Just the topper?
July 29, 2008 2:16 PM   Subscribe

Can I sleep on just a memory foam mattress topper? Other suggestions for cheap-o temporary furnishing?

I've just moved to Helena, Montana to work for a political campaign (one guess which), and I'm living in a very nice but unfurnished house. Craigslist isn't very developed out here, and we don't have tons of free time to drive around Montana picking up stuff anyway. I've checked out the thrift stores, but they're pretty picked over.

1) I'm tired of sleeping on an air mattress. I've slept on a memory foam mattress before, which I liked, though wished it was much firmer. Has anyone slept on just a memory foam mattress topper on the floor? Any reasons this won't work out for me?

2) Any other suggestions for very cheap, interesting furnishing? As we're only here for four months, it pains me to spend real money. I bought some beach chairs, but we would love something that could function like a couch. A table or two might be nice as well. Ordering online is, of course, fine, but we do have a Home Depot, a Walmart, and a Target. The house is very large and empty, so out-there ideas on use of space are encouraged.
posted by zazerr to Home & Garden (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
"Has anyone slept on just a memory foam mattress topper on the floor?"

I'm on record of not being a fan of this bedding material, but it's certainly a lot better than sleeping on the bare floor.

I did this for one night a couple of months ago while in the middle of moving house. I had to double up a Queen size memory foam sheet by folding it in half to make the padding deep enough to try to sleep on.

I will never do it again. Ever. A couple of inches of material simply is not enough to support a full sized adult human being off the floor. It doesn't work.

If you want to throw together a temporary bed, foam is fine, but use much thicker, much harder foam. A decent-size town with any commercial/industrial base will have somewhere that foam can be cut to your specifications. Don't bother with the memory stuff, get the hard stuff.
posted by majick at 2:24 PM on July 29, 2008

I've done it (recently, and for a period of about two weeks) but I agree that it wasn't ideal. I slept fine, but I'm not sure that I slept better than I would have on a Thermarest or something. The one advantage of the foam over something that you would use for camping is that it's much bigger, so it's more comfortable if you roll around at all.

Still, I agree that a thicker foam would be better.
posted by cider at 2:28 PM on July 29, 2008

Any other suggestions for very cheap, interesting furnishing?

In college, I made two nightstands out of thick, robust moving boxes. Put some clean sand in the bottom to hold 'em down, sealed 'em up good with lots of tape. Voila! Cube-shaped nightstand upon which I could put lamps, alarm clocks, TV remotes, etc. I could even write on them. I suppose you have plenty of campaign stickers and the like lying around for decoration?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:32 PM on July 29, 2008

I slept for many months on waffle foam and a thrift store quilt. The foam was the core of an old futon and about 2 inches thick. I topped it with a thick quilt from a thrift store. I may have used two quilts; I don't remember. It was fine and highly portable.

I had a friend who built the base of his double bed out of cardboard boxes. All were roughly the same height. He put a sheet of plywood on top of them and then added a mattress or futon. Because the weight was spread over so many boxes, it worked. The shorter boxes became pull-out storage, and when it was time to move, he had all the boxes he needed.

My current nightstand is a nicely sanded and sealed board on scavenged concrete blocks. It's big and the perfect height.

In the living room, I built a long bench from edge-glued boards from Lowe's. The back edge rests on a board attached to the wall; for a long time the front legs were concrete blocks. Now they're dimensional lumber planed to look less dimensional. It looks and works great.

I think there are instructions somewhere on the web that show how to build furniture from FedEx boxes.
posted by PatoPata at 2:43 PM on July 29, 2008

When you say "air mattress" are you speaking of a cheap camping style product, or a real inflatable bed?

We bought a raised platform (which also inflates) queen sized inflatable mattress for somewhere around $100 on sale at Target a few months back and I have no problem sleeping on. I wouldn't know it's an inflatable product had I not set it up, since it's the height and size of a conventional bed.
posted by imjustsaying at 2:48 PM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

You might try to price/quality compare a foam mattress topper with backpacker's sleeping pads, which are meant to be used alone. They're usually pretty thin, but denser than memory foam, and if you're not going to expose it to the elements you could get a pretty cheaply made one without much concern.
posted by LionIndex at 2:51 PM on July 29, 2008

Above, should be "I have no problem sleeping on it.
posted by imjustsaying at 2:52 PM on July 29, 2008

I had a 1" thick memory foam topper in college. My problem was that it was thin enough that I'd press right through it, feeling the bricks "mattress" underneath. I eventually got an egg-crate type foam thing and put that under the memory foam to soften it up.

So it depends on how thick it is. If it's one of those 6" ones, it might work well. If it's a budget 1" one, you're going to have parts of you, like your shoulder blades, pressed against the floor.
posted by fogster at 2:59 PM on July 29, 2008

I've slept on a 5" thick polyurethane mattress and it was as comfortable as our expensive bed. YMMV.
posted by mecran01 at 3:05 PM on July 29, 2008

As a campaign veteran, I say that's what supporters are for! Seriously, if you're doing field, you might want to call your most enthusiastic supporters and ask them if they "know anyone" who has a spare mattress to lend. This is especially good for the supporters that aren't keen on door knocking. :)

Failing that, I spent a campaign sleeping on a memory foam mattress from my parents' attic and it was fine, but I was 21. I'd never do that now! I say investigate a good quality air mattress, especially if the one you used before was cheap or leaky. They can be quite comfy.
posted by lunasol at 3:07 PM on July 29, 2008

