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Do you know that using the wrong casters on your chair will damage your
Do you know there are different types of caster wheel material for office
and lab chairs or stools?
Does it really matter which I use for my office or lab chair?
How can I select the correct caster for my office?
If you can correctly answer these three questions you get an “A” and a big
“THANK YOU” from the folks at the Physical Plant. If not, we hope you will
Our Physical Plant staff seem to be finding more and more instances of
office or lab chairs with improper casters. Some people may not be aware
that there are two major types of caster wheel material.
Selecting the correct caster material depends upon what type of floor the
chair is intended to be used on. There are softer compound wheels which
are intended to be used on tile floors and harder (generally plastic)
wheels which are intended to be used on carpets. An easy way to remember
this is that the caster material should be the opposite of the flooring
material. Soft casters for hard floors (tile) and hard casters for soft
The harder wheels tend to roll a bit easier over carpet while the softer
wheels are best for hard tile floors. We have not seen any damage to
carpet caused by using soft caster wheels on carpet but we are seeing
numerous tile floors which are being damaged by using the hard caster
wheels on the hard tile floors.
There are dozens of different castors available but they can generally be
divided into about 4 categories.
Small diameter single wheel (about 1 ˝ in.) soft casters for use on hard
Medium Diameter dual wheel (about 2in.) hard plastic caster for carpeted
Medium diameter dual wheel (about 2 in.) soft urethane coated caster for
Large diameter dual wheel (about 2 ˝ in) soft urethane coated caster for
soft and hard floors.
How can you tell if you have the wrong caster? Do you have a tile floor?
Is the tile area where your chair rolls duller than the rest of the floor
area? If so do you see white powdery substance on your shoes etc? One of
the most obvious telltale signs of using the wrong caster is a white
powdery material on the casters and your shoes etc right where your chair
sits. That powder is actually the tile floor tile which is being ground up
like flour from wheat. If the improper casters have been used for an
extended period you will see a noticeable deterioration of the tile and in
extreme cases one can actually see the wear pattern of the chair. Both
hard and soft often appear the same, the main difference is usually that
the wheels designed for tile have a thin soft rubber tread. From a
distance it is impossible to tell one from the other.
What can you do?
When you are ordering a new chair ensure you take the time to specify
which type of surface you wish to operate it on. Knowledgeable sales
people will ask but it is clear that some have not. It seems apparent that
most of the chairs come with hard wheels because a large number of offices
in business and industry are carpeted.
What can you do if you already have the chair? If you are seeing signs of
white powdery dust you can have the casters replaced. Proper casters are
available for almost every chair. You may have your purchasing
representatives purchase them from your local furniture dealer or you may
contact Steve Heitz (firstname.lastname@example.org) at the UW Custodial
Department and he can order the proper casters and have them installed for
you. The cost is generally about $30 per chair, unusual or special orders
could be more. For obvious reasons we would most appreciate it if your
department could consolidate your requests.
If you are not sure which type to buy we would highly recommend that you
purchase the softer ones designed for tile floors so your chair does not
irreparably damage the tiles. We have not seen any damage to carpets by
using the softer wheels on carpet.