Putting the layers together - overview

An Introduction to Support and Comfort Layers

We have talked in previous sections about the role of the support and comfort layers and the different materials that can be used in each. In this section, we will talk about the 3 main ways of putting them together and about the remaining layers that will not only complete your mattress but can have a significant effect on how it performs and feels.

Mattress construction and layers that affect mattress performance and feel.

Differential Construction

This method uses thicker/softer comfort layers over firmer support layers. It is called “differential” because there is usually a big difference between the softness of the comfort layers and the firmness of the support layers. There is also a clear “split” between the roles of each layer as the comfort layers provide almost all of the pressure relief and supports the lumbar area and the support layer is focused on preventing the heavier parts of you from sinking in too far. While there may be a middle layer in this construction, it will be closer to the bottom layer in firmness as this construction is basically softer over firmer.

The main benefit of this construction is that it is easier to “get right”. Because the comfort layers are doing most of the work in filling in and supporting the “gaps” in the body, it is generally best to limit your comfort layer choices to materials that are more resilient to support the lumbar area and that also have the ability to shape themselves to the contour of your profile. Both of these qualities are important in the comfort layer of this type of construction. Because the support layers do not need to “help” the comfort layers with pressure relief, their ability to conform to your body profile is far less important and your choices in support layers are larger as almost any firm support layer is suitable for this construction.

A soft comfort layer over a firm or even extra firm support layer would be an example of this.

Read more about Differential Construction

Progressive Construction

In a progressive construction, the upper comfort layers are generally thinner and/or very soft and need to “borrow” from the support layers beneath to form a cradle and relieve pressure. These mattresses usually have several layers that become “progressively” firmer as you sink in deeper, and the difference between adjacent layers is smaller than with a differential construction. The layer below the comfort layer plays a dual role by helping the comfort layer with pressure relief/lumbar support and helping the bottom layer with spinal alignment. This can be done with either a middle transition layer or with the use of a support layer material which is softer and more conforming on the top and becomes firmer more quickly with deeper compression.

This method can be more difficult to get right but the results can be more accurate and individualized than a differential construction. Because the support layers are helping with pressure relief and lumbar support, any pressure-relieving comfort material can be used including those that are less resilient such as memory foam or natural fibers. The choice of support layers however becomes more restricted since they require more specialized abilities beyond simple “firmness” such as the ability to be softer and conforming on top (with initial compression) and firmer underneath (with deeper compression).

A softer/thinner comfort layer over a medium middle layer and a firm bottom layer would be an example of this construction.

Read more about Progressive Construction


The body has 3 main areas where weight and the thickness of the profile can be very different. These are the pelvic or hip area which is often wider, especially in women, and almost always the heaviest area of the body; the lumbar area which is much thinner, lighter, and more recessed in most people; and the shoulder upper chest area which is lighter than the hips but often wider and larger, especially in men. The widely different needs of these three areas in more difficult circumstances such as unusual weight or body profiles are sometimes outside of the range of even the best materials using either differential or progressive constructions. In these cases zoning can be the answer to a perfect mattress.

Zoning uses different zones of material or firmness in different areas of a comfort or support layer such as a firmer zone under the hips to keep them from sinking down too far. It can also be quite complex and in many cases poorly understood by those who sell mattresses. Incorrect zoning schemes can do much more harm than good so it is usually a good idea to only use it when circumstances warrant. Different zoning schemes may use any type of comfort layers over any type of support layer depending on the type of zoning that is being used and the individual circumstances or difficulties that need to be addressed.

The most effective zoning schemes usually have either 2 or 3 zones in different "arrangements. More than this is of questionable benefit and often used to justify a more expensive mattress that may not even be an appropriate choice.

Read more about Zoning

Other layers that are part of some or all mattresses and that are used to complete your mattress.

