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Why is Commercial Furniture More Expensive than Domestic Furniture?

Updated: Jul 11

Commercial Vs Domestic Furniture

When we’re working with our clients to value engineer their projects, one of the first questions they ask is “why can’t we specify cheaper furniture?” They struggle to justify what seems a high cost compared to domestic furniture. This is completely understandable. After all, you want to make sure you are getting the best possible return on investment for your project. However, specifying domestic furniture will have a lower ROI than commercial-grade furniture.

While it’s not always visible, there are 5 key differences between commercial and residential furniture. These all have their impact on the use you get out of your furniture, as well as the price you pay. The 5 key areas of difference between commercial and domestic furniture are:

- Quality

- Design

- Customisation

- Ergonomics

- Compliance

At Zentura, we provide companies across the UK with carefully curated commercial-grade office furniture packages. We believe that this is the best option for offices. However, this article isn't to explain the benefits of commercial office furniture. It’s to explain why commercial furniture is more expensive. In this article, we’ll explain each of the 5 factors, and why they impact the cost of your furniture package.


Although commercial and domestic furniture can look identical, there is a big difference in the quality. Commercial furniture is designed to be in constant use throughout the day. Residential furniture, meanwhile, is designed for short periods of use by far fewer people.

As a result, commercial furniture is made of different materials. Thicker metal in the frames is used, as well as tougher wood and more hard-wearing upholstery. Metal frames are often powder coated to improve resistance to rust and flaking, unlike the sprayed finishes common in residential furniture.

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.

The use of more and higher-quality materials has an inevitable impact on your initial furniture investment. Manufacturing processes such as powder coating also make your furniture more expensive to manufacture.


A more obvious difference between commercial and domestic furniture is the design. Home design trends change very rapidly. As a result, residential furniture designs are highly 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. Furniture designed for commercial use avoids the trends of residential design. Commercial design focusses 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.

Commercial furniture fulfils a far larger role in the office than furniture at home. When in the office, staff are working in a variety of ways, and they need the furniture to support that. As a result, there are more types of office furniture than residential. Office furniture includes collaboration furniture, pods, and much more to cater to this.

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.


What commercial furniture lacks in style variations it makes up for in customisation options. Commercial furniture is normally manufactured to order. This means it has an almost infinite number of configurations. Many manufacturers will have around 20 MFC 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, on the other hand, is more limited. It tends to be bulk manufactured in a few popular and generic finishes, then held in warehouses for quicker delivery. This means that if you have specific finishing requirements, then domestic furniture will likely be unsuitable, regardless of quality, compliance, or any other consideration.

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 when companies are looking for a design statement in a confined space.

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 a crucial component of quality. It is perhaps 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. Were you to use a home office chairsall day, it would before you had back pain.

Ergonomics are less important for domestic furniture. This is because residential items tend to be used for much shorter periods of time. office workers are also more sedentary, so they do not have the activity to offset the impact of poor ergonomics.

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

We recommend that you use commercial-grade furniture throughout your workspace. This is due to improved quality and compliance. The level of design customisation will also mean that you can have a furniture package that perfectly matches your office and brand identity.

At Zentura, we provide carefully curated office furniture packages that improve staff and company performance. Furniture that creates agile and flexible workspaces that support your business objectives. If you’d like to talk to a workspace expert about your office and furniture needs, reach out today and we’d be happy to help.

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