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DIY Mattress Guide – How to Make Your Own

Written by Keith Cushner

We’re living in the age of the bed-in-a-box. Even though online mattresses offer significant savings when compared to traditional mattresses bought from your local mattress retailer, you may be wondering if you can’t make something just a little bit cheaper.

Can you make your own mattress? Absolutely. In fact, you can take the same approach many of these bed-in-a-box brands did.

Better yet, you can probably make something a lot more affordable. A DIY mattress may look homemade, but as long as you select quality materials, it can feel just as great to sleep on—and be just as durable—as a traditional mattress.

Below we offer a step-by-step guide to build your own mattress. We break down the industry lingo, provide guidance for selecting different mattress materials, and walk you through how to create a mattress you’ll find perfectly comfortable to sleep on.

Step 1: Understand the Basics of Mattress Construction


All mattresses follow the same basic setup:

  • First, there’s a base layer, usually made of inexpensive polyfoam. This serves as the foundation of your mattress. It helps support its shape as you move it around, and allows you to place it on any kind of base.
  • Next, you have the support core. This is either coil-based, as with innerspring or hybrid mattresses, or foam-based, as with all-foam and all-latex mattresses. Support layers are responsible for reinforcing the mattress as a whole and protecting the mattress from sagging, indentations, and other forms of wear and tear.
  • On top of that are the comfort layers. Comfort layers provide the general feel of your mattress. They cushion your body, relieve pressure points, and absorb noise and movement.
  • Finally, you have the cover of the mattress. This zips around the entire mattress to enclose the layers, and give your mattress a polished look. It also helps extend the lifespan of your mattress, by keeping out bacteria, moisture, and dirt.

Step 2: Choose Your DIY Mattress Type


Which items and materials you’ll use to make your DIY mattress depend on the type of mattress you’re interested in building. We’ll review the specific materials you’ll buy in Step 3. First, familiarize yourself with the most popular types of DIY mattresses below:

Foam Mattresses

All-foam mattresses are known for their highly conforming feel. They cushion and relieve pressure points, conforming to the sleeper’s body. These mattresses absorb motion and noise extremely well, but they can sleep hot and offer minimal edge support.

Latex Mattresses

All-latex mattresses are extremely durable, and also naturally hypoallergenic, due to being made nearly entirely from organic latex. However, that also makes the building materials more expensive. They offer similar conforming to all-foam mattresses, although to a lesser extent.

Hybrid Mattresses

Hybrid mattresses use coils for their support layer. Unlike the coil grid found in traditional innerspring mattresses, hybrid mattresses use pocketed coils, which are individual columns of coils encased in fabric.

This provides a quieter support layer, along with enhanced contouring and pressure relief for the sleeper. The coils also provide stronger edge support, so there’s no “roll-off” when sitting on the side of the bed, as experienced with latex or foam beds.

Hybrid mattresses are categorized as  either foam hybrid or latex hybrid:

  • Foam hybrid mattresses use foam for their comfort layers. These mattresses typically sleep cooler than all-foam beds, while still offering good pressure relief. They’re also bouncier than foam beds, thanks to their coil-based core, and they offer excellent edge support.
  • Latex hybrid mattresses have a similar construction to foam hybrids, except that they use latex in the comfort layers. They’re a good option for people interested in an all-latex bed, but looking for stronger edge support.

Step 3: Understand Your Firmness Needs


Part of what makes a DIY mattress so attractive is that you can customize it to your exact comfort preferences. In this section, we’ll review how to determine your optimal mattress firmness level, and then we’ll explain how to find the DIY mattress components to achieve it.

Finding Your Firmness Level

The most popular mattress firmness setting ranges from ‘Medium’ to ‘Medium Firm.’ This setting is suitable for a majority of sleepers, assuming they sleep on their side and are of average weight and build (between 130 and 230 pounds).

However, not everyone fits that description. Today’s mattresses range from ‘Soft’ to ‘Extra Firm,’ or between a 3 and an 8 on a 1-to-10 scale. Most people hone in on their ideal mattress firmness using a combination of their body weight and their preferred sleep position.

Sleepers of average weight prefer mattresses with a ‘Medium’ to Medium Firm’ setting. Lighter individuals typically find softer mattress to be more comfortable, with a ‘Medium Soft’ rating or softer. Heavier individuals need a firmer mattress in order to enjoy adequate support and avoid sinking too deeply into their mattress, which can result in spinal misalignment and aches and pains upon waking up. These individuals often prefer ‘Firm’ or ‘Extra Firm’ mattresses.

Similarly, different sleep positions require more or less “give” from the mattress in order to help the sleeper maintain proper spinal alignment during the night:

  • Side sleepers need a softer mattress that allows their hips and shoulders to sink deeper into the mattress surface, thereby achieving a straight spine.
  • Back sleepers also require some softness, albeit to a lesser extent, so their hips can sink deeper.
  • Stomach sleepers, on the other hand, require as firm a surface as possible, in order to prevent any sinking of their pelvis, which can pull the spine out of alignment.

The chart below summarizes the preferred firmness levels for sleepers by body weight and sleep position. You can learn more in our Guide to Mattress Firmness.

