What Is The Best Office Chair For Big And Tall People?

Imagine if your car’s driving position was fixed. The manufacturer just decided the car seat would be set to suit the average driver. From the maker’s point of view it would be a lot cheaper. For drivers it would be a disaster and none more so than big and tall people who would likely end up with their knees wedged up against the steering wheel.

Fortunately automakers aren’t so shortsighted. Unfortunately office chair manufacturers often are, paying little regard to anyone taller than average.

cartoon

Tall Man In Wrong Sized Office Chair Cartoon – © www.OfficeChairAdvice.com

Why are some office chairs a problem for big and tall people?
If you’ve ever worked in an office where everyone has the same office chair you may have noticed how taller colleagues sit a little awkwardly.

For someone with longer than average legs the wrong chair can be a real hassle. Even sitting right back into the seat frequently leaves the user’s legs jutting out miles further than anyone else. Having to sit in this unnatural posture soon becomes uncomfortable.

For someone with longer than average legs the wrong chair can be a real hassle. Even sitting right back into the seat frequently leaves the user’s legs jutting out miles further than anyone else. Having to sit in this unnatural posture soon becomes uncomfortable.

And heavier built tall people often face a further problem when they want to recline. Where they have a chair with fixed tension it isn’t nearly strong enough for their needs. Consequently when they lean back the chair offers little resistance and just shoots straight back.

To counter these two common problems it’s necessary to insist on a couple of vital options.

What essential features do big and tall people need?
The first problem can usually be taken care of by making sure that your chair is fitted with a seat slide adjuster. That way you can set the depth to suit your legs and get rid of the overhang issue.

The second problem can be easily fixed by making sure your chair has tilt tension adjustment. This enables heavier built users to increase the spring tension in the back. Now when you recline you don’t feel unstable in the chair because it supports you comfortably.

So, is that all you need to take care of?

What other features should you be aware of?
Apart from the 2 vital functions we just covered, what other features are desirable?

You should always go for adjustable arms. Even no arms would be a better option than fixed arms.

Fixed arms rarely end up in the right position for comfortable support. They often place your shoulders at an abnormal angle and the outcome is always the same – neck and shoulder pain.

Also check the seat’s dimensions and make sure it will allow you a clearance of an inch on each side when you're seated. There’s nothing worse than feeling shoehorned in your seat as it restricts movement and causes discomfort.

You will probably be best to go for a medium or high chair back to make sure your back gets proper support. So avoid small chair backs unless they have a high degree of adjustability.

Won’t all this work out pretty expensive?
Unfortunately there’s no getting away from it, you just won’t find the features you need on $100 chairs. Realistically you’re going to need to budget between $450 and $750 and maybe more to get the kind of chair you need. You need to look at it as an investment. When you spend long hours sitting to work the added comfort you’ll gain will help you become more productive. Instead of being distracted by aching muscles you will get more work done. This is particularly true as the day wears on.

Look at the payback you'll get. Let’s say you value your time at $30 an hour and you gain just 10 minutes a day in increased productivity. That’s $5 a day, so even if you shell out $600 you'll see your investment paid off in less than 6 months. A pretty healthy return. Lets consider which models are likely to be most suitable.

Which chairs are good for big and tall people?
Because office chairs are mostly made to fit average sized people, you'll need to look beyond many popular models. Fortunately some manufacturers produce chair ideally suited for big and tall users.

Eurotech seating's Ergohuman mesh chair has the necessary adjustments for taller people.

Neutral Posture specializes in this sort of seating. It offers a huge range of options and they can be tailored to the individual. This is possible because you literally can make up a ‘made to measure’ set of features for your exact needs. The downside is cost as it's likely to need a four figure investment to get what you want.

Herman Miller’s Aeron is also a good chair to consider as it comes in 3 sizes. Big and tall users will probably find the size C is best for them. There's a useful size chart to take out any guesswork.

It’s open mesh upholstery is great for keeping you cool on hot summer days if you tend to sweat a lot. Keep in mind it’s fairly firm to sit on, so if you like a lot of padding on a chair it might not be ideal.

