Do-It-Yourself Latex Mattresses
Where do you start?
There are many factors that are involved in choosing a mattress that is right for you. First, you need to study what kind of sleeper you are. Do you prefer to sleep on your back, your stomach, or your side? People who sleep on their back and stomach tend to enjoy firmer mattresses, while side sleepers often need softer mattresses. Those of us that sleep on our stomach with one of our legs hiked up frequently need contour directly beneath our supportive layer. Once you figure out what kind of sleeper you are, you will understand what kind of bed you should be building.
We recommend spending some time identifying the things you enjoy about your current bed, as well as problems you might be experiencing. Do you find yourself tossing and turning at night? If you are experiencing lower back pain, it might be that your current mattress does not offer you enough support. If you wake up with numbness or aching in your shoulder and hips, it could be that your current bed is not providing enough contour, causing too much pressure against those areas.
Do some basic latex research.
There are two different processes that are used to manufacture latex foam: Dunlop and Talalay. There are millions of articles online dedicated to explaining and comparing these different manufacturing processes, but we are going to discuss how these processes affect the feel of the latex, not the firmness. A firm piece of Dunlop latex compared to Talalay latex will have similar firmness, but they will behave differently when it's time for you to rest on it.
To create latex using the Dunlop process, the manufacturer simply pours the rubber and leaves it to cool naturally, and this is considered the most natural process. Dunlop latex will typically have minor cosmetic imperfections natural to the process, and will be denser towards the bottom of the layer. This means that it will have a thicker consistency, less of a bounce, but a more supportive feeling.
Talalay Latex is created by adding compressed air into the latex rubber during the manufacturing process, and results in a more uniform appearance, and larger holes throughout the latex. This results in a lighter consistency, provide more resistance, and contour to your body better.
What does "Organic" really mean?
In the mattress industry, the term "natural" does not really mean that a mattress is "organic." For a mattress to be considered truly "organic," the latex serum the mattress was produced from must come from a certified organic latex farm that also has a certified processing and production methods. However, "100% Natural" latex is effectively the same organic process without the certification. In some cases you'll see latex that is identified just as "natural," and you should be wary of these, as the percentage of natural latex in the mattress makes a significant difference.
ILD stands for Indentation Load Deflection. In simple terms, it's the measurement of how much force is required to compress a material by 25% of it's thickness. The Latex Mattress Factory Latex Topper is available in four different firmness options: soft (19 ILD), medium (28 ILD), firm (38 ILD), and x-firm (44ILD).
- Soft (19 ILD) — Excellent for side sleepers who want their mattress to contour and provide pressure relief.
- Medium (28 ILD) — Offers the perfect balance of contour and support for any side or back sleeper. Ideal for couples looking to compromise between cushion and support.
- Firm (38 ILD) — Provides great pressure relief and support for stomach sleepers or any sleeper that prefers a firm mattress.
Find a design that works.
If you are unsure where to start when planning your bed, research stores who sell latex mattresses and ask them to recommend one of their models based on your needs. If possible, try to lay on the mattress. We are aware that right now, that is a little harder done than said. Most latex dealers are internet based, so the next best thing you can do is to ask your selected retailer if there's another local retailer that carries a similar design you can see and try. If you cannot try the bed once you've found a design that works for you, try to emulate it in your DIY mattress.
If you are part of a couple, consider splitting your mattress down the middle to allow both parties to customize their sleep surface. If you are building a split queen, you'll need two layers that measure: 30 x 80. If you are building a split king, you'll need two Twin-XL layers.
How many inches of latex do I need? How many layers should I expect to buy?
That is going to depend on a lot of different factors, primarily your height and body weight, and what type of sleeper you are. We recommend that children sleep on approximately 6 -7" of medium to firm latex. Most average adults are comfortable on 9" of latex. Heavier adults typically need anywhere from 10" to 13" of latex.
Buy one layer at a time, and start from the bottom up.
To minimize the potential of costly mistakes or the possibility of buying more layers than you need, we recommend only buying one layer at a time. We also recommend that you begin building your bed from the ground up. Buy your support layer. It can be a combination of layers or a six-inch core. If you want more customizable options, we recommend stacking two three-inch layers with different firmnesses on top of one another to create the support core of your bed. For instance, a 3" inch medium layer and 3" firm layer. As a note, we do not recommend stacking two "soft" layers onto of one another as there is a noticeable loss of back support.
Have a pillow handy to perform this test. Lay down on the layer(s). Start on your back, and try to slip your hand behind the lower curves in your back, and the bed. If you can slide your hand between yourself and the bed, it means that your hips are not dropping into the bed far enough, and, as a result, you are not getting the proper back support. If you are not getting enough back support, it could mean buying another mild contour layer (like a medium) or purchasing another support layer.
Buy your contour layer(s) next. We typically recommend starting with one 3" contour layer. Depending on your height and body weight, that could mean purchasing a 3" soft layer or a 3" medium layer. Only buy one contour layer at a time, stack it on top of your support layers, and try the bed with each new addition.
Have a pillow handy to perform this test. Turn onto your side, and have someone stand behind you so they can see the alignment of your spine. Your hips and your shoulders should be perpendicular to the bed. Your shoulder blades should be flush with your back. If any of these things are missing, chances are you are not getting the proper contour, which leads to pressure points. After laying on your side for five minutes, if you start to experience any discomfort at all, chances are you need to buy another contour layer.
Select a cover for your latex layers. What cover you use to encase your layers can have a significant effect on the overall feel the bed. If you are looking for more contour, we recommend enclosing your layers in a 4-way stretch cotton knit cover or something similar. This cover is usually thinner than a quilted cover, which lets your latex breathe better, and typically offers the greatest range of mobility. This does not mean the latex is going to migrate; it means that the sides of the bed are not pinned down by fabric which helps the latex shape around your body.
If you want a more traditional looking sleep surface and the benefits of wool, we recommend looking for a quality cotton quilted to wool cover. In addition to acting as a natural fire resistant barrier, wool is naturally hypoallergenic, temperature regulating and helps wick away moisture. The wool will add an extra inch or so of padding to the mattress, and if you are layers are split for individual customization, it will help mask the seam in the middle of the bed.
Make sure you have a flat foundation for your bed. While you can always setup your latex mattress on the floor, anyone seeking a foundation should know that while slatted bases accommodate all kinds of beds, and they are uniquely suited to bearing latex mattresses. The slats should not be spaced more than 3" apart. We do not recommend purchasing a Euro slat or a standalone wire foundation for your latex mattress, either.
If you have a functioning box spring, we recommend taking a trip to your local home improvement store and purchasing a 1 - 3-inch slab of plywood to lay between the box spring and the mattress. The additional plywood platform will ensure that the box spring coils do not poke, or shred the bottom of your mattress. The extra platform will also ensure that your latex is laying on an even surface, which is crucial for the overall longevity of the mattress.
How to check and make sure I've built the right bed for me? Have a pillow handy to perform these tests. Lay down on the layer(s). Start on your back, and try to slip your hand behind the lower curves in your back, and the bed. If you can slide your hand between yourself and the bed, it means that your hips are not dropping into the bed far enough, and, as a result, you are not getting the proper back support. If you are not getting enough back support, it could mean buying another mild contour layer (like a medium) or purchasing another support layers.
Turn onto your side, and have someone stand behind you so they can see the alignment of your spine. Your hips and your shoulders should be perpendicular to the bed. Your shoulder blades should be flush with your back. If any of these things are missing, chances are you are not getting the proper contour, which leads to pressure points. After laying on your side for five minutes, if you start to experience any discomfort at all, chances are you need to buy another contour layer.