Measurements That Matter: Student Desks and Chairs

Posted by Ryan Owens on Oct 23rd 2018

With student attention spans ever on the decrease, you don’t want uncomfortable desk chairs or student desks with unsuitable work areas to be reasons for them to tune you out in class or not get their work completed.

Student Chairs

Let’s begin with chair leg length. If a child does not have enough leg space when sitting, he or she will feel cramped the entire class period. Conversely, if the chair is too tall, and the student’s legs don’t touch the floor, this can be equally uncomfortable or distracted. Here are the general guidelines, by grade, to consider when making decisions about your school chair order:

  • Pre-K through 1st grade: 12 inches
  • Pre-K through 2nd grade: 14 inches
  • 2nd grade through 4th grade: 16 inches
  • 4th grade through college: 18 inches

Because these overlap at the younger grade levels, you may want to consider mixing sizes in your order. For example, if you teach 2nd grade and need to order 100 student chairs, you might want to order 60 14 inch chairs and 40 16 inch chairs. The ordering gets much easier once you get past the 4th or 5th grade and can generally go with all 18 inch size standard chairs.

Along with chair height, backrest height is another important part of a good and comfortable chair. Student chairs should offer the proper lumbar and upper back support. How do your students sit in the chairs you currently have? Is the back support causing poor posture? It may be time to find a new chair design.

Another measurement or at least an area of fit to be watchful for is seat width. If the sides of your students’ legs are hanging off the chairs, even when sitting at attention, the chairs may be too narrow. Often, moving up to the next chair size will take care of the issue.

If you expect to be moving your chairs around a lot or they will be doing multiple duty around the school (auditorium, gymnasium, special events, etc.), be sure to order some handy chair caddies as well. It will make the task so much easier and faster.

Student Desks & Tables

Today’s classroom is not always inclined to have an individual desk for each student. Some prefer to have more of a group environment, with tables strategically set up in a large square; others prefer tables in rows; still others like to have tables serve as workstations for students to work their way through, such as in lab set ups.

The standard height for a table surface or regular size desk is around 29-30 inches. When buying desks or tables for lower grade levels, a good rule of thumb is to match the chair size you are purchasing in the following manner:

Chair size: Table/Desk Height:

  • 12 inch@22 inches
  • 14 inch@24 inches
  • 16 inch@27 inches
  • 18 inch@29 inches

Another way to estimate is by the distance between the chair seat and the table/desk surface. The guideline is that this standard number should be 8 inches.

At Classroom Essentials Online, we have a wide variety of adjustable height activity tables for your school furniture needs. Whether it’s folding tables, round tables, computer tables, trapezoidal tables, kidney-shaped tables, horse-shaped activity tables, or plain top desks, we offer not only a large selection, but in a variety of colors, finishes, and weights. These activity tables adjust in height for utilization at all sizes and grade levels.


No need for the adjustable height feature? Then just head to our school furniture section and begin searching for your desk, table or other needs today. We have a wide range of options for your classroom. Or call us at 1-866-404-7671 where we would love to assist you with your questions and help you choose just the right student desks and chairs for your classroom.