King Size vs. California King Mattress: What's the Difference
Looking for more room to sleep—whether it’s solo, with your partner, your children or even your furry friends? A King bed can be the perfect choice. After all, Kings offer more than 6,000 square inches of comfy, cozy sleep paradise.
But…wait. Which King?
You have probably heard there are two options to consider when it comes to big beds: the King (known as a standard King) or California King mattress. Who is each mattress designed for? What are the dimensions? What are the similarities, differences, pros and cons? Read on as we take the mystery out of these two bed sizes to help you decide which will help you get your best sleep.
Before we start, let’s take a quick look at the history of the King and California King mattresses.
Up until World War II, most Americans slept on Full-size beds. This changed in the 50s when the King mattress made its debut. It was a new option for sleepers looking for more room. And this King-size mattress was for anyone who wanted to sleep next to their partner, instead of being in a separate bed a few feet away. While the King revolution was in full swing, California was busy putting a unique twist on the new size.
Depending on who you talk to the first California King mattress, also known as a Western King, was made in the 1920s. While that time frame is up for debate, we know the Cal King was made in Los Angeles during the ‘60s to satisfy requests from celebrities living in larger homes with larger bedrooms who wanted a longer bed to fill the extra space. The trend caught on and California Kings went into mass production in the 1970s.
King vs. California King: Mattress Size and Dimensions
Certainly, size is the main reason people choose a King or Cal King. Sleepers can stretch out and rest comfortably alone or with their sleep partner. Plus, there’s room left over to snuggle and sleep with your children and pet(s).
While both beds are large and offer almost identical total sleep surfaces, there are differences in dimensions.
In short, says Sleep Expert™ Derek Barton-odro, “Your California King is shaped more like a rectangle; your traditional King is shaped more like a square.” The standard King measures 76”x80” (that’s 6,080 square inches), or roughly the size of two Twin beds pushed together. By comparison, a Cal King is 72”x84” (6,048 square inches).
What you lose with a California King is 4” in width. But sleepers gain 4” in length. The extra length of a Cal King can be perfect if at least one of the bed’s occupants is on the tall side (over 6’2”). It’s also a good choice when you have a dog or cat who sleeps at the foot of the bed (or you want them to sleep there) and you don’t want them to disrupt your rest—and you don’t want to disturb theirs.
California King vs. King: Pros and Cons
California King Bed Overview
There’s more to making the decision to sleep on a Cal King or Western King than dimensions and sleep surface area. Here are additional considerations for choosing the best mattress size for you.
Who is a Cal King for?
If you’re single or want to sleep closer to your bed partner, you probably won’t miss the extra width of a standard King mattress. And if you’re tall—over 6’2” (a rough but reliable estimate)—you will sleep comfortably in a California King without having your feet pressed up against the foot board or dangling over the end of the bed.
The child and pet effect
Snuggling and sleeping with your children in a Cal King will bring your family closer due to the shorter width. And, as mentioned earlier, the extra length can be a plus if your pet(s) sleep at the end of the bed and neither of you wants to disturb the other’s sleep.
The right bedroom
For bedroom placement, the shorter width/longer length dimensions of the Cal King are perfect for large bedrooms or narrower rooms. Visually, the California King creates a perception of increased depth to your bedroom.
Move it or lose it?
To enjoy a Cal King in your bedroom, you need to get it into your bedroom. The increased length can present delivery and installation issues for some homeowners and apartment dwellers. When you’re with your salesperson, discuss the width of your doors, stairs, stair landings, elevator size, and any other obstacles delivery people will encounter on install day.
Overall, you’ll find Cal King mattresses are priced the same as standard Kings at Mattress Firm. Buyers of California Kings, however, can expect to encounter higher prices and fewer choices when it comes to sheets, box springs, bed frames, bedding and adjustable bases. That’s not to say you can’t find great choices. There just won’t be as many. But if you want the size, shape and benefits of a Cal King you’ll find any additional costs well worth the investment in your sleep.
Split the difference?
One more option to consider: a Split California King. With the same dimensions and sleep area as a regular Cal King, a Split Cal King offers sleepers the ability to move independently during the night without disrupting their partner. Couples can also use a split adjustable base to further customize their ideal sleep space.
To summarize the plusses and minuses, the California King is a great choice for single people and those who like to sleep close to their bed partner.
Pros of a California King
- Perfect for tall people (6’2” or taller) to help them sleep comfortably
- Additional length allows your pet(s) to sleep at the foot of the bed without disturbing your sleep
- Ideal for longer, narrower and very large bedrooms
- Split models can provide the benefits of a Cal King plus the ability to sleep and move independently during the night without disrupting your partner
Cons of a California King
- Snuggling and sleeping with your children can be more crowded due to less mattress width
- Increased length can present problems when delivering and installing and when you move to a new home
- Higher price for sheets, bed frames, box springs, bedding and adjustable bases
King-Size Bed Overview
As with any big life purchase, it pays to do your homework. And knowing the differences, pros and cons of Kings and California King mattresses will pay big dividends when the time comes to choose your bed. What’s important to know about Kings?
The king of big beds
Kings have the width and length to give most sleepers—especially those under 6’2”—plenty of room for themselves, their bed partners, and snuggles with their children and pets.
An easy fit
King mattresses also work well in almost all bedroom sizes. Standard 10’x12’ rooms are fine for the installation of a King, but it’s suggested that rooms be as large or larger than that for a successful placement. Remember to leave space to walk on both sides of the bed!
