DIY Latex Mattress Help

Iam putting together a latex mattress. It is a long process due to funds, however its almost finish soon. The problem I have is deciding on the next layers. Here’s how it looks:

2" over 3" of Dunlop Medium/Firm (28-30ILD) from Sleepwarehouse encased in a SLB Bamboo zippered cover. Iam 145lbs and primary side sleeper. Its sitting on a slat/plywood based twin bed frame.

I have been sleeping on it for about a week and suffering from a sore back and sometimes in the hip area. My hip seems to be sinking in past the 2 inches and into the 3 inches but not bottoming out. I really think the layers are more on the medium side. What is different is I had this 5 inches mattress on a twin coil mattress and foundation the previous week and had very little soreness.

Iam concerned it needs a firmer base like a 2-3 inches of 36 ILD latex. Was thinking of putting something like that on top of the 3 inches of Dunlop.

Anyone one with suggestions or ideas?


Hi Johnnydm,

It sounds to me like the mattress is a little on the firm side for the “average” pressure relief needs of a lighter side sleeper. This probably accounts for the hip soreness and may be part of the back pain as well (not enough soft foam to fill in the gaps in your sleeping profile and support the more recessed parts of your spine).

It may also be a little on the soft side for a support layer but with your lighter weight it’s may be OK (although it may have been better to put firmer latex in the bottom 3"). It’s quite normal for your hips to sink down into the lower layers of any 2" top layer because even firmer latex is elastic enough to compress under your weight.

This seems to be confirmed when you put the mattress on top of the coils (pocket coils?) which gave you a little more “give” under your pressure points.

Given that your layers are a little on the soft side for an “average” support layer (although still in the lower end of the typical range) and a little on the firm side for an “average” comfort layer … I’d probably suggest a 2" layer of softer latex on top (rather than the more typical 3" for a side sleeper). A good choice for “average” preferences would be Talalay in an ILD of about 19 - 24.

While only personal testing of similar layering can tell all of this for certain (nobody else can feel what you are feeling) … if your preferences were similar to most, a slightly thinner than average comfort layer (for your weight and sleeping position) would probably be the way to go.

I would also question the ILD of their soft Dunlop latex which may be firmer than it’s listing depending on the type of Dunlop that it is. You may be “safer” with a Talalay comfort layer.



Phoenix thanks for the advice.

Yesterday I did a experiment. I placed about 1inch of firm foam camping mat in between my layers. I put the 3inches over the mat because did’nt want to use the 2 inches incase it pushed to far into it. It seemed to work well, noticed a big decrease in stiffness and slept better. Like the firmer feeling too. I do need to place a 1 or 2inch softer Talalay layer on top, like a 22 or 24. Here’s what I think will happen:

The 3 inches on bottom + 1 inch firm Talalay (36 or 40 ILD) + 2 inches of the Dunlop + either 1 or 2 inches of 22-24 Talalay.

SLB has 1 inch of 36 ILD Talalay for $97 and 1 inch of 24ILD Talalay $98. All both are my twin size.

I heard that when you get in higher ILD Dunlop and Talalay are very similiar in firmness. Is this true? Do you think the 36 ILD will assist firming up the mid or prevent too much sinking?


Hi Johnnydm,

I didn’t answer this earlier because I wanted to let it “perk” a little while.

You are getting into what I call dominating layers which can be quite tricky. They are usually used to make a softer foam (or even an innerspring where a firm insulator is used) feel firmer, improve support, or reduce the amount a certain part of the body sinks into a mattress. It is more commonly used in certain areas as a form of zoning. It can have unpredictable results depending on the foam that is being used and how it interacts with the other layers, the depth that someone sinks into their mattress, and the sensitivity of certain areas of the body to pressure. Sometimes just the act of increasing the thickness itself, even with a slightly firmer foam, can allow for a net effect of the heavier parts sinking in more even though it is preventing it in the layer below it.

