Mattress Guide

California King vs Eastern King

By The Mattress Nerd

One frustratingly common misconception that I run into at least once a week is how people understand the size difference between a California King and a regular (or Eastern) King mattress…Basically, they don’t.  Let’s break it down here:

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Summary

People tend to think the Cal King is a larger mattress. It’s not.

Overall, the California King mattress has a smaller surface area than a regular King mattress. The California King is 4 inches longer, but 4 inches narrower than a regular or “Eastern” King. (See where we do the math below.) That means a King mattress has more overall surface area and will offer more space between you and your partner than a California King does.

One overall rule of thumb when mattress shopping and deciding between the two sizes: If you’re on the tall side, like taller than 6-feet-2, get the Cal King. It has the length you need. If you’re sleeping with another normal height human being and just need more space, the Eastern King is your choice. It has the surface area you want.

Reasons to get a King over a California King

A regular King mattress is the “standard” version of the size, so the reasons to get a regular King sized mattress instead of California King will apply to more people. King is the big mattress for most people. For example:

  • The King has more overall space. A standard King (76″ x 80″) covers 6,080 square inches. A California King (72″ x 84″) covers 6048 square inches.
  • It’s a easier to find sheets and other accessories for King mattresses. You’ll have a lot more choices and an easier time getting them. (This is not as big of a problem as it used to be with the internet.  Amazon has a big selection of Cal King accessories.)
  • Mattress stores stock King mattresses a lot more than California Kings. Whereas you can usually get a King mattress immediately, a California King might take a few weeks to arrive. (Note: This won’t necessarily be true if you live California. Because, well, you’re in California and it’s named after California, so it’s more readily available in California.)
  • As mentioned before, a King is bigger than a California King, so you have more space. If two people are sleeping in the bed, there will be less partner disturbance in a King. If you have a tosser/turner sleeping next to you, the extra overall space can make a difference in how much sleep each partner gets. Ditto if you allow kids or the dog to sleep with you.
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Reasons to get a California King over a King

Those are all compelling reasons to choose an “Eastern” King, but the California King would not exist if it didn’t offer different characteristics that serve other sleeper needs. For instance:

  • A California King is great for tall people. If you’re taller than about 6’3″ or so, your feet might hang off of a regular King. A California King gives you an extra 4 inches of length. One sleeper who is 6-4 recently commented on this site that he doesn’t sleep with cold toes anymore. That’s the difference a Cal King can make for tall people.
  • If you have slept in a King size waterbed, you were actually sleeping in a bed the size of a California King. So if you want to replace the waterbed mattress and keep the platform, you’ll need a California King mattress.
  • If you have a long, narrow bedroom, a California King might fit into the room a little better.
  • This one’s a bit of a stretch, but sometimes you can get a great clearance deal on California King mattresses. Some people get a California King special ordered, only to realize that they needed a regular King. That California King mattress might sit in the store’s warehouse for months, because California King are more rare. I’ve known people who paid under $600 for a $3500 California King mattress because it was discontinued for so long that the store just wanted to get rid of it.

BTW, what is a split king?

Yes, another wrinkle. The Split King is roughly the same size as a regular King but it comes in two pieces instead of one. Basically it’s two twin-sized beds placed side by side on a single box spring, base and/or frame. Everything we’ve said about the traditional King applies to the Split King.

Using a Split King is also great with an adjustable base. Each partner can adjust their mattress to their liking.

Also, we talk a lot about motion transfer here at Mattress Nerd. It is important. When partners share a bed, you want to feel as little of their movement as possible in order to sleep deeply and well.

When you have two mattress on the base, it’s like two pockets of space that isolate movement and do a better job confining it to that area. Regular King size mattresses have one single area that must work to isolate movement from two people on the same slab.

Pause & measure before you buy a larger mattress

Before you get too excited about buying a bigger bed, slow down and consider the actual space in your bedroom.

