Ask The Expert

Here are some questions I have received here or previously answered at Yahoo Answers

Subject: How Long Should An Office Chair Last?

I purchased an office chair about three years ago and am wondering if the seat padding has become compressed. The center of the seat pan is not as full and springy as the sides. Do the seat pans of office chair lose support (so that you effectively are sitting of the wood seat)? How long should an office chair last. This was a Staples special, made in China, and an Aeron knockoff. Thanks for responding. David B.

Thanks for your question about the life expectancy of an office chair.

A good indicator for the answer to your question is to simply look at how long the supplier is prepared to guarantee it for.

This can vary from no guarantee in the case of a cheap Asian import to 12 years for a chair like an Aeron. I very much doubt that the chair you bought had a guarantee of 2 years or more which probably explains the problems you are experiencing.

Cheap special chairs are made to meet a price target rather than a quality level, so it is inevitable that things like the foam are often low quality.

My belief is that your office chair is one of the most important things in your office when you consider how long you spend in it.

Much better to buy a new one that will last 10 years and serve you well rather than 3 cheap ones over the same period.

Subject: Humanscale's Freedom Chair or Herman Miller's Aeron Chair?

I work from home as a web and graphic designer, and am in my office chair about 11 hours a day. I'm going to buy a new chair and am looking for something very modern / sleek / and as comfortable as possible.

I'm considering either the Humanscale's Freedom chair or Herman Miller's Aeron Chair. Can someone make a recommendation as to which one of these two are best and why?

That’s a really good question, both the Freedom and the Aeron are high quality office chairs and are likely to give you years of excellent service.

You’ll probably find the best thing to do is to actually try out each chair and see which you prefer. So, I’d try and find a local dealer for each and see if you can try them out.

I would also suggest looking at some of the better HÅG chairs as they too make quality stylish chairs. Take look at my article about the HÅG philosophy. You’ll find a review of their H04 model here.

Subject: I think I am too tall for the desk at my office.

I am 5'11" and I think I am too tall for the desk I use at work. I am always sorta hunched over. I am afraid this is going to hurt my back.

What should I do? I also got a chair that is really low to the ground and its still not better. Is it my company's responsibility to fix this or what? I don't want to stir up any problems at work but my back is killing me.

Setting your chair too low will definitely cause this sort of problem, your desk should be about 30ins (760mm) high. Try raising your seat if you can. Take a look at this article Setting Up &Adjusting Ergonomic Office Seating as well as some of the other related articles.

Subject: Advice on Office Chairs?

I am looking good chair that is comfortable to sit in, will not hurt my back, easy to roll across my desk area. I have sat in the Herman Miller chair and really like them..don't think my boss will go for the $800+ price tag on it though.

My desk is kind of low so my arm rest right now kind of get in the way. I do have to hump over a bit to type. Does anyone have any advice to share?

Herman Miller produce a great range of chairs, but as you say the $800+ price is something your boss may not like.

It's worth considering other makes as there are a lot of great chairs available today. It's worth looking at the HAG range from Norway, their H04 model is an excellent chair and is about 20 % cheaper and some of their models have arms that swing backwards so you can get closer to your desk.

For more details see how to choose a good office chair as well as the reviews of quality office chairs.

Subject: Problems With Seat Padding

Over the last few years I have noticed that I am beginning to develop pain in my upper legs after sitting in my office chair for long periods of time. I believe the foam in the seat of my chair has lost its cushioning so I bought an extra cushion but that hasn't helped much.

I am wondering what to look for in a new chair to prevent this problem from occuring. I don't want to spend a great deal of money but would like a chair that is comfortable to sit in for several hours at a time.

I'm presuming that the pain you're experiencing is probably to the underside of your thighs as this is the commonest type of upper leg pain.

Certainly if the foam in your chair is worn out this could cause this to happen. On the other hand it could be due to not having your chair height set correctly. You should aim to have your feet squarely on the floor and if you then place a sheet of paper under your thighs you should be able to pull it out relatively easily.

The other point to consider is that when you sit in your chair with your back in good contact with the chair back you should be able to place your clenched fist between the chair front edge and the back of your legs.

Assuming you're of average height you may be able to get away with buying a chair without seat depth adjustment, but if not you really ought to consider this as it's important to have your legs set correctly in your seat.

The other thing I would look for is a chair that has a waterfall front, in other words the front edge slopes down and so relieves pressure on the underside of your legs.

Subject: Where should the lumbar support be on my office chair?

I just received my new office chair and it has adjustable lumbar support. How do I determine the appropriate placement for my body?

The purpose of a lumbar support on an office chair is to maintain the natural curvature of your back known as Lordosis. When properly set it should be adjusted to support the lower part of your back in the area roughly between your waistline and the rear of the bottom of your ribs.

When it's correctly positioned it prevents the lower part of your back from straightening or curving outwards, try to sit back in your seat to make sure it makes good contact with this part of your back.

Subject: How do you remove 5 star base on an office chair?

The 5 spoke base on an office chair that holds the wheels... I have 2 office chairs one with a good one and one that's broke and I'd like to swap them.

The majority of office chairs tend to be fitted with gas lifts that have a tapered body that locates and wedges into a matching tapered hole in the base. This is what's called an interference fit and the two become locked together.

Depending on how old the chair is it can be quite difficult to separate them. Try spraying the joint with some WD40 or easing oil, let it soak in and then turn the chair on its side and use a rubber mallet to tap firmly on the top of each leg of the base and hopefully they'll come apart.

If the chair has a plastic base take care not to hit it too hard or you may crack the base.

Subject: Ergonomic office chair insert

I am a contracter working at a variety of different offices and office chairs. Occasionally (like now) I get a bad chair that hurts my back. Is there an ergonomic chair insert that I can strap onto an office chair that will offer support?


Dwayne Z

Here are a couple of ideas you could look at and neither will cost you a fortune.

The first is a new book which takes a completely different look at how bad posture affects our backs and posture. It includes a specific chapter on how to sit properly, I've found it very useful. More details here

The second idea is to consider a removable backrest which you can take from site to site as well as using in your car. The mesh backrest from Travelon has several positive reviews, more details here.

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