DIY Modular Mattress Advice

Hello everyone!

I am newly-graduated and preparing to move. My next priority is setting up my bed. I have been researching hard for nearly a month, and every time I think I have my decision down, something else comes up and throws me back to square one. I would greatly appreciate advice/feedback on my mattress plan.

I am female, 5’7", 110 lbs, and nearly 100% side-sleeping. Happy to give you any other relevant details I may have missed.

Here is where I am decision-wise:

  1. I will be using one of these (twin) futon loungers: The frames are solid wood, so they are strong and stable, and the slats are close together allowing air flow without letting the mattress poke through.

  2. I would like to build the mattress myself. The plan so far is to begin with a 6" 100% natural dunlop core as a base. After some time attempting to adjust to that, I will decide what sort of topper to add (if any). I’m hoping this tactic will allow me to adjust to latex as well as spread out the financial “loss”.

For the sake of efficiency, I will try to anticipate some questions you might have:

  1. I am thinking dunlop over talalay because I think it will be simpler to add a soft topper to a core that is too firm than to try to figure out how to firm up a core that is too soft. Also, dunlop has served so many people faithfully for decades and I appreciate the time-tested nature that is not yet guaranteed with talalay. This is why I believe I would even prefer dunlop over an equally firm talalay.

  2. I do worry that latex itself might be too springy to behave on a futon lounger when the back is upright. I have seen futon grippers that use friction to keep a mattress still, perhaps those will work here.

  3. The firmest surface I have slept on is a floor with a sleeping bag for 4 months (college!) and I adjusted to that without issue. I understand that as I get older, that luxury will disappear but I mention it because the modular system I have in mind will allow me to customize my mattress to the demands of my body as they come rather than jumping the gun on layers of softness I don’t yet need. After the floor, the dunlop should be a breeze, at least in the beginning.

  4. I do have an appropriate mattress cover planned out, that I will sew myself out of wool once I know the specs of the particular core.

So unless my plan is unwise or unfeasible, my next question is where I can source the 6" all-natural dunlop core for the best price. At present, the best I have found so far (from a trusted MU source) is from Arizona Premium Mattress Company here: Latex Mattresses On Sale - Latex Mattress Toppers - Phoenix, AZ. They are even MU members.

But I really would benefit by paying less than APMC’s $570 (with shipping). Are there any out there for less?

Obviously if you have any other questions that I failed to anticipate, I will gladly answer them.

Thanks so much for your time!

Hi palla,

There are too many unknowns, variables, and personal preferences involved to be able to predict which mattress design will work best for any specific person based on specs (either for the person or the mattress) or theory at a distance. When you can’t test a specific design in person (or something that is very close to the same) then the best way to choose the combination that you believe would work well for you would be more detailed conversations with a knowledgeable retailer or manufacturer (see mattress firmness/comfort levels in post #2 here which also includes links to some “generic” information but isn’t specific for any person).

If the slats are 3" or less apart then this should certainly work well.

I would make sure you’ve read post #15 here about building a DIY mattress to make sure you have realistic expectations about the success of your initial choices and the trial and error that may be involved. The most effective approach for building a DIY mattress is a “spirit of adventure” where your experiences and the satisfaction that goes with the DIY process itself and what you learn along the way is more important than any cost savings you may or may not realize which will depend on how well your initial choices work out and whether you need to purchase any additional layers to “correct” any choices that turn out to be less than ideal for you in terms of PPP (Posture and alignment, Pressure relief, and Personal preferences).

Having said that … I think your overall approach is a good one … especially since you are used to sleeping on the floor. This way you can build your mattress from the “bottom up” and use your experience on the previous step to help you decide on what (if anything) needs to be added to your previous layering. While you really aren’t adding a topper since it will all end up inside your cover when you are done … post #2 here and the topper guidelines it links to may be useful to help you decide on the thickness and firmness of the comfort layer that may work best for you on the support core you start with.

Both Talalay and Dunlop have been used for decades although Dunlop was introduced in 1929 so it’s a little older than Talalay which was introduced in the late 30’s (see post #9 here). Both manufacturing processes have a long history behind them.

Your configuration would be the opposite than many people would choose (Talalay is more common in the comfort layers because it is more commonly available in softer and more pressure relieving versions and Dunlop is often used as a support core because in the same ILD it has a higher compression modulus and is more “supportive” than Talalay) but all of these types of choices are a personal preference and there really isn’t a “right or wrong”. There is more about the different types and blends of latex in this article and in post #6 here.

The most effective way to know how you feel about latex itself or which of the different types of latex you may prefer would be with your own personal testing. Latex works very well on an adjustable bed because it’s very flexible (and very heavy) and it should work well on your futon lounger as well.

This sounds like an interesting project as well. It may be difficult to quilt the wool to the cover without a quilting machine or unless you have some expertise in making wool quilted covers.

