One of the most frequently asked questions I hear at Lifetime as a member of the Tables & Chairs team is: "How much weight will this folding table hold?" That's a pretty loaded question, no pun intended. You would think the answer would be pretty cut-and-dry. Truth is, it's actually quite complicated. But, as part of my continuing series on what features to look for when picking the perfect folding table, today I'm going to help answer that question while helping you understand why durability is so important to consider when buying a folding table.
So, as a shopper, where should you start to try and figure out which table is strong enough for your needs? First, before you purchase a folding table, think about what you primarily want to use the table for. Paper crafts may not require as much durability as a table at a construction site or that 400lb bass you just caught! Then, look for a weight rating on the table.
Different manufacturers use different names for their grades of tables to distinguish how much they can hold. Lifetime uses Professional, Commercial, Light Commercial, and Residential grades. Our Light Commercial grade tables meet the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer's Association (BIFMA) standards for strength and durability, while our Professional and Commercial grade tables actually exceed the BIFMA standards. BIFMA standards are industry standards that are designed to provide manufacturers with a common basis for evaluating safety and durability. The standards define specific tests, laboratory equipment to be used, formulas to determine weight or height to use in each test, the conditions of testing, and the acceptance levels to be used. In a nutshell, it means in order to meet or exceed BIFMA standards, our folding tables are extensively tested and must have superior strength, durability, and safety features. Yet even with this industry standard as a great starting point, in many instances the BIFMA standard is just a minimum benchmark. At the end of the day, we exceed these industry standards by many times over with much of our testing.
Part of that testing involves weight load tests including evenly distributed functional load tests. For instance all of our 6-foot and 8-foot banquet tables have a weight-rating of at least 1000lbs of distributed weight load, regardless of grade. Now let me ask, when are you ever going to put that much weight on a folding table – the answer is probably never. The fact is even our minimum weight ratings far exceed what the average user would ever dream of putting on a folding table – but we feel we need to build quality into our table wherever we can.
So here is quick summary of Lifetime 6-foot and 8-foot tables:
- Lifetime Light Commercial grade tables - weight-rating of at least 1000lbs
- Lifetime Commercial grade tables - weight rating of at least 1500lbs
- Lifetime Professional grade tables - weight rating of at least 2000lbs.
However, the fact of the matter is that we test our tables far above these weight-ratings with our functional and proof load testing. We just don’t advertise the maximum weight our tables will hold before failing like many of our competitors. We prefer to list a rating that is closer to the realm of actual use than brag about the actual limits of our product. For specific weight-ratings on each Lifetime table, visit our Lifetime Store online and look for the “table weight capacity” in the “specific information” section under each model description.
In addition to looking at the weight ratings of a table, you should also look at the type of plastic a folding table is made of and its tack-offs. Ideally, a plastic folding table should be constructed of a heavy-duty, high-impact plastic that won't crack. Lifetime uses a specially formulated blend high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and we recommend it because it's stronger, lighter, and more durable than wood and more long-lasting than other inferior plastics. And because we also include UV-inhibitors, as I mentioned in my last post, it can withