Stackable Chairs: 12 things you need to know before you buy one

Herman Miller Caper Stacking Chairs in white
Herman Miller Caper Stacking Chairs in white
Classic Designs » Essays » Stackable Chairs: 12 things you need to know before you buy one

What you need to know before you buy a stackable chair

Stackable chairs (also known as stacking chairs) are ideal for businesses and organizations that need the flexibility that stackable chairs give to their multi-use spaces. They allow you to quickly adapt the seating to the occasion, whether it is a conference, a lecture, a formal meal or a wedding.

1. What is a stackable chair?

Stackable chairs are small, lightweight, non-adjustable chairs that are designed to be stacked one upon another to save space until they are needed. They are perfect as temporary seating for multi-use spaces such as church halls, schools and gyms for example.  

Herman Miller Caper Stacking Chairs in white
Herman Miller Caper Stacking Chairs

2. What are the main things I should consider when buying a stackable chair?

Before you buy into any stackable chair system, you should sit down (no pun intended) and consider the following:

2.1 Where am I going to use my stackable chairs?

Do you need chairs purely for indoor use or will you need chairs that can be left outside overnight? If you are only going to need chairs for use indoors you are going to have a lot more options to choose from.  

However, if you need chairs that can also be used outdoors you are going to have to investigate what the frame is made of, how weather resistant it is and whether the chairs have integrated weatherproof seating, or detachable seat pads that you can take off and keep safe indoors.

You will also need to consider whether you will be placing them on turf or paved surfaces. Wheels may get bogged down in soil and you may have to look into alternative feet to your chair.

2.2 What type of stackable chair will I need?

Do you need a multi-function chair that can also have a writing desk attached to it and comes with under seat storage, or a rustic style chair that you can dress up for a fairy tale wedding?

2.3 What material is the frame made out of?

Do you want a long lasting metal chair that you will get twenty years of service out of, or are you looking for cheaper, no frills plastic, patio style chairs that you will recycle after one season?

2.4 How much money am I going to make by buying these chairs?

Assuming you are buying stackable chairs for business use, how much money do you have to pay for the whole system and how long before you expect to get your money back?

2.5 Can I rent stackable chairs?

Dependant on how often you are going to use stackable chairs, is it more cost effective if you rent them rather than buy them? 

2.6 How many do I actually need (allowing for spares and breakages)

How many chairs do you think you will need? Don’t forget to allow for spares and breakages. They will happen

2.7 Do I have any space to store them?

Having worked out what type of chairs you need and how many you need, do you have the space to store them when they are needed? If not, perhaps this is another reason for you renting chairs rather than buying them

One you have the answers to these questions they should give you a set of parameters to work with as you consider all the other options and questions that will guide you to making a qualified assessment of stackable chairs.

3. When should I use a stackable chair?

Stackable chairs are designed for short term use and as temporary pop-up seating for occasional and ad-hoc events. They are light and simple and can be quickly set out when needed and stacked away when not needed.

Herman Miller Caper Stacking Chairs
Herman Miller Caper Stacking Chairs

4. When should I not use a stackable chair?

Stackable chairs are not meant for long term use, they are normally fixed height, have minimal padding and are just not ergonomic. To help improve their working lives and make them as cheap and durable as possible, they have few moving parts or bits that can fall off.

5. Can I use a stackable chair outdoors?

It is best that you check with the manufacturer if the stackable seats they are selling can be used outdoors. If you want chairs that can be used outdoors you should consider:

  • What the frame is made of? If it is made out of wood is it varnished or painted, if it is metal, is it rust proof, painted or coated?
  • Is the seating or padding waterproof or is it detachable? If it is detachable, do you have the space to store the seat pads when they are not on the chairs. Also, do you have the staff/time to attach and detach seat pads as and when they are needed?
  • What type of feet does it have/Where are you going to use it? If you are going to use it on grass you don’t want a chair with wheels or that is going to sink into the grass when someone sits on it.

6. How can I store a stackable chair when it is not in use?

As the name suggests, stackable chairs are designed to be stacked when not in use. Some chairs such as the Herman Miller Caper or the original David Rowlands 40/4 can be stacked on purpose built trolleys. This means that these chairs can then be moved quickly and easily around the site without dragging them and damaging the chairs and the flooring.

These trolleys though are an additional cost that you will have to take into account when purchasing your stacking chairs.

7. How can I move stackable chairs?

The easiest way to move stackable chairs is via their purpose built trolleys. Dragging them will damage both the chairs and the flooring. 

8. How can I make sure stackable chairs don’t move when they are in use?

Most commercial grade stackable chairs can be gang linked together, either by their legs or arms. This will stop them moving and also makes them look a lot neater when lined up.

Herman Miller Caper Stacking Chais in yellow
Herman Miller Caper Stacking Chais in yellow

9. Can I get spare parts for my stackable chair?

If you are buying stackable chairs to help make best use out of a multi-function area, then you should find out in advance what spare parts and maintenance options there are for your chairs.

Seat covers and padding will inevitably get wet, ripped or stained. Wheels will break and need replacing. And if you choose a chair system that allows you to attach temporary desks, tablet holders and basket storage etc, all of these will over time need to be replaced or mended in some way. Buying into a stacking chair system without manufacturers support is risky.

10. Can I get different wheels for stackable chairs?

Most stackable chairs will come without wheels, some of the top of the range ones such as the Herman Miller ‘Caper’, can be supplied with either carpet or hard floor glides/wheels. Just be aware that they are one more thing to break on the chair and if you don’t specifically need them, it is probably best not paying extra for something you don’t really need.

11.Do stackable chairs come ready assembled?

Most stackable chairs will come ready assembled.

12. How much weight can a stackable chair support?

This will depend on the quality of the chair and how much you pay for it, but to take our example Herman Miller Caper, this can take seating weights of up to 300lb.

Herman Miller Caper Stacking Chairs
Herman Miller Caper Stacking Chairs

Summary

Stackable chairs can be a great solution for someone wishing to optimise their usage and revenue from a multi-occupancy space, but they are a long term commitment as a business asset and you really need to take some time to identify what you want out of such a chair, how much you can afford and then assess the chairs available on the market and the support offered by their manufacturers.

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Written by Simon
I am a published writer, journalist and photo-journalist. I have an MA in Creative Writing and Journalism from the University of Wales and my journalism has been published in a number of UK national newspapers including 'the Observer'. I have life long interest in creative design, art and function and this website is an exploration of that in all its forms and guises.