Also, I probably would focus more on a bed than anything else. A couch is nice, but by labor day, you will be spending approximately 1 non-sleeping hour at home/day. But once October rolls around, sleep will be just about the most precious thing in your life. Are you the kind of person who can sleep anywhere if you're tired? Then you'll be fine with whatever mattress. If not, do yourself a huge favor and pay for a cheap but real mattress.
posted by lunasol at 3:13 PM on July 29, 2008

i've slept on an "ordinary" mattress on the floor. it's fine, but at certain times of year, on certain kinds of floor, you can get some condensation, so it's better to lift or move it during the day. i got my mattress from a friend - people often have spare ones lying around.

also, when i had lived with little for a time, i was amazed how much difference a table (and chair) made. living on the floor is cool, but sitting at a table to eat or write is, i realised, one of the simple pleasures in life. the cheapest table i found at the time was one of those "outside" ones (patio furniture?).

after that, the next luxury is a fridge :o)
posted by not sure this is a good idea at 3:23 PM on July 29, 2008

posted by low affect at 3:30 PM on July 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

If you go to Target and blow a cool hundred on their nicer-quality queen-sized foam topper (or king-sized, if you'll be sleeping on it for a while and want enough room to roll over), you should be able to fold it in half and sleep very comfortably on it. I've done so for a couple of nights at a time, and I'm a bigger fan of softer beds, but it was pretty comfortable and probably exactly the taste of someone who likes a firmer sleeping surface.
posted by you're a kitty! at 3:31 PM on July 29, 2008

Response by poster: Great answers. To those that asked, I am sleeping on a $20 air mattress from Target. I will certainly check out the backpacking pads, or maybe a really nice air mattress that I can just ship home when this is over.

Good call on the concrete blocks and boards for tables and benches. I will likely do that.

@not sure this is a good idea: Luckily, we have a fridge. I'd cry without one.

posted by zazerr at 3:40 PM on July 29, 2008

I spent about $300 (after coupon) at Overstock on a 10" memory foam mattress and while it's not quite the firmness of the newest high-density Tempurpedic mattresses (that run $3k and $6k), it's pretty awesome. It might be worth the price if you can resell it for $100-200 after the campaign. Shipping was only $1.99. :)

I've also slept on a futon pad that probably had about 3 feathers total in it, for about a year. I like firm mattresses, and while essentially sleeping on the floor is a bit rough, you do get used to it.
posted by kcm at 3:54 PM on July 29, 2008

I sleep on an air mattress with a memory foam pad on top.
posted by hortense at 4:09 PM on July 29, 2008

Seconding the futon pad idea. Add a thin foam "egg crate" type thing and you'll be golden.

Air mattresses, even fairly "nice" expensive ones, tend to get tiny leaks all over them as time goes on. They can't be repaired because the leaks are too small too see or even feel air coming out. After six months sleeping on one, mine didn't even hold air through one night. It had to be inflated daily, and eventually I just trashed it.
posted by TSGlenn at 4:14 PM on July 29, 2008

We have an awesome queen size airbed made by either Coleman or Greatland, probably the same one imjustsaying is referring to. Highly recommended, especially if you're sleeping alone (a heavier partner flopping around might cause a trampoline effect).

Also, if you have volunteers coming from Bozeman or Missoula, have them check the thrift stores. I went to college in Bozeman and there were tons of people throwing stuff out in the summertime.

Also also, check a secondhand sports store. They may have camping mats etc.
posted by desjardins at 4:35 PM on July 29, 2008


Do whatever you can to get the foam up off the floor, even if it's just a few inches. Air circulation is vital to sleeping on foam. If you're on the floor, you're going to wake up with a damp mattress and go to bed with it still damp, unless you have a place to hang the mattress up to dry.

Plastic air mattress under the foam? Same problem... moisture. It's not something you'd necessarily notice in hot dry weather, but come fall and winter, you'll be miserable damp.

The thinness of the foam will make a very firm sleeping surface, for sure. I'd rather sleep on the floor with no padding under me than to sleep on something that's too soft, so it's your preference.
posted by reflecked at 4:39 PM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

AeroBed. Get it at your Target or BedBath&Beyond or order online. Some varities/sizes are well under $100. We have a full-size one we bought for just over $100 which we use when extra guests are visiting. I found it very comfortable, although I would raise it off the floor if I was sleeping on it more than a few nights.
posted by Robert Angelo at 5:14 PM on July 29, 2008

If a new item isn't a priority, don't forget to look up your local Freecycle! Our Craigslist is lousy as well, but Freecycle is usually hopping with people. If you were here, you'd find at least a freebie futon mattress in no time.
posted by sian at 6:30 PM on July 29, 2008

Or pick up a sofa from HomeReserve.com, use it for sitting and for sleeping, and pack it up easily to move when you're done.
posted by notashroom at 7:09 PM on July 29, 2008

I sleep on two toppers stacked together, but before I got the second one, I just slept on one. I love it.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 7:10 PM on July 29, 2008

You can post a "wanted" advert on freecycle. If you state you can only collect locally you won't have to travel, and I bet you will get some of the items that you need.
posted by bystander at 7:15 PM on July 29, 2008

I came here to say what reflecked said. I had a futon directly on the floor that I failed to flip or move around. A few months and it was covered in mold on the bottom. If you don't have a frame, drag your mattress over to a new area of carpet every week or so.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:03 AM on July 30, 2008

Matresses are a good example of "you get what you pay for". If you splurge on a "normal" mattress, you won't regret it.
posted by zardoz at 4:19 AM on July 30, 2008

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