How to Buy a Mattress?

Buying a bed is like no other purchase.  Choose your bed and dealer wisely, and you’ll be happy and comfortable for years to come.  Make a poor choice, and you’ll regret it nightly.  Shopping for a mattress seems to be a difficult and unpleasant task for many people.  We thought it would be helpful to offer a few thoughts to help make the experience a favorable one.  Obviously, the opinions expressed on this page are strictly those of Long’s.

Correct SupportCorrect Support

The chart provided by Relyon shows correct support.  The mattress should mold to the shape of the body and touch the inside of every curve.  Gaps mean the bed it too firm or hard.  Correct support comes from the core of the mattress, be it innerspring or foam.  The filling layers on top and their construction help the core do the job better.

Quality – A Little Education is Helpful

It’s helpful to know how the finest beds are made.  Visit a store that has knowledgeable sales help that can guide you to what’s best for you, not the store.  Then, find one that suits your needs and offers as many fine features as possible, within your budget.  There is comfort and quality in every price range.  This trick is to find it.

Even though technology has done much to improve our lives, it hasn’t done much for the mattress industry, other than to improve production and contain costs.  The best constructions are the 50-year old ones, made by hand, with natural fibers running from the bottom of the product to the top.  The base of a good night’s sleep is what the mattress is resting upon.  So, let’s start with the box springs.

Box Springs

Box Springs

The finest ones consist of thick, circular coils, mounted on a sturdy wooden base.  Then each coil is tied to the other, by hand, usually in 8 places.  This allows the box spring to truly be a “shock absorber” for the mattress, and to help the mattress conform to the body of each sleeper.  They provide weight-balanced support no matter where one sleeps in the bed.  Also, when two are sharing a bed, it helps to eliminate the “bounce” factor, i.e., when one person moves the other bounces from the shock waves.  Hand Tied Box Springs with double rows of springs and solid timber construction, can be found on Relyon beds.  Eight-way hand tied box springs can be found on Aireloom Hand Crafted and Long’s All Natural models.

Box Springs Foundation

Other manufacturers tend to use Torsion Bar foundations or wooden foundations in their higher priced models.  In our opinion, they don’t offer the same gentle contouring that a handmade one can.  Unfortunately, many high end manufacturers use this same construction in their best sets.  Yet, this type seems to be the appropriate choice in the beginning and middle price levels.  In that case, the mattress is doing the work of two pieces and needs to be designed accordingly.  Platform beds, no matter how decorative, are the same principle as putting a mattress on a foundation and the mattress should be chosen accordingly.

Mattresses – Coils Don’t Always Count

There is no one feature that makes one mattress different or better than another.  The entire product – materials, amount of materials, construction processes and tailoring methods has to be taken into account.

The core of a mattress, or the innerspring unit, is what actually provides the support.  It doesn’t matter how many coils it has.  The overall poundage of steel and its configuration impress us as being far more important.  Better quality lines of bedding should have more steel at the core. It should be configured in a way to provide weight-balanced support for each sleeper and be able to contour to the curves of each sleeper’s body.  The innerspring unit, combined with the rest of the padding materials fills in the small of the back and the back of the knees.  This allows the muscles to relax, as they don’t have to work overtime to keep the spine straight.  The result is a more restful and peaceful night’s sleep.

“Counting coils” seems to have become a somewhat unreliable indicator of quality.  According to industry “buzz” sales people who knew little about the product they were selling started talking about the number of coils in a mattress.  It sounded good and a sales person didn’t have to have in-depth knowledge of a product to sell it. Customers thought it sounded authoritative and word traveled fast.

Innerspring Units

In our opinion, the finest mattresses have innerspring units that require more time, effort and materials to make.  They offer a feeling of being totally, yet gently supported and luxuriously comfortable.  We feel that even though commercial innerspring units provide adequate support, a Relyon Pocketed Spring unit, or any of the units in our finer beds offer a more restful night’s sleep.

Relyon and Aireloom Hand-Crafted use the finest innerspring units in their beds.  Different types of innerspring unit give each bed a unique feel.  A fine quality unit has plenty of steel in the coils and each row of coils provides absolute weight-balanced support for the sleeper, anywhere in the bed.

Heavyweight encased coil units provide a feeling of substantial support and gentle contouring.   Relyon units are unsurpassed and Aireloom for Long’s uses this type of unit in some models.  These units contain twice the steel as any average bed and contour to the body with remarkable ease.  Each coil is covered in fabric and hand connected together for stability.

encased coil unitsencased coil units


Extra reinforcement around the perimeter of the mattress adds durability, longevity and comfort to a mattress.  A proper edge increases the sleeping surface from one edge of the mattress to the other, and keeps the edge from collapsing when someone sits on the side of the bed.  We feel the finest edge is a border of cotton, hand-sewn on the outside for stability.  These edges have withstood the test of time.  Many years later the edge is still stable and has not collapsed.  Relyon and Aireloom Hand-Crafted feature hand-sewn cotton sidewalls, shown below:Edges

If a hand-sewn edge is not feasible for a manufacturer, metal reinforced edges are a reliable alternative.  Heavy border rods and steel double edge guards do a fine job.

Some manufacturers use molded foam edges.  Many are hard and rigid resulting in a hard feel at the perimeter while making the center flexible part of the bed appear to be sinking. Some Aireloom, Therapedic and Eclipse models, use quality flexible foam in the borders that mimic the performance of a hand sewn cotton sidewall.