  1. Quilting layer: Commonly used as a layer above the comfort layer. Usually made from foam or fibers and forms a separate but interconnected part of the comfort layer. It can affect breathability, temperature regulation, and pressure relief as well as overall feel and can also be used for fine-tuning.
  2. Ticking: This is the fabric that surrounds the mattress and it too can affect breathability, temperature regulation, and pressure relief as well as have a significant effect on the overall feel of the mattress.
  3. Fire Barrier: This is used to prevent a mattress from bursting into flame and preventing “flashover” from either a smoldering heat source or with an open flame. The “open flame” regulation that all mattresses now need to comply with was added in 2007 to the first “smoldering heat source” regulation that was already in effect.
  4. Insulator: This is a layer which is used over an innerspring to prevent the layers above it from shifting into the innerspring and is also used to alter the feel or response of the innerspring itself.

Each of these different methods of construction and additional layers are discussed in more detail in the pages of this section.

I’m interested in a couple latex brands (Zenhaven, Flobeds) that offer zoned comfort layers. In theory, it sounds good to offer more support where it’s needed most. However, I would think this is hard to get right in practice. I’m about 5’11, slightly overweight (195 lbs), with a fairly long torso and relatively short legs. How do I know my body parts will line up appropriately over each zone?

Good Afternoon Cloud999,

With our vZone latex mattress you can choose a variety of different firmness setups that can be adjusted as much as you need in the first 100 nights at no charge. The zones can not only be adjusted in density, but you can also shift zones up toward the head of the bed by 2.5" if necessary. (Based on your height, i would think our standard setup would fit just fine) As we tend to go above and beyond with the service of our product, if you got our mattress, and decided you needed your zones to align differently we would accommodate at no additional cost whatsoever! Here is a link to our product details on the vZone Latex Mattress For years we did fixed zones, every now and again it was just right for a customer. What we learned was simple, everyone is built differently, there mattress should be as well. Please let me know if you have any further questions on this product. Im here for you!

I’m in the trial period with a Zenhaven mattress, and am coming to the conclusion that “zoning” is mostly marketing hype (for this one brand, at least). I cannot tell a clear difference in firmness, from zone to zone, either by pressing with my hands or by moving boxes of kitty litter around and observing the deflections. Maybe there are subtle differences that do matter over the course of a night. However, on the flippable Zenhaven, the comfort layers are only 1.5" thick. I think my hips and shoulders are sinking right through that, so it’s the un-zoned support layers that contribute most to the mattress feel. I believe the Flobeds comfort layer(s) are thicker, which might be better for me. The difficulty is that when I’m on my stomach, having a thin comfort layer (over a firmer support layer) is quite comfortable. Then when I roll to my side, I feel pressure on my hips/shoulders … and a mere 1.5" inches doesn’t seem to be enough. I doubt that zoned v. unzoned is making much difference there.

Good Morning Cloud999,
Zoning in mattresses is a wonderful concept for sleepers who struggle to find both the proper support for their spine, and pressure point relief in the shoulders and hips. Side sleepers have the hardest time achieving this. We believe all sleepers are built differently, their mattress should be too. We have been polishing our approach for around 15 years, and it’s come a long way! From a 2" fixed zone layer in 2002, to the adjustable 3" vZone we are producing since 2009. For us the journey came from working with our customers getting each and every sleepers side of a bed “just right”. We have learned that the degree of softness in the shoulder and hips, and support in the lumbar region vary quite a bit, and a fixed zone system will just not work for everyone. With so many variables in finding this perfect balance of support and pressure point relief, it can often be trial and error. Sleeping positions, height, weight, proportion, injuries, personal preferences, curvature of the spine; these are all variables that play a part in what will work for one sleeper and not another. For yourself, (5’11, 195 lbs), with a fairly long torso and relatively short legs, sleeping on both stomach and side, my recommendation would be specific to the sleeper you are:

Your 3" base layer “X-Firm” is a 36ild, the 3" Firm on top is a 32ild. Next would be your vZone layer, our idea with the first two layers, is to make sure we get enough support at the base, because as long as its firm enough down there, we are certain we can micro tune comfort, and target further support with the 3" vZone layer.