In effect … what happens depends on a combination of the ILD of the foam, the thickness of the foam, the point elasticity of the foam, and the compression modulus of the foam. Without knowing at least the ILD and density (so that the compression modulus can be estimated) it’s difficult to theorize about what may happen.

In general though … if the foam is anywhere from a little firmer all the way down to softer … putting it in between layers will add to the depth of the cradle and also reduce the support of the mattress.

If the foam is significantly firmer … then even if it has a lower compression modulus it will decrease the depth of cradle (reducing pressure relief) and improve the support.

There would also be a slight difference between a different layering arrangement of the 2" and 3" layers you have although this may be below the threshold of perception. A foam not only compresses under weight but it also “pulls” against the foam beside it which is “pulling back” against the compression. This is true as long as the foam is a single layer. If you have two layers that are stacked on top of each other, they will act softer than a single layer because when you compress into the second layer … the cut means that there is no foam pulling back against the compression that goes into the layer below. This also means that a 2" layer on top of a 3" layer of the same type of foam will be slightly softer than the other way around because a greater percentage of the compression will have foam “pulling back” against the compression.

So first of all … having the 3 inch layer on top will slightly firm up the mattress although this may not be noticeable. If the camping foam you have is significantly firmer than the latex (which it probably isn’t) … then it would reduce the pressure relief slightly and increase the support slightly. The increased support would be most noticeable in the areas of greatest weight (again assuming that the foam is significantly firmer than the latex).

If the camping mat is significantly firmer than the latex … or perhaps just because it is thin and will compress to it’s maximum more quickly and “bottom out” … it would create firmer support and would also lessen pressure relief. If it was only slightly firmer, or the same or softer … then the pressure relief may improve but because you would be “stopped” sooner because of the thinner overall foam … support would also likely improve.

So to relate this to your experience…

You noticed a decrease in stiffness which could mean that the mattress was “acting” softer on top (I’m inferring this because it seemed that the issues you mentioned before were connected to being too firm on top and even though you didn’t mention stiffness before it is what you meant by soreness). This would indicate to me that what you did actually softened the mattress and improved the pressure relief (you were sinking deeper into the foam on top) and filled in the gaps more which took up more of the weight and helped support the arch of the lumbar. Backwards logic also says that the camping foam may not be as firm as you thought or perhaps it is only a little firmer than the Dunlop. The support would also have improved under the heavier parts because there was not as much foam to sink into in total before you “hit the plywood” because the 2" layer was removed. In other words … it was both softer and firmer.

All of this is pure speculation of course because I don’t know exactly how you are interacting with the mattress and also don’t know the specs of the 1" camping foam but it would certainly fit the circumstances and your feedback.

Higher ILD Talalay and Dunlop do get “closer together” in compression modulus (comparable ILD’s would already be the same with 25% compression no matter how the densities compare) which would move the relative firmness beyond 25% compression closer together. This would be more true with all natural Talalay than with blended Talalay because blended is always lower density than all natural.

The firmest Dunlop usually goes up to about 95 kg/cubic meter which is about 6 lbs/cubic ft. The softest Dunlop (used for toppers) is usually around 65 kg/cu meter which is about 4 lbs/cubic ft. Blended Talalay goes down under 3 lbs cubic ft. and the firmest versions (44 ILD) are about 5 lbs/cubic ft. The natural Talalay is heavier so at the top of the scale it would be much closer to Dunlop than at the bottom of the scale.

So compared to your current setup (camping foam with 3" of 28-30 Dunlop over it)

This would increase the depth of cradle and pressure relief and how much your gaps were filled in compared to the Dunlop by itself with no softer foam over it.

I would take this 1 step at a time though because although the 1-2" talalay on top would soften the upper layers … putting the extra 4" on the bottom (3" Dunlop and the firm talalay) would also allow for more sinking in of your heavier parts compared to the previous support layer which was basically the camping foam and the plywood even though the Dunlop had firm talalay over it. It’s never as effective to use dominating layers as it is to actually have firmer layers underneath. It’s great for fine tuning if you have “room to spare” with pressure relief but it’s very difficult to firm up a mattress that is too soft in the support layers except a little bit. If there is softer foam under a firmer layer … it will still compress … just a little bit less. The firm foam doesn’t "“stop” the compression of the foam underneath it in other words … it just modifies it a little bit.

