Firmness question, not sure if too soft or too firm.

Hi, I got a few questions about firmness ratings. My wife and I are 5’8", weight between 120-145lbs side/back sleepers. My current mattress is a DIY with pieces from FBM (FoamByMail, Foam Factory). It’s made up of 3" talalay latex (32 ILD) on top and 5" of lux-r foam (50 ILD) on the bottom. There are inconsistencies in the FBM latex; for example, some parts feel firmer/softer than others, but overall the mattress has been very comfortable.

Recently, I get aches/soreness around my shoulders/upperback, while my hips/lowerback are fine. It feels like the 3" 32 ILD latex is too soft, and the 5" 50 ILD lux-r foam is too firm. Too soft and too firm at same time, does that even make sense?

I got 2 options in mind:

1 – add an inch of 40 ILD Everlon between the latex and lux-r.
2 – replace the 32 ILD talalay with a 36 ILD talalay from one of the vendors here.

Which option should I go with?

Hi Tenmand,

This would be normal for Dunlop latex which can have a range of ILD’s across the surface. Unfortunately FBM also doesn’t accurately list what they are selling so there is no way to really know the ILD of what they sell or use what you ordered as a reference point. This is part of the reason I don’t recommend them as a source (see post #2 here along with post #2 here).

This makes perfect sense to me. A mattress is always a combination of softness in the comfort layes and firmness in the support layers and if the top layers are either too soft or two thick and the mattress doesn’t hav a transition layer in between … then you can “go thrrough” the softer comfort layer and feel more of the firmness of the support layers below them. This is what I call a “differential” design and it’s important in this to get the thickness and softness of the comfort layer correct so that it isolates you from the transition between them. The best thickness and softness will depend on the body type and sleeping style of the person as well as their individual preferences.

I certainly wouldn’t recommend FBM for a purchase where knowing what you were really buying was important or for any “application critical” purchase.

I would tend towards the latex although you may only need an extra inch or two on top rather than a firmer transition layer like you are thinking (in between the latex and the polyfoam). Without knowing the ILD of the top layer you have it’s not possible to really use it as a reference point except based on it’s “feel” for you and it will depend on both body type and individual preference. If you did decide to add a transition layer … then a couple of inches in a medium range (such as the 32) would be “average” especially for your lighter weight but if it’s the latex itself that is causing the firmness issue then this may not help as much as you hope because you may just need a little extra thickness and softness in the comfort layer itself. Post #8 here has some guidelines for choosing a topper (and has a link to a post with some good sources) that may be helpful.

One other option that may be worth considering as a low risk experiment is to try a cheap 1" - 2" polyfoam topper from a big box store like Walmart or Costco etc which has a good return policy so you can experiment a bit to see if adding a little thickness/softness to your comfort layer will make the difference you want. If it does you could either replace it yearly or so as it softens and degrades or you could use it as a rough guideline for a longer lasting latex topper.

Part of this as well will depend on how much room you have in your mattress cover because if you “squish” too much latex in it, it will make the layers firmer than they would otherwise be.

Hope this helps


Phoenix, Thank you for the detailed response. I’ve just read through most of the articles on this site, and everything is starting to make sense now. I will check out some of the vendors here and see where that leads me.

Getting back to FBM, I knew something was odd about my latex topper the moment I received it. I just didn’t know exactly what since I didn’t have another piece of latex to compare it to. Also, since it was very comfortable (and it still is), I didn’t think it would be worth the hassle to ship it back. The more I read, the more I realized that what I received might in fact be dunlop instead of the talalay that was advertised. I will think twice before shopping at FBM again.

Does anyone know which vendor here offer samples? I just want to feel the difference between 32 ILD and 36 ILD talalay. Getting back to my original post, my current latex topper from FBM was supposed to be 32 ILD talalay, but I most likely got dunlop instead. Now I’m not even sure if I even got 32 ILD. I don’t want to order a new firmer topper when I don’t even know my current ild rating.

Hi Tenmamd,

If you could weigh the raw topper and then measure the exact dimensions you could calculate the density and this may give you a rough idea of the firmness range of the layer.

A sample may not give you an accurate indication about how a specific ILD feels when you are lying on it (all you can do is press it with your hands which would be very different) but it may at least give you a sense of the relative firmness levels between them. You ideally would need samples of the same size and thickness to make meaningful or accurate comparisons because if the size is larger (a larger layer vs a smaller sample) or the thickness is different it will change how it compresses and feels and you would also need to compress each layer in exactly the same way with a “compressor” that has the same surface area.


Phoenix, I measured my latex topper to be 4.92 density, any idea how to translate that into an estimated ILD?

Hi Tenmamd,

That would put it at about 78 kg/m3 which would be in the medium range of high 20’s or low 30’s so their rating of 32 ILD would probably be reasonably close bearing in mind that Dunlop would have a range of ILD’s across the surface and a slight variance from top to bottom as well.

Although firmness preferences can be very different … this would typically be in the range of a transition (middle) layer for someone of your weight rather than a top comfort layer.


Thanks for the info phoenix. I just ordered a 3" talalay topper through Chuck from Brooklyn Bedding (Dreamfoam). I’ll be able to compare it to my current FBM topper when it arrives.

Phoenix, I know you really liked the feel of thin latex (1-2") over thin memory foam (1-2"), but what about 3" of talalay over 1-1.5" of memory foam? Anyone else familiar with this setup?

Hi Tenmand,

I’ll be interested to see what you think about the Talalay compared to the FBM you have. What ILD did you order?

Having memory foam that deep would reduce it’s ability to respond to temperature even more and I’m not so sure you would notice much more than a subtle effect. the thicker it was the more you may feel it and what it produced would also depend on the type of memory foam you were using and its temperature sensitivity. As in all things connected to mattresses though … if it produces a feel or performance benefit that you like (subtle or otherwise) and that works for you then there is nothing wrong with it.

Some manufacturers even use memory foam in the deeper transition layers in the center area of the mattress as a form of lumbar zoning. If it was that deep in the mattress it would stay firmer and more consistent than it would in the top layers of the mattress.


Phoenix, I ordered a 32 ILD topper. The topper will be wrapped in a non-removable bamboo cover, so I won’t be able to see the actual latex unless I cut into it (then sew it back), but I will be able to compare the firmness between the two, since they will both be 32 ILD. I’ll also be able to check for surface/firmness inconsistencies as well.

Chuck (Dreamfoam) also said I’ll be receiving their shredded latex pillow as a perk for being a member of this site. I already own a high loft firm Malouf latex pillow, and I wonder how the shredded latex compares to the full latex. I always liked king size pillows as well, and I could get 2 shredded ones for the less than the price of 1 full latex.

Hi Tenmand,

I have the same Malouf pillow except in plush. I also have some shredded latex pillows that I like and they are more “scrunchable” for those that sleep in multiple sleeping positions.

For me pillows are one of those things where my preferences change based on my mood and circumstances (and sometimes even on my desire to experiment) and while they all have some basic qualities in common (thickness, suitability etc), I like having several that I can change from time to time.

As I mentioned in another post … I usually like strawberry jam and that is my “staple” … but sometimes I just want raspberry or blueberry and there are even times where I’m convinced they’re my favorite … at least for a while.

Now peanut butter … that’s another matter completely and that doesn’t seem to change … but of course it has to be natural with none of that homogenized or hydrogenated trans fat stuff for me!