Weight Group Preferred Firmness for Most Side Sleepers Preferred Firmness for Most Back Sleepers Preferred Firmness for Most Stomach Sleepers
Below-average (Less than 130 pounds) 3 (Soft) to 5 (Medium) 4 (Medium Soft) to 6 (Medium Firm) 4 (Medium Soft) to 6 (Medium Firm)
Average (130 to 230 Pounds) 4 (Medium Soft) to 6 (Medium Firm) 5 (Medium) to 7 or 8 (Firm) 6 (Medium Firm) to 7 or 8 (Firm)
Above-average (More than 230 Pounds) 5 (Medium) to 6 (Medium Firm) 6 (Medium Firm) to 7 or 8 (Firm) 6 (Medium Firm) to 7 or 8 (Firm)

The bottom line: The firmer a mattress is, the less it will conform to your body. If you prefer a lot of conforming, opt for softer materials.

Matching Mattress Foams to Your Firmness Needs

When designing the feel of your DIY mattress, you’ll need to translate your firmness preferences into mattress industry lingo—specifically, ILD and density. We explain what you need to know below.

Latex Foam Firmness Ratings

Latex foams are measured using ILD. ILD stands for impression load deflection, and describes how much pressure is required to indent the mattress by 25%.

The chart below summarizes the common ILD ranges found in latex mattress foams today, and how it translates to mattress firmness. Learn more in our Buyer’s Guide to Latex Mattresses.

Category ILD Latex Characteristics Best for…
Very Soft 16 and below Mattress will sink extremely low, causing discomfort for some sleepers Back or side sleepers
Soft 19-21 Mattress sinks considerably beneath most sleepers Back or side sleepers
Medium 24-26 Balances softness and firmness, and will be comfortable for most sleepers Side sleepers
Medium-Firm 29-31 Firm support with minimal sinking Back or stomach sleepers
Firm 34-36 Very firm with little to no sinking Back sleepers
Very Firm 39 and up Extremely firm with no sinking whatsoever, causing discomfort for some sleepers Back sleepers

It’s important to note that organic latex is made using one of two processes. Talalay latex has a softer, fluffier feel that’s more suitable for comfort layers. Dunlop latex has a denser feel with less bounce, and is more often used in support layers, or in the comfort layers of firmer mattresses.

Both Talalay and Dunlop latex are measured using ILD. Foams made using either process can have the same firmness rating, but they will feel slightly different to sleep on.

Memory Foam Firmness Ratings

For foam mattresses, you’ll have two ratings to consider: density and ILD.

Density is particularly important measurement for the support foams, as it measures the ability of the mattress to support your body weight. It’s measured in pounds per cubic foot (PCF) and ranges from 2.5 PCF to 8 PCF. A high-quality foam has a PCF of 4 or higher.

Density describes how responsive the foam is, and how quickly it recovers its shape after weight is removed (in other words, how quickly the foam springs back after you get up from lying on it).

Higher-density foams are used in the support layers, as it’s more durable. Lower-density foams are used in the comfort layers, as they trap less body heat while still offering good conforming. It’s best to use a mix of density. Learn more in our Buyer’s Guide to Memory Foam Mattresses.

Grade Low Medium High
Density 2.5 to 3.9 lbs/ft3 4.0 to 5.9 lbs/ft3 5.5 lbs/ft3 and higher
Characteristics Retains original shape very quickly; offers good motion isolation and some contouring Retains original shape somewhat slowly; offers very good motion isolation and good contouring Retains shape very slowly; offers excellent motion isolation and contouring

As with latex foams, memory foams with higher ILD ratings have a firmer feel. The lower the rating, the softer the foam, and the more “sinking” you will feel. This will offer enhanced pressure relief, but will also make for a hotter sleep surface. Foam ILD ratings range from 8 to 20, but you want at least a 10 for quality.

ILD Rating Category Characteristics
8-10 Extremely Soft Most sleepers experience significant sinking
11-15 Very Soft Most sleepers find this to be the ideal softness/firmness level for a memory foam mattress
16-21 Soft Minimal sinking, and less contouring than mattresses with lower ILD ratings

Step 4: Source Your DIY Mattress Materials


To build your mattress, you’ll need the following tools and materials:

  • Mattress cover
  • Foam for the base, comfort and/or support layers
  • Pocketed coils (if building a hybrid mattress)
  • Spray adhesive to glue the layers together (optional)

Start by measuring your bed frame or base. Measure the width and length. Most bed frames are sized to fit the common mattress dimensions, which include:

mattress sizes

Also measure how tall you’d like your mattress to be. Generally speaking, heavier adults find thicker mattresses (10 inches or taller) to be more supportive, while lighter individuals may find adequate comfort from a shorter mattress.

Next, purchase your materials. We recommend Arizona Premium Mattress. Here’s what you’ll need for each layer, depending on what type of DIY mattress you’re building:

Base Layer

This can be cheap and nothing fancy. A 1- or 2-inch layer of base polyfoam will do the trick. It’s simply there to provide a base for the mattress.

