Office Furniture Glossary | Compel

Terms to help you understand the office furniture industry

Adjustable Glides
Support devices for leveling and/or stabilizing furniture on uneven flooring. Also referred to as levelers and height adjusters.

ANSI (American National Standards Institute)
ANSI/BIFMA Safety and Performance Standards are developed by the BIFMA (see below) Engineering Committee. The standards are reviewed every five years according to guidelines established by the ANSI. The standards are intended to provide manufacturers, furniture designers, space planners, and users with a common basis for evaluating safety, durability, and the structural adequacy of furniture items, independent of construction materials.

Anti-Rebound
Ensures that a drawer will stay closed and not roll out of its opening or recoil when closed with normal force.

Asynchronous Control
Allows a chair's backrest and seat to move simultaneously but independently.

Back Pitch
Refers to the angle of a chair's backrest relative to the seat.

BIFMA (Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association)
ANSI/BIFMA Safety and Performance Standards are developed by the BIFMA Engineering Committee. The standards are reviewed every five years according to guidelines established by the ANSI. The standards are intended to provide manufacturers, specifiers, and users with a common basis for evaluating safety, durability, and the structural adequacy of furniture items, independent of construction materials.

Book Matching
Sheets of laminate or veneer are laid so that the back of one sheet is matched to the face of an adjacent sheet, like facing pages in a book. This results in a mirrored grain pattern. Most commonly used in matching plain sliced veneers.

Box Drawer
Typically the top or middle drawer in a pedestal, usually 6" in height. Box drawers are named for the card boxes in which bankers would keep account information.

Bridge
The piece that connects the desk and credenza in a "U" shaped desk set.

Bullet Top
Usually used in place of a standard desk in "L" and "U" configurations, a bullet top is essentially a writing table that gets its name from its shape. Viewed from above, it's shaped like the cross section of a bullet, with the rounded end typically supported by a cylindrical metal post. Bullet tops are also sometimes referred to as an island conference top. These are also called D-Top desks, peninsula desks, and offer derivatives like Key-Top desks and P-Top desks.

Casegoods
Anything with a laminate on wood veneer construction, relating to desks, credenzas, bookcases, computer furniture and lateral files.

Casters
Wheels or rollers that are fitted to a chair base to provide mobility. Casters are available in locking and non-locking versions and single-wheel and dual wheel versions.

Caster Sleeve
A metal receptacle which the caster is inserted into.

Catalyzed Lacquer
Lacquer is a clear coating, usually glossy, applied to wood for protection or appearance. Catalyzed lacquer contains a catalyst that decreases the curing time of the lacquer.

Center Drawer
Also referred to as a pencil drawer. This drawer is mounted beneath the work surface, usually centered between two pedestals.

Chassis
The body of a desk. Refers to all parts below the top work surface.

Control
The metal mechanism mounted beneath a chair's seat that controls the chair's various functions.

Core
The central piece of material used in the construction of furniture panels that are finished with a durable sheet of wood veneer or plastic laminate. The core is typically engineered industrial grade particleboard, medium density fiberboard (MDF), or sometimes plywood.

Corner Blocks
Blocks of wood built into the corners of a chair frame to reinforce and provide additional strength.

Credenza
A piece of office furniture having a long flat top and often containing file drawers, a kneehole, and accessories for a computer.

Delivered Pricing
The price of an item with the cost of delivery included.

Density
A term referring to the weight of a cubic foot of foam. It is probably the most important single property of a chair that a customer should be concerned about. The greater the density, the more material in the foam and the more durable the product. The range of foam is normally 1.0 lbs. to 3.0 lbs., with 3 lbs. being the best. When purchasing a chair, you should ask for a basic minimum density of foam of 1.8 lbs. in the seat.

Double Pedestal Desk
A desk with two drawer pedestals.

Dovetail
A flaring joint between two pieces of wood, forming an interlocking tight fit.

Dowel
A small, rounded piece of wood usually made of birch or maple, used for making or strengthening joints.

Double Dowel
A term referring to the construction of a chair frame the connecting pieces of wood are joined by two dowels with glue and usually pin-nailed to maintain frame integrity.

Drawer Configuration
The pattern or layout of drawers within a pedestal often seen as box/box/file or file/file.

Drawer Dividers
A partition in a box drawer that separates or divides the front portion from the back portion.

