The Ultimate Guide to Drafting Chairs
Modified: February 7, 2023
Get to know the difference between drafting chairs and regular office chairs, and learn how to choose the right type of drafting chair for you.
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Many of us would choose desk jobs over manual labor jobs due to higher compensation and better benefits. The lack of physical activity due to sitting at a desk for hours, however, is also not entirely fab, as it could lead to various detrimental health effects. Luckily, many home office furniture brands are now incorporating ergonomics in their products to help promote a healthier workplace lifestyle. Now, we can find adjustable drafting chairs with elevated foot support to help reduce the physical stress of sitting all day long.
What are Drafting Chairs?
Drafting chairs are originally made for artists, architects, and engineers who work on elevated and sloped drafting tables. This type of chair usually has a high seat height and a foot support ring to allow users to bend their bodies comfortably while working on a drafting table. Although some artists can work on a craft table while standing, it would still be better to have a high chair to sit on to relax the feet.
Today, drafting chairs have a more versatile design. They are not limited to anyone who uses a drafting table but are also available to be used by office workers. Ever since standing desks became popular, businesses started looking for suitable chairs for these ergonomic desks. Drafting chairs are a great choice because they don’t only have high seats but also impressive adjustable features.
Best Drafting Chairs:
Drafting Chairs vs Regular Office Chairs: What Are Their Differences?
Now that drafting chairs are often used in home office setups, you are probably wondering what makes them different from regular office chairs. What are their unique features, and when should you buy one? Keep reading to find out if a drafting chair is ideal for your workplace setup.
Office and drafting chairs differ in size — specifically, the seat height. Standard office chairs have an average seat height of 16 to 21 inches. Meanwhile, drafting chairs have adjustable seats that can go up to 31 inches (or higher).
Because of their extended height, drafting chairs shouldn’t be used with regular desks. Doing so can cause shoulder and back pain as your arms are placed unusually high on the desk. Although using a high table can solve this problem, we still don’t recommend drafting chairs. Since they have a high seat height, they may get in the way, and your legs won’t fit under the table. This type of chair is only suitable for height-adjustable desks such as standing desks for home offices.
Arm and Footrest
Aside from their seat height, drafting chairs and office chairs differ in design. Due to their high seat height, drafting chairs have an elevated footrest ring to prevent the legs and feet from dangling in the air. Artists and architects will find a foot ring useful because it allows them to comfortably lean their bodies forward, which is a maneuver needed for their intricate work. Meanwhile, regular office chairs have flat footrests to improve posture and prevent back pain. It also encourages movement in the ankles and feet.
As for the armrests, drafting chairs may or may not have this feature. They only have a basic 2D armrest design that can be rotated with an adjustable height. On the other hand, office chairs have a more flexible 4D design. Not only can you adjust their height, but also their position. You can move them forward or backward and left or right.
When it comes to back support, office chairs have an advantage. They usually have a medium or high back to provide ample back and neck support. This keeps your body comfortable while you are sitting at a desk all day long. Whereas, drafting chairs have a mid or low-back design, supporting only your lumbar region.
Drafting chairs are more affordable as they don’t have as many adjustable features as office chairs. However, its cost still depends on the brand and materials used. You can get a good drafting chair with armrests and an adjustable seat height for just $170. Meanwhile, office chairs with similar ergonomic features can cost around $350 or more.
Office Chairs for Sale:
Advantages of Using Drafting Chairs
Even though regular office chairs are more popular and have several advantages over drafting chairs, the latter has some unique features that give them an edge.
Adjustable Seat Height
When it comes to home office furniture, the right seat height matters. It should not be too high that your feet are already dangling above the floor. When this happens, you’ll have to forward stoop to keep your feet flat on the floor. This position causes your spine to overly stretch, potentially leading to a back injury. The seat height should also not be too low because this can cause extra stress on the joints at the hips, knees, and ankles.
So, how do you know if you’ve got the right seat height? It doesn’t just depend on how comfortable your body feels while sitting on the chair. You also have to consider how high your desk is. If you have a tall, standing desk, using a regular office chair is not enough. You’ll have to use a drafting chair with a pneumatic adjustable seat. It uses a lever and gas cylinder to allow you to lift or lower the seat.
Earlier, we mentioned how drafting chairs have a low or mid-back design. Even though this only supports your lumbar spine (or the bones at the lower back), it can help keep you comfortable while sitting. It works like a cushion that supports the lumbar spine to help maintain its natural inward curve. Without it, your body slouches forward, causing extra pressure on the spine. This is why you sometimes feel a stabbing back pain after sitting in the same chair for hours.
A drafting chair also feels comfortable because of its tilt mechanism and waterfall seat design. The tilt mechanism allows you to adjust the seat angle to reduce pressure on your lower back. Meanwhile, the waterfall seat style features a slightly sloped seat pan (or the flat area of the chair) with a rounded front edge. This helps minimize pressure on the thighs and encourages blood flow and circulation in the lower limbs.
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Types of Drafting Chairs: What Should You Buy?
Just like most office chairs, drafting chairs also come in many different types. Knowing their differences can help you choose the right type of drafting chair for your home office setup.
Padded Leather Drafting Chairs
It’s crucial to look for a comfortable drafting chair to stay productive at work. You’ll find it difficult to focus with a hard, straight-backed chair because a distracting back pain may follow after sitting on it for a long time. Luckily, you can now find many drafting chairs with padded leather backs. Leather is one of the most comfortable furniture materials because it is made from natural fibers that become more supple over time. Not to mention, the soft padding beneath the leather cover adds extra back support.
However, drafting chairs made from real, genuine leather is expensive. You can choose synthetic leather if you want a more affordable option, but they are not as durable as genuine leather. Eventually, they will start to crack and peel after few months.
Mesh Drafting Chairs
Indeed, leather has a soft and luxurious feel. But when it comes to breathability, you can never go wrong with mesh back drafting chairs. This is a much better option if the workstation has no air-conditioning. The mesh material allows the air to pass through, allowing you to stay cool in hot weather. Moreover, it feels soft and smooth on the skin. Some people even say that sitting on it feels like you’re floating. Another advantage of mesh-back drafting chairs is that they usually come with a contoured, upholstered seat to provide extra ergonomic support.
Just like most home office furniture, it also has its fair share of disadvantages. Mesh can easily lose its elasticity and may sag over time, especially if the drafting chair is made from soft mesh. What’s more, mesh-back drafting chairs are notorious dust magnets, so cleaning it can be challenging.
A drafting stool is a high chair with low back support and no armrests. It’s like a regular office stool but with an adjustable seat and foot support ring. This type of drafting chair is usually ideal for artists and designers who have to lean their bodies forward while working on a drafting table. Moreover, since these drafting chairs do not have armrests, it provides extra mobility to anyone who has to move around frequently in their workstation. A good example would be laboratory technicians who are stationed at elevated workstations.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Drafting Chairs
Choosing the right drafting chair can be difficult because it comes in different types and styles. To help you out, we laid out some of the most important factors to consider when buying drafting chairs. Check them out below.
Seat Height and Width
The right seat height depends on the user’s comfort and the desk height. Knowing if a drafting chair is comfortable is easy as you can test it personally. However, if purchasing online is your only option, you can easily determine the right seat height by measuring the desk height. Ideally, the drafting chair seat should be 8 inches lower than the desk. So, if a standing desk is 44 inches high, then the drafting chair seat height should be 36 inches.
Furthermore, if you have a height-adjustable desk, you don’t have to worry about calculating the right seat height. You can just adjust the height of the drafting chair and desk until it is finally comfortable for you.
As for the drafting chair width, you only have to check if the seat is wide enough for your hips. To give you an idea, drafting chairs usually have a standard seat width of 17 to 20 inches. Meanwhile, the drafting chair seat should leave a clearance of 2 inches between the knees and the front edge of the seat.
It will be more convenient for a drafting chair to have some adjustable features. The metal foot ring should be adjustable because a drafting chair has a higher seat height than regular office chairs. This allows you to adjust the foot ring according to your height, so your legs and feet can rest comfortably.
Apart from an adjustable foot ring, a drafting chair should also have a tilt lock function. This extra feature is convenient while typing on a keyboard as you can tilt the backrest forward to maintain a proper sitting position. It also allows you to recline your drafting chair if you want to relax.
Before you buy an adjustable drafting chair, ask yourself first; what do you need it for? Are you looking for a high chair you could use with a standing desk? If that’s the case, choose an ergonomic drafting chair with adjustable features. Alternatively, if you only need a high chair while filming or doing a photoshoot, you don’t need anything fancy. A simple drafting stool would be enough as this allows you to get on and off the chair quickly.
The most common footrest design in drafting chairs is the metal foot ring. It goes around the post-column of the drafting chair to help support the user’s legs. This is considered the best option because it is height-adjustable. You can easily adjust it to any position you want. Another popular footrest design is the teardrop. Although it’s not adjustable, the teardrop footrest is comfortable and convenient for some people. It has a U-shaped bar design built for users who want to stretch their legs while still getting ample foot support.
At first glance, you may have mistaken drafting chairs as standard office chairs — especially those with a more modern design. They have a similar style with backrests and adjustable seats. Although almost identical, they function differently. Again, you can’t use a drafting chair with a standard office desk because of its high seat height. Despite this, a draft chair can be useful for artists, designers, lab technicians, and anyone who works on an elevated table such as a height-adjustable standing desk. So, if you belong in any of the categories mentioned, go get yourself a drafting chair so you can work comfortably. You can always refer back to this guide to know what type of drafting chair is the right one for you.