How Full Should I Fill My Waterbed?


Are you wondering how much water is necessary to fill a waterbed? Finding the perfect water level for you bed is essential for getting a restful night's sleep, avoiding back problems and making sure your bed stays in good shape for as long as possible.

Is a Water Bed Right for You?

There are a number of things you should consider before you buy and install a waterbed. At 8.35 pounds per gallon, waterbeds can get heavy, and if you're renting an apartment or own a condo, there may be regulations that bar the use of waterbeds in your building. A waterbed can cause problems if it leaks too, so placing one on hardwood or laminate flooring has a potential downside.

After you decide you definitely do want to install a waterbed, you'll have two major varieties to choose from, hard and soft sided. The high, hard sided waterbeds of a couple of decades ago are still around, but newer models tend to be of the soft sided, no-wave variety.

No-wave waterbeds consist of a number of long plastic cylinders instead of one large water "bladder" or mattress. The cylinders install into a foam padded depression lined with plastic. The foam comprises the soft sides of the waterbed. A regular mattress top zips over the water filled cylinders completing the installation. Because the tubes are completely separate from one another, waveless waterbeds aren't subject to the rolling motion associated with old style waterbeds. Once a soft sided, waveless waterbed has been made up, it is indistinguishable from a standard mattress with innerspring.

Another option is a double mattress, or two water filled bladders side-by-side. These units are usually less expensive than no-wave waterbeds that can contain up to ten separate cylinders.

Tips for Filling a Waterbed

Waterbeds offer back support and comfort while you sleep. Some people need more support than others, so the exact amount of water needed to fill a waterbed varies based on the preferences and needs of the owner. The more water in the mattress, up to the maximum capacity, the more back support it will provide.

Most waterbed manufacturers provide a fill guide with their products that includes a line for the recommended minimum and maximum water level. Within that range, the plastic seam construction of the mattress is protected, and there's still some latitude for individual comfort. Depending on the size of the waterbed, the manufacturer and your back support preferences, the preferred fill level will vary. You should never feel the flat bottom of the mattress with your derriere when you're lying down, though. If you can, you haven't filled the mattress enough.

The following volume ranges for three popular waterbed sizes will give you a general idea of the amount of water needed for a typical installation:

  • Queen: 162 to 187 gallons
  • King: 180 to 195 gallons
  • California king: 185 to 200 gallons

Follow Fill Instructions

Getting the right amount of water into your waterbed is important for more than comfort. Overfilling or underfilling could shorten the life of your mattress or cylinders. To get just the right fill, take the time to read the manufacturer's directions, check the instructions stamped on the mattress itself, or try finding the manufacturer's website. Keep in mind that grossly over or under filling can lead to problems.

Experiment to Get the Right Level

If your waterbed doesn't have a guide for filling and you can't locate a reliable recommendation, you can do some experimenting to determine the most comfortable water level for you.

  • Too Much Water: An overfull mattress will bulge slightly in the center. When you're lying in bed, your body will tend to roll to the outside of the mattress. Removing a little water will get rid of the bump, and you'll be able to recline without feeling you're about to tip over.
  • Not Enough Water: If there is too little water in the mattress, there'll be a depression toward the center. You'll have trouble rolling over, and your body will tend to gravitate toward the middle of the bed during the night.

When you fill your mattress for the first time, you'll be able to finesse the water level so you can get a good night's sleep without feeling as though you have to hang onto something.

Keep Adjusting the Water Level

Deciding exactly how much water to use to fill your waterbed can be a work in progress. All waterbed mattresses contain some air that will expand and contract with changes in the ambient room temperature. To maintain your waterbed safely and stay comfortable, discover the recommended water level range and make minor seasonal adjustments if you begin to feel the mattress sagging or expanding to an uncomfortable level.

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How Full Should I Fill My Waterbed?