Lets run through a checklist of the key points:

  • Everyday chairs rarely work for big and tall users
  • You need to be able to adjust the seat depth
  • A tilt tension control is vital for smooth reclining
  • Choose adjustable arms, fixed arms cause discomfort
  • Make sure the seat and back are big enough
  • Look to invest between $450 and $750, or more
  • Stick to specialist manufacturers who understand your needs

Make sure you avoid chairs with fixed driving positions. For proper comfort you need to look to for seating designed to fit you. Here's where you can find more about Ergohuman, Neutral Posture and Aeron chairs.

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How Quickly Will Your New, Shiny, $100 Office Chair Become The Pain in Your Back?

So maybe you’re getting around to thinking it’s time you ditched that old office chair and you figure, “I’ll take a look in the local office supply depot, they’ve always got deals on desk chairs.”

You see what looks like a great deal. You sit in it, pull a few levers, feels comfortable — hey, it’s even got leather too.

Everything looks great, and yet – is it a serious bargain or is it a serious liability?

If you have a worn-out chair, then anything you sit in is likely to feel like a million dollars by comparison. Not only that, virtually any new chair you sit in for a couple of minutes will feel great, and that’s not altogether surprising.

After all, everything is new so it naturally feels good, and that’s where everybody gets it wrong with cheap chairs — they flatter to deceive.

To truly know whether a computer chair is right for you or not, you need to sit in it for several days — not minutes, not hours, several days. Only then will all its shortcomings become apparent. This is why a 30-day return policy is a must when buying either in person or online.

How do these shortcomings suddenly become apparent once you use it for a day or two? It’s down to what’s under the hood. Sure, on the exterior, the thing look great; yet what’s it really made of?

Any chair around the $100 mark will always be a compromise because it is made to fit a price, so corners get cut to achieve this.

Here are some of the things which aren’t immediately obvious about low cost chairs:

  • Made with cheap foam pads normally seen in packaging which soon lose shape and go as flat as a pancake.
  • Low cost upholstery which quickly takes a shine like a well-polished shoe. Or leather that likely came from remnants or rejects that ages prematurely becoming brittle and starting to crack.
  • Low quality components — arms that break off, backs that won’t recline or stay in place, gas lifts that keep descending.
  • Limited or no guarantee — a sure sign the supplier sees the product as little more than a liability.

The right approach
Here's where you can read about the critical features you need to insist on when replacing your old desk chair.

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Why Programmers And Coders Need A Heavy Duty Office Chair

The nature of programming and coding work often means spending very long hours in an office chair. When you're writing code, accuracy is absolutely vital, nobody wants the hassle of trying to find errors.

So why does what you sit in matter so much?

The right tools for the job
Your chair has to be fit for the purpose. After all you wouldn't set out to climb Everest in a T shirt and trainers. And nor should you be doing intensive computer work in some poorly designed seat.

Maintaining good concentration levels is key to precise coding and so you need something that is so supportive and comfortable you don't even notice it’s there. That way you will be in the zone and fully focused on the task at hand.

This simply isn't possible in low quality seating. It may feel fine for the first hour or so, however as the day wears on and your body starts to ache concentration levels drop. This either results in you slowing down or worse still silly mistakes start creeping in.

Let’s turn to some ideas for potential heavy duty chairs for programming and coding work.

Chairs to have on your shortlist
Here are some ideas for suitable seating for intensive computer work. It’s not exhaustive, however it will give you a good idea of the sort of chair you should be looking at.

Aeron – Herman Miller’s iconic seat and one of the world’s best selling chairs. It has loads of adjustments and its mesh upholstery will keep you cool on hot days. Not so good if you prefer a well padded seat as the mesh is firm.

Leap – this is one of Steelcase’s most comfortable chairs. It’s well padded and is easy to adjust. It’s also great to recline in when you want to pause and reflect because it doesn't tip you up in the air when you lean back.

HÅG H05 – this chair isn't nearly as well known as it should be. Made by HÅG of Norway, it has a great range of movement and self adjusts to user position changes, supporting you as you move.

Embody is one of Herman Miller’s more recent high tech seating additions. It has a unique 4 layer seating support with the top layer being a breathable fabric, great should you sweat a lot.

Humanscale Freedom – largely self adjusting once initial set up is completed. The seat foams are top quality and very comfortable without being bulky. Arm design allows you to drop them out of the way when not in use, so you can get close in to your desk when you need to.

