The B&B Owner's Guide to Mattresses

It’s frustrating, isn’t it?

Who’d have thought choosing a mattress would be so complicated? And yet, with all the different structures and fillings available, as well as the abundance of firmness ratings, it can be a difficult decision to make.

And the pressure to get it right is really on.

A comfortable bed is essential for a quality night of sleep. Remember how you feel after a sleepless night, and imagine the dissatisfaction of a sleep-deprived guest – is that really something you want to deal with?

Yes, it really is a nightmare buying beds and mattresses for other people.

But it doesn’t have to be. 

Types of Mattresses

There are two basic forms of mattresses: spring and foam mattresses.

Spring mattresses are constructed using a wire frame with coils (or springs) for structure and support. There are two types of spring mattresses:

Open Coil

Open coil (often referred to as "Bonnell") mattresses are the most common and cheapest on the market, consisting of an interconnected coil system. Open coil mattresses typically offer firmer support, and are often used as orthopaedic mattresses.

Pocket spring

Pocket sprung mattresses are made of a series of individually-housed coils which move independently from one another. This provides a higher quality sleeping surface and prevents mattresses from 'tipping'. 

Spring mattresses are measured in gauges (wire thickness), spring count and rod edge (mattress edge) support. More information about these terms can be found at our technical mattress guide.

Foam mattresses are constructed without internal frames or coils at all, and usually consist of either one or multiple layers of foam. Foam is a popular choice for guests because it offers tailored support. There are three main types if foam commonly used in mattresses:

Memory Foam

Memory foam is a high-density foam that reacts to pressure and heat. Memory foam gives your body excellent support, and moulds to your individual shape. Once you wake up and get out of bed, the memory foam 'resets' itself.

Reflex Foam

Reflex foam is often used as a cheaper alternative than memory foam. Reflex foam is filled with air bubbles which are displaced when pressure is applied. Reflex foam still bounces but does not allow the same 'sinking' sensation as memory foam.

Latex Foam

Latex foam is a natural form of foam, made from the secreted sap of rubber trees. Latex foam is extremely durable and more breathable than standard memory foam. However, latex mattresses can be heavier than other foam mattresses.

Mattress Terms You Should Know

To help you make a more informed decision when mattress shopping, it’s important you know what the industry terms are and, more importantly, what they mean.

This ensures you can identify the correct quality of mattress for you and your guests.

  • Spring count - The number of springs in a mattress. Usually the higher, the better.

  • Gauge - Indicates the thickness of the wire springs. The lower the number, the thicker the spring, which typically results in a firmer mattress.

  • Foam encapsulated - Foam encapsulated borders are a type of mattress edge finish, more commonly used on pocket sprung mattresses.

  • Pillow top - Pillow top mattresses have an additional layer of comfort on the top of the mattress, providing a softer sleeping surface (usually used to help relieve back pain).

Visit our Knowledge Centre for more information about contract-related terms and their definitions.

B&B Mattress Regulations & Requirements

Any UK business that uses furniture NOT intended for domestic (private) use is legally required to ensure that all furniture meets strict fire regulations.

All beds and mattresses in UK B&Bs MUST comply with Crib 5 (also known as Source 5) fire regulations. These regulations go further than the regulations required for domestic furniture.

For use in a B&B, beds and mattresses must comply with the following British Standard (BS 7177:2008) tests:

  • BS EN 597/1 (Resistance to a smouldering cigarette)

  • BS EN 597/2 (Resistance to match flame)

  • BS 6807 (Flame-retardant)

These standards do not guarantee that the furniture is entirely fireproof, but dramatically reduces the risk of ignition. 


How often should I replace the mattresses in my B&B?

Whenever necessary. The Sleep Council recommends that domestic users start thinking about replacing their mattresses every 7 years but depending on your room occupancy at your B&B, your mattresses may last shorter or longer.

The important thing is that your mattress is still in good condition. You want it to be clean, with no stains, tears or signs of damage. You also don’t want your mattress to sag or tip.

Investing in a better quality mattress to begin with, will result in longer use.


What can I do to make my beds more adaptable for the different preferences of guests?

Ensure you have a range of different pillows and mattress toppers, which can be used to transform a bed into a firmer/softer sleeping experience.

Also, make sure you are able to provide additional sheets for guests who may require them.