Since I last posted the Vibrating Bed Mystery Contest Update in October, I’ve tried MANY solutions to toning down the vibration that shakes me awake in my bed each night. Sleep-deprived and desperate, I pursued fixes by trial-and-error while entering into deep research into the nature of vibration, how it travels, what materials amplify it…very esoteric stuff for a lay person. (The image below of a vibration made on a Chladni Plate is a beautiful symbol of this complex problem).

I discovered that part of the extreme difficulty was due to vibration traveling from the floor UP through the bed. It is MUCH easier to tame a vibration at its source, say, from a piece of machinery under which you can put vibration-absorbing material. Since I knew it would take a while to find the source of the vibration, if ever, I wanted to get the bed calmed down and get some sleep.

An engineer who had worked at the Mayo clinic took an interest in my dilemma, which led to a BIG adventure in pouring concrete, LEAPING into unknown territory and being willing to fail.


Via detailed emails, he suggested that the bed needed weight to overcome the vibration coming up from the floor, at least double that of its normal “loaded state” of 300 pounds (platform + mattress + me): in other words 600 pounds total. He suggested I make four concrete bed legs, each around 75 or 80 pounds to make up the additional 300 pounds needed. (I could also use stacked cinder blocks or concrete pavers — “To make them act as a single mass, you’ll have to stick them together with sanded thin-or medium-set grout or construction adhesive” — or custom-make the blocks. ). Once I had those, he suggested I place two different hardnesses (duro) of Sorbothane disks, a space-age visco-elastic material I had already tried (below), one underneath and one on top of each block in the hopes of further disrupting the vibration.

A very patient product advisor at Sorbothane thought the idea had great merit. However, when he learned that the hertz of the vibration was an extremely rare, low 6 hertz — an essential piece of intel that my advisor didn’t have — he warned me that my labor-intensive fix might not work. Because Sorbothane is formulated to dampen vibration from 10 hertz and above, it was possible that it would have the effect of AMPLIFYING the 6 hertz vibration.

Well, I’d take that chance.

Sally Schneider
Sally Schneider

Fueled by the engineer’s advice to “just think of concrete as a giant batch of pancake batter”, I set out to learn to mix and pour concrete on our terrace. How hard could it be? I found a concrete calculator that would help me figure out workable dimensions that would yield 80+ pounds, then bought styrofoam shipping coolers to use as forms for the concrete. I got a local guy to deliver concrete. It’s HEAVY! Then I bought a bucket and a mixing tool and laid it all out on a garbage bag. I donned an old pair of swimming goggles and a cloth respirator mask, along with rubber gloves and set to work.

Sally Schneider
Sally Schneider

Since concrete is very heavy and dense, the engineer advised mixing smallish batches and pouring them into the form. After my first batch, the bottom of the bucket cracked. Undeterred, I turned the bucket over and patched it with trusty Gorilla tape, then kept going.

Sally Schneider
Sally Schneider

That’s when I discovered just HOW HEAVY concrete is and that it is hard work to hand mix 90 pounds of concrete in a bucket. But I forged ahead and mixed batch-after-batch until the styrofoam form was filled (and the nice clean workspace was a mess!) I tapped the side of the box as to make the concrete settle uniformly and make air bubbles rise to the surface.

Sally Schneider
Sally Schneider

I cleaned up the mess and waited to see what my first concrete pour would yield. After a few days, I turned the block out of the form and voila: my first magnificent block (here and at top).

Sally Schneider
Sally Schneider

As much as I was thrilled to have made a block, I knew that making three more would take a lot out of me, even if I switched hand-mixing to the rake and tub method we saw in a video online. Just getting four 60-pound bags of concrete up to our city apartment would be an undertaking.  Thankfully, Holton Rower, whose art studio is a veritable arsenal of heavy-duty tools and materials, came by with his powerful drill that could drive a concrete paddle. Together, using his down-and-dirty-get-it-done method, we knocked out the three blocks. Holton advised me not to bother getting the air bubbles out (“they’ll look interesting!”).