All of these seats are guaranteed for between 10 and 15 years. Yes they cost a lot more than the seats in office supplies stores, nonetheless you only buy them once, so they need to be viewed as an investment. In the long term they will pay for themselves many times over in increased productivity and working comfort.

Want to know more?
Here’s where you can read detailed reviews of the chair discussed in this article:

Muvman The Healthy Alternative Seat For Office Workers

The Muvman seat is totally unlike any conventional office chair, however don’t let its quirky looks put you off.

It’s more than capable of replacing the sorts of chair we’re used to and providing a lot more versatile experience at the same time.

How so?

What is so different about sitting in a Muvman?
Well for a start it has no wheels and you might think this will restrict you.

Muvman in green

Muvman

In reality because of the way it’s designed it let’s you move with far more flexibility than your average task chair.

Not only can you move forwards and backwards easily, moving from side to side is a breeze too. So, instead of having to wheel to another part of your workstation, all you do is lean and you will get there with ease.

And with all the extra movement you gain you're actually keeping your body much better toned, especially in your leg and back muscles.

This seat has no arms either. This isn't a disadvantage as it lets you get in close to your desk and use your worktop to support your arms.

What else is it good for?
Because the seat can be raised a lot higher than a typical desk chair it’s perfect for working at any raised work surface.

different sitting positions

How Muvman Supports You

The most obvious use is with a height adjustable desk where it’s the perfect choice of seat.

And for anyone who has a standing desk where the height is fixed, being able to take the weight of your legs now and then is a great benefit.

Despite all the publicity about using a standing desk, standing all day to work can get just as tiring as sitting all day. Muvman gives you the best of both worlds.

The go anywhere task chair
You probably spend most of your time working at your desk and Muvman is great for that. However, because it weighs so little (under 20 pounds) and adjusts down to 20 inches it’s very portable.

So, when you need to go and talk to a colleague why not stick it under your arm and use it while you chat? And what about meetings and training sessions? You’ll certainly appreciate its comfort if things drag on as they often do. When you're taking a quick break and want to catch up with your phone messages once again this versatile chair will support as you text.

Home office workers will find loads of extra uses for this seat as well as just in the office. You can use it for watching movies, preparing food or even doing the ironing.

Further information
All in all the Muvman make for an incredibly versatile seat, here’s where you can find out more about this fun alternative seat.

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What Some Office Chair Suppliers Don’t Tell You: Is It Really As Good As It Looks?

The office chair industry is made up of many reputable suppliers who are very open about their products and what they are intended for. However there are also those in the industry who choose to hide deficiencies in their products, usually by omitting to tell you certain things.

Chances are you've bought something at some time that simply didn't live up to your expectations. Maybe the supplier made false claims about it, or simply chose not to tell you about significant shortcomings.

Let's take a look at some of the things you're not always told about office seats.

How long should a chair last under normal usage?
Virtually no chair manufacturer comes right out and tells you how long its chairs will last. This perhaps isn't altogether surprising as the amount and type of use a chair gets can vary enormously.

Nonetheless, to find the answer to this question is actually fairly simple. All you need to do is to see how long the supplier is prepared to guarantee the product for. So if it's 5 years or longer then this is a very positive indicator because it shows a good level of confidence by the manufacturer. After all, would you warrant a product for longer than you expected it to last?

Anything under 2 years shows little confidence in the quality of the product and is best avoided, unless you like buying new chairs every 18 months.

Some suppliers are prepared to go the extra mile.

What sort of use is the chair suitable for?
The majority of chair suppliers don't tend to tell you what the chair is suitable for, leaving it up to you to decide. However some companies rate their chairs for usage. They will state whether it's intended for long term computer use and this is a good thing. At least you know whether it's built to be used for 8 hour a day or not. If it's not stated, use the guarantee period as a quick guide, if it's 5 years or greater chances are it will handle all day use.

As an extra vote of confidence, some even state that their warranty covers multi year 24/7 use. This is a very positive indicator.

What other things do you need to be wary of?

How about the quality of the seating foam?
This is a really difficult one to assess. The foam used in office chairs varies enormously. The problem is when it's new it all feels great and supportive whether it's good or bad. It's how it performs in the months ahead that matters.