With a King or a Cal King in the room, can you still open the doors to the room and your closet? Will you still be able to walk around the bed? Do the drawers of your dresser and/or nightstand still open? Is the bed blocking anything important like the vents to the AC or the heater?

One way to visualize the space a King or Cal King will take up and determine if there is enough livable space is to use an online room planning tool. There’s one called the Roomsyler 3D Home planner that is available for to use free of charge.

Also, speaking of weights and measurements, how big and tall are the people who will be using the bed? Taller people might find the Cal King a better fit. But heavier people may want more surface space that you get with a King for their wider bodies.

Consider the costs of the upgrade

If you’re upgrading from a queen-sized mattress, you’ll normally pay 15-20 percent more for an upgrade to either the King or the Cal King. But the same make and model of a King and the Cal King are usually priced the same across the board.

Also remember, if you’re going from a queen to any king, you’ll need new sheets, blankets, frame, platform, etc. It’s kind of the same principle when you lose a lot of weight: you gotta replace all of the things that don’t fit anymore.

Conclusion

For most people, a King sized mattress is the correct size to get.

Don’t get a California King unless you have a very specific reason to do so (e.g. you’re exceptionally tall, you’re replacing a waterbed, etc).

I hope this has cleared up this common misconception.

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Comments (30)

  1. Have you ever heard of an Egyptian King Mattress? A particular size mattress? I was handed down a “king” bedframe from my mother and neither the Cal King or standard King fit quite right? its long enough for the cal king mattress but its go 4″-6″ to spare on both sides.

  2. Is there a bed bigger then a king or a cal. King.i have this bed that was given to me it measures out to be a Cal king. I bought bedding to fit a cal. King & the sides of the comforter is to short. So now I don’t know what to do any advice . Disgusted with my Cal King

    • Not in a standard size. There are custom sizes that are bigger. I’ve heard some people mention a “Texas King” which is a bit bigger, but no major mattress comes in that standard.

  3. Costco is selling a Thomasville California split king and a king split adjustable matress but states that the cal. King is39.5x 83 and the king 39 x 79.thus stating the king to be wider than the cal king. Is this possible?

    • I’ve never heard of such a size. I guess anything is possible, but I wonder if it’s a typo on their part. Cal King bases are generally about 36 inches wide.

  4. Correction: Sorry, OOPs…tiny bit over 5″X5″ (NOT 4″X4″) My bad! (All said, still less than the size of a handprint…which we’ve never missed one bit.)

  5. Well….I’m only 5’8″ and DH 6′ but we hated the 80″ length of our Queen. NOTE: 80″ is the -same- length as an eastern/standard King. We had no desire for 16″ more width…we’d be roomies instead of mates with so a wide mattress. Yes, 4″X4″ less ‘space’ for a Cal King…so? Approximately the size of a softball? It’s a negligible loss. Anway, we LOVE the extra length at the foot of the bed! This MIGHT be related to two furry-family cat-boys who sneak onto our bed when it’s cold: they want body heat from ‘their’ humans. We do like a cool temps for sleeping. MOST of the time, just DH and I though, and we are SOOO happy we switched to Cal King size. Possible negative consideration: We’ve not had any trouble located lovely mattress covers, pads, sheets, etc. BUT actual Cal King blankets are another story. We find King does suffice just fine. There are ‘extra long’ King Blankets out there, but it’s not necessarily truly extra long. Read the measurement info…and consider shrinkage of fabric involved. It’s been no problem for us though. Cal King rocks!

  6. All the info in this article is super helpful and great.

    I think your math may be off on the surface area though.

    72×84 = 6,048
    76×80 = 6,080
    which means Cal king is slightly more surface area.
    .. although, like you stated, still not best for most couples due to lack of width.

  7. Is there anywhere in the US where I can purchase an Eastern King mattress set? I currently have one, but it needs replaces. The dimensions are 200 cm by 200 cm. Please help.

    • That’s not an Eastern King, at least not as we use the term here. A king (or Eastern King as it’s sometimes called) is roughly 193cm by 203cm.