Sally Schneider
Sally Schneider

Holton’s blocks did indeed look more interesting than mine…

Sally Schneider
Sally Schneider

I used a hand truck to move the blocks into the bedroom. Bruce McKenna (who originally helped devise the yoga block-and-closed-cell rubber vibration damping that worked initially) taught me how to use sheets of wax paper under the blocks to slide them easily into place at the each corner of the bed platform. We set the Sorbothane on and under the blocks.

That night, I awoke to a juttering bed. The Sorbothane had indeed amplified the vibration which defiantly came up right through the concrete.

Disheartened but not defeated, I continued to practice Improvised Life’s essential principles: Solutions lie within the moment. We just have to find them. AND

Failure teaches many lessons. I learned A LOT about vibration and now know how to pour concrete, move heavy weights, how vibration travels…

I’ve also had to maintain a practice of keeping faith that I would find an answer, perhaps the key to it all. 

I have found some answers, but not at all the one I expected. Stay-tuned.


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7 replies on “Vibrating Bed Fix #438: Homemade Concrete Block Bed Legs + Sorbothane

  1. I share a very similar issue, and I was curious if the yoga block + rubber sheeting method was the best at dampening the vibrations so far? If so, I would like to try it on my bed. Do you recall the psi or specifics of the open-cell rubber sheeting you used? Any help/tips/advice would be truly appreciated. I too have tried Sorbathane stacked under the legs of my bed frame, definitely did not help! Best of luck in solving this.

  2. The yoga block and rubber worked for several months. The problem is that I have become off-the-charts sensitive due to a medication. When that happened, I began to feel the vibration through the yoga block rig. I don’t remember the specs of the open cell rubber but it would be easy to find out. Call Marty at Canal rubber 212-226-7339. He may remember me as the woman who came in to buy it to dampen a bed vibration: black open-cell rubber (as I remember, the closed cell is gray…I tried some of that too). I bought 1/2-inch and 1 inch black open cell rubber in 12-inch squares as he was out of the roll. The 1-inch held a slight curve due to having been rolled. Stacks of 1/2-inch work as well. If he doesn’t remember, you could email him photos from this post. Canal Rubber will ship their products. Please let us know the outcome.

    It also made a big difference to swap the steel bed frame for a wooden one.

    Since then, as you probably know, I’ve tried all sorts of fixes. I hope to report the best ones next week, including a great inexpensive wooden bed.

  3. Hi Sally,
    My regards for your determination to find solution. I found the following statement on a website. I’ve not followed up because as I lack the background to assess the statement.
    “The MitiGator™ Technology is an engineered cushioning system designed to protect people and equipment from these assaults and to allow them to continue to perform their jobs or enjoy their leisure time. The MitiGator™ uses patented air control technology working with over 4,000 surfaces per square foot to dissipate energy before it is transmitted to the body and thus help alleviate the problems. For more information on the MitiGator Cushioning System email [email protected]“.

    Is this a route worth pursuing?

    Best of Luck in your investigations.

  4. Sally, I have a simular problem. Please keep be abreast of any solutions. I also appreciate knowing what not to try.

    I had no idea so many people face the same problem.

  5. This is a work in progress you just have to feel your way through if you can’t find the source of the vibration. Here’s what I know so far: A SOLID wood bed helps hugely, preferably one with no slats (which can vibrate).

    Placing the legs on stacks of 3 hockey pucks also curiously help; as well as adding “legs” to support the long spans of wood.

  6. Thanks, Sally,

    I’ll try them.

    I love your positive spirit also! 🙂

  7. I am working on a project to help homeless people to become viable skilled workers. I choose to produce concrete bricks. I think of making a vibration bed (homemade). Do you have an idea of how to make a vibrator? The idea is not to produce high volume. The work is THE THERAPY.

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