Innerspring Mattress Buying Guide

There is a good chance that you have had, or do have an innerspring mattress right now.  They are the most popular mattress and have been since the early 1900′s.

Components of an Innerspring Mattress

The Spring Core

The spring core is what puts the “spring” in innerspring.  It is made up of many spring coils, made of steel.  These coils are the reason your bed is bouncy.

The gauge of the coil determines whether you have a stiff bed or one that gives more under pressure.  Higher quality mattresses will usually have a 14-15.5 gauge which has more give than lesser quality mattresses with 12.5 gauge coils.

The four different types of springs are Bonnell coils, Marshall coils, Offset coils and Continuous coils.  You can read more about each here.

The Foundation

A foundation is typically a separate piece than a mattress.  These are most commonly referred to as box springs, even though a box spring is just one type of mattress foundation.  The following are the three most common kinds of mattress foundations:

  1. Box Spring – A rigid frame which usually contains extra heavy duty springs.  The springs allow your mattress to have some more bounce and offer softer support.  One major con to using a box spring is that they allow your mattress to sag.
  2. Traditional Wood Foundation – Commonly known in the bed industry as an “Ortho Box.”  These foundation are made with a soft wood like pine and consist of 7-8 support slats.  A wood foundation typically increases the stability and firmness of the mattress.
  3. Grid Foundation – Combination of wood and steel.  These foundations are known to provide the greatest innerspring mattress support.

The Upholstery Layers

Some mattress manufacturers will call this the “comfort layer”.  The upholstery layer is often the part of the mattress which is used in a sales pitch because of the different materials covering the mattress or even the “topper” layer.  The topper layer can increase the softness of a mattress and can contain latex or memory foam.

See our other guides:

Memory Foam Mattress Buying Guide

Latex Mattress Buying Guide

Different Types of Mattresses

When I was growing up, there was only one kind of mattress available.  It was the bouncy one that you can jump up and down on, the one that you had to flip over to avoid having it sag in the middle, the one that might get coils popping out of it after a few years.  God, I hated those old coil mattresses.  Today, there is a slew of different kinds that you can choose from.

Memory Foam Mattresses

This is the kind of mattress that got popular after you saw those Tempurpedic commercials.  You remember them right?  The commercials with somebody jumping up and down on a bed, a bed that had a glass of wine on it, and the glass didn’t spill!

Well these mattresses are a little more than just something that you can jump around in with a glass of wine.  Memory foam beds were actually created using a NASA engineered product, “visco-elastic” polyurethane foam.  NASA tried to make a new material that would work well in space, but they wound up introducing the foam to the public in the 1980s without a set use for it.  In comes Tempurpedic to figure out that this would make for a nice bedding material.  Since then, Tempurpedic has become a household name that most people associate with memory foam while there are still so many more alternatives to Tempurpedic that can save you a boat load of money.

Latex Foam Mattresses

Latex is one of the newer compounds being used to create bedding.  Latex offers some of the same benefits as memory foam, plus it is much lighter and doesn’t hold in the heat like memory foam.  The cost of a latex foam mattress vs memory foam mattresses is usually a bit higher.

Latex mattresses aren’t all created equally, by the way.  There are natural latex beds, then there are synthetic latex mattresses. You’ll also find a synthetic blend.  Then, you also have both Talalay and Dunlop methods for creating the beds.  We go more into those differences in the Latex Foam Mattress Buying Guide.

Luxury Air Mattresses

I could have just said “air mattresses”, but people immediately start thinking about those Coleman air mattresses designed for camping or for your guests that would rather sleep on these beds than on your couch.

Air mattresses have come a long way over the years, finding themselves in the luxury mattress category.  A popular kind would be the Sleep Number air mattresses that allow you to personalize the softness/hardness (firmness) of your bed. Higher end models even allow you to adjust the air on 2 different sides of the beds so that each person can sleep in their own comfort level.

Water Mattresses (Toppers)

I’m not going to talk about the old waterbeds from the 1970′s.  Those beds have earned themselves a bad name by being uncomfortable, expensive, flimsy and bad for your joints.  I think I actually used to get seasick sleeping on those.  These still exist, but I refuse to recommend any of them for any reason other than a 1975 themed party.

Modern waterbeds, however, can be given a recommendation.  The old waterbeds used to just have one giant “bladder” that you would fill with water.  Today there are two advanced luxury waterbeds that use systems to keep the water moving throughout the mattress system in a controlled manner rather than free flowing around the bladder.  The new waterbeds are made with hydraulic or coil based technologies to provide better sleep and comfort.

The Best Mattress

I really can’t say what “the best mattress” you can buy is.  There are different things that you need to take into consideration that are individual to each person.  Some people have a lower budget and focus on that while other have medical conditions like fibromyalgia that might look for a mattress to treat that.