The Memory Foam Top Layer

Now that you know what memory foam is, the differences between memory foams, and some possible issues, it’s time to select a memory foam top layer for the bed.

What We’re Looking For

All of this wouldn’t be much good if they didn’t sell memory foam by itself. Luckily enough, they do – as mattress toppers. We know we’re looking for open-cell viscoelastic polyurethane foam, with a minimum density of 5lb/ft3 (80 kg/m3) . It should be reviewed well for comfort, as well as come with a wicking cover to ensure comfort in humid or warmer conditions.

The only thing left to decide is size and thickness. Mattress size is completely up to you, but I suggest getting as much quality memory foam as you can afford. A thickness of 4 inches appears to be the sweet spot in terms of cost versus benefit. Anything beyond that provides little benefit, and cost increases drastically.

What I Did

I’ll save you the research trouble, and just tell you who I found that satisfies our conditions. That’s not to say there aren’t a ton of vendors out there with great products – this is simply one I’ve used personally and can vouch for. Finding the best deal at any given time is going to be a little bit of work – prices and products change rapidly, but at least your evaluation method will not.

In 1Q 2008 when I built my bed, Bergad Inc’s Isoform mattress division provided a very high quality, well reviewed memory foam for a very reasonable price. I purchased a 4″ queen mattress topper with a wicking (“CoolMax”) cover for approximately 215 USD. The price has increased since that time, but remains a very good value. As of the time I ordered, shipping was free to the US and Ontario. I cannot vouch for any other provinces as I live in Ontario, but to be frank I cannot believe I was not charged extra (or anything!) for cross-border shipping.

I would not recommend Ebay or other assorted sites. The deals present can be matched easily by careful shopping with more established merchants, and any deals “too good to be true” usually are. The advantage of having a company you can phone up and contact for issues such as warranty is invaluable. Here are some major manufacturers to get you started.

Bergad Two parts: the retail Isoform side, and the wholesale Bergad Specialty Foams and Composites Division which produces wholesale foam and unique products such as glow in the dark memory foam.
Carpenter The “largest manufacturer of comfort cushioning in the world”. Produces the Isotonic line of memory foam products for consumers, but the majority of their memory foam is sold to other manufacturers.
Essentia Canadian based memory foam manufacturer. Does not use the typical polyurethane approach, but instead has developed a process to add viscoelastic properties to latex foam.
Foamex A large manufacturer of foam products, including the Venus, Aerus, Energia, and Sensus memory foams. Currently restructured due to bankruptcy, the future of these products is uncertain.
Sleep Innovations Best known for its Novaform line, they also produce a wide range of products for private labels at retailers like Target, Sears, Kohl’s, Costco and Sam’s Club. Also produced the deeply ironic “Cuddly Comfort” pillows that were recalled for containing jagged metal bits.
Tempur The original. This is on here only for completeness and comparison’s sake – their memory foam toppers are ludicrously expensive.

There are actually very few companies manufacturing their own memory foam, and even fewer who do it domestically. Foam is rebranded and resold, and it can be very difficult to trace where your memory foam product really came from. If you’re aware of other companies that actually make their own foam as opposed to brokering it through other sources, please leave a comment!

Miscellaneous Issues

There are a few things you should be aware of. One, the thing is going to be heavy. Remember our density calculations in the differences between memory foams section? A 4″ queen topper will be almost 60 pounds! Make sure you’re home the day of delivery so you don’t have to go pick it up yourself, and let the delivery guy drop it in your bedroom, not your front door. This isn’t a major issue for younger people, but if you have difficulty lifting and moving heavy awkward objects, recruit a helper!



Additionally, memory foam, due to it’s open-cell foam structure, can be compressed quite compactly. This saves on shipping, but often causes people to get confused when they see a compressed shrinkwrapped thing that looks more like a Pilsbury roll than a mattress cover. It will take several hours for the topper to unroll itself and expand. Don’t attempt to “stretch” it back into shape, you could damage it. Just let it be. As the pictures show, it can take a while, especially if delivered in the cold which will cause the memory foam to stiffen up significantly.

The mattress topper cover can be a pain to put on too. Easiest way I found way to lay out the cover flat, put the mattress topper on one side of it, then fold the cover over and zip it up. The weight of the mattress topper makes typical approaches to zipping it up very awkward.

Remember there will be a mild odor to start. My mattress topper had no appreciable odor after 2 days.

7 thoughts on “The Memory Foam Top Layer

    • Hi Frank,

      I am a bit skeptical. From what I understand, this seems to be an easy way to add some “filler” into the memory foam, driving down costs. It may be useful for some, but I would not personally use it in a project.

  1. I believe I found a company that makes their memory foam mattress toppers domestically. The company is called The Foam Factory a.k.a. The company is based in Clinton Township, MI. Their website says that their ViscoMAX memory foam is made in the USA.

  2. Dear Geoff,
    I purchased a memory foam topper from Costco several years ago when they first became popular and more affordable. It was 2.5″ thick and a decent density though I don’t remember what it was exactly. It was a nice creamy white color when I purcahsed it but over time the edges began turning a brownish yellow color. As the years passed the entire topper turned this horrible color. The foam remained firm and in good condition/ It came with a velour cover which was on it at all times. I also kept a good quality mattress pad over it. What was the possible cause of this topper turning this horrible color and is this the norm? Was it humidity or moisture?

  3. Seeking some additional information/advice. Two years ago I purchased a 3 inch memory foam topper for use on my old inner springs mattress – it got me a couple more years of use. Now I want to purchase a memory foam mattress. Since the topper is still in excellent shape, I hate to toss it and lose the $$ it represents. I’m looking at a couple of 14 inch memory foam mattresses. Both have a layer of gel infused memory foam. One is rated “medium-firm” and the other is rated “soft”. My concern is what happens with either one when I add my topper to the mattress? I realize that many commercial memory foam mattresses are designed with a built-in topper as it were; in fact the mattress rated soft is rated that way because it has 1 in or ultra soft foam as the top layer placed over the gel foam. The medium hard has 8 in foundation with 3 in of another foam and finally 3 in of gel foam.


  4. I am trying to build foam mattress but confuse given there are so many choices.

    Novafoam Gel Foam and Isotonic foam available at

    2) Bergard’s Isoform topper are $327 (without cover) $407 (with cover)
    they have 3.5″ Gel topper strangely cheaper for $288 @

    For base layer, is there anything you recommend From Foam By Mail site @

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