2005 January 21

Make Your Own Mattress

When I was in college, my dad worked for a company that had a relationship with a mattress-maker. He was able to get products from them at a good discount, so when I "officially" grew out of my childhood twin-sized bed, he got me a Queen mattress. It was awesome!

Fast-forward 10 years... Married for a couple of years, and still sleeping on that same mattress. My back started to hurt a few mornings per week; and with the sheets off, there was a noticable dip in the middle of the mattress.

Time to to mattress shopping!

Both Arti and I immediately had three ideas: "Dux Bed", "pillow top", and "memory foam". So off to the web to do some shopping...

The nearest Dux store was a 45 minute drive from here, and their beds were several thousand dollars. Too much effort at this point. A good pillow-top mattress was at least a thousand dollars, most are fifteen hundred. A "Tempur-Pedic" memory foam mattress ran anywhere from two to three thousand dollars. I found some knock-off memory foam mattresses, but those were a thousand to fifteen hundred dollars.

Then I found it -- an online store claiming to make a mattress identical to the Tempur-Pedic "Celebrity" bed (their top-of-the-line model), with a detailed diagram of the different layers of foam, right down to the density and type of each one.

Oh yes ... This got me thinking -- maybe I could just make my own! I had been to "Bob's Foam Factory" in Fremont in high school to get some padding for a watertight camera box (really a 50 caliber U.S. Army ammo box), so I figured there's gotta be some place to get the right kinds of foam.

Bob's Foam Factory didn't carry memory foam, so I couldn't give them some more business. However, some searching did come up with a few places that did carry it.

I settled on Foam Factory Inc. / Foam Distributing / economyfoam.com (ya, all three names are on the site in some place or another). They had it all, and the prices were pretty good. They were running a free shipping offer too, so there ya go.

Here's what I ordered (from the top surface of the mattress to the bottom layer):
  • $95 MF4Q62 Memory Foam 4.3LB - Queen - 60"x80"x 2"
  • $182 MF5Q63 Memory Foam 5.3LB - Queen - 60"x80"x 3"
  • $34 LRFE82 Lux Regular Foam - Eggcrate - 82"x76"x 2-1/2"
  • $114 LHQFFS84 Lux High Qual. Foam - Full Sheet - 82"x76"x 4"
Total price, shipped, was less than $450.

To ship the foam, they wrap it in plastic in some sort of vacuum chamber. The big 4" thick bottom piece came in a box only about 1.5 feet on a side. I opened the box, then rolled out this plastic-wrapped ball of highly compressed foam. I poked it a bit with an X-Acto knife, and this hissing and groaning sound filled the house. It started to grow. After a minute or so, there was this big ol' rectangular piece of foam in the middle of the living room.

The memory foam takes a lot longer to decompress -- a couple hours at least. Just make sure you have a place to set it (on the floor where the bed will be, hmm?) so that it can expand unfettered.

Since only the memory foam pieces were cut to a Queen size, I had to cut the others. I had a bunch of ideas, from carving at it with an X-Acto knife to getting my Skil Saw out and making a mess of it. I eventually compromised and used a serrated bread knife and a long board as a straightedge. It worked fine.

So with all the layers cut to the right size, it was just a matter of stacking them up on the bed platform. The foam is pretty grippy, so it doesn't need to be glued or attached to one another.

The cool thing about making your own mattress is that you can really customize the density of the foam according to what you like. I picked a medium density top layer for the "cozy factor", and a higher density second layer for support. The eggcrate provides a breathing channel to help maintain a good temperature. The bottom layer is just to prevent the mattress from "bottoming out" in case you decide to do pushups on it or something (your fists would fully compress the memory foam and touch the bed frame without the thick, firm layer underneath).

The first night was awesome -- the memory foam material is just super comfortable -- it holds you nicely, and it maintains a pleasant temperature. I woke up the next morning with a happy back -- and it's stayed back pain free for the 9 months since we put the mattress together.

I'd like to make a slip cover for the whole thing, but a normal mattress pad has been working just fine. Maybe one day...

So all in all, a good move. The foam should last at least as long as a normal mattress (10+ years, 25 years for a couple of the layers).


UPDATE May 12, 2008 -- the top layer of memory foam (the lightweight one) has given up the ghost and lost its mind. The other layers of foam are still in great shape, so we're rolling without the thin one. Comfortable once again!