Ask the Right Questions to Make an Informed Seating Decision
By: John Chastain
Blast from the Past:
The following guidelines on two of the most popular types of congregational seating will help you gather the appropriate knowledge to make an informed decision about one of the largest expenditures in your church's building or remodeling project.
10 Questions to Ask About Pews
1. Company Stability: What information can the company provide in regard to corporate health? A Dun and Bradstreet financial rating is a good place to start. Stable companies have been in continuous operation in the same location under the same ownership for a period longer than their warranty. Ask an architect with significant church project experience which pew companies he trusts.
2. Project Management: How is the project handled from pre-order to post-installation? Insist on:
3. Reference Locations: Can several project references within reasonable driving distance be provided? Visiting actual installations that are not new is a proven way to evaluate how well products perform in actual use over an extended period of time.
4. Product Range: Is a wide variety of worship products and options available? If your straight or radius pews, choir chairs, pulpit, and custom furniture can be provided by the same source, you will save time and limit risks.
5. Material Quality: What assurances of material quality can be provided?
6. Material Selection: Are several choices of wood species and fabric patterns available?
7. Comfort: Are several seat and back choices available to suit your unique needs?
8. Construction Standards: How are issues such as design, joinery, and attachments used to enhance durability?
9. Installation and Warranty: How are the pews installed, and what does the warranty include?
10. Price: What is the initial price and long-term cost of ownership? Many churches admit that they used price to qualify potential suppliers before asking any of the first nine questions above, only to regret it later. Higher quality pews will be more expensive, but will also be more comfortable, look better, and last longer.
10 Questions to Ask About Auditorium Seating
1. Company: How much experience does the manufacturer have with religious institutions? Most auditorium seating was originally designed for theaters and stadiums. Churches have unique needs that are not always understood by firms with little worship seating experience. There are distinct advantages to working with a company that has a reputation for professional church project management.
2. Domestic Production: Is the product produced in the USA or does the company rely on foreign parts and assembly? The latter may be subject to political issues or shipping delays. Look for companies that source at least 75% of component parts domestically and perform 100% of assembly domestically.
3. Comfort: What materials are used in the seat and back cushions? Are they shaped to follow the body contour? Is the seat substrate also contoured? Cold molded foam designed specifically for the seats and backs allows ergonomic contouring and will hold its shape better over time than other foams. A contoured seat substrate will be more comfortable than a flat seat base.
4. Quiet Operation: Does the system rely on a spring lift mechanism or is it designed to let gravity retract the seat? Gravity-lift systems are quiet and will stay quiet, while mechanical methods tend to be noisier – especially after years of use.
5. Renewability: Are the cushions designed for easy removal and is there provision for replacing the seat and back covers without the cost of a professional upholsterer? Can the various seating component parts be easily replaced if needed? The cost of ownership is much less if the answer to these questions is "yes."
6. Flexibility: Can the seating be aligned with aisles without the use of several different seat sizes, which affects overall appearance? Are wider seats available for specified areas if you want to provide for larger people? Are removable units offered? Can arms, drink holders, or other accessories be added later if needed? Many churches see their needs change over time and need seating that can grow with them.
7. Profile: When seats are in the up position, is the profile 19" deep or less? A slim profile provides for more standing and walking space, and comfort does not have to be sacrificed if the seats and backs are contoured with good quality foam.
8. Maintenance: How much maintenance will be needed or required? For seating systems with springs, some manufacturers require regular lubrication to maintain the warranty. This can be time-consuming if the mechanism is not easy to reach, adding cost to ownership.
9. On-Time Delivery and Installation: Does the company have a reputation for timely performance or have there been issues from time to time? Ask an architect who works on church projects in your area for input. Insist on reference installation locations.
10. Samples: Is the company willing to send a professional representative with product samples or will they simply ship them to you for inspection? Most churches have little or no experience with this type of seating, making it difficult to understand what they are seeing – and the samples cannot speak! Take the time to schedule a meeting with an experienced professional who can provide the information you need, and to answer questions that inevitably arise.
Making the Decision
Therefore, choosing a supplier that is willing and able to provide the knowledge, support and education needed to make an informed decision is of the utmost importance. The guidelines above will help decision-makers feel confident in their choice of a seating supplier and help alleviate the pressure of choosing seating products for their congregations.
John Chastain of Chastain Associates in Maineville, Ohio, is the Territory Sales Representative for Sauder Worship Seating, www.sauderworship.com.