Your vZone would start with Soft at the shoulder, firm in the lumbar, and medium at the hip. One of the most common adjustments for a side/stomach sleeper is firming up both the lumbar and hip, this can be done by switching the lumbar with the knee, and the hip with the foot. It sounds like this is the adjustment your needing in your current mattress. Some folks have even floated the vZone layer down one level for a more subtle zoning experience. A mattress that you can adjust and fit to your body type, and personal preferences is necessary for many sleepers to achieve the optimal nights sleep. We work with you, and offer a firmness guarantee unlike anything in the industry. With the vZone layer, in the first 100 nights we will send you any firmness zone section you’d like, at no charge, you return nothing. Our guarantee goes on for 20 years, and allows your mattress to change, as your needs and body changes.
I think the overall firmness of the mattress your currently sleeping on is very close to the firmness I’m recommending at the base, however the 3" vZone layer and 2" convoluted latex top layer will change the feel dramatically.

Hi, new here. Read much of your site. I am disappointed in price vs quality in mattresses (nice way of saying I am a cheapskate). I like the feel of latex (ruling memory foam out unless it is an underlayer somewhere-too hot and sinking feel) however sent synthetic latex mattress back because “pushback” so strong made hips hurt worse than ever had before. Decided to try a Dunlop 30ILD 3" topper,on innerspring which didn’t work as I hoped. Took innerspring off frame, put the topper on boards with convoluted foam topper over it and my feather comforter folded in half. Over all felt supported but still feel much pushback in lumbar area (but less on boards and more pronounced when on innerspring. The innerspring alone let’s my hips drop to low). So I ordered a 2" talalay 19ILD to put on top of 3" Dunlop 30ILD. I want to feel supported with some softness on top. I don’t want the hip pain due to pushback. Considering adding featherbed topper also. Frankly I am exhausted(been searching for 6 months now) trying to find a comfortable fit without spending lots of $$$. I have an old innerspring I am considering harvesting springs from for base. But if the 2 pieces I have mentioned work (waiting to receive the talalay)is it necessary for a base? I would be ok with using my convoluted foam topper for added softness , thinking of placing between the latex? I am a back sleeper primarily some on my side. 5’5, 190lb female over 60 years old. Not share bed with a partner. Any suggestions on based? Layering? Or starting from scratch ? I can still return the toppers, mattress going back thurs.the brick and mortar stores have little in the way of body comfort at a price I would consider spending. Thanks for any in put your willing to give me.

Hi Krtisty93292,
Welcome to The Mattress Underground! You sure did pack a lot on info into a single, short post. We will try to unwind some of it and address your situation. As you probably know, your unique height/weight and body shape, as well as personal comfort preferences make finding the ideal mattress a real challenge. The design configurations that you have described are a very much trial and error. To some degree, starting from scratch makes sense, at least on paper before you start more trial and error though purchasing online. You can do this by deploying basic mattress design concepts for support and comfort.
Much of your post speaks to your views and attempts to use latex toppers to address the pressure point issues at your hips. You did not cite the type of base mattress you are returning, other than referring to it as an innerspring. It is very unlikely you will find a conventional inner spring mattress that will meet your support/comfort needs, regardless of how much and what type of latex you layer on top of it. A person with your unique needs will likely need either a pocketed coil or all latex base mattress system. Reading your confession of being a cheapskate, it would seem that a pocketed coil base mattress system is the ticket here as it will be much less expensive than all latex.
Based on your preference for latex over memory foam as the comfort layer material, a natural latex hybrid mattress system that uses a pocketed coil support system appears to be your best bet as the place to start. Finding a mattress company that will allow you to swap/exchange the latex layer will provide you with the ability to address your needs post-purchase if the comfort layerfirmness you choose initially turns out to not be your ideal. There are several trusted members on this site who have natural latex hybrid designs. Please let me know if you have further questions after investigating our members list. Our Manufacturer Memberships :: The Mattress Underground You can chat/call them to learn more if you find your questions are not being addressed with the information of their websites. Good luck!

