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Foam In Seats – Making Sitting Comfortable

Foam Main Image 2

Why do some chairs feel so much more comfortable than others?

The comfort of an upholstered seat comes from a mixture of:

  • The composition of the foam under the upholstery
  • The depth of the foam. It is usually fair to say that a thicker layer of foam will be more comfortable, assuming it is not too firm (and assuming a similar structure under the foam, of course)
  • The structure under the foam. If this is rigid, it will make the foam layer seem harder. The layer under the foam can be a solid wood platform, a more yielding webbing layer or springs.

Board (image 1),  webbing (image 2) or springs (images 3 and 4).

Foam Density

Foam can be firmer or softer, which is mainly decided by its density, measured in kilograms per cubic metre – as you might expect, heavier foam tends to be firmer. Chairs specified for the hospitality market tend to have foam densities of about 30 to 40kg/m3 to ensure they maintain their shape in heavy use.

Foam Compression

Exactly how far a foam ‘squidges’, or compresses (also known as its ‘impact resistance’), is measured by its ILD (Indentation Load Deflection), a unit of measurement referring to the pressure or force that is needed to indent foam. Vaguely representing the area of a human’s bottom (!) a round disc with an area of 50inches2 is pushed down onto a piece of foam to a depth of four inches. This is shown in this video


Foam Density Tricks Of The Trade

Many particularly comfortable foam-upholstered chairs will combine two layers of foam, a softer top layer over a firmer lower layer.

For a more cushioned, less boxy appearance, the softer layer can also be wrapped around the sides of the firmer lower layer.

In some lounge chair cushions, foam is cut up or shredded, giving a sitting experience more similar to sitting on feather-filled upholstery.

Foam And Fire Resistance

Most foam produced in the world today is, for obvious reasons, constructed to a standard that allows it to be categorised as ‘Fire Retardant’ (FR). In the UK, where our fire rules differ from even those of the European Union, foam used in upholstery is typically specified as CMHR (Combustion Modified High resilience), which is more resistant to fire than FR foam - see also our blog: Hospitality Furniture Fire Safety Regulations for more information. When upholstery is tested for fire resistance in the UK, the foam under the upholstery is always CMHR foam.

Making the right choices about foam can be tricky, so please do get in touch with us for more information about this or any hospitality furniture requirements you have.

Topics: Furniture testing, Furniture knowledge

By Charles Nicholson Charles Nicholson on 17/09/20 17:12
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