Installation? No problem
Most homes and apartments give you the space needed for easy delivery and install of a King bed. But it doesn’t hurt to discuss door size, stairs width, elevator size, etc., with your Sleep Expert™ before making your purchase. A few minutes of prep time will eliminate headaches on delivery day.
Plenty of choices
King mattresses offer up plenty of options when it comes to fitting your bed with sheets, bedding, a frame, and an adjustable base. Says Barton-odro, “I have clients saying it's hard to find Cali King mattress protectors, Cali King sheets, and if they do, they're limited in selection or overpriced, if they’re shopping elsewhere. It's easier to find King-size accessories anywhere they look, so for people concerned about availability, the standard King is the better choice.”
Pros of a King bed
- Perfect for sleepers 6’2” and under
- A good choice for singles and couples—with room for bedtime visits and sleeps with their children and pets
- Fits easily in rooms 10’x12’ or larger
- Easy to deliver and install
- Wide selection of sheets, bedding, frames and adjustable bases
Cons of a King bed
- Too short for tall people
- Might not fit well in narrow rooms
How to Choose Between King Size Mattress Options
If you’ve already decided a King or California King mattress is for you (and your bed partner!), how do you choose which one to buy?
Height of sleepers
If you’re under 6’2”, a King or Cal King can work well. If you’re 6’2” or taller? Consider the California King. The additional 4” of length will prevent most tall people from sleeping with their legs curled up, or their feet hanging over the end of the bed or pressed against the foot board (no fun either way).
How close do you and your partner sleep? If you both like a bit of space, the additional width of the King could make for your best choice. If sleeping close is your thing, you won’t have a problem with the narrower width of the Cal King–especially if the additional length of the mattress is important to you.
Do your kids sleep with you?
Welcoming your children to sleep with you can be a consideration when deciding on a King or California King. The additional width of a standard King will provide enough space for you, your bed partner and the little ones in your life. The narrower width of a Cal King might not give you the space needed for everyone to sleep comfortably.
A place for pets
The Cal King and standard King are both good choices if your dog or cat sleeps with you. If your pet likes to sleep at the foot of the bed and you have to change up your sleep position so you don’t interrupt them? The additional length of a California King will allow your pet to snooze undisturbed in their own space.
Do you have space in your room?
Deciding which big mattress to buy can be easier when you follow these simple guidelines: for large or longer, narrow bedrooms, the shorter width of a California King mattress will add depth and dimension to your sleep space. Bedrooms measuring 10’x12’ or larger provide ample room for the successful installation of a standard King.
Measure of success
Most homes and apartments can easily accommodate the successful placement of a King bed. The additional length of a Cal King requires that you let your mattress salesperson know the width of your doors, staircase(s), elevator and other obstacles your delivery team will encounter on the day your new mattress arrives.
The total cost
At Mattress Firm, Cal King and King mattresses are priced the same. The cost of dressing and accessorizing your new bed with sheets, bedding, bed frame, box spring and adjustable base can be higher for California King buyers. Your choices will be limited, too. Not so with a King.
There’s a lot that goes into deciding on your new mattress regardless of what size you’re considering. But dedicating time to think about your needs and the investment you want to make in your sleep and overall health, and spending time with a mattress professional to look at and test out different beds, will lead you to your best sleep ever.
FAQs About King and California King Mattresses
Is there a bed bigger than a California King?
The California King is the longest mattress size commercially available. However, it is narrower than a King. The King has slightly more sleep surface area.
Which is better: Cal King or King?
The best mattress size is the one that’s best for you. It is important to decide what’s more important when it comes to mattress size—length or width—when you sleep.
Is King or California King bigger?
The two beds offer up nearly identical total sleep surfaces—6,048 square inches for the Cal King and 6,080 square inches for the standard King. The California King is 4” longer and offers 4” less width than a King.
Will California King sheets fit a regular King bed?
No. Sheets designed to fit a Cal King will not fit a standard King. “You cannot have a California King sheet fit a regular King because of that additional width; you will have that added length, but the sheet won’t fit across the mattress,” says Barton-odro.
Can you use a King mattress on a California King bed?
It’s not suggested to place a King mattress on a Cal King base as you’ll have 4” of extra base length and 4” of mattress overhang on the width. It’s also not recommended to place a California King on a standard King base. By doing so, you’ll have 4” of extra width on the base and 4” of mattress overhang on the length. For those who might be considering a switch in mattress sizes, Barton-odro recommends a universal frame, which can expand in width and length to accommodate different sizes. “We do have some frames that are universal, which you can use for both King and Cali King. But if it's specifically designated for a King-size, you can't use that for a California King.”
What is the point of a California King bed?
The California King is designed for placement in longer, narrower, and larger bedrooms. The mattress is also designed for those taller than 6’2”, giving these sleepers 4” of additional length.
Is a California King more expensive?
At Mattress Firm, California Kings are priced the same as standard Kings. Bedding and accessories can be more expensive with fewer options available.
Can I use a California King comforter on a King bed?
You can, but the fit won’t be perfect. The comforter will be longer and not as wide compared to a King comforter, so someone might end up without covers.
Which mattress is best for people with kids and pets?
People with kids and pets who tend to share their bed typically prefer the additional width of a King mattress. If your pet prefers to sleep at the foot of the bed you might want to consider a California King.