TMU admin

Thank you for your reply. The innerspring was a sealy med-firm,comfortable at first but as mentioned hips dipped and over all not feel fully supported. I returned the mattress. My bed is a Calif. King waterbed frame with boards as foundation. Bottom to top layers tried: 3" - 30ILD dunlop, 2" - 19ILD talalay, 1" blue swirl gel memory foam(was trying to avoid memory foam but needed more cushion, it flattens easily so not sure if more mental than actual help), 2" (maybe 3" measured from tip to tip) convaluted on both sides foam topper (don’t know what kind of foam) . I like the feel of the firm support but it causes soreness. I layered foam over latex because the push back was still felt and that would give hip pain by morning. Being very sensitive to the push up effect of latex in my lumbar area, this configuration did’t feel much pushback, but very heavy feeling when got up this morning and sore at pressure points(here is my princess and pea story, I can feel the seam where mattress glued, the bummer is I like sleeping in middle of the bed).SOoòo, after reading more on this forum,I changed configuration: bottom to top 3" 30ild dunlop, 2"(3"?)convoluted foam, 1" memory foam, flipped the 2" talalay over and placed on top. This proved substantially better than previous arrangment. Much less soreness, not feel push up effect, but seems might be sinking a little too much in hip area (not that anyone whats to know but losing weight might help,just can’t do it over night to see)I am considering your recommendation of starting from scratch but hope I don’t have to as lots of money at one time mainly because of mattress size. Suggestions on where to layer with what ( any matterial at this point) to achieve : support with without push up effect and a little softness. Thanks for your indulgence and any more insight you can give. Would getting an innerspring under the latex help (have my old bed that I can get springs out of for a base) . Whatever I do, the 3" Dunlop creates pushup in lumbar so if I can’t get rid of that effect by it being in deeper layer then returning is my better option. Sorry for such long post.

Thanks for sharing the details of your configuration. It does not resemble a mattress design that has been used by established mattess manufacturers. Your mattress needs a support system, and the 30ILD Dunlop latex appears to serve that function. It is likely not the dunlop but the materials on top of it not providing an appropriate transition layer function that is causing your continued hip pain. The 2-3" of convoluted foam should be removed. Convoluting foam is a techinque used by some mattress manufacuturers to maintain profile, reduce cost and create a faux plushness (my opinion, of course :wink: . Replacing it with a latex layer in the 24 ILD range will likely provide an effective transition between both the 30 ILD Dunlop base and the 19 ILD gel memory foam. Layering a mattress using the numbers in your note, a design of 30(bottom)/24/GelMF/19 will likely provide the best configuration of the materials you have (assuming you pitch the convo and replace it with 2 or 3" of 24 ILD Talalay. Yes, this does require you to buy a 24 ILD layer, but it will be less than a start-over.


Thank you for suggestions, I may need to try the 24ild . The 19 is talalay. I have no problem giving up the foam. My goal is to feel fully supported with a little cushion. I’ll see how next few days go. After last night I think the 24ild might make mattress to soft? I tried the following configuration with much better results. Using the items i have on hand,(It was suggested by SleepEZ), From bottom to top: 2" convoluted foam, 1" MF, 3" Dunlop (30ild), 2" talalay (19ild). Woke up feeling better than have in while. I will keep this arrangement of layers for now, progress! I do think I will need to increase suppotiveness , (trying to keep hips more level & not have any “pushup” effect in lumbar,which was not felt at all last night- this was huge problem before relayering). I have no problem with getting rid of MF & convoluted foam but they seem to be serving a purpose for now. Since the 30ild D. gives slight “pushup” in lumbar when i lay on it alone, it seems this ILD has a place in my configuration. How do I increase suppotiveness without losing progress I’ve made so far? Would using the 30 ILD dunlop as transition layer and getting 2"or 3" higher ILD for base increase more hip support ? get rid of all foam? Incorporate the 1" memory foam I have? Thanks for letting me hash out my thoughts and experience on you site, the info and suggestions are helping me sort through what has become a very long process.