By adding the new softer layer first … then you can see how that works for pressure relief and then add the next step based on your experience with the last one. You may not even need the firmer talalay. Wherever possible … I would always use softer latex over firmer latex rather than the other way around and only use dominating layers for zoning of fine tuning (rather than larger changes).

With your weight, My “gut” says 2" of softer talalay would work OK over a medium transition layer. The “questionable variable” may be that you have a couple of inches of Dunlop that may need to be replaced for a firmer bottom layer although you may just get away with it. Once you have filled in the gaps a little more firmly and more of your weight is spread out over a larger surface area, Then I would decide if you needed a further step.

In all of this you haven’t mentioned anything about our shoulders and whether they are feeling pressure or “scrunched”. It might also help to know what type of side sleeper you are (top leg bent and directly on the mattress or more of a fetal or semi fetal position with both legs bent and one on top of the other). Where are your arms when you side sleep (one under your head or not) and what type of pillow do you have (thickness and softness looking at upper spine and neck alignment and position).


Thanks for the excellent reply.

I found out my shoulders are pressed into a little so a softer top layer would be my next investment. I think 1inch would be to little and as you mentioned 2 inches would be ideal.

Really appreciate for taking the time to help out.

Hi Phoenix,

I just have a some questions and advice to ask.

I checked out Sleepwarehouse website and they stated they have new Dunlop “medium to firm” toppers at 26 ILD and 5.2 lb.
Iam understanding that my 3 inch and 2 inch topper is to low for a base core layer. So I should have initially invested in a firmer core first. Like a 36 or 40 ILD core for my weight. I could use either the 2 inches or 3 inches for the mid layer and than finish off with 2inches of softer comfort. So would you agree this fair to say?

I switched to sleeping on the 3 inches and 2 inches at bottom and experienced very stiff neck/ shoulders and back. I dug out a 2 inch memory foam topper I had used in the past, so going to try that on top of the 2 inches and than the 3 inches.

Hi Johnnydm,

“Averages” suggest that this is probably true. The only way to really know for sure though is to test mattresses with a simple construction and known layerings so that your own experiences can act as a prototype. I have seen many cases where the desire to save some money and go with a complete DIY without using a manufacturer who offers layer returns or exchanges and has many years of experience in which types of mattress may work for different individuals can end up being more expensive than the alternative. Mattress design is not as simple as many people would assume when they decide to go with an approach where they become their own designer. In your case for example your layers may have been in a “dangerous middle” where they are too firm for a comfort layer and too soft for a support layer. Basically you were trying to build a mattress out of toppers.

I would do a lot of testing on various options before deciding where to go next. The odds are that the “best” layering may be using either your 2" or your 3" layer as a middle layer and then adding firmer under it and softer over it.

I would probably focus on the softer top first just to see how it works and then based on your experiences with that decide if you can “get away with” what you have bought or if you need to firm up the support under it. The thinnest possible upper layer that relieves pressure (likely 2") will increase the odds that your lower layers may work.


Hi Phoenix,

Thanks again…wish I would have starting reading your mattress forum before this. Anyways, will have to work something out. The plan is to use the 2 inch or 3 inch as the mid layers. If I have an extra layer I could use it for something else.

After your comments, I know what I want as a comfort layer and will be ordering that soon. For the base core would you suggest a 36 or 40 ILD Talala? Do you think 3 inches will do or should I just get solid one piece 5.5 or 6 inch core?

Thank you,

Hi John,

I would take it one step at a time and then decide on the next step based on your experience with the one before it. So I would first get the comfort layer and sleep on it for a while so that your experience can tell you if you need a firmer base layer or if the ones you have will work.

Hopefully with your lighter weight and with a thinner top layer, the 2" and 3" “support” layers will be OK.

