How to measure for specialist seating

We always go on about the importance of getting seating size right – and that means measuring it all up in the correct manner. So follow this guide on how to measure for specialist seating to make sure that you get the best results possible!

The 5 main measurements for specialist seating

There are 5 key measurements you should always try and get when specifying seating (you can get a more detailed explanation of all things seating here). Here’s how you get the most accurate numbers possible, and why it’s important to keep it that way.

How to measure seat height

Seat height is an important factor in everyday life. Even when you’re sat at a desk, you can adjust the seat height of your office chair to make sure that there isn’t too much pressure going through the backs of your thighs or your posterior.

To measure seat height accurately, record the distance between the floor (or the footplate) to the top of the seat itself. You want to get the knee to hip angle as close to 90° as possible, and the person’s feet should be flat on the floor.

How to measure seat depth

Having incorrect seat depth can have a detrimental effect on posture and can even create pressure injuries. If the seat depth is too long, the sitter can slouch so there isn’t enough support at the bottom of the spine and they may even slide out of the chair.

With seat depth, we want to try and get a measurement that will make using additional cushions or pillows redundant.

To get the best measurement of seat depth, you should measure from the front of the seat cushion to the backrest of the chair. When the client is sat back against the lumbar support of the chair, the cushions should be deep enough to provide support to the entire length of the upper leg without putting too much pressure on the back of the knee.

A diagram of a person sat in a chair with arrows along the seat height and seat depth

We usually say that seat height and depth are two of the most important measurements to get right with specialist seating.

How to measure seat width

This measurement is sometimes recorded incorrectly, which can cause a lot of problems when made-to-measure chairs are delivered and are far too wide! Seat width should be measured from the inside of one armrest to the inside of the other.

There should be about a ¾ inch (or 20mm) gap on either side of the client’s buttocks to make sure that the arms sit comfortably on the armrests. If the client is windswept, you may need to allow for a little more space to make them comfortable.

How to measure armrest height

As you can imagine, armrest height will determine a lot about how comfortable a chair is. If the armrests are too high, it can cause a lot of discomfort in the client’s neck and shoulders; and if they’re too low, it will be more difficult to get in and out of the chair.

Armrest height measurement is taken from the middle of the seat depth (between the front of the arm and where the arm meets the backrest). You then measure from the top of the seat cushion to the top of the armrest.

The client’s arms should sit gently and comfortably with the shoulder in a neutral position.

How to measure back height

Back height will deliver comfort and support to the client wherever possible. This measurement is important because it will ensure that lumbar or any additional supports are in the right place.

Measure along the height of the backrest, from the (back) edge of the seat cushion up to the top of the backrest itself. The backrest needs to be tall enough to support the back of the client’s head when sat back in the chair.

If possible, check what the best back angle is for the client.

Top tips for accurate measurements

  • You’ll need a tape measure that has both inches and millimetres on it. This is because rise and recliner chairs and care chairs often vary in the unit used to measure them.
  • If you have to use a fabric tape measure, always make sure that it doesn’t bend around the person sitting in the chair as this can skew measurements.
  • If you are arranging a home assessment with a seating supplier (like us), then give them the client’s information beforehand so that they can bring the most compatible chair. You should specify their height, weight, any medical conditions, how they transfer, and any other information you think is relevant.
    • Side note: if your client cannot stand up straight for a height measurement, then get them to spread their arms out wide and measure from fingertip-to-fingertip for a better idea of their height.
  • Always explain what you will be doing before you begin measuring or touching the client. This will help them stay relaxed and co-operative throughout the assessment.
A fabric tape measure might not be the best option when looking at how to measure for specialist seating

Always remember that using a fabric tape measure can give you inaccurate measurements if it isn’t held straight.


These are the basics of how to measure for specialist seating, but we do understand that it varies from case-to-case.

If you’re still struggling and need some extra guidance, download our free Specialist Seating eBook for some more practical tips. Or, book a joint assessment with our team.

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    Lucie Hudson
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