I’m thinking of putting together a latex mattress with 3 x 3" layers of dunlop (medium, medium, and firm) and placing a 2" soft talalay topper. My thought is that the talalay would provide a good material for the comfort layer and the two medium dunlops would be a slow transition to the firm. I have noticed that some latex beds seem to go very quickly from soft to firm. Do you think this setup would achieve my goal of a slow transition to firm, allow for pressure relief, yet be supportive. Also, if given the choice of cover material, I know some companies sell a cotton with wool, yet I think that this might take away a bit from the properties of latex that I like. Do you think this is accurate or all in my head. Was wondering if a thinner four way stretch material might be better suited for a latex mattress. Thoughts?

Hello Demill1866,
Thank you for reaching out to The Mattress Underground. Your design will provide for progession of firmness. However, 6" of medium firm dunlop will likely dominate the feel.
You may want to consider having a full progressive transition with each layer (plush, medium, medium firm, firm). Your observation re. rapid change in ILD (soft, firm) is astute; the lack of a transition firmness in between usually creates a pressure point challenge for side sleepers.
Yes, the use of wool in the cover/quilting meets the requirements for fire retardancy (16 CFR 1633) and does provide for some transition comfort and moisture absorbtion, but it does make a pad between your body and the latex. If it’s in your head, then your head is fine tuned! Two-way stretch material works well; it is difficult to find a four-way stretch that is also an organic cotton cover.
All-in-all you are zeroing in on a nice design. Hopefully you will source your components from a company that will allow you to make an exchange, so that if it’s not ideal, you can fine tune it. Have fun putting the pieces together!


Update: first I would like to say, I sound crazy, I am not. First sign,I know. To the point. I completely reconstructed my bed. Harvested the pocketed innerspring from previous mattress (glad dump run was slow). The innerspring is now my base, 3 " dunlop(30ILD) follows with 2" (19ILD) talalay. So far only one night sleeping on it but woke up without severe hip pain . I continue to struggle with trying to determine if 30ILD is to firm or too soft because it seems to mimick both. Sensei mentioned 24ild as transition layer ,I’m wondering if exchanging 30ild for 24ild to go with 19ild better for comfort layer. I noticed my hips did not dip down with innerspring last night so alignment much better. But felt some pressure points. If I lay on the 30ild alone, the way I sink in it causes hip pain(arches lumbar up). Does this make any sense? That’s why confused if too soft or firm. Would a 2" be better than a 3" now that I am working more with comfort layers where before was using the 30ILD as base. My return/exchange time running short which is reason for my urgency. Did talk to manufactures before I decided to attempt putting a hybrid together and they were somewhat to vaguely helpful. My hope is this forum can help me get this dialed in .at least i am moving in right direction because i am not dreading going to bed to night .Any feedback appreciated.

Hi Kristy93292.

Your post #10 here (which I just moved in this thread to help keep all your details in one place and make it easier to assist you) clarifies my previous dilemma regarding your DIY and missing a base/support layer salvaged from your previous mattress and are currently reusing under the two new latex layers. I am glad to hear that with the new configuration the hip pain was alleviated but it seems that you still have a bit of legwork to do to dial in on the right combination.

I don’t know for how long you’ve had the previous mattress but I’d first check on the integrity of the pocket coil you rescued and make sure that there are no sagging or soft spots which may be part of the issues you are experiencing. I’d also check that the foundation is not sagging under the weight of the mattress and people sleeping on it. Depending on your primary sleeping position the information I previously provided in the other a thread should help determine if your alignment is correct. Side sleepers can do well with thicker softer comfort layers but again only you’d be able to tell if this combination of softens/firmness is right for you … as I previously mentioned in general, you want firm enough deep support and then comfort layers that are “just enough” in terms of thickness and softness to “fill in” and support the more recessed parts of your sleeping profile and relieve pressure in your most pressure prone sleeping position so that there is less risk to alignment in your other sleeping positions.