While base layers are recommended for hybrid mattresses, you can opt out of the base layer altogether if you’re building an all-latex or all-foam bed.

Support Core

The support core layer should measure 6 to 8 inches thick. The material you’ll use depends on the type of mattress you’re building:

  • Latex mattresses: Dunlop latex with a high ILD rating
  • Foam mattresses: High-density polyfoam layer
  • Hybrid mattresses: Pocket coil spring (Many DIY hybrid mattress makers prefer a zoned pocket coil layer. These are designed to provide more support for heavier areas of your body.)

Note: All foams should be solid, and not have an egg-crate pattern. Latex foams are often ventilated; this helps enhance the breathability of the mattress.

Comfort Layers

A mattress can have one or more comfort layers, which together measure 2 to 5 inches thick (including the mattress cover). Comfort layers are made of lower ILD latex or memory foams, depending on the type of mattress you’re building.

Some people will get a single comfort layer that matches their desired firmness level (soft, medium, or firm). However, most people enjoy mattresses with at least two comfort layers for optimal contouring.

Typically, DIYers will choose a slightly softer foam for the upper comfort layer, and a slightly firmer one for the lower comfort layer. For example, a person of average weight may use a Medium upper comfort layer, with a Medium Firm or Firm below, while a lighter individual may use a Soft upper comfort layer with a Medium below.

Mattress Cover

Once you’ve selected the foams for your base, support, and comfort layers, add up their height measurements. Then order a cover that matches their total height. For example, if you’re building a hybrid mattress with an 8-inch pocket coil layer and two comfort layers of 3-inch Talalay latex, you’ll need a 14-inch mattress cover.

Popular mattress cover materials include cotton or polyester knit blends. For those seeking a cooler night’s sleep, cotton/wool and bamboo/wool mattress covers are another good option. These use breathable bamboo or organic cotton, quilted to thick wool on the inside, which wicks away moisture while offering additional cushioning.

Note: If this is your first time making a mattress, it can be a good idea to buy your layers one at a time, to avoid overspending and make sure you like how it feels. Lie down on each layer to see how well it supports proper spinal alignment (there should be no gaps between your body and the mattress, and your spine should maintain its natural curvature).

Step 5: Start Building


At last, it’s time to build your mattress. To do this, you will need a flat surface. If you’re building your mattress in a carpeted area, purchase a large piece of plywood to use as your “floor.”

Assemble your materials and take them out of their packaging. Be aware that it’s common for foams, especially memory foams, to have an off-gassing odor upon arrival. This is completely harmless, but it can last for a few days. Unroll the foams and let them air out. Run a fan or open a window to help speed up the process.

Then, follow the steps below for your mattress type.

How to Build a DIY All-Foam Mattress

  1. Unzip the mattress cover and spread it out on the floor.
  2. If purchased, lie down the base layer of polyfoam inside the cover.
  3. Place the support layer of high-density polyfoam on top of the base layer. The foams should lie flush with each other.
  4. Place the comfort layer on top of the support layer. If you’re using multiple comfort layers, place the firmer one first. Again, the foams should lie flush with each other.
  5. Place any additional comfort layers. Ensure the foams lie flush with each other.
  6. Zip up the cover.
  7. Put on your sheets and bedding, and enjoy!

How to Build a DIY All-Latex Mattress

  1. Unzip the mattress cover and spread it out on the floor.
  2. Place the support layer of high-density Dunlop latex inside the mattress cover.
  3. Place the comfort layer on top. If you’re using multiple comfort layers, place the firmer one first. (The softer latex should be in the uppermost layer.) The foams should lie flush with each other.
  4. Place any additional comfort layers. Ensure the foams lie flush with each other.
  5. Zip up the cover.
  6. Put on your sheets and bedding, and enjoy!

How to Build a DIY Hybrid Mattress

  1. Unzip the mattress cover and spread it out on the floor.
  2. Lie down the base layer of polyfoam inside the cover.
  3. Place the support layer of pocketed coils on top of the base layer. The edges of the coil layer should lie flush with the base polyfoam below.
  4. Place the first comfort layer on top. If you’re using multiple comfort layers, place the firmer one first. Again, the foams should lie flush with each other.
  5. Place any additional comfort layers. Ensure the foams lie flush with each other.
  6. Zip up the cover.
  7. Put on your sheets and bedding, and enjoy!

Note: With any of these options, using glue is optional. In many cases, you don’t need to add adhesive between any of the layers. As long as you buy an appropriately-sized mattress cover, your foams will stay put. Using adhesive can make your mattress less breathable, and also less flexible.

For example, if you don’t glue the individual comfort layers together, you can easily swap them with each other to change the feel of your bed. In fact, Nest Bedding intentionally makes both their Hybrid Latex and Signature Hybrid mattresses with unzippable covers so their customers can change up their firmness levels in this way.

Conclusion

Making your own mattress has a lot to offer the confident DIYer. You can create a mattress that fits your needs perfectly. DIY mattresses are significantly cheaper, costing only a fraction of the cost of a traditional mattress. Best of all, you get to experience the pride that only comes from making something yourself.

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