You frequently see people complain that the foam in their chair is no longer resilient and is hard and flat. The reason this happens is the manufacturer used low quality foam which quickly breaks down and goes rigid.

At the other end of the spectrum firms such as Humanscale guarantee its chairs for 15 years, so you won't have flat seat syndrome with its seats.

Unfortunately, there is no simple way to assess foam quality other than to check the warranty period and use it to guide you.

Another area to be wary of is the product's description.

Common meaningless or misleading terms
One of the buzz words in office seating is the claim that a chair is ergonomic. What does this mean? In reality very little, I'm afraid.

There is no set standard for an ergonomic office chair, consequently it can mean pretty much anything. Although many chairs described as ergonomic are quality chairs, an awful lot aren't. Less reputable suppliers just add it to the product description to make it sound better. You'll find a link at the end of this article on how to know if a chair deserves the description ergonomic.

Something you see more and more, especially on low end chairs is the description faux leather. It's a neat way of making plastic sound more like leather. It doesn't alter the fact that faux is really fake. With that said, there are some very good vinyls made to look like leather because of the environment the chair will be used in which just wouldn't be suitable in real leather.

More often than not though faux is just a way of making something inferior sound like the real thing.

Putting it all together
Here's a summary of the key points we've covered:

  • When you want to know how long a chair will last – check the guarantee
  • Many chairs don't tell you what usage they are suitable for
  • Seating foam quality varies a lot – let the chair warranty guide you
  • Ergonomic office chair has no meaning, some suppliers use it to mislead
  • Faux means imitation, it often flatters to deceive

Further information
To help you choose a good chair take a look at this short video which helps to demystify what an ergonomic office chair really is and needs to include.

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Is A Mesh Chair Right For You? Video

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In the short video below we're going to look at whether a mesh office chair is the right chair for you.

When did mesh chairs first appear?
Mesh office chairs really all began with the Aeron back in 1994 and it's still the 800lb gorilla of mesh office seating. Its open weave upholstery called the pellicle created an alternative type of seat covering. It allows excellent air circulation around the body and works well for people who sweat a lot. However it's not for everyone.

When can mesh chairs cause problems?
Many mesh office chairs including the Aeron are a lot firmer to sit on. So if you've got used to a well padded seat changing to mesh might cause you discomfort.

Light framed users often find this because they have less flesh on their bodies. They sometimes find they miss foam padding which used to form a cushioning barrier between their bottom and seat. For most people this shouldn't be a problem as long as you are aware it's likely to be a firmer sit.

Why are mesh chairs so popular?
As soon as the Aeron took off seating manufacturers rushed to create their own me too versions. Whilst some of these seats are very good the bulk of them are best avoided. The mesh doesn't support you properly even though it allows air to circulate.

Which are the best mesh office chairs?
With so many different mesh chairs to choose from these days it's difficult to make a finite choice. Obviously the Aeron has to be on your shortlist and provided you're happy you can handle its firmer sitting posture it should work well for you.

However if this is a problem there are a couple of hybrid mesh chairs worth looking at. Both have lightly padded seats and top quality form sensing mesh backs for great support. First there is the Liberty chair a very elegant looking chair which will support you comfortably for hours. Then there is the more recently introduced Diffrient World chair. This was named after its designer Neils Diffrient who designed both of these chairs. There is also an all mesh version of the Diffrient World too.

As you can see from the photos there is an absence of the usual levers and knobs on these chairs as they are both self-adjusting. Apart from seat and arm height you just sit and let the chairs do the support work. And the 3D mesh moulds to your body supporting it comfortably.

If you are on a tight budget Balt's Ergo Ex Ergonomic Mesh Chair is well with considering. It is highly adjustable and comes with a padded seat.

So let's summarize:

  • Mesh chairs all began with Herman Miller's Aeron
  • Bear in mind mesh seats are a firmer sit and so aren't suitable for everyone
  • Mesh chairs allow excellent air circulation which is great if you tend to sweat
  • Modern hybrids like the Liberty and Diffrient World offer all day comfort and if you are on a tight budget Balt's Ergo Ex is definitely worth a look.

