Top 10 Problems With Tube or Cylinder Type Softside Waterbeds

Many purists do not consider a Tube Type Waterbed a true Waterbed rather they consider it a hybrid waterbed. This is the beginning of our two part blog that highlights the ten things we consider to be the biggest problems with this type of water bed.

1. Tube Beds do not feel like a deep fill waterbed.
It does not form to the body the way waterbeds that are 7 inches or deeper do.  Deep fill waterbeds are much better at relieving pressure points on the body and decreasing tossing and turning than tube beds.

2. Softsided systems like the tube bed are usually too firm for most waterbed lovers.
They can feel as firm as a regular spring mattress, not providing the same head to toe full body support as a waterbed.

3. Tube type waterbeds usually are not heated.
Adjustable heat is the one thing most waterbed owners want yet many tube beds don’t have them. Most tube type waterbeds are designed with a thicker top cover to insulate and eliminate the need for a heater. If a heater is used it must be a low watt heater to keep the bed from overheating or even possibly burning out.

4. Trying to find where the leak is located.
With 8 tubes in a Queen mattress and 10 in a King mattress, each must be examined very closely. Many times it is one of the 8 or 10 cap and plugs that can leak and they must be replaced. If the leak is found in the vinyl of the tube, we recommend replacing the tube. Repairing in tubes can be tricky because leaks are usually in high stress areas due to their design.  It is common for them to fail around a seam or the valve making it nearly impossible for a patch to stick and contain water.

5. Tubes / cylinders are awkward and hard to fill.
Tubes are usually filled in an area close to a water source and then carried into the bedroom and placed in the bed. Each tube should be filled to the same level. This means holding the 60 to 100 lb. tube erect which is very heavy and very awkward and filling to the fill mark on the tube itself. This is contrary to the sales pitch many sales associate provide suggesting that they are easy to fill, drain, and move. These same people usually have never installed one in a customer’s house much less attempted to fill and get the water level precisely the same so comfort is not affected..

6. Lack of core support from the multiple water mattresses
Look at the fingers on your hand and tightly pull them together. This is basically a simplified demonstration of the core support in a tube bed. The gaps in your fingers are no different from the gaps in the tubes that are lacking to properly support the sleeper. Over filled tubes exaggerate the problem and layers of foam in the cover disguise the problem.

7. Top covers can and do break down quickly.
One of the most common problems next to tube failure in these water log designed beds is that the cover of the mattress breaks down. Mattress covers are over filled with materials to insulate sleepers from what is usually considered a non heated waterbed. They usually have 4” or more of padding and foam and frequently breakdown and compress much like a fluffy pillow top mattress not to mention these top covers are not standardized or cheap to replace.

8. Finding the right size replacement tubes can be tricky.
Tubes are not standard in length and must be the correct length or they will rupture at the end seams of the bed. Some tubes are round while others are more squared off. Always take the old tube with you when you are shopping for a replacement tube to make sure you’re replacing it with a proper replacement..

9. Baffled or fiber filled tubes can be very hard to drain.
This baffling is usually an open cell foam. This foam acts like a giant sponge making them hard to extract the water from. If the baffled tubes are not handled carefully the foam can be torn. It can also shift out of its correct position or get balled up inside the tube. These tubes can cost up to 50% more than a free slow tube to replace.

10. Free flow tubes don’t have a very long life expectancy.
These cylinders have a tendency to give the bed a bucking motion. The water races the length of these tubes when pressure is exerted on the opposite end, which stresses the end seams and can cause a seam failure.

Somma is probably the most recognizable brand name of tube beds sold. Don’t get us wrong many people have enjoyed these beds over the years, however our 24 plus years of handling their service issues is the reason we are not big fans of their design. At STL Beds we have limited our sales of them and even removed them from our showroom floor. Their high failure rate, lack of support, durability and the fact that they feel nothing like a true waterbed puts them at the bottom of our recommendation list. Our suggestion is to consider a true deep fill softside waterbed. If your response is that tube waterbeds don’t feel like a waterbed then I think you can see why we believe the tube bed is a hybrid bed with a lot of troublesome issues making nearly any other mattress a better option.


Doug Belleville and his father Dave own and run STLBeds - a specialty sleep store located in Arnold, MO. The staff at STLBeds is highly educated about sleep, comfort and their special sleep products. STLBeds only carries high quality mattresses and bed-related products. You won't find the brand names here - just call and ask us why!

4 Comments Leave your comment »

What’s the real reason you don’t sell tubes, can’t get a soma distributorship? I’ve had tubes for years, never had a leak or any of the other problems you mention

Comment by Sharon — September 23, 2013 @ 2:20 am

There are 10 very well explained reasons why tube beds are no longer displayed in our store, all I ask is for you to take the time to read all 10 and you will have the answer to you question.

Somma was a brand that went out of business in the late 1990’s. The rights to that name were purchased by a company called Land and Sky. We still do business with them today and they are considered the #1 manufacturer of waterbeds. After buying the defunct company long story short, Land and Sky did away with nearly every Somma designed manufactured good built by Somma. They replaced those products with their own proven products and took advantage of the Somma name, which had literally been bought with hundreds of thousands of dollars in marketing through Better Homes and Gardens magazine and television advertising.

In reference to your personal success as a Somma Tube Bed owner, we love to hear happy successful stories like yours and wish you continued success as a tube bed owner. Disappointingly that one bed by itself does not make the entire brand a success story. If the brand had delivered what it promised in the beginning, the majority of Somma owners would still be sleeping on those mattresses today just like you. Remember the 2001 Pontiac Aztek: 1987 Yugo: 1958 Edsel Corsair: 1971 Chevrolet Vega: but also remember some people loved these cars yet history shows us they may have been 4 of the worst cars ever built. Thank you very much for your input. Doug

Comment by Douglas Belleville — September 24, 2013 @ 8:05 am

I agree that one does not a dozen make!. As an a long time married couple we have slept on beds over the world. Many of these beds were definitely comfortable. We bought our “tube bed” in 1985. After a couple of years and a couple of relocations, we tried leaving one tube out and by using only 7 tubes it increased the confortability of the bed, which we were already very satisfied with, and have remained so for the last 28 years. When returning home from trips and sleeping on the road in quality hotels it is always a pleasure to get back into our “tube bed”! Oh, we have had the bladder-type before. Both with internal dampening material and without..

Comment by Dr. John Kirschke — October 22, 2013 @ 9:39 am

My husband and I have slept on a queen size Somma II bed for 30 years and our guest bed is also a Somma. We’ve replaced the top cover on our Somma once. Our cylinders have never leaked, but we have a few extra, just in case. Guests think the Somma is really comfortable and are surprised to hear it’s a waterbed. It uses standard queen sheets. We always look forward to “sleeping in our own bed” when returning from trips.

Comment by jeanne hammond — February 23, 2014 @ 7:19 pm

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