Why buy commercial grade chairs?

There are thousands of chair options, often leaving my clients wondering why they should invest in commercial quality seating when they can go to any office super store and purchase decent-looking and inexpensive chairs.

Office super store chairs range in price from about $69 to $369. They will have some basic functionality, and may feel stable and supportive when you do the ‘sit test’. Stores may even tout ergonomic functions and adjustable controls and they may offer a manufacturer or store warranty.

With the perceived value of ‘getting a great deal’ at hand, many customers will grab a few chairs and not think twice about the choice….until something goes wrong and they try to find a replacement, get the chair repaired or just give up and buy a new chairs every couple of years.

There is a substantial difference between commercial grade chairs (sometimes referred to as “contract furniture”) and standard grade or residential furniture.   Here are a few important things to consider before purchasing your next office chairs:

  • Commercial grade furnishings must go through intensive testing for stability, usability, weight, and fabric wearability.  These standards are used industry-wide to ensure repetitive usage by people of all weights, shapes, sizes and body-needs. (Body-needs is my own term that refers to someones requirements for tilt ability, back support, or other adjustments to accomodate for medical issues or prior injuries). A good analogy would be a commercial grade kitchen versus your kitchen at home. The ovens, grills and freezers in a restaurant kitchen are very different from what most folks use at home because of the rigorous use and functionality required in a restaurant or commercial food service business.
  • Metal used in construction of commercial chairs is of higher quality, and therefore far more durable. Standard metal chairs are 18-22 gauge steel, where commercial grade is 16-18 gauge (the lower the gauge, the thicker and stronger the steel)
  • Wood used in commercial chairs is higher quality; standard grade furniture is made from less costly rubberwood.
  • Commercial chairs can be made with thousands of fabric options and color choices. Since many of today’s offices tend to have a neutral color scheme, it’s much easier to add a pop of color with chairs and artwork than to re-paint an entire office.
  • Creating a custom designer look is much easier with commercial chairs. You can co-ordinate your wall colors, chair fabrics, desk finishes, flooring and more to create palettes that range from sophisticated to fun and funky, depending on your company’s culture.
  • Warranties and customer service from commercial companies are much longer and more focused on customer service than warranties from an office super store. If something should go wrong with your commercial chair, most commercial manufacturers will replace or fix the chair on-site, so you don’t have to deal with hauling it back to the store or shipping it to an out-of-state manufacturer, and warranties cover more of the moving parts.
  • Big box stores generally carry a small stock of chairs and switch their stock out frequently. If you need to order more chairs they may not be available. Commercial companies have standard lines of chairs they sell year after year.

Most importantly, you want to avoid any accidents or work related injuries. Workplace related injuries account for a large percentage of insurance liability claims. OSHA lists numerous muscular-skeletal injuries and preventative measures that they recommend when selecting an appropriate office chair. With thousands of work-place claims annually ranging from fatigue and poor circulation to headaches and back pain, OSHA’S guidelines help designers and consumers avoid costly insurance claims and help workers maintain good health and productivity.   OSHA lists everything from seat height and style to specific arm adjustments.

You can read the entire OSHA article here: http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/computerworkstations/components_chair.html

A commercial interior designer is well-versed in all of these important areas, and will make selecting the appropriate chair for your office tasks simple and productive, and will avoid the pitfalls listed above.

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