I certainly think highly of Ken at Arizona Premium and they are a great source for components and expertise. The component post here also includes some additional sources for latex of different types and blends.

Good luck with your DIY project and I hope that things work “perfectly” for you with your initial choices which of course is always the ideal :).


Thanks Phoenix,

I am definitely feeling the spirit of adventure, though my financial limits do set a more modest pace that I think actually benefits me in the end. I think my plans are realistic as the “bottom up” nature of the layering will ensure that I know exactly what, if anything, needs to change at every step.

I am glad you approve of my approach and I assume I will eventually add comfort layers, so I would prefer the core to be more supportive than comfortable.

I do have a quilting machine and putting the cover together should be a relative breeze compared to all the mattress research!

Unfortunately, I have just now been told that 6" dunlop would not work on the futon lounger. The reply to my inquiry to Habitat Furnishings says that it is too firm, with customers finding that it “flops off” their frames when attempting the folded position. I’m not sure what to think now. Should I look for a thinner piece of dunlop? I feel like 4" alone would be a glorified topper and uncomfortable to boot.

Hi palla,

I’m a little confused. I thought that the futon lounger was at Night & Day furniture and that the Dunlop layer was coming from How does Habitat fit into the picture?

I can’t tell exactly how the latex would be bending from the picture of the lounger but if it was similar to the angles and articulation of an adjustable bed (the back of mine raises to 73 degrees) I would think that a 6" 100% natural Dunlop core in a normal firmness range would be fine. I thought that I would check with and he thought the same thing (again assuming that the articulation was similar to an adjustable bed).

If they have specific experience with 6" of 100% natural Dunlop though on this particular lounger and in their experience it doesn’t work well then I would certainly take their experience to heart but I would have thought otherwise.


Habitat was in the picture because over the last couple of weeks I have been putting feelers out to different brands, asking about cores. I also mention the futon lounger because it is a bit unusual and I thought it would be pertinent information to give.

The Habitat rep offhandedly mentioned that the springiness could be a problem. I asked for clarification and got the answer about the mattresses flopping off. They don’t ship just cores so that part is moot but I am glad the potential problem was mentioned.

Does your adjustable bed actually fold the mattress or does it simply bend it? I think the articulation might in fact be a bit different. Although the angle seems much the same, the lounger appears to actually fold rather than bend the mattress when the back is up: Perhaps 6" of latex has difficulty taking a fold?

Hi palla,

I’m not quite sure what the difference between “folding” and “bending” would be. An adjustable bed “bends” at a sharp angle in the platform base and the latex has a little bit more rounded contour where it follows the sharpness of the bend. There is also a bracket at the end of the adjustable to keep the latex from sliding with steeper head angles so maybe this is what he was thinking about but your idea of a “gripper” or something to keep the latex core from shifting towards the foot if this was to happen would probably be a good idea but I don’t think that the ability of the latex to bend would be an issue and latex is the most flexible of all the foam materials.

You can see a video here of how an adjustable bed articulates with a Dunlop latex mattress here.


I suppose that by “bending” vs “folding” I was referring to the angles at which the mattress is being held.

The bend of the futon frame seems tighter, almost as though it would attempt to “pinch” the mattress to a point. The adjustable bed, on the other hand, seems to form a softer slope that appears to apply less pressure on the mattress. Perhaps that is my imagination.

The grippers seem a bit iffy to me because of the heavy weight of the mattress, but I am glad you mentioned the bracket on the adjustable. If it comes down to it, I could look into putting something like that onto the lounger frame - I doubt it could flop out of that! I’ll obviously have to look into the warranty issues if it does come to that.

I’m also glad you mentioned latex being the most flexible of the foam materials. I see so many foams being used for futon mattresses and they don’t seem to have many problems. It would seem to me the latex with it’s weight holding it in place would perform very well.

I suppose I just get nervous when a seller directly tells me that a product won’t work. This is what was recommended instead:

Hi palla,

Firm latex that is suitable for a support core is certainly more flexible, elastic, and “floppy” than firm polyfoam … and it’s much more durable.

They may have been “selling” you more than “educating” you.

The Serta motion perfect adjustable bed also uses a zipper to secure the mattress to the adjustable bed instead of a bracket on the end which may be an idea you could use as well. Even a strip of velcro on the end of the mattress which attached to velcro on the lounger may work.


Ah yes, why didn’t I think of velcro? I bet I could even find some heavier duty version to use… just found Dual Lock by 3m - it’s an industrial strength velcro. Seems like just the ticket. A bonus for not voiding my warranty :slight_smile:

Yes, durability was my main draw to latex in the first place, and much of the reason I am determined to make this work with the lounger. I am very willing to go through a bit of teething trouble for the sake of durability.

Thanks a ton for all the help! I am currently narrowing down my options based on your components list, seeing who has samples of their product in different ILDs.