Adjustable Beds: Hugely Popular & The Bedding Industry’s Fastest Growing Trend-But Don’t Get Scammed Or Ripped Off
Turn Your Mattress Into A Gravity Defying, Fully Adjustable, Body Conforming Miracle Machine
When it comes to shopping for and selecting an adjustable, flexible, or articulating bed base, most folks tend to get caught up in the appearance and design of an adjustable bed much like they would when shopping for a TV or major appliance, and forget to spend time making an educated decision on why they need an adjustable bed and incorporating those needs into their purchase.
Remember one thing- it’s much like buying a car. Most of what you’re paying for, you can’t see. And manufacturers are very clever about skimping on materials and spending more on curb appeal that the real deal.
Adjustable bed bases vary greatly, with more and more manufacturers designing sleeker, less clunkier versions than the old "Craft-Matic" variety with which we are all familiar. Also, our aging baby boomer population has discovered the benefits of having an adjustable bed, which can be inclined to help with everything from back and neck problems to managing acid reflux issues.
But even more interestingly, younger people are buying adjustable bases to make their bed more media friendly. They look cool, have race car lines, upgraded fabrics, sleek legs and all kinds of tech stuff, if you want it.
Whether you’re a video gamer, serious reader, TV or movie buff, or simply need to elevate your legs after a vicious workout, an adjustable base turns your horizontal bore into a flying, flexible, fun, and functional, media machine. All age groups can have back and neck problems, either from the result of trauma, surgery, or occasional kinking, and there’s nothing more pain relieving or relaxing than being able to precisely adjust how your body is floating in space to get the relief you want.
Adjustable bases are also easier to transfer in and out of than most conventional mattresses, and can often be raised or lowered by merely adjusting the leg height, or by purchasing different leg and caster combinations, making them extremely versatile.
Here’s our advice on looking for a good deal, and making an educated purchase on an adjustable base. We’re going to assume that you already have a mattress that will work with an adjustable base. Without question, the best kind of mattress to use is some kind of foam or air bed mattress. Innerspring mattresses simply do not have the flexibility, or tend to “pop back” when the base begins to fold, elevate, or raise/lower. Latex, memory foam, and air beds that are properly designed for use with adjustable bases make the best choice, since they have the flexibility and weight to stay put as the base adjusts.
It’s What Underneath That Counts – A Solid, Sturdy Chassis, Or Superstructure
When you walk into a brick and mortar store, what is the first thing you see when you look at a typical adjustable base? The pretty exterior fabric, the sleek looking remote controls, that’s probably pretty much it. And remember, the salesperson is keenly aware of the fact that a typical customer is clueless. They want you to see the curb appeal, not be concerned about what’s under the hood. Armed with the right tools, you can stand on the same level playing field with your salesperson, and feel confident that knowledge is power, giving you a bit of an upper hand when shopping for this rather pricey bedroom accessory.
Without question, the most important element of an adjustable base is the superstructure underneath. Usually, this is a steel frame consisting of two rails that the carriage of each adjustable base section rides upon. These rails are attached to either a plywood deck surface, over which a series of layered upholstery is applied, and then the entire chassis is wrapped with a foam rail system forming the outside edge, or perimeter. The dead giveaway on the quality of a unit is the lifting capacity, that is the heaviest weight of a person and a mattress that the unit can lift routinely. Typically, on a queen base, for example, the average lifting weight on a half way decent unit will be at least 700 lbs.
On a premium base, like the Leggett and Platt systems, the lifting capacity is often 850 lbs, indicating that the unit is made with stronger motors, heavier steel chassis, and also a heavy duty, plywood base for the platform.
The motors that operate the movement of each panel of the base (there are typically 3-5 panels that articulate, allowing the base to assume an infinite number of angles and positions) are attached to the underside of the plywood decking. The mechanics, including the wiring harnesses and massage motors, are also attached to the underside of the deck.
Most important feature of an adjustable base: the plywood deck should be at least 5/8” thick, if not ¾”, to allow for durability, resistance to warping or flexing, and to insure that attached elements are permanently fixed over time, don’t shake loose, or don’t simply fall out over time because there wasn’t enough thickness for a screw or hardware fixture to grab onto.
Motors should be UL listed and rated, and look for practical high tech bells and whistles too, like app features for phones or tablets, USB charger ports on either side of the bed (like the ones found on the S-Cape 2.0 and Prodigy 2.0, the U.S. based Leggett & Platt’s biggest selling models). Also, programmable memory positions are nice, especially if you have one or two favorite sweet spots.
Massage feature, yes or no? We generally say, nah, not worth it…but technology moves forward as we know, and that asset in an adjustable base is getting better. Not just jiggling, but pulsing and deep penetration motors that can deliver a massage “like” quality. But, in general, it’s not quite there yet.
Problem is, on a really nice unit with lots of features, it’s going to be on the unit anyway, so you may not have a choice as to whether or not you can leave it off. Fun to play with, and on occasion, you may find a massage feature that offers some benefit.
Modular Design Makes It Easy To Replace Parts And Maintain Your Adjustable Base For Decades To Come
Probably of equal importance in general construction with an adjustable base is whether or not the base is built with a modular mindset, to allow you the end user, to remove parts and pieces that fail, and plug them back in again. Down the road, when the front end “full replacement and full labor” coverage has gone away in your warranty, and you need to replace a motor, or a piece of wiring, or a hinge, the more modular the system is, the easier it is for you the user to either replace the part yourself, or find somebody immediately.
