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Purchasing a chair is a big decision. Chairs can cost a fair amount of money so it is important to get the right chair the first time. The table below discusses chair adjustments and some tips for purchasing. Many chairs do not have all of the adjustments listed here. It is important to review these options and plan to match the chair to the proper task.

Chair Adjustments and Purchasing Tips
Characteristics Adjustments Explanation
Seat Height Seat height and depth are the two most important features here.

  • Adjust the seat height until your feet touch the ground and your thighs are level.
  • If possible, adjust your chair until there is a distance between the width of a closed fist and three fingers between the back of your calf and the front edge of the seat pan.
  • Tilting mechanisms are good for varying posture throughout the day.
Depth (seat slider)
Backward tilt
Forward tilt
Backrest Height
  • For chairs that do not have an independent lumbar support, adjust the height of the backrest until the curve on the back of the chair fits into the curve of your lower back in a comfortable location.
  • The backrest may either lean back with the seat pan or independently. Adjust the back angle so that the backrest just supports your back when seated normally. Some chairs allow “free floating” where the user leans back in the chair, causing the backrest to rock back at the same time.
  • Many chairs have a knob under the seat which allows adjustment of the tension required to push the backrest back when leaning backwards.
Armrests Height Armrests are not always necessary and nonadjustable armrests can be actively disruptive if they force the user to raise or lower their shoulders to use them or block the user from easily reaching objects, such as the computer mouse.

  • Adjust the armrests so they are just beneath the elbows when the arms are relaxed.
  • If possible, adjust the armrest widths again so they are just beneath the elbow when the arm is relaxed. Adjustability accomodates persons with different shoulder breadths.
  • Pivoting allows the armrest to be angled under the arm when reaching inwards and in front.
Lumbar Adjustability Firmness This feature is becoming more and more common in office chairs.

  • Increase the firmness of the lumbar support until it feels comfortable.
  • Raise the height of the lumbar support until it fits into the curve at the small of your back. Some people prefer to have the curve fit exactly, while others prefer to have the curve fit more to the upper part of the lumbar curve.
  • Everyone’s back is shaped differently. Change (make sharper, flatter) the curve of the backrest until it fits the curve of your back.
Size of Curvature
Material Waterfall Seat Most new office chairs have these features.

  • Waterfall seats help distribute the pressure on the back of the leg.
  • Rounded, padded armrests reduce localized pressure on the elbows and forearms as well as provide more comfort.
Rounded Edges on Armrests
Padded Armrests
Impression Safety
  • OSHA recommends five-point bases on task chairs to minimize the chance of tipping over.
  • It is also important to consider stability of the chair components, such as armrests. Many people use the armrests as an assist when getting up out of the chair. Pivoting armrests without a lock can move unexpectedly under pressure.
  • When considering a new chair, get opinions from others who have or are using a certain chair. They may have some insights about the chairs. Remember, however, that comfort is a personal thing, so a chair that is comfortable for one person may not be comfortable for another.

Personal Chair Evaluation

Purchasing Office: 104 Airport Drive, Room 2700
The purchasing department has samples of many of the chairs on state contract. When considering purchasing chairs, visit the purchasing department to evaluate the chairs there. It is recommended that any chair under consideration be evaluated in the office for at least two weeks before a decision to purchase is made.