Further information
For more information about mesh office chairs and which one is right for you, be sure to visit http://www.OfficeChairAdvice.com/mesh/

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Anatomy Of An Office Chair Part 4: The Chair Back

In this final part of our look at the key elements of an office chair it's time for the chair back to take center stage.

Chair backs come in many different formats, the commonest is the foam padded back usually upholstered in the same fabric as the seat.

Typically backs are offered in low, medium or high versions. If you going for a low or medium size back then you want to make sure it's height adjustable so it can give you proper support.

The most important thing is to ensure your lower back gets good support. Although some high backs are also height adjustable it's less important, provided it offers good lumbar support.

Let's look at how backs adjust.

How adjustable height chair backs work
Chair backs adjust in a number of different ways. A popular method is the ratchet back which is very simple to set up. Built into the back support is a ratchet mechanism. To move it up you would normally grip the back on each side at its base and push it up gently. As you do so you will find the back clicks a little higher to a number of preset positions. So once you find the one that works for you that's it.

And in case you need to start out again if you lift the back up to its maximum height it usually drops back down to the lowest position so you can start over if necessary.

Sometimes there may be a couple of buttons to press in while you adjust the back. As soon as you reach the desired height just release them to lock in your preferred height.
Some chairs use a locking knob. You would undo it to let you move the back and then tighten it again to save the height setting.

So much for adjustable backs what if it's fixed?

Is it OK to use a fixed height back?
In the right situation a fixed back is fine. It needs to be a full height back so it covers up to your shoulders or beyond. Ideally it should include some sort of lumbar support which needs to be adjustable. That way you can fine tune it for your lower back.

Some chairs have exposed lumbar supports while yet others are built into the chair back itself.

Some of the more sophisticated chairs these days like Humanscale's Liberty and Diffrient World chairs have a 3 ply mesh specifically designed to give your back support where it's most needed.

Others like Herman Miller's Sayl chair uses a cleverly designed open plastic material. This is reinforced in the areas where most support is needed making sure you gain proper comfort.

In the case of Steelcase's Think chair it has an open weave fabric behind which are a series of lateral wire supports designed to take up the shape of the user's back.

All of these innovative back designs have the added advantage of providing excellent air circulation, which is a great help for sweaty backs in summer.

Here are the key points we covered

  • Low and medium height backs should be height adjustable
  • Backs usually adjust via ratchets, buttons or locking knobs
  • The most important thing is to get good lumbar support
  • It's OK for backs to be fixed provided they are designed to support you properly
  • Some modern chairs use specialist mesh or plastics to support you correctly

This concludes our look at the various parts of an office chair here's where you can find further information on some great chairs with all the features you need.

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Anatomy Of An Office Chair Part 3: Selecting The Right Chair Arms

In the third of our series on the anatomy of an office chair it's time to turn to chair arms and what you need to do to get proper working comfort.

The majority of office chairs start with no arm versions and then have one or more arm options to consider. Most people prefer to have arms on their desk chair because they offer welcome support while you work.

However, all too many chairs have fixed arms and they are rarely a good idea. In fact you're probably better using a chair with no arms than one with fixed arms.

Why is this?

The drawback of fixed arms
As indicated by the name fixed arms don't adjust. No matter where you would like them to be they're always going to be in the same place. Unfortunately more often than not they set your lower arms in an unnatural position. And that's not all, they also push your shoulders and neck into an unhealthy posture too.

You might just get lucky and find they are alright for you.

That's rare though. What's needed is something with a bit more flexibility.

Simple height adjustable arms
This sort of arm allows users to move the arms up and down vertically.

simple adjustable arms

Simple Height Adjustable Arms Leap Chair

They are very easy to adjust normally it's just a case of pressing a button to move them up and down. So straight away you are able to rest your lower arms in a comfortable position.

However it's just as important to make sure your shoulders are correctly supported. They should be placed in a relaxed posture and not hunched up in the air.

Some arms have an option for padded tops and this is always worth going for. Hard arm tops can soon cause lower arm discomfort even when your arms are correctly supported.

What other refinements can you get with adjustable arms?

Highly adjustable arms
Whilst simple height adjustable arms will answer most people's needs there are some useful refinements worth considering on more sophisticated arms.

Here are some of the possibilities.