    • There are some custom sizes that are bigger, but they’re more rare. If you’re not too tall, you can always turn the King mattress sideways to gain 4 more inches of width.

      I’ve heard of something called a “Texas King,” but in all my years of doing this, I’ve never seen one, and I’m starting to think it’s an urban legend.

  8. I just bought a bed that was 72″x78″….. What size would this be considered and what linen will be feasible? Please Help

  9. So what is this Euro King I got when a neighbor of mine who worked at a hotel ordered for us?? King sheets and cal king sheets don’t fit. Plus now I bought a new king mattress and it hangs off the sides ever so slightly.

    • That size isn’t generally sold in the US. As the name states, it’s a size sold in Europe. It’s 180cm by 200cm. That translates to about 70.5 inches wide and 79 inches long.

    • Yes, the comforter is generally bigger than the mattress anyway. It will be a little bit long, so if you’re a stickler for perfection, it won’t be perfect, but it’ll be completely functional and won’t be too far off.

  10. Help!

    So am I to understand that an Eastern King is just a standard King???
    I bought an eastern King and LOVE IT ! But it came with sheets…. now I can’t find sheets marked as “Eastern”…Can someone me if I can use std King sheets or where to find eastern sheets???!!!

    thanks so much!

  11. I have found myself the proud owner of an eastern king bed..I love the large size..lots of room for my 2 large dogs to sleep because they sometimes decide to claim the bed..
    All in all i love this large bed..As bulky as it may seem to some, you just got to love it….

  12. MattressNerd gave some really excellent points and dimensions – because he is right: there are some people who think that a Cal King is “bigger” than a regular or Eastern King. I also agree with most of Nerds points – except for one noted below.

    I will agree with Scott – get the bed you want.

    I find it quite easy to find Cal King sheeting and/or bedding, here in the new modern millenium; I have always felt like the dimensions of an Eastern King were out of scale to most bedrooms – I am not saying that they are too big (which of course they can be, and then you are forced to a queen) – what I refer to is that even if a bedroom is an introductory large size of say 18′ x 18′ (or even 15′ x 16′) – when you put a king bed/mattress in a “normal” large size room, the King appears as just one big “square” – since it is almost square, especially visually. If the room is an odd square size, albeit biggish, and you toss in a big square thing on the floor, it just looks odd to me. The visual rectangle that the Cal King offers, is more appealing in many rooms.

    For that reason, [Visually] a Cal King is more appealing in many rooms and then the way to go.

    IF you are in doubt, then take your empty room – or even empty of the bed BUT with other furnishings in place — using blue tape, tape down a template of a King mattress AND the bed part; Walk about the room, and then “look” at the space AND the space remaining AFTER that “king” bed is on the floor..

    Then, re-tape the floor with the dimensions of the Cal King Bed/mattress – many times, the Cal King is visually more appealing – and spatially best. I am an average height of 5’10” and the Cal King is both visually superior and also a more inviting sleep.

    A Cal King is STILL 12″ wider than a Queen [and 4″ longer than a Queen], so partners get the extra width, without being 3 people apart. :)

    All-in-all: MattressNerd gave the very valuable dimensions and cleared up the common misconceptions about the Eastern King vs. California King surface area.

    • This is an excellent point, thank you for the comment. And yes, it is easier these days to find Cal King bedding, especially if you live on the West Coast. At the store I used to work in the East, Cal King stuff was often a “special order” which would take longer to get in, but that was a few years ago now, so it’s possible they’ve gotten better with it.

  13. It should be noted that – and this probably will seem obvious – the California King is far more common in California! If you live out West – especially in California – and you want the longer king, have no fear that it will be tough to find sheet sets. Even big stores like Bed, Bath & Beyond stock Cal Kings over Eastern Kings by a 3 to 1 ratio. I lived in NYC & Philly for years, and have been in LA for the past 18 years and it is noticeable how differently our stores (even big chain stores) are stocked here compared to back East. Plus you can now order just about anything online. So get the bed you need & want most without fear!

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