Residential vs Commercial Furniture

Commercial Furniture in restaurant

Running and owning your business can be rewarding but also requires hard work and commitment. Getting down to every last detail is paramount to the success and survival of your business. Finding quality commercial furniture is just one of the many puzzle pieces businesses need to put together. It might be more convenient and affordable for you to pick up a few chairs and tables from your local retail store but doing so might cost you in the long run.

Differences between residential and commercial furniture

When shopping and purchasing furniture for your dining venue or office, it's important to differentiate between residential and commercial furniture. Commercial furniture, also known as contract furniture, is built to handle wear and tear of daily use in high traffic environments whereas residential furniture is not designed to the same stringent requirements because it typically does not experience traffic of a high magnitude. Below are a few parameters which better explain the differences and help you distinguish between the two.
residential vs commercial furniture

Wood Type

Residential furniture is typically made using softer wood types like rubberwood and pine which is one of the more popular woods for residential furniture. While softwood is easier to turn into furniture making it a cheaper material, it is also less scratch resistant. On the other hand, wood table tops and chairs for commercial use are made from resistant hardwoods such as maple, beechwood and oak.

In most parts of the United States for practically all interior woodwork, such as flooring, trim, furniture, etc. a moisture content below 12 percent is recommended. In contract furniture we use hard wood with 6-7% moisture content which adds to the wood's toughness and durability.


While residential and commercial furniture may look the same there can be vast differences in the durability of the materials used. Commercial furniture manufacturers take into consideration the fact that the furniture, both seating and tables, will be in constant use by different people. This means that the wood is tougher and finished using Polyurethane coatings (also known as P.U. finishing) which help protect the wood from high levels of wear and tear and constant cleaning.

The metal frame is powder coated and baked making it more resistant to rust and flaking. Powder Coating also results in a thick, dense finish with a smoother surface which attracts less dust and allows less dirt to accumulate making it both easier to maintain and more hygienic.

For upholstered furniture the seat is first covered in foam padding which comes in a variety of densities, firmness and fire resistance. Unlike residential furniture contract furniture comes with more stringent safety codes and often, for an additional small fee the most stringent codes such as CAL 133 can be applied.

All foams include both density and firmness measurements and usually the firmer a foam is the higher it's density and weight. While firmer foam is more expensive it is also more comfortable and lasts longer. A density of 2.0-2.5 is the appropriate range for upholstered chairs and booths used in restaurants and other busy venues while the most commonly used foam density for residential furniture sold in the U.S. is 1.8.

warranty and strength


On average, residential furniture includes a one year warranty for wood chairs and 1-6 months for metal chairs. Commercial furniture, on the other hand, offers a 3 years guarantee for USA made wood furniture and a lifetime structural warranty for metal chairs.


For residential wood chairs and bar stools the average weight capacity is around 250 lbs. In contrast, commercial wood chairs and bar stools have a weight limit of 350 lbs or higher and made using mortise and tenon joints reinforced with glue and screws and additional D or H stretchers for additional strength.

Metal residential furniture is typically made using 22 or 24 gauge steel frame compared to 16-18 gauge steel in commercial grade furniture (the lower the gauge number, stronger the metal frame).

Testing and Accreditation

Furniture is labeled as commercial grade if it manages to pass strict testing set by independent third parties tests. The best knows are: BIFMA, ASTM and ANSI/UL. Some of the tests done include:
  • Back Rest Strength Test
  • Drop Test
  • Stability Test
  • Leg Strength Test

While initially more expensive, a core benefit contract furniture has over residential furniture is its ability to outlast competition. Running your business is costly and the lower your expenses are the better. Having to constantly replace and rebuy furniture and other items for your business is going to burn a hole in your wallet and consume your valuable time. Guaranteed to stand the test of time, the resilience of commercial restaurant furniture reduces the need to make numerous purchases and replacements. In such instances where you need to replace a restaurant chair or a base for a restaurant table, you can purchase replacement or additional pieces when buying specially formulated commercial furniture.

The table below sums up the differences between residential and commercial furniture:

  Commercial Furniture Residential Furniture
Wood Type Hard Wood - maple, oak, beechwood; 6-8% moisture content Soft Wood - rubberwood, pine; up to 12% moisture content
Durabilty P.U wood finishing (7 stages process with scratch resistant top coat ); powder coated metal; 2-2.5 dense foam padding Residential grade wood finishing; plated metal; 1.8 dense foam padding
Warranty 3 years - lifetime structural warranty 1 – 12 months
Strength weight capacity of 350 pounds or higher; 16-18 gauge steel frame weight capacity of 250 pounds; 20-22 gauge steel frame (lower gauge is stronger)
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