I would think about any other additions or changes after you’ve slept on the new configuration for a while and if you did need to keep a middle transition layer and put a firmer layer under it … I would use your experience to decide whether to use the 2" or 3" layer in the middle and to decide on the firmness of the layer under it.


Hi Phoenix…just wanted to update a change that I made to the mattress and have a couple of questions if you could please help me out with.

I have been sleeping with 2 inches of memory foam on top of the Dunlop layers. The memory foam is about 5years old and probably not the best one but works for now. Its been 3 nights now and noticing less pain in the neck. Waking up with some stiffness in the neck. I do notice stiffness in the lower back and hip area.

Is it fair to say that the memory foam is relieving some presure in the shoulders? Noticing less crunching of the shoulders with the foam.

I will be making a purchase for 2 inches of 22 ILD Talalay topper to replace the memory foam. I should anticipate this will work better than the older memory foam topper.

I think a firmer base foam should help with the hip and shoulders. Due to finances I may have to purchase some HD or HR Poly foam for now. I was thinking a LUX HQ either 3 or 4 inches?

Another deal I noticed was a Dunop Tr-Zone 5.5 inches, ILD 31-35-31 and for $349. I realize it is 75% SBR and 25% Rubber. Any experiences about this core layer?


Hi Johnnydm,

Yes …this would be fair to say. The memory foam layer would certainly help with pressure relief and shoulder scrunching.

I would think so yes. It will be softer and more pressure relieving than the Dunlop that you currently have and increase the pressure relief but it would also be more supportive than “old memory foam” and isolate you a little more from the firmness of the Dunlop layer underneath it. In other words … it will be more pressure relieving than your current Dunlop but you won’t sink through it to the Dunlop layers below it as easily as the memory foam.

I would wait with this until after you have purchased the 22 ILD talalay to check how your current layers are working for you. One step at a time is always more accurate. I would also avoid purchasing from Foam By Mail (who sells “Lux” foam which is just their name for polyfoam) and I would never buy any latex from them because the odds are far too high that what you believe you are buying will not be what you actually get. When you end up with “unknown” foam (whether the unknown is the type of foam, the type of latex, or the ILD) … it makes it impossible to know how to put your layering together. I also don’t completely trust their “Lux” foam because their specs don’t match the specs that higher density or HR polyfoam should have (particularly with their rating for sag factor). It may be that the specs are listed incorrectly but I wouldn’t take the chance with something as important as a mattress that you will be sleeping on for a long time. Perhaps in the bottom layer I would use it if absolutely necessary but even there I personally would have trouble supporting a business that causes more confusion than their prices help … especially when the small difference in price between them and other polyfoam suppliers that are more accurate and reliable is very small.

As you probably know I’m not the greatest fan of mostly synthetic Dunlop (natural Dunlop is more elastic) but having said that … depending on the price and source and someone’s budget … it can be good value.


Hi Phoenix,

Would like to ask you what you think about putting a memory foam layer underneath the top layer of latex.?

I did an experiment of placing a 2 inch memory foam (5 year old sleep inovation foam beigish color) underneath my 2 inch of fim dunlop and than my 3 inchs underneath the memory foam. I noticed just a little stiffness in neck and shoulders however no pain in hips or lower back. I think ideally a slightly softer latex inplace of the 2 medium/firm dunlop should be better.
Now just holding off on a the comfort layer because I may only get 1 inch and purchase a higher quality foam of 2 inches. Thinking of Auerus or Bayer.

Hi johnnydm,

I personally like the feel of some types of Latex/memory foam hybrid layering and it’s fairly high up on my list of preferences. Of course as you mentioned … the trick is to get the combination right in terms of both the softness and type of latex, layer thickness, and type of memory foam as well. In particular … I liked the feel of the NXG 575 which has a thin layer of latex over a fairly thin 2" layer of memory foam over 3" of latex (all over pocket coils).

Like you I would tend to put a softer latex over the memory foam (and probably thinner as well so you are a little closer to the memory foam).