End Panels
Slab end vertical panels that help support the work surface, located at each end of a desk.

Ergonomic
Specially designed furniture, usually referring to chairs, which cradle the body and reduce fatigue.

Executive "L"
Consisting of two pieces - a single pedestal main desk and a return - with both units being of the same height, usually 29" or 30". Return can be left or right side.

Executive "U"
A large, U-shaped desk set consisting of a desk, credenza, and connecting bridge. Often times a hutch or wall mounted overhead storage unit will also be included in the set.

Face Veneer
The veneer on the most visible surfaces.

Fiberboard
A composition board consisting of fine thread-like fibers of wood bonded together with synthetic resins. This is also sometimes referred to as MDF.

File Drawer
A drawer in pedestal that is usually 12" in height to accommodate legal and letter hanging file folders.

Fire Retardant
Fabrics treated with special chemical agents or finishes to make them retardant or resistant to burning. Today, many fabrics achieve this property by using fibers that have this property built directly into the polymer. Fire retardant coating or specifications vary according to code requirement.

Flake Board
A composition board consisting of the flat shaving-like flakes of wood bonded together with synthetic resins. Sometimes also referred to as chipboard.

Full-Pedestals
When pedestals extend to the floor below the work surface. These types of pedestals can also be referred to as top-supporting pedestals as they are often used to provide support to the work surfaces.

Ganging
The method of joining individual seating elements into one unit. Specifically refers to ganging chairs or ganging tables. Use of a separate devise is often required, however, some products will be designed with an integral ganging element to eliminate the need for additional components.

Graining
The process of printing a natural wood grain pattern onto another surface that may or may not be wood product.

Grommet
A plastic covering for an opening primarily in case good tops for routing wires and cords away from the work surface.

GSA Contract (General Services Administration)
Contract used by government organizations to obtain special pricing from suppliers.

Hardwood
Typically used to describe lumber produced from broad-leafed or deciduous trees in contrast to softwood produced from evergreen trees or coniferous trees.

High Pressure Laminate (HPL)
Produced by taking several layers of phenolic resin impregnated Kraft paper, overlaid with either a wood grain or solid color paper and a plastic cap sheet, compressed together in a heat-up and cool-down cycle and is then adhered to core board or other substrate material.

Hutch
A piece of furniture that has open shelves or cabinets and is usually placed on a credenza or a desk for additional overhead storage. Hutches often have doors that can be used to conceal the storage areas.

Interlock
A device used to lock two or more drawers together but allows only one drawer to be open at a time. This prevents simultaneous opening and prevents tipping.

KD (Knocked Down)
The product is shipped completely unassembled to save in freight fees and will require full assembly by the end user. Also referred to as RTA (Ready-To-Assemble).

Knee Tilt Control/Mechanism
A control mechanism that allows a chair to move vertically from the front portion of the seat.

L Unit
Consists of a single pedestal desk with one storage pedestal and a connecting "return," also with one storage pedestal. An L unit is designated "right" or "left" depending on the placement of the return.

Low Pressure Laminate
Also used on desk tops. Although it is less durable and less expensive than high-pressure laminate, it has become the most common type of laminate material used in the modern office furniture products.

Lateral File
A file cabinet where the file drawers are wide, not deep. Files are usually inserted sideways, but can go front-to-back.

Leasing
An alternative to purchasing. Similar to the way cars are leased rather than purchased. Some buyers find this to be more suitable to their needs. Leasing is often done through a third-party leasing company that specializes in this type of service.

Lumbar Support
A support built into the back of a chair to support the back between the lowest ribs and pelvis keeping even pressure on disks. The support helps the back hold a slightly forward arch.

Mechanism
The part of a chair that connects the seat assembly to the base. The mechanism allows adjustments such as tilt, swivel seat height, etc., to provide the user with optimum comfort and productivity.

Mid-Pivot
A control in which the pivot point is located towards the front of the seat, allowing minimal rise of the front seat edge.

Mitered
A surface forming the beveled end or edge of a piece where a joint is made by cutting two pieces at an angle and fitting them together.

Modesty Panel
The front of a desk that hides the kneehole. A vertical sheet of material on the front of a desk covering the frame, providing privacy and reinforcing the structure. Modesty panels may be either 3/4 or a full panel that goes all the way to the floor.

Moulding
A decorative plane or curved strip used for ornamentation or finishing.

