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Best Innerspring Mattresses

 

Introduction

Innerspring mattresses were first manufactured in the early 1900s and have largely dominated the mattress industry ever since, due in part to widespread availability and relatively low pricing. Recent data estimates that 60% to 70% of mattresses sold today are innersprings — though this traditional design has faced competition from foam, latex, hybrid, and airbed mattresses in recent years.

Innersprings have qualities and characteristics that make them particularly suitable for certain sleepers:

  • Coil-based support cores help distribute weight equally across the mattress, making them supportive enough for many back– and stomach-sleepers and heavier individuals.
  • A highly responsive sleep surface with considerable bounce makes these mattresses better for sex than other types.
  • Minimal body heat retention, allowing most sleepers to remain cool and comfortable throughout the night.
  • More edge support than foam- or latex-based mattresses, which leads to less sinkage where people sit at the edges.
  • Faster break-in period due to a firmer, less conforming sleep surface.

 

What types of innerspring mattresses are on the market?

When categorizing innerspring mattresses, the type of coil is the primary consideration. Most mattress coils today are made from steel. Generally speaking, a mattress will usually feature one of four coil types:

  • Bonnell: Bonnell coils are the oldest type of coils used in innersprings, and still widely available today at a relatively low price. They are molded from tempered steel in an hourglass shape and coupled with spiral-shaped wires called helicals; they may also be reinforced with additional wires. Bonnell coils can support a relatively high amount of body weight over a long period of time. As a result, bonnell-coil innersprings are frequently used in commercial settings that accommodate a steady stream of sleepers, such as hotels, hospitals, nursing homes, and college dorms.
  • Offset: Offset coils are also made from tempered steel, hourglass-shaped, and joined with helicals, but the bottom is molded into a straight line. This creates a hinge effect when the springs are bearing weight. In addition to this standard design, there are two common variations: double offset coils are straightened at the top and bottom for added support; and free-arm offset coils are not joined with helicals. Offset coils are exceptionally durable, and usually found in mattresses with above-average price-points.
  • Continuous wire: These mattresses are designed with rows of singular wires molded from non-tempered steel into circular shapes and joined with helicals on both sides, resulting in the same hinging motion as offset coils. Continuous wire innersprings are highly stable and durable, but these mattresses offer little to no body-contouring or spinal support.
  • Pocketed: Also known as Marshall coils or encased coils, pocketed coils are covered in cloth and coupled with neighboring coils using adhesives or glues, rather than helicals. Pocketed coil innersprings tend offer more contouring and often reduce motion transfer compared to other coil types. They are found in innersprings with relatively high price-points, and used in hybrid mattresses as well. They are also fairly thin and ― unlike the other three coil types ― usually made from non-tempered steel, resulting in relatively short lifespans.

When comparing innerspring coils, wire ‘gauge’ (or thickness) is an important quality to keep in mind. The higher the gauge, the thinner the wire; low-gauge wires feel firmer than high-gauge wires, and tend to be more durable. The bulk of today’s innersprings are made with coils ranging in gauge from 18 (thinnest) to 12 (thickest). The firmness of an innerspring can also be measured using ‘pitch’, or the angle of the coils relative to the sleep surface.

Another measurement commonly used for innerspring marketing is ‘coil count’, which simply refers to the total number of springs. Most Queen-size mattress have coil counts ranging from 500 to 1,000, although the count can be anywhere from 300 or less to 2,000 or more; coil count tends to increase with each successive size. Mattresses with higher coil counts are often priced more expensively than those with low coil counts, but shoppers should take note: coil count only affects mattress comfort, support and quality to a point, and this should not be the only criteria used for selecting an innerspring model. Coil type, coil gauge, and comfort layer material have a greater bearing on a sleeper’s overall experience with an innerspring.

The table below summarizes the four main coil types in terms of shape, configuration, gauge, coil count, and price-point:

 

Coil Type Shape Joiner Gauge Average Coil Count Cost
Bonnell Hourglass with rounded top and bottom Helicals and low-gauge wire Low to high 300 to 600 Low price-point
Offset Hourglass with straightened top and/or bottom Helicals Low to medium 600 to 2,000 Medium to high price-point
Continuous Wire Straight lines in uniform rows Helicals Medium to high 400 to 800 Medium price-point
Pocketed Spiral encased in cloth or fabric Adhesive High 800 to 1,200 Medium to high price-point

 

What is the typical construction of an innerspring bed?

The term ‘innerspring’ refers specifically to the support core of the mattress. The tempered-steel coils are evenly spaced throughout the core for optimal support, pressure relief, and weight distribution. Coils positioned at the edges of the mattress may be reinforced with materials like foam or webbing because they are more susceptible to sagging than the central areas of the bed. This helps provide overall support and minimize sinking at the edges where people usually sit when they get up from or into bed.

In terms of the comfort system, or topmost mattress layers, most innersprings are constructed with at least one layer of polyfoam or memory foam. These materials provide cushioning that softens the top surface and makes is suitable for sleeping. It is important to distinguish between innersprings and hybrids. In order to qualify as a hybrid, a mattress must feature at least two inches of memory foam (or latex) in the comfort system and have a pocketed coil support core. Some mattresses are advertised as hybrids because they have memory foam comfort layers and other types of coils in the support core, but this is technically inaccurate.

 

How does an innerspring mattress feel?