Provided that the pocket spring is in good condition then adding + 24 ILD + 19 ILD as Sensei suggested will certainly help with pressure point relief in the hip area. Depending on the results of your experiments you’d be able to tell soon enough if a 2" would work better than 3" in 24 ILD but before deciding I’d give your body a chance to readjust to any of the new changes.

To keep all your details are in one place and make it easier to assist you I will be moving your posts in the present thread here.

Best of luck and keep us posted on your progress.


Update, got rid of innerspring they were worn out. Using foam base from the mattress as my current base. Best configuration so far is 3 inch of 30 ild Dunlop, 2 inch memory foam , 3 inch convoluted topper. Reason for latex to not sleep warm obviously sleeping warmer then I’d like. Returning 2" - 19ILD talalay, determined too soft. But the pushback in lumbar still exists if only on dunlop.the MF & convoluted foam (sensei says toss but for now seems to have a place) create comfort the soft talalay did not. From responses to my previous posts it sounds like I still need a supportive base. Am considering getting either foam or innerspring for base. Using 2" -30ild dunlop(exchanging for current 3") hoping to reduce hips sinking down/the feel of a rolling pin under lumbar. Then find a gel infused memory foam(hopefully one that works & not hold heat) would this work in your opinion? Or should I keep 3" D. It seems to work as lower layer but feel 2" would allow more flexibility as I attempt to find what is right fit. It was suggested to me to try med talalay over med dunlop but concerns of spending money and that pushback still there. Does it sound like latex not best choice for me and I keep trying to make it So? Or have I just not yet found correct configurations because of self imposed financial constraints?

I’m having a difficult time locating information regarding different types of mattress covers for latex mattresses. I was wondering if you had any posts regarding comparing them (e.g. cotton and wool, Bamboo, Tencel,…) or people’s experience with the different types.

Thanks in advance

Still reading and experimenting. Update then questions. My current configuration(s) from bottom to top: solid plywood foundation, 3.5" foam base using ad support core (harvested from old innerspring) , 2" convoluted foam on both sides (could be 3"If measure from highest point to highest point. Have had this topper for 10 years and seems to find its way back on my bed even when I have tried to discard it), 2" soft(19ild)talalay, thin feather comforter finishing it off. This was original mix while trying to figure out best support layer. This worked fairly well albeit seemed to lack “give.” Felt hard by morning. So I put soft 2" memory foam on foundation with base foam on top and kept above configuration (only change was addition of MF). This did help reduce “hard” feeling but support compromised. I think main reason suppot low because of the temporary foam from old mattress is beginning to loose recilency. But after up and around in the morning no hip or back pain.I have tried 30ild Dunlop as support core but it and other foam type mattress I tried allow my hips to dip too far in and create hip pain. So have returned many items trying to tune in my comfort and not waste money. I do enjoy the feel of firm to med firm innerspring(pocketed coil) mattress or hybrid. Don’t enjoy what they cost. Questions: would a 4 to 5 inch poly foam support core give enough firm support without the hips sinking like with the latex? I am looking toward poly foam as less expensive and if doesn’t work, not out as much money. The combo coil system has caught my attention on mattress.net but seems risky because of no return policy, otherwise this would be my first choice.I have found a Simmons bed and a serta bed that feel good in the store but not in pocket book and not if they start sagging way before their time. Is an inexpensive innerspring with my toppers about same thing as combo coils? I am thinking the combo coil system may be better quality of coils so last longer. As for now I am comfortable enough to not make any fast decisions but can tell the support is giving out so need to do something soon. Thanks for your time and input on my current situation.

Hi Kristy93292,

You are correct about some of your old components “losing resiliency” and a general feeling of losing support over time. That makes sense; they will break down over time, as you well know.

I do not belive that the latex is the cause of the lack of support and sinking hips that you’ve been experiancing. Most components and materials, including latex, come in firmer or softer versions suitable for different comfort/support applications or personal needs. A 30 ILD medium latex support core would not offer the aprropriate support for most people. A polyfoam core can certainly give enough support, but again it does depend on a number of factors such as the ILD specification mentioned above and the density of the layer which will tell you how durable this wil be. Please take a look some of our polyfoam articles this article about durability, and this article about polyfoam support cores. Also, make sure you check your BMI to use it when you check your durability guidelines here.

