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Why is Commercial Furniture More Expensive than Domestic Furniture?

Updated: Feb 12

Commercial Vs Residential Furniture

If you're looking to value engineer the cost of your office relocation or refurbishment, one area you're probably looking at is office furniture. Office furniture typically comprises about 20% of your project cost. Reducing it can create significant cost savings.


Every week, we work with clients to value engineer their office design & build projects. Sometimes we get asked "Can we just use residential furniture?". While your furniture can be value-engineered, we always recommend against using residential furniture. In this article, we'll explain why commercial furniture is more expensive than domestic furniture, and why you should use it in your office.



Commercial and domestic furniture might look similar, but there is a big difference in the quality. Residential furniture is designed for short periods of use by a few people. Commercial furniture is designed to be in constant use throughout the day.


As a result, commercial furniture is made of different materials. The frames are more heavy-duty, the wood is tougher and the upholstery is more hard-wearing. Metal is normally powder coated to improve resistance to flaking, unlike residential sprayed finishes.


This difference in quality is shown in the warranty. Most residential furniture is covered for 12 months. Higher quality pieces may be covered for up to 3 years. Commercial furniture, on the other hand, is often covered by warranties of 5-10 years, and some manufacturers offer even longer.


Upholstery fabrics are rated using the double rub test – simulating how many times a furniture piece can be used before it wears out. Domestic furniture typically is rated at 3,000-9,000 double rubs, while commercial furniture is rated to a minimum of 15,000. Weight ratings are another indicator of quality. Many commercial task chairs are safe for people of up to 150 kg, while residential furniture is more commonly rated to 100-120 kg.


As a result of this improved quality, commercial furniture is significantly more expensive than domestic furniture. The materials are more expensive and the testing is more rigorous. Manufacturing processes such as powder coating also make manufacturing more expensive.



Home design trends change very rapidly. As a result, residential furniture designs are fashionable for a relatively short period of time, around 2-3 years. Commercial furniture, on the other hand, is designed to last 10 years or more. Commercial furniture eschews the trends of residential design. Commercial design focuses on creating pieces that will work just as well 10 years from now as today.


The upholstery and finishes of commercial furniture are less variable than residential furniture. Because residential furniture is designed for less use, the designs do not have to be as robust. The need for durability means there is much more consistency across different styles of office furniture.


The more intense use and longer life of office furniture requires a much more rigorous design and development process. This is reflected in the cost. More thorough compliance requirements also make the design process more expensive.



Commercial furniture is manufactured to order and is configurable according to your requirements. This means it has an almost infinite number of configurations. Many manufacturers will have around 20 options for solid surfaces in a mixture of block colours and wood effects, as well as 4-5 veneer options. For upholstery, there are over 60 common fabrics with up to 30 finishes in each. As you can specify the exact finish you want for your office furniture, you can make sure it matches your brand as well as your budget.


Residential furniture is much more limited. It tends to be bulk manufactured in a few popular and generic finishes, then held in warehouses for quicker delivery. Office furniture customisation is not limited to finishes. Some items, such as desks or breakout bars, can be made to a completely bespoke specification. This includes size and design as well as finishes. This is particularly popular for reception desks for a design statement to suit a workspace.


This customisation increases the costs of commercial furniture. Commercial furniture requirements are very specific and varied. It is not practical for manufacturers to hold large stocks of every item and configuration, though some do hold stocks of common items. Customisation also increases costs because it limits the economies of scale for manufacturers.



Ergonomics is the biggest difference between commercial and residential furniture. Ergonomic furniture is designed to maximise the comfort, functionality and movement of the user. Ergonomic design is what makes commercial furniture suitable to use all day every day. This is essential, particularly for items like task chairs that are used for long periods at a time. If you used a home office chair all day, it would likely cause you health issues over time. Ergonomics are less important for domestic furniture. This is because residential items tend to be used for much shorter periods of time.


Ergonomic design increases the cost of your office furniture because it requires far more research to design the products. It also requires rigorous testing before launch, to ensure it meets the necessary requirements.



The final key difference between commercial and residential furniture is they need to meet. For commercial furniture, strict tests by third parties are required. the most common testing boards are ASTM, ANSI/UL and BIFMA. Some of the tests they carry out are leg strength, backrest strength, stability, and drop resilience.


Fire resistance is also a crucial part of compliance. Domestic fabrics and upholstery need to meet the standards BS EN 597-1: 2015 and BS EN 597-2: 2015. These cover their resistance to a smouldering cigarette and burning match. Commercial furniture is used in public spaces, so it has to comply with a much higher fire resistance standard: CRIB5. CRIB tests measure a material’s resistance to a constant fire source, rather than a temporary one. This means that commercial furniture is far less flammable than residential options.


The costs of certification make commercial furniture more expensive than domestic furniture. The use of higher quality and safer materials also means manufacturing costs are higher for commercial furniture.


Furniture For Your Office

You now know why commercial furniture is more expensive than residential furniture, and why you should always use commercial furniture for commercial spaces. Primarily, this is due to improved quality and compliance. The level of design customisation will also mean that you can have a furniture package that matches your office and brand identity.


To learn more about office furniture cost ranges and what affects office furniture cost, read this article. For more help value engineering your project, read 3 Ways To Reduce The Cost Of Your Office Refurbishment and How to Keep Your Office Fit Out On Budget.



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