You can get arms which allow you to angle the actual arm tops inwards and outwards. This can be useful for people with narrow shoulders as it sets the arm supports closer together. As well as this some slide forwards and backwards which can also be handy for fine tuning your arm support.

A number of chairs let you alter the width between the chair's arms. Mostly this is done when assembling the chair, although a few can be easily adjusted at any time. The good thing about width adjustment is it means you can set the arms up to better suit your shoulder width. Once adjusted you arms sit vertically aligned with your shoulders so you aren't straining them at odd angles.

It's also possible to find arms that push out of the way when you don't need them.

swing arm

Swing Back Arm Detail HÅG H05

This can be handy when you want to work close in at your desk. Different chairs handle this in different ways. Humanscale's Freedom chair lets you rapidly drop the arms to seat level. On HÅG's H05 chair the arms swing back around the back of the chair. And Neutral Posture chairs let you swing the arms down towards the underside of the chair.

Let's recap on what matters on chair arms

Summary

  • Fixed arms are bad, they rarely support your arms and shoulders properly
  • Simple height adjustable arms are fine for most people
  • Choose padded arm tops if available
  • Highly adjustable arms can add some useful extra features

That's it for chair arms. In the next article we will be looking at the final part of the puzzle the chair's back.

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Anatomy Of An Office Chair Part 2: The All Important Seat

This week we move on to the heart of any office chair, the seat. It's easy to think that the seat doesn't matter too much as long as it's comfortable. Nonetheless there is a lot more to office chair seats than it may seem. The chair may have loads of levers attached to it, however if those controls don't pull the right strings they won't be of much use.

It's not the levers that matter it's what they control and the way the seat operates that is important.

Seat functions
At first glance the seat of an office chair appears to be the place to park your butt while you work. While this is true there is a lot more to it than this. There are 2 functions that are critical if you are going to stay comfortable for any length of time.

Let's dive into them now.

Seat depth adjustment
When you sit for prolonged periods you may well find you suffer discomfort in your legs. One of the main reasons this happens is because the depth of the seat is wrong for the length of you legs.

seat slide

Seat Depth Adjuster on HAG 4400 Chair

So what results is your legs aren't properly supported and muscles get overloaded leading to pain.

A good seat will include a means of adjusting the depth to suit your legs.

This is usually done with a lever allowing the seat to slide forwards or backwards to set it to the correct depth for your comfort.

On some chairs the back moves in and out, overall it achieves the same result.

That's one problem solved, here's the next one to fix.

Seat tension adjustment
We all need to relax and recline in our task chair from time to time. Imagine if you just sat hunched over your work all day and couldn't recline, it would be a nightmare wouldn't it?

tension knob

Tension Controller On HAG H09 Chair

Nearly all office chairs recline, however it's only useful if it's easy to use.

Humans vary a lot in size and weight. Consequently when you recline in your chair it needs to be tuned to your weight so you can do so smoothly.

This is achieved by an under seat adjuster, usually a knob set centrally at the front. Turning it one way increases the amount of pressure required to recline easily. And the opposite way to decrease the pressure needed.

There is nothing worse than constantly fighting with your chair when you want to lean back. With a tension adjuster your problem is over and it's a one off thing too. Set it and forget it.

And some manufacturers have even automated these problems.

Self adjusting seats
Quite a few chairs now are designed to automate these settings.

Quite simply as you sit in the chair it senses your size and weight and automatically compensates without the need for any manual adjustment.

As technology improves more and more seats will come with useful like this.

So that's taken care of the critical functions you need, lets turn to the finishes office seats come in.

Seat upholstery
More often than not the seat will be finished in either fabric, leather, vinyl or mesh. In the case of the first 3 they can all be applied to the same basic make up which usually comprises a foam core supported on either a wood or plastic under frame. In the case of mesh it doesn't have these components and is usually self supporting being stretched over an outer plastic frame.

Let's consider each finish in a little more detail.

Fabric upholstery
This is the commonest finish and comes in a huge range of colors and qualities. It's always a good idea to check how hard wearing a material is and this is usually expressed as the rub count. The higher the number the better.