Most likely not, as it is very hard to compare two very general technologies. I’d recommend that you first read about innerspring support and also some basic information on microcoils. You are correct that generally … a pocket spring core costs slightly more than polyfoam or traditional innersprings because they require a more complex construction. Bear in mind too that a foam core usually does best with a solid foundation while a pocket spring will usually do best with a box spring (which can be more expensive).

There is more about the different types of innersprings in post #10 here and in post #16 here . I would pay the most attention to your own careful and objective testing which will tell you how the innerspring performs in combination with the other layers and materials in a mattress (versus using a latex core) and to the quality of the materials above the innerspring which is normally the weakest link in a mattress. You certainly can find a comfortable combination using springs or polyfoam (or even latex if the budget allows).

Nice work not making rash decisions, some people can get carried away trying too many things. Thanks for the post.


I’m in the process of putting together my layers, too. I have had several detailed conversations with my intended manufacturer, but have also gotten several different recommendations from different salespeople who work there. I asked for clarification but they are basically saying it’s time to just start somewhere, with what I think is best.

I get where they are coming from but I don’t feel qualified! Fortunately, layers can be swapped and covers can be altered. Still, I’d like feedback…all that shipping costs everyone.

As everyone and their dog now knows, I’m a 135-138lb side sleeper on a Zenhaven with a 1.5" raw unblended 14ILD topper. It’s taken a few experiments and cutting the cover off the topper, but my body has adjusted and this feels like a B+ solution to me. Unfortunately, the boxspring is officially caving in again along with some more minor quality control issues in the mattress, so I’m considering starting over.

I am not sure if it’s too firm or too soft…with the topper, it feels more like it’s just a bit too much pressure on my shoulder from the unstretchy cover on the mattress. Alignment seems pretty good though, which I’ve confirmed with pictures. Maybe just a little sag in the waist area. But I don’t really want my hip to sink in more, I don’t think.

I’m now considering “rebuilding” the Zenhaven as:
my current raw topper 1.5" 14 ILD
wool cover
2" 19 ILD (to approximate the zoned 14 ILD latex)
3" 28 ILD (same)
3" 32 ILD (same)
There would be no bottom 1.5" of N2 as in the ZH but I don’t think it’s actually doing anything down there (right?)

This is one of the builds recommended, minus a top inch of 19. I have two 1.5" layers of 14ILD to play with if needed, and I do want to continue using one of them as a protective and cushy top layer.

I’ve considered if I needed to swap a layer, the 32 could move up into the middle support and I could get a 38-40 ILD base layer. This would make it almost their initial off the cuff recommendation of 3" 19, 3" 32, 3" 40, which I was concerned would be too fluffy on top and too firm on the bottom.

I had originally leaned to a thinner stretch cover, but realized when testing out a pile of raw latex locally that totally uncovered feels a little too unstable and jiggly. There may be a reason most people encase it in wool and cotton, and I still have the topper for a bit of that raw latex feel.

Any red flags here? I am getting samples of materials soon. Thanks in advance for any input!

Your prospective build is a very common build, in part because of its gradual progression. To put it in terms instead of ILD’s:
2" Extra Soft
2" Soft
3" Medium
3" Firm

You’re right, you probably won’t feel a fifth layer at the bottom. It depends on your weight and how it is dispersed throughout your body. In other words, short and squat people have larger pressure points than the same weight of person who is long and lean. Usually I find that excepting pregnancy, the 10" depth (firmness is more individual) you have is comfortable for most sleepers up to 250+ lbs.

Yes, your 14 ILD topper and even the 19 ILD layer many consider jiggly or too squishy for their liking. Others love the cradling effect those soft layers give.

I think it goes without saying that if your box spring is caving in, given latex’s flexibility, you will feel its bent, no matter how may layers you have on top of it.