sided mattress would be significantly reduced. With a heavier king size it would generally take two people to flip it comfortably (although many people also do it alone) so I think that this would be a personal decision of the person themselves because each of us probably knows ourselves best and how diligent we would be with flipping.

What do you think of the idea of topping a spring coil mattress with Talalay latex? Does that make for a good "hybrid," in other words, adding the comfort of latex to a more traditional coil mattress. It would certainly save a considerable amount of $$$ over the cost of all-latex. I hopped back and forth between the all-latex and latex-topped coil mattresses, and I couldn't discern much of a difference in the feel. I should say, though, that by that time I'd been in the store nearly 2 hours, and was experiencing some amount of "mattress fatigue."


I know many people who are among the most knowledgeable in the industry that this specific design is their design of choice (and they prefer it over all latex). Other would prefer a different design. This is also a matter of preference and not "better worse" but it is a very attractive design for those who like the combination. If you follow the guidelines I linked to earlier (about testing for pressure relief and alignment) you will probably be able to discern the difference between an innerspring support core and a latex support core but the "value" of any component or combination would depend partly on whether you can or would feel any difference in performance over both the short and long term. I wouldn't pay a significant amount for a particular design that had no benefit to me personally. Everything boils down to your basic needs and preferences.

How important is the type of foundation I choose? The foundations are all built in-house. The 2-sided mattress is on a heavy duty wood and metal box spring foundation. However, the Design-your-own comes with an all-wood foundation. The owner says it's to keep the cost of the set lower, and it has no effect on the comfort or durability of the mattress. I'd have the option of upgrading to the wood-and-metal box spring for $130, but I have no idea whether there'd be a reason to do that. The all-latex mattress, by the way, comes with a wood slat foundation which is comprised of many slats with little space between them.


I think a suitable foundation is very important and the key word here is suitable. In terms of a foundation I would go with the recommendations of the manufacturer themselves who are the most knowledgeable about which foundation best fits each of their mattresses. There is more information about foundations and box springs in post #2 here and in the foundation thread here . If you are dealing with a manufacturer ... I would go with their recommendations unless there was a compelling reason to do otherwise to bypass more "information overload"

My next question is much more subjective. The pricing of what appeared to be somewhat similar mattresses was substantially different in the two stores. The two-sided mattress in store #1 was priced about $700 higher than the 2-sided mattress in store #2 ~2,000 vs $1,300). I don't know how to determine whether I'm getting $700 more in value in store #1. Yes, there are still a few unknowns. I don't know what the material of the outside cover is on Store #2's mattress. I asked, but he couldn't tell me (strange, eh?). Store #1 uses plush quilted bamboo silk. I also don't know what comprises the 2 layers of pads that cover the springs on store #2's mattress. All he could tell me is that they're "compressed fiber pads made of shredded cloth." Store #1 describes these layers as "Cotton Pad Belly Bands" in their product literature. I realize an "apples-to-apples" comparison may be impossible, but there's so much similarity I couldn't help but compare the prices.


The simple way to make an apples to apples comparison is to list the layers in the mattress from top to bottom and make an apples to apples comparison (or at least identify which may have the most likelihood of having a weak link and used the highest quality materials). It's not uncommon at all to see this kind of pricing difference between two mattresses that are substantially the same. A mattress is only as good (in quality/value terms not in terms of comfort or support) as the materials and components that are in it but some manufacturers have much better quality and value than others. It's really as simple as that. If you want to you are always free to list the specifics of the layers on the forum for feedback (just make sure you include the layer thicknesses and density or in the case of latex type and blend) :)

I wonder, too, how negotiable these prices are. We know the pricing games that are played with mattresses in the broader retail market. Is there pricing flexibility, though, with these made-to-order mattress manufacturers?


A "better" manufacturer that sells their mattresses at great value every day of the year is not likely to participate in these "games" because they are well aware that their value doesn't depend on "fake sales" meant to mislead consumers. They may offer a small discount or bonus of some type but other than this their pricing is generally not a matter of "negotiation" ... and doesn't need to be. You can read more about "negotiation" here .

This has been long-winded, and I apologize for that. I'll probably re-visit Store #1 just because I feel more knowledgeable now than when I first went in. Still, I don't want this decision-making process to drag on. Is there any way you can help me to focus on the most important considerations as I move ahead? Thanks!!!


Hopefully this has helped you recognize that much of what you are asking about (outside of objective quality specs) is really a matter of preference and not better and worse. Trusting your body (comfort, alignment, and preferences of "feel" and performance) and then using your mind (objective quality specs) to compare the quality and value of the mattresses that your body tells you is "best" along with using the help and guidance of the people you are working with to narrow your choices at each place down to one would be the single best piece of advice I could give you. :)

Phoenix
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