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Mattress Shopping Without Nightmares Part 2

Updated on May 31, 2010

The coils are a major part of what gives a mattress its firmness. Each manufacturer touts a different configuration and a different number of coils as providing the best support you can buy. In general, the more coils a mattress has, the better the support, but once you get to a certain level, there's really little difference. A premium-priced full-size mattress should have a coil count in the mid-600s, while the best queen-size mattresses have a count of about 900.

The gauge of steel the coils are made of also comes into play; heavier gauges provide firmer support, even when there are fewer coils. The major manufacturers all use quality coils in their flagship lines. For example, there are nine levels of Sealy bedding. Their top-of-the-line mattress, which has the highest coil count, is the best choice, but the coil count remains about the same throughout their products with the exception of two entry-level lines. It's the type and amount of padding and the choice of materials that make the difference in price.

And what kind of padding can you expect to find in better-quality mattresses? Starting at the springs and working up to the surface, there is usually some kind of protective webbing or mesh and insulation padding directly atop the springs, followed by several layers of cotton and foam in various thicknesses and densities. The top layers of polyurethane foam padding are stitched to the ticking fabric, which can range from polyester to imported damask.

When you sit on the edge of your bed, it puts a lot of pressure on a small section of your mattress. Mattress makers have devised a host of strategies for keeping the edges in shape. Some companies concentrate more coils near the edges, others have edge braces and supports. Often, mattress makers increase the density of the foam padding around the edges to increase support.

Mattresses today are a lot thicker, thanks to all that padding; your fitted sheets probably won't stretch to cover a new mattress. After you buy a new bed, you'll doubtless have to buy linens marked “high contour” or “deep profile.”

Prices depend on how many layers of padding there are, their thickness, and the type of materials used, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $700 to $2,000 for a top-quality queen-size mattress set. You can, in fact, buy an entry-level name-brand mattress set for less than $300. But you'll be sacrificing all of the features that make pricier options good — high coil count, extra padding, and durability. Regardless of how much you spend, most retailers offer free or low-cost local delivery, and will remove your old mattress for you as well.

The warranty is another important factor to consider. Manufacturers of top-quality mattresses offer warranties of ten to 20 years. In some cases they're not prorated so if, five years into a ten-year warranty, the mattress fails to remain comfortable, you get the full purchase price back.

There are many other choices beyond innerspring mattresses. Springless mattresses, which include water, air, and foam mattresses, might be just what you're looking for if innerspring mattresses don't suit you.

Continued In Mattress Shopping Without Nightmares Part 3

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