Leather upholstery
Leather varies hugely in quality. So when you see a leather chair for $50 be assured the leather will be of very low quality. If you want a good leather you should look for a hide finish. This is premium leather and doesn't come cheap, expect a 3 figure on cost for the best ones.

Vinyl upholstery
This is useful for where you have a finish that may get dirty quickly and can be easily wiped clean. It's also used as faux leather on many cheap chairs.

Mesh upholstery
The great thing with mesh is it's breathable and allows good air circulation. This is great for those hot sweaty summer days. There is also a wide ranging difference in the quality and comfort of mesh upholstery. Poor quality ones should be avoided as they don't support you properly and just sag as you sit on them.

Top quality mesh is often built up in multiple layers in a 3d structure to ensure your body is properly supported.

Selecting the right upholstery for your needs will come down to personal preference and available budget.

Here's a quick summary of what we've covered.

Summary

  • The functions on an office chair seat are critical for good comfort
  • Seat depth needs to be adjustable to fit your legs
  • Seat tension needs to be easily changed to match your weight
  • Some chairs adjust automatically
  • Upholstery may come in fabric, leather, vinyl or mesh

In the next post we move on to chair arms and what you need to look for and avoid.

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Anatomy Of An Office Chair: The 5 Key Components

All office swivel chairs are made up from 5 key components:

  • Base
  • Pneumatic lift
  • Seat
  • Back
  • Arms

Most of these parts are critical to your working comfort. Over the next few weeks we're going to take a deeper look at them as we delve into what matters. We will cover the things you should be looking for as a minimum and what you should take care to avoid.

So let's get right into the first of them the chair base.

Different types of chair base
Swivel chair bases come in a number of different materials, including plastic, steel, aluminum, and wood (usually on a steel base). The one common thing with all these different types of base is they have 5 arms. Years ago 4 star bases were the norm, however these were superseded by 5 star versions as they are much more stable.

Let's take a look at each type and what matters.

Plastic bases

These are by far the most common form of office chair swivel base in use today. Modern plastic technology makes it easy to produce high quality injection molded bases.

5 star plastic base

Office chair plastic base

The main advantages of plastic bases are they are strong and lightweight. They are also cost effective to produce too.

It's important to choose a base with reinforcing struts as part of the construction as they make it far stronger and able to take the stresses applied to it.

So when choosing a plastic base make sure it includes reinforcing. The underside should have a honeycomb of plastic cross members which combine to keep it rigid.

Steel bases
Steel bases have started to become more common over recent years, particularly on cheaper chairs from China. These are very often chrome plated which makes them look high quality. Unfortunately they are often anything but. When you look at the underside of the base the steel is often heavily pitted and of low quality. Sometimes the ends of the arms where the wheels attach have been crudely crimped to form a curved shape. This weakens the steel at the very point where it needs to be strongest.

Definitely avoid these sorts of bases on cheap chairs. On better quality chairs steel bases are normally finished in paint, satin or polished chrome and are very robust. So no quality issues with these.

Aluminum bases
Aluminum makes a great material for a swivel base. It is both lightweight and strong.

aluminum base

Polished aluminum base

Due to its flexibility in manufacture it's often used to make great designs maybe incorporating curves or shaping to give it a unique look. The aluminum often has either a satin or polished finish.

Paint finishErgo Depot bases are also popular too. Generally speaking aluminum bases are only found on better quality chairs as it's too expensive to meet the price point of cheap chairs.

Wood bases
Wood bases are less common these days. They are mostly used where the user wants to match the chair finish to a natural wood desk. With these bases the wood is decorative. The base has a steel core and the wood is fitted on top of it. Unless you turn the chair upside down you wouldn't be aware it was made like this.

So much for bases let's move on to the gas lift.

Pneumatic gas lifts
The purpose of a chair's gas lift is to provide easy height adjustment for the user. Although they do come in different qualities generally speaking most gas lifts will handle the loads imposed on them. Just be sure to check the load capacity, most will support users up to 250lbs in weight.

Some suppliers offer more than one height of gas lift to cater for different height users. Here's a quick rule of thumb. When standing without shoes on, measure from the floor to your knee joint. Then make sure the gas lift will adjust a little above and below this measurement and you should be fine.

OK that's it for chair bases and gas lifts, the next post takes a look at the heart of any office chair, the seat.

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