School Chair Buyer's Guide
School chairs are one of the most used furniture pieces in any school and must be durable to handle heavy use in any educational setting. There are many colors and styles available, but you should also consider their construction to ensure a happy fit with your school chair purchase.
School chairs are not always one-size-fits-all and can be uncomfortable for a student if it is too big or too small. Below is a suggested chair size chart to give you guidelines for measuring up your student's age to match their average chair size. As noted, a percentage of students may fall into two chair sizes; we suggest always rounding up to the larger size as a slightly larger chair would be more comfortable than a chair that is slightly too small.
School chair heights are listed as the measurement from the floor to the highest point on the chairs' seat pan. (Not the overall height of the chair as a whole.) This measurement should closely match the same measurement from your student's mid-knee to the floor. View our video demonstrating the proper way to measure a classroom chair and your student's average chair height.
Look for classroom chairs in three types of seat construction: soft plastic, hard plastic, or wood. Depending on budget and the overall look that is desired, one of these three materials will be the perfect fit.
Soft plastic school chairs are the most common style of classroom chairs and are often referred to as polypropylene or polyethylene. These lightweight chairs can come in a fantastic array of colors and are priced for high volume needs when outfitting an entire classroom or school. Most soft-plastic school chairs have metal frames to make them a durable option on any budget.
When selecting soft plastic chairs, look for seats with steel supports running all the way up the back to offer back support that helps the chair withstand the pressure of students leaning back. Make sure they have supporting brackets under the seat, as well. These steel supports should be constructed with 16 gauge steel at least.
Hard plastic school chairs are an upgrade from soft-plastic chairs, as they feature resin or thermoset plastic seats and backs designed to look great for years to come in any active classroom. Solid plastic chairs are generally are more expensive than soft plastic chairs, but are a worthwhile investment if your budget allows.
Wood school chairs offer a classic look for any traditional school setting. Wooden classroom chairs are very durable and still are available in a range of sizes and even colors.
Chrome is the standard frame finish on most school chairs. This is a very durable finish that resists scratches and stays looking new for years. If you are looking to add more color to your school, powder-coat frames come in a variety of options and can sometimes reduce the chair cost. There are varying opinions on which is more durable. Chrome tends to lead the pack, but today's power-coat processes are so advanced that it sometimes is preferred over chrome. It really comes down to your preference and the look that you are trying to achieve.
There are some children's chairs available that have plastic frames. These are typically a one-piece molded chair making their seats and frames unitized for exceptional strength, especially considering they are plastic.
Classroom chairs are available with three different styles of legs, or often referred to as "feet". Glides are most commonly used, but chairs with casters and sled bases can also be useful.
Glides are the most common school chair 'foot' that are often self-leveling and come with a nylon, felt, or steel pad that rests on the floor. Nylon glides are beneficial in reducing excess noise on tile or linoleum floors and are also a snag-free option for carpeted floors.
Felt glides are often requested for schools with newer tile floors that need extra protection from scratching. Ask your sales rep about felt glide options. Many preschool chairs come with colored plastic balls as 'feet' that provide an extra pop of color while protecting your classroom floor.
Casters are wheels that allow a chair to become mobile. Chairs with casters are ideal in computer labs and for teacher's chairs so they can move from student to student easily. Classroom chairs with mobility capabilities also support the reconfiguration of the entire classroom and foster interaction.They allow teachers to begin class with a lecture, break students up into small groups, and then rearrange the classroom so students can form a large circle for a group discussion. Most classrooms serve more than one purpose. Mobile chairs allow for easy classroom reorganization so it can serve as a meeting room, gathering place for pep rallies, science fairs, and more.
Sled bases are created when the school chair's frame creates two continuous loops on each side of the chair and are ideal for carpeted surfaces. Sled base chair legs have more contact with the floor and are often thought to keep students from leaning their chairs back on two legs.
For the past decade or more, the look of classroom chairs has changed dramatically. You can now find several chair designs serving a variety of educational uses, compared to the recent past when your options would have been much more limited.
Aesthetical styles have also changed significantly. Influenced by recent design trends, we are now seeing sleeker lines and modern curves. When it comes to classroom chairs, perhaps the most noticeable trend concerns the introduction of comfortable seating with ergonomic contours. Many school designers will only spec ribbed, or only spec ribless school chairs- either for appearance or cleanability. Designers have successfully combined style and functionality to produce beautiful looking chairs, designed to promote good posture and help students engage in learning. It’s up-to-date educational furniture from both a learning and a style perspective.
Color also plays a large part in contemporary classroom chair design and innovation. In the past, there were only a few color selections for chair shells. Manufacturers now offer a choice of dozens of standard and custom plastic colors.
If chairs are moved from room to room on a regular basis or used in a space that serves a dual function, consider a chair that is easy to stack. Stackable chairs come either with separate backs and seats (two-piece) or with the seats and backs combined (one-piece).
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