Image: YouTube screengrab
A pinned post at the top of r/Mattress subreddit is a detailed introduction to the joy of building your own mattress. “The idea seems so novel and unusual that most people can’t even fathom the concept,” user the_leviathan711 wrote in the guide. “I think this is largely because most people have no idea what their mattress is made out of or how it’s supposed to work. If they did know, they would realize that it’s not nearly as crazy it seems to DIY it.”
Buying a mattress is as easy or as hard as you make it. Some will spend hours agonizing over information, weighing the options between different brands, going into stores to lay down on different beds, and pouring over detailed spec sheets online. Others will simply purchase a mattress from an online store and have it delivered.For around $700, companies that advertise on the podcasts you listen to will deliver a box to your door. When you open the box a mattress will unravel before your eyes. Unless the mattress is making you uncomfortable or causing you pain, there’s a good chance you’ll never think about your bed or its provenance again.For the ultimate mattress-head there seems to be but one option: make your own. This is not an option people take because they want to save money or time. “It all depends on what your budget is and how much tinkering you have to do with your DIY mattress,” the_leviathan711 said in their post. “If you get your build right on your first go, you will probably save a substantial amount of money compared to a similar quality pre-built. If your build requires a lot of swapping layers in and out, then the costs could start to add up.”According to the_leviathan711’s rough math, a basic queen-size memory foam mattress will run $300 to $750 whie fancier queen-size latex hybrids can cost as much as $700. A middle of the road mattress from one of the online retailers costs about $700. An unscientific survey of Motherboard staff found that no one had paid more than $1,000 for their mattress.
Focusing on the costs is missing the point, building your own mattress is about definitively knowing what you’re sleeping on. According to the_leviathan711, a mattress is simple. It’s made of a soft comfort layer that’s between 2 and 4 inches thick and a firm support layer between 4 and 8 inches thick. Put one layer on top of another and wrap it all in a cover that fits tight and you’ve got a mattress. Those are the basics, but there’s so much more to the world of DIY mattresses.“That doesn’t mean all mattresses are only two layers,” they said in their post. “A comfort layer could include two different components—like a layer of soft latex and memory foam for example. Similarly, a support layer might also contain multiple components—like latex of two different firmness levels. A mattress might also contain a transition layer that provides a bridge between the soft and firm. How you decide to construct your mattress is up to you—but at the most basic you need something that’s going to be firm enough to support your weight and soft enough to provide pressure relief in your sleeping position.”From there, the would-be mattress constructor stacks the comfort layer on top of the firm layer and wraps them in a tight fitting cover to hold it all together. That’s it. “You can glue the layers together if you want,” the_leviathan711 said in their post. “You can even tuft them together if you’ve got the sewing skills. But you don’t have to do that—a DIY mattress encased in a good quality zippered case should perform just as well as a pre-built.”
Much of the post is a detailed discussion of sourcing the different layers. “If you need something fast and cheap, your best bet might be a memory foam topper off Amazon or purchased in person at a place like Walmart, Target or Costco,” the post said. “If product specs are available, a comfort layer will typically have an ILD below 20, although larger people and stomach sleepers may prefer something firmer.”the_leviathan711 also suggested taking an old mattress with a bad comfort layer, removing it, and using something as a topper. This is mattress surgery, but be careful. “Do not attempt mattress surgery on a cheap mattress due to the potential dangers of releasing fiberglass!!!” They said in the post. This is, as the_leviathan711, merely a beginner's guide to the world of DIY mattresses. The post contains hints of a vast hobbyist world of obsessive mattress construction. There’s The Mattress Underground, where people gather to trade information on buying and building mattresses. Diymattress.net sells the components you’ll need to make your own and offers simple tutorials on construction. There are dozens of YouTube videos that can walk you through the process. Comments on the thread are overwhelmingly positive. A moderator on the subreddit mentioned they were about to write a similar thread then provided their own tips. Several people shared their favorite sources for the various materials. The DIY mattress is like building a gaming PC. It might save you a little money, but you’ll probably be just as happy buying something pre-constructed. It’ll certainly save you a lot of time and energy. the_leviathan711 acknowledged this in their post. “If you’re willing to do the research needed and take on the financial risks—then it might absolutely be the best approach for you,” they said. “That being said, it’s entirely possible that DIY will require too much time and energy and it may just be easier to get a pre-built. That’s ok too!”