Best brands for modular systems and ease of interchanging parts and components: Leggett & Platt, made in the U.S., and Ergomotion, imported but a pretty decent unit. I have familiarity with both of these manufacturers, and would rank them equal in quality, but: Leggett and Platt systems offer their nationwide service network of mobile technicians, and in their warranty, for a full year, you get free in home labor and parts, not found in imported systems like Ergomotion and others, where you are essentially responsible to handle all issues with parts-including being your own repair man or woman.
From an ergonomic and ease of operation perspective, look for remote controls that are wireless and back lit when touched, so in the middle of the night, you can operate them with ease. Also, if they are too small, they tend to get lost…sounds silly, but if they are larger, they get lost less.
Also, a good ergonomic feature to consider is how versatile the adjustability features of the base are. Zero gravity positions are popular, but there are no “pre-set” miracle positions that work for every user. You’ll likely hit the Zero G button, and then tweak the bed a bit to get it just right for your body. Also, get a wall hugging unit. This is an adjustable base that you can park right up to the wall, and it will operate in full range of motion without moving the unit.
Another often left out feature is the legs or casters. If you are putting your base on wheels, test the unit out in the showroom, or if you are buying one online (the most popular way to but an adjustable base these days), make sure the wheels are at least 3”, and the caster legs are steel, not aluminum.
If you love tech and are texting or browsing online, charging your gear, look for a model with built in USB ports, like the Leggett and Platt Prodigy 2.0, which also offers the massage feature, LED down lighting, a back lit remote control with stand, and is my personal favorite of any unit out there
Again, weight capacity is often indicative of a quality unit, also, because it is a direct function of calibrating how well the system is built and a manufacturer wants weight ranges to be accurate and feasible, so the unit does not crash and burn under load: our rule of thumb, look for at least 700 lbs total max weight, and if you can spring for it, go for 850 lbs. max weight, as found in the Leggett and Platt bases..
Which Brand Is The Best? And Where Should I Buy Mine?
There are many brands to choose from. So, which one is the best? Some are very well known, and respected in the industry. Brands like Leggett And Platt, Ergo Motion, iComfort, Tempur-Pedic are all well known, slickly marketed, but vastly different in quality and performance. Generally, though, in the last few years, the adjustable base industry has become so competitive, that for a decent brand, you can expect to pay $1800-2200 for a queen size unit, probably with free setup thrown in.
And trust me, you don’t want to set these things up on your own. They are heavy, and require a couple of strong buys to bring them in and carry them to your bedroom to set them up. Look for a dealer that throws in free setup service.
Whether you buy them online or not is irrelevant, although since I personally buy everything online, and avoid the hovering sales person whenever I can, I do my own research on everything I buy, and with a couple of clicks, I’m done. Scroll down if you want my personal pick on where to buy an adjustable base.
Also, before you buy, make sure you understand the sizes you need, too. Most web stores, including the site we recommend, are pretty good at explaining the distinction between a queen, a split queen, split king, etc, and how they work. Below, I’ve included a size chart to show you all of the possible configurations. And below that, a pic of a queen adjustable base, meant for one mattress, and below it a pic of a split unit.
The split unit has two side by side bases that operate independently, requiring two separate split mattresses, whether queen, king, or even cal king. However, for the queen, king, and cal king, you can actually sync the two side by side bases (the split set, shown in the second pic) so they can operate together, to accommodate one mattress.
Warranty, Guarantees, And Trial Periods
Warranties vary greatly within the adjustable bed industry, but they do follow general patterns. Most of the reliable, big names, like Leggett & Platt and Ergo-Motion offer good coverage on motor replacement for at least a full year. If anything is likely to fail with a base right up front, it will be one the motors, or an electrical problem. If they don’t fail quickly, they likely will never fail. Both major suppliers offer full coverage on parts AND labor for at least a year. This is considered the gold standard. But again, only Leggett and Platt has that nationwide service team with certified technicians that show up at your door to help you out.
We did like the idea of an American made product, since many cheaper and lower quality adjustable bases have flooded the market in recent years, most imported from China, Taiwan, and other nearby countries. Not that this is always a bad thing to buy an imported unit, but if you ever need service, or a technician who is trained and available to visit your home, or shipment of parts within the U.S., should you ever need them, a domestic made adjustable base would probably be the best option.
Who I Picked As My Recommended Dealer For An Adjustable Bed Base..
We found a company that sells Leggett and Platt adjustable bases- in fact, they make it easy on you by selling the 3 most popular models only, and being manufactured in the states gets you localized service and parts shipped from within the US., too. This is a pic taken from their adjustable base page that shows how simple they keep things. They only offer three models. I can’t stand web sites or stores that have 20 different models, since it makes choosing one so confusing, and they’re not drastically different to begin with, except for a few bells and whistles. That’s why I like their site.
The company is Habitat Furnishings, and they have been in the bedding business since 1994, I think longer than most of their competition combines. Since they are an A+ BBB rated company, they seem to be well respected and offer online chat services as well as actual humans that answer the phone (we called them). I don’t get a commission, or a finder’s fee, but they pay a small flat rate to help me keep this site up and running, to be totally honest with you. I also compare their prices against several other big players, and they seem to be highly competitive, if not cheaper than other dealers…
If you are looking for good quality, consider Leggett and Platt as your first choice. They’ve been building bedding products for over a hundred years, I like their designs, and they are a large company as well. Other companies such as Reverie and Glide-Away are also operations that build similar bases with a solid superstructure and useful accessories.