How to Compare the Spring Gauge on a Mattress

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Buying a mattress can get confusing because there are so many choices on the market, and terms of mattress features are often erroneously interchanged. The spring gauges in a mattress provide "support." The layers of cushion material---mostly foam---arranged above the spring gauges provide the "comfort." That's what you feel when you lie on a mattress. Many consumers think a mattress must feel firm, or hard, to be supportive. Any mattress will feel softer than one with the identical spring gauge construction if it has more comfort layers on it. In reality, you will probably never see the internal structure of your mattress. But keep these facts in mind when you make your next bedding purchase.

  • Review the specifications of the mattresses. The spring gauge is also called a coil or innerspring. The number of coils--coil count--provides the support in a mattress. Typically, the higher the coil count, the more supportive the mattress.

  • Check the coil gauge, or thickness, of the innerspring. Coil gauge ranges from 12 centimeters to 15 3/4 centimeters on most national brands. The higher the gauge, the thinner the coil. Thinner coils bend more, creating flexibility and a softer feel in the mattress. A coil with a lower gauge coil is thicker and stronger. It is used in firmer mattresses.

  • Compare the number of spring gauges per mattress. Not all innerspring constructions are the same, and this number will vary by manufacturer. Some companies vary the coil size to reinforce the areas of the mattress that support your body's heavy parts, the hips and shoulders.

  • Determine whether the spring gauges are connected to each another, as in most mattresses. But some manufacturers individually wrap each spring gauge. In these coil systems, motion transfer--feeling your partner's movements in the bed--is reduced because the coils are not connected to one another.

Tips & Warnings

  • Aside from other buying drivers--price, frequency of use--comfort is the primary factor in selecting a mattress. A mattress used every night should last 10 to 12 years, so look for a manufacturer's warranty that lasts 10 years. Buy a mattress cover to protect your bedding purchase investment.
  • If a mattress deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. A pillowtop mattress at an unbelievably low price may have half the standard coil count--and half the support. What you save now will cost you later in back and neck pains.

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