Posted in Mattresses on January 30, 2010
Mattresses are not just a part of your bed because you use these more than any other, in continuous stretches of time. Unless you’re a virtuoso sleepwalker, an aficionado of hammocks or have really splendid insomnia, a mattress will always be a constant sleeping companion.
And if you’re buying mattresses you need to be guided in a few things. There’s a new mattress in everybody’s future because the ones in use now aren’t going to last forever. And, naturally, you want your new one to suit you as perfectly as if you’d had it made up special.
Tricky Business of Buying Mattresses
Well, something that had better be understood from the beginning is that this is not like buying a table, a chair or a dresser. Mattresses — because what makes them work is hidden inside those pretty, innocuous-looking expanses of ticking (probably quilted) — can be tricky things indeed.
Even if in the store, a sample one has had a corner cut away, so that a customer may gaze upon the innards, the inside of a mattress is not a whole lot more comprehensible to most of us than the interior of your computer.
Types of Mattresses
It’s a good idea to study those exposed springs, the cushioning or insulator and the padding. It will make the salesperson think that you’re knowledgeable about such things and you might ask, “Which do you think stands up better, the knotted-end coil or the free-end coil construction?” If the answer is something like, “We find this knotted-end type the most satisfactory,” then you’ll know what you’re looking at. As a matter of fact, the unknotted, or free-end coil is not very common.
In the third type—pocketed coil construction—each coil is contained in its own little cloth pocket.
But before we get any deeper into the complicated “business” of springs— and they determine pretty much what kind of mattress you’ll end up with— let’s get some preliminary considera¬tions out of the way. Is the purchase to cover what the manufacturers call a sleep set—that is, mattress and box spring foundation—or just a mattress?
The National Association of Bedding Manufacturers would naturally prefer that you buy a set and urges you on via a booklet that declares: “Your old foundation is no friend to your new mattress. Without a companion foundation of equal quality, your mattress will not provide the service you paid for and may, in fact, have a shorter life.” Stores also would rather sell you the sleep set.
How Much Does It Cost to Buy a Mattress?
But there are instances in which a new foundation is not obligatory and may even be out of place. Perhaps your still-perfectly-good mattress has suffered sudden damage, leaving the foundation in still-perfectly-good condition. In that case, the important thing is that the new mattress be absolutely the same size as the foundation you’re going to put it on, so that it can rest as comfortably as you hope to do.
Usually the mattress alone will be half the price of the set and you should be able to get a good twin-size one from $299 to $599 and a full or double from $289 to $599. On sale the prices would be considerably less, probably around 30 percent. If you’re going to have to pay much of a premium to get just the mattress, maybe you’d better get the set. Then the two parts can grow old together.
Perhaps you want to put the mattress on a platform, say, one of those wood¬en ones with drawers that provide magnificent storage space. Quite a lot of people are turning to platforms and, if that’s what you have in mind, you might be interested in knowing that Consumer Reports says that it works much better if the mattress is of foam.
At any rate, only mattresses will be considered here. It’s much easier to go wrong with one of them than with a box spring. With the latter you don’t, have to think in terms of firm, extra firm, super firm, or of the conformity (the degree to which a mattress adapts its shape to your body). Also, handles aren’t terribly important and you don’t have to notice whether it’s reversible: you’re not likely to turn a box spring over.
The mattress, though, had better have handles; otherwise you’ll have to wrestle with it every time you turn it. And if the ticking is quilted, it should be that way on both sides; if it isn’t, then there is not true reversibility; quilting permits some air circulation and a side that doesn’t have it is less comfortable to sleep on.
So what size do you want? If that sounds like a senseless question because you already have a bed, you should know that it can be enlarged with inexpensive stretcher rails (Your mattress dealer should have them).
What are Mattresses Sizes?
Should the new mattress be for the regular 35 by 75-inch twin or for one 5 inches longer? Or for a full, or double, bed that measures 53 by 80 rather than the usual 53 by 75?
It’s the queen, though, according to the National Association of Bedding Manufacturers, that “is rapidly becoming the standard in American homes.”
And, if you want still more room in bed, the king size will give you 76 or 77 by 80 inches unless you buy it in California; there it’s 72 by 84. But either the queen or king will probably demand a new bed frame with more legs and cross supports, and neither is really happy unless it can be on top of two foundations. This easily runs into money.
Next to be decided is whether you want an innerspring model or foam. If you want to be different, get foam. Only about 10 percent of mattress buyers do. This is probably because people are used to the feel of inner-spring mattresses—springy, reasonably firm and conforming, with an impression of sturdiness.
Choosing Mattresses Foams
But Consumer Reports found that the two foam types, latex (or carbamate) and polyurethane, conform better, on the whole, than inner springs. And most of the foam sets that were tested came through the grueling ordeal “with their comfort qualities intact” while, on the other hand, “the innerspring sets proved more variable; as a group they showed a greater loss of firmness and a greater tendency to depress or dimple.”
The two kinds of foam have their own characteristics. The latex mattresses strike some as being a little too eager to return to their own shape; move a little and they are right there, waiting to push up again. Latex is also more expensive than innersprings and is quite a bit more than polyurethane.
Polyurethane—it’s generally cheaper than inner springs, also generally firmer—has a slower recovery rate than latex and, while you may have the feeling of sinking into the mattress as you lie on it, the general sensation is of billowy loftiness.
The thicker the foam, the higher the price tends to be, and thickness is usually related to durability. But no rule can be made about this. A few of the mattresses that Consumer Reports has rated tops in durability have only 5-inch cores; the highest cores are 7.
No matter how high the foam, it should be secured to the ticking. And compare the thickness of the core with the overall thickness; there may be a difference of an inch or so, but don’t worry; it’s likely to consist of topper pads and extra filling that contribute to comfort. And be sure to note the overall thickness; you don’t want to find that your fitted sheets won’t go over your new mattress. Oh, and note whether the tag says shredded foam; it is better not to spend money on that. It’s nowhere near as durable or desirable as the solid foam and it wears unevenly and tends to lump.
If the choice is an innerspring mattress, be sure, then, that the top and bottom edges are defined and strengthened by steel wires or flat steel strips so that you can sit on the edge of the bed and would not develop a sag.
Things to Consider When Buying Mattresses
Now, let’s get back to those all-important springs. Remember the three types? Consumer Reports found there was a wide range of performance among the traditional knotted-end coil construction ones. The other two types —pocketed coil and free-end coil—performed more uniformly and well. The industry’s standard is 13-gauge steel for all three. Each coil will have, as a rule, five turns, and a twin mattress should have at least 216 coils; a full, or double, should have at least 312.
If you’re still standing there, studying a cutaway section, the other things you’re seeing are the insulator and the padding. The former is to keep the springs from jabbing into the latter and it should be fastened to the top and bottom of the spring unit or, better still, folded over the edges of it. Then comes the padding, usually of cotton batting but sometimes of foam, and it should be at least an inch thick. After that there’s nothing but the ticking, enclosing the whole business.
Most mattresses loosen up a bit in time, but not always. Consumer Reports thinks this may indicate “a fairly high quality in the springs,” or, what’s just as likely, “a compaction of the padding.”
Now, having studied these components—and it’s always possible that your dealer won’t have a cutaway sample—you’re ready for the final and most difficult decision: which mattress’ form and softness suits you best.
About the only way to come close to getting what you want is to stretch out on various mattresses.
And the National Association of Bedding Manufacturers says, don’t just lie there but “roll around a bit, to the center to see whether there is a depression, to the edge to see how it supports you.” The association believes that if two persons are to use the mattress, then they should try it out together.
Source: Virginia Lee Warren, New York Times