Non-Directional Fabric
A fabric that appears smooth with no visible pattern.

Open Plan System
Partitions put together usually in the center of an office space to create a working environment. Typically, it does not have a door or a ceiling.

Overhang
Produced by recessing the modesty panel when the work surface overhangs the modesty panel. Overhangs vary from 6" to 11" and allow the visitor to position a chair close to the desk.

Particle Board
Board made from particles of wood mixed with a resin-type adhesive formed into a mat, then heated and pressed to produce a dense panel, smooth on both sides, much the color of oatmeal.

Pedestal
The drawer section of a desk or modular unit. Pedestals either support the work surface or are suspended from the work surface. Usually made with 2 to 3 drawers. Also available in a mobile version and sometimes used as supplementary seating when fitted with a cushion.

Pneumatic Height Adjustment
Adjustment allowing a chair seat to be moved up and down with the touch of a button that activates a gas cylinder.

Polyester
Any of a group of polymers that can be used to make fibers or plastics.

Polyurethane Foam
Type of foam used widely in the furniture industry that offers excellent density, resilience and durability. Foam is mothproof, mildew resistant, and non-allergenic.

Posture Control
Allows the backrest to tilt independently of the seat, allowing for adjustments in back patch.

PVC
Polyvinyl Chloride

RTA (Ready-To-Assemble)
Products built with the intention to be put together by the end user. It is less expensive than pre-assembled furniture.

Radius Edge
Rounded edges/corners of desks, credenzas, etc.

Return
A piece of furniture with a flat top for writing that attaches to a desk (main section) to create an "L" configuration. Most returns are usually 29" or 30" in height and may have a pedestal to provide support.

Routing
The act of milling a wood or metal surface.

Seat Suspension
A system that supports the upper part of the seat assembly.

Secretarial Desk
An L-shaped desk consisting of a single pedestal main desk with a 29" or 30" high worksurface and a return that can be 29" or 27" high. Return can be on left or right side.

Sheen Level
The degree of luster of the finishing materials, usually topcoats.

Sinuous Steel Suspension
A wavy/serpentine spring used in seat suspensions.

Spin Lift
A Mechanical height adjustment operating by spinning the chair counter-clockwise to raise it and clockwise to lower it.

Stackable
Items, typically chairs, which can be stacked to store many in a small area, thus offering extra space when necessary for big events.

Storage Credenza
A credenza with sliding or hinged doors in the space between the two pedestals. Also referred to as a closed credenza or door credenza.

Surface Abrasion
The degree to which a fabric is able to withstand surface wear, rubbing, chafing and other friction forces. Recommend Heavy Duty Fabrics - 15,000 cycles (double rubs/min.)

Suspended Pedestals
When pedestals only extend three-quarters below the work surface.

Suspension
Metal slides mounted to side of drawers and inside pedestals so those drawers can be easily opened and closed.

T-Mold
A plastic edge band surrounding a self-edge surface. Usually made with PVC.

Tailgate Delivery
Typical delivery method whereby the trucking company is only required to deliver the furniture to the back of the truck. The customer must take it from there.

Tempered Hardboard
Elements that are mixed to form a very dense fiberboard with a smooth surface.

Tension Control
A mechanical feature usually adjusted by a knob located under the seat of a chair that controls the degree of resistance the chair provides when leaning back.

Thermally Fused Laminate (TFL)
Produced by a single melamine resin impregnated sheet thermofused directly to the core board at approximately 320 degrees F and 350 psi. During the process, the resins liquify and flow, thermofusing the wood grain sheet to the core (there is no glue line) and because the resins are fully impregnated into the overlay sheet, they produce a hard, durable laminate face.

Tongue and Groove
A joint made by fitting a tongue on the edge of a board into a matching groove on another board.

Tray Drawer
A drawer that is generally 4" in height.

"U" Shaped Workstation
A piece of furniture consisting of a single pedestal desk and a single pedestal credenza connected on one side by a flat top and modesty panel (a bridge.)

Veneer
A thin section of real wood glued on to a substrate of plywood or particleboard.

Waterfall
Term used for the design of the front of a seat cushion or leading edge of a work surface. The waterfall shape creates a more comfortable environment for the user.

Work Surface
The top of the desk.

Writing Slides
A term referring to small writing surfaces that are pulled out from the top of a pedestal to extend the writing surface on desk.