Padding Materials

Padding MaterialsPadding Materials

We feel natural fibers are still the best, if costly, fillings for a mattress.   The best are loose natural fibers that are piled high and then compressed into the finished mattress with tufting.  Second are pre-made pads of natural fibers, third are synthetic foams.  Fewer chemicals are used in natural products, plus natural fibers have a proven track record of being cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.  The topping on the natural fibers, for soft comfort, is often served best by natural latex foam rubber or soy based foams.  Petroleum derived foams tend to be hot in the summer, cold in the winter and may have an unpleasant smell at the beginning.  Our Relyon, Aireloom Hand-Crafted, Long’s All Natural and Long’s Organic are upholstered in all or primarily natural fibers.  Aireloom, Therapedic and Eclipse only use soy based foams throughout their lines.

Tufts – the key stitch

A fine, traditional finishing touch is hand-tufting throughout the mattress. Tufts are stitch that goes through the entire mattress.  A tuft keeps the filling materials in place for the life of the product and ensures proper support throughout the mattress for the duration of its use. Tufting extends the life of the mattress as well.

Relyon, Aireloom Hand-Crafted, Long’s All Natural and Long’s Organic are all hand-tufted.  Tufts don’t seem to appear in other maker’s pricier beds. It’s interesting to note in years past a good 50% of all mattresses were tufted.


Final Assembly and Crafting

All of the fine components should be assembled and crafted into the finished product with an extra touch of care.

One Sided or Two Sided – a delicate question

At this time, the majority of the bedding industry is producing one-sided or “no-flip” beds.  However, we still prefer two sided mattresses and get them whenever we can.  A two-sided bed offers double the life because a mattress and be turned over to even out the wear and tear over time.  Many softer beds, just because of their fineness, may get body impressions.  Just like fine shoes mold to the shape of the feet after wearing, a fine bed will mold in the same way to the shape of the sleeper.  Body impressions can be alleviated by flipping the mattress.  The impressed side settles down while it’s on the bottom, and the up side can be impressed again.  If a mattress is one-sided, there’s nothing to do but live with them.  Even if the mattress is rotated head to foot, the impression is still there.

But, one sided beds have improved tremendously and body impression problems aren’t as wide spread as they were before. Plus, some people never turn a bed anyway, and were relieved to be free of the responsibility.

It’s helpful to know how and why one-sided beds came to be.  Ten or so years ago, a major manufacturer, bought and sold several times in the last 15 years by financial people, not mattress makers, was strapped for cash.  Someone came up with the idea of upholstering only one side of the mattress, saving the company a substantial amount in production costs.  Their profits soared the next quarter.  Within a couple of years, the rest of the industry started quietly following suit, though initially said they never would. Again, the overall quality of one-sided beds has improved, but we still prefer the two-sided.

Now that you have an idea of what makes a fine quality bed, get ready to shop.  Wear comfortable clothes so you can feel different comfort levels. Try the beds in every position you sleep in.

When you start shopping:

  1. Determine your comfort level.  Lie on different beds to see what appeals to you.  Try them in every position you sleep in, making sure the bed hugs your curves.  There should be a selection of comfort levels at every price point.
  2. Ask how it’s made.  Ask what makes one bed more expensive than the other.  Is there more true quality to justify the additional cost or just more profit for the manufacturer. Expect knowledgeable answers.
  3. Ask about delivery procedure and service; ask about the store’s right to substitute another make or model without your knowledge or consent.  Obviously substitutes never happen at Long’s.  Make sure a store doesn’t take old or used beds on their truck.  Long’s will take old beds to the refuse area of the property they are delivering to, never on the truck to another location.  In this day and age of bedbugs, it’s a good policy.
  4. Ask about comfort guarantees.  What happens to beds that a customer has tried in their home for a week, two weeks, a month or longer?  It’s against most local health codes to ever deliver a bed as new that was returned by another customer.  Most manufacturers will not take a return of a bed from a dealer if there is no manufacturing defect (not a comfort issue).  If you’re doubtful of the information you receive, call the manufacturer and ask them.  Ask lots of questions, and be sure you’re satisfied with the answers.  It’s not a problem at Long’s.  We respect our customers and only deliver factory fresh products in factory sealed packing.  The bed is not unwrapped until it reaches a customer’s home.  It’s a matter of public record that businesses have been fined by state and local authorities for delivering used beds as new, complete with stains and bedbugs.
  5. Is it a true sale price or is it marked up to be marked down? Many stores offer “sales” and/or 50% off 365 days a year, including leap years.
  6. If the price suddenly drops tremendously as you get ready to walk, ask “which way out?”
  7. Ask about model names.  Many major manufacturers give the same bed different names for every store.  Makes comparison-shopping difficult and some sales people tend to make ‘mistakes’ when asked about the names and quality levels of their beds.  A manufacturer like Relyon or Aireloom does make different models, but each model name represents a completely different bed.  Each bed has only one name.  If that model and name aren’t in another store, they don’t have it.  Period.
  8. Ask about warranty issues.  Some manufacturers will offer a 10-year warranty on a bed designed to last 4 or 5 years.  Mattress warranties cover defects that occur at the time of manufacture.  In the event there is a problem, will the retailer handle it for you?  Or are you on your own to fight with a distant company?  At Long’s, we’ll take care of it for you. We’re on your side.
  9.  Beware of commission-driven sales people.  Does the sales person truly care about your satisfaction, comfort, budget and particular needs, or does he/she just care about the extra commission they’ll receive for selling a particular product or model?  At Long’s, we’re a team.  No one works on commission.

Or, shop at Long’s. We’ve done all the work for you.  We try to have the best of the industry at any given time.  It’s only at Long’s if it meets our quality and value standards.  We’ll answer all of your questions to the best of our ability.  We’ll help you choose the right mattress for your back and your budget.  We’ll deliver exactly what you’ve chosen in a timely, efficient manner and take care of any problems that might arise in the process.  The difference is: We Care.  Period. We know a satisfied customer is our best recommendation.  One hundred years of the same family ownership have proven it.