What Is a Tight-Top Mattress?

Tight-top mattresses have been the industry standard for many years. A type of innerspring mattress, they offer varying levels of padding and support inside for side-, stomach- and back-sleepers. They are less expensive than other types of mattresses while still providing the perfect level of comfort for most people. Take the time to test different tight-top mattresses to find the right one for you.

Tight-top mattresses do not have an extra surface layer like a pillow-top.


In a traditional tight-top mattress, the upholstery layer is pulled down and attached to the mattress with one fabric tape edge; there is no extra pillow attached to the top. Tight-top mattresses can be either one- or two-sided. One-sided mattresses cannot be flipped over, but they can be rotated head-to-foot. Two-sided mattresses are padded equally on both sides and can be both flipped and rotated, extending the comfort and life of the mattress.


Coils, or springs make up the center layer of support in tight-top mattresses and are made up of different thicknesses of wire. Thicker wires result in a firm surface, while thinner wires result in a mattress that has more bounce. Some manufacturers will use fewer thick coils to cut costs, but this type of mattress will become lumpy more quickly than one that is made up of more thin coils. It is also easier to feel the thick, firm coils in a tight-top mattress.


The main purpose of the insulation layer of thick padding is to keep the soft quilting from poking between each spring. It also reduces how much you can feel the coils when you lay on the mattress. The layer is commonly made of synthetic foam or natural materials such as wool and horsehair. Tight-top mattresses that have hand-stitched padding are preferable to keep the layers from shifting.


The cushion layer in tight-top mattresses is sewn between the insulation padding and the quilting layer. It largely affects how a mattress will feel. It can be made of latex, memory foam, convoluted or egg-crate foam, felt, cotton, polyester, wool, goose down, silk or cashmere. Mattresses that have the same coil support system can have different levels of comfort and durability depending on the cushioning used.


Quilting is the top layer of foam padding underneath the fabric cover that gives the surface of a mattress a soft feel. It is stitched to the inside of the cover to prevent shifting. Tight-top mattresses that have soft or plush quilting have larger stitch patterns and firmer quilting has stitching that is closer together. The quilting layer allows air to pass through the fibers so you can keep an even body temperature.


Tight-top mattresses aren't necessarily hard and uncomfortable; rather, they range from firm to plush, depending on how much padding and quilting is used. Many people prefer a tight-top mattress with soft cushioning without the squishy layers of pillow-tops. You can add a separate cushioned topper to a firm mattress for extra comfort. This is an ideal way to soften one side of a mattress for couples who prefer different levels of firmness.