According to our findings, innerspring owners and users have reported the following experiences:

  • Firmness: Compared to mattresses made of latex or foam, innersprings tend to have relatively firm sleep surfaces that offer little to no conforming. Medium-firm is considered the best option for most sleepers, although heavier sleepers and those who sleep on their backs or stomachs may feel more comfortable on mattresses rated as ‘Firm’ or ‘Very Firm’.
  • Responsiveness: Innersprings are highly responsive and fairly bouncy. As a result, they are often considered the best mattresses for sex.
  • Temperature: Because they conform less and retain lower levels of body heat, innersprings sleep fairly cool compared to latex and foam-based mattresses.
  • Motion isolation: How well an innerspring reduces motion transfer often depends on the coil type. Bonnell and continuous wire coils offer below-average motion isolation, while pocketed and offset coils tend to minimize motion to a greater extent.

Who should buy an innerspring?

Innersprings are constructed with evenly spaced coils in the support cores that help withstand compression and distribute weight. For this reason, they are often suitable for sleepers who weigh 230 pounds or more, as well as those who sleep on their back or stomach.

Innersprings do not contour to sleeper’s bodies very much, and provide little spinal alignment or targeted pressure relief in the neck, shoulders, lower back, or hips. For this reason, an innerspring may be less than ideal for people who sleep on their sides.

 

What is the lifespan/durability of an innerspring mattress?

The average lifespan of an innerspring mattress is five and a half years. This is considerably lower than the average lifespan for all mattress types, which is roughly seven years. Sagging is the primary reason for the below-average longevity of innerspring mattresses. Sagging occurs when body impressions cause the sleep surface to become uneven, which often results in added back pain and pressure. A significant number of innerspring owners report noticeable sagging within three years of their original purchase.

However, many factors impact the overall lifespan of an innerspring mattress. Coil type is one major consideration. Generally, lower-gauge coils made from tempered steel ( bonnell and offset) are more durable than higher-gauge coils made from non-tempered steel (continuous wire and pocketed). The comfort system materials also play a role in the mattress lifespan, since medium- and high-density foams last longer and resist sagging to a greater extent than low-density foams.

Significant sagging or indentations are usually covered under the mattress warranty. In most cases, the warranty will specify a sagging/indentation depth ― typically one to one and a half inches ― that constitutes a mattress defect. Sagging or indentations that do not reach this depth are considered normal wear and tear ― not defects ― and manufacturers will not cover the costs of repairing or replacing the mattress.

Sagging and indentation benchmarks are not the only factor to consider when comparing innerspring mattress warranties. Length and nonprorated coverage are also important. Most mattress warranties span at least 10 years, but some may cover up to 25 years or longer. Brands may use lengthier warranties to drive up mattress price-points. However, given the average lifespan of an innerspring, a 10-year warranty is usually more than sufficient.

Nonprorated coverage refers to the initial period of the warranty when the manufacturer will replace or repair defective mattresses at no extra cost to the owner, with the exception of shipping and handling fees in some cases. When nonprorated coverage ends, the prorated period begins. During the prorated phase of the warranty, owners must pay a certain percentage of the original mattress price in order to repair or replace it; this percentage usually goes up with each year of ownership. As a result, filing a mattress claim during the prorated coverage period can result in charges of hundreds of dollars. Most 10-year warranties are entirely nonprorated ― but in some cases, a 10-year plan will only include two to three years of nonprorated coverage. Shoppers are encouraged to read the warranty’s fine print before settling on a mattress manufacturer.

 

How much do innerspring mattresses cost?

In addition to mattress size, here are a few more factors that can impact the price-point of an innerspring:

  • Coil type: As mentioned above, mattresses with offset or pocketed coils tend to be more expensive than those made with bonnell or continuous wire coils.
  • Coil count: The number of coils may not affect the price to a significant extent, but many brands apply higher price-points to mattresses with higher coil counts.
  • Comfort layer materials: Innersprings made with specialty memory foams ― such as gel or copper-infused foam ― may be priced higher than those with standard memory foam or polyfoam comfort layers. Foam density may also play a role in pricing.
  • The brand: Regardless of performance or longevity, some brands price their innerspring mattresses higher than others.

Price-points for innerspring mattresses may range anywhere from less than $100 to more than $3,000. However, most Queen-size innersprings sold today are priced between $700 and $1,200, putting the average price between $900 and $1,000.

 

What are the pros of innerspring mattresses?

Some benefits of choosing an innerspring include:

  • Innersprings are widely available online and in brick-and-mortar stores, and most leading brands offer multiple models.
  • Innersprings are highly responsive and fairly bouncy, making them easier to get on and off of, and generally better for sex than other mattress types.
  • The coils in innersprings are evenly spaced to provide optimal support and weight distribution for heavier individuals and those who sleep on their backs or stomachs.
  • Edge support in innersprings is above-average compared to mattresses made of foam or latex.
  • Most innersprings retain low amounts of body heat, allowing sleepers to remain relatively cool throughout the night.
  • Innersprings usually produce minimal off-gassing odor compared to latex and foam-based models.
  • Innersprings tend to be priced lower than other mattress types.

 

What are the cons of innerspring mattresses?

Drawbacks associated with using innersprings include the following:

  • Innersprings have below-average lifespans compared to other mattress types, and many owners report significant sagging or indentations after three to four years of use.
  • Due to their high levels of responsiveness, most innersprings (particularly those with bonnell or continuous wire coils) do not isolate motion as much as latex or foam-based mattresses.
  • Because they do not conform as closely as other mattresses, innersprings do not alleviate as much back pain or pressure.
  • Innersprings can be quite noisy due to their metal components, particularly during sex.
  • Innersprings have the lowest overall customer satisfaction ratings among all mattress types.