Buying furniture for your home or business can be either simple or complicated, depending on what exactly you’re looking for. This doesn’t just include furniture designs and materials but the production quality, durability, fire resistance, and other criteria we often don’t think about.
This is where the different types and quality grades of furniture come in. One particular type you’ve likely heard about while browsing is contract grade furniture or commercial grade furniture.
Let’s examine exactly what that means below and try to determine if this is the right type of furniture for you and your home.
What Is Contract Grade Furniture?
Contract or commercial grade furniture is furniture that’s typically intended for commercial settings such as hotels and restaurants. This doesn’t mean that you can’t get commercial grade furniture for your home, however – it just means that it’s intended for commercial settings.
This is in contrast to residential grade furniture that’s meant for use in people’s homes only and isn’t meant for commercial settings.
The simple difference between contract grade and residential grade furniture is that contract grade furniture is made of higher-quality materials, with a sturdier design, and is expected to have much better fire resistance than residential furniture.
Naturally, because of all of the above, contract grade furniture is also more expensive than residential furniture. The production and storage process is also different:
– Residential furniture is usually made in lots and is stored locally in large numbers and with few design customization options.
– Contract grade furniture, on the other hand, is often made to order. Even when it’s “quick-ship” like residential furniture, it’s still typically made in smaller quantities but with greater design diversity.
So, is contract grade furniture better than residential furniture? In a word, yes, but it’s more complicated than that.
For one, the reason residential furniture is of “lower quality” is that it often doesn’t need to be as durable as commercial grade furniture. That’s because the latter goes through a lot more use and abuse than residential furniture.
If you buy a nice residential set of chairs, for example, you can still expect them to serve you faithfully for years or even decades. For a commercial set of chairs to last that long in a restaurant or a hotel, however, it needs to be much sturdier than residential chairs.
In short, there is such a thing as “unnecessarily too good” when it comes to residential furniture. There’s nothing wrong in wanting to buy a higher-quality commercial furniture set for your home, however – that way it likely won’t just last years or decades but potentially even lifetimes.
Is Contract Grade Furniture Regulated And How?
It’s easy to say that one type or category of furniture is “better” than another but what is it that makes sure commercial grade furniture is indeed up to a certain standard?
As with most other industries, there are regulations that make sure each furniture piece marked as “contract grade” or “commercial grade”.
Such regulations will vary from one country or state to another but most have to do with fire resistance – this is the key regulatory difference between commercial and residential furniture.
Regulations such as the Crib 5 fire regulations in the UK make sure that each piece of furniture that’s to be used in a hotel, a restaurant, or another hospitality establishment has sufficient fire resistance capabilities.
There are various ways to test that fire resistance, such as this bed base test shown here.
These fire resistance regulations are crucial for the hospitality industry as an accidental fire breaking out in a hotel can have devastating consequences for tens or hundreds of innocent people.
Naturally, no one wants fires in residential areas either but the reasoning for the lower fire resistance requirements for residential furniture is that homeowners are responsible for their own homes.
In contrast, hotel and restaurant owners are responsible not only for their own lives and property but for the lives and property of their guests – hence the stricter fire resistance regulations for contract grade furniture.
As for all the other ways commercial grade furniture differs from residential furniture – those are mostly driven by free market incentives rather than government regulations.
After all, if you’re the owner of a pub or a hotel, you’ll want sturdier and longer-lasting furniture regardless of any governmental regulations.
What Materials Are Used For Contract Grade Furniture?
The things that make contract grade furniture sturdier are the function of both better designs and better materials.
So, while all the materials below are things you can find in some residential furniture pieces too, they are much more commonly and abundantly present in commercial furniture.
- Solid woods – there are many types of wood used in both residential and commercial furniture. However, whereas residential furniture usually bets on lighter and softer woods that are easier to move, commercial furniture prefers woods such as oak, walnut, and others for their durability.
- Steel – metal is used for any furniture piece but solid steel frames are much more common for contract grade furniture pieces.
- Plywood – the strongest type of manufactured wood, plywood is often used for bookcase shelves or the backs of chairs.
- High-Density Foam – excellent for providing both comfort and long-lasting shape retention and durability.
- High-Quality Leather And Fabrics – contract-grade furniture is typically expected to both look gorgeous and last for decades. That’s why the leathers and fabrics used here always are – or should be – of the highest possible quality.
Can You Buy Contract Grade Furniture For Your Home?
The fact that contract grade furniture is typically meant for commercial settings such as hotels, B&Bs, guest houses, restaurants, pubs, hostels, holiday camps, or boarding schools shouldn’t stop you from getting a contract grade furniture piece for your home if you want to.
Such pieces are typically available from most large furniture retailers and can be bought both online and in person.
There’s usually an order minimum of several pieces (typically 4 for chairs, for example) but that’s not that high for most homes. Additionally, if you shop in person, most retailers will sell individual pieces too.
If you’re not sure if a given furniture piece is a residential grade or contract grade, the grading should be on the product’s label or you can just ask one of the store’s employees.
Is Contract Grade Furniture Always Better Than Residential Furniture?
All of the above should make it quite clear that contract grade furniture is typically better than residential furniture in almost all ways.
This doesn’t mean that it absolutely has to be your go-to, however, or that there aren’t reasons to go with residential grade furniture instead.
Pros And Cons Of Contract Grade Furniture
- Contract grade furniture is usually made of higher-quality materials.
- The designs of contract grade furniture also make it sturdier and more long-lasting.
- Commercial furniture typically has a lot more customization options and variations to choose from.
- While it’s pricier, contract grade furniture can often be bought at budget prices if you look for discounts and special offers.
- Contract grade furniture has much higher fire resistance than residential furniture.
- Contract grade furniture is significantly more expensive than residential grade furniture on average.
- Not every furniture piece we buy needs to last for decades or lifetimes – some residential pieces usually just need to be trendy, lightweight, and comfortable.
Should You Buy Contract Grade Furniture For Your Home?
If you’re looking for high-quality, longevity, and fire resistance, contract grade furniture is the way to go. It’s usually made in much more design variations too which can be more than enough of a benefit if you don’t like the current design trends in residential furniture.
Contract grade furniture is more expensive, however, which isn’t always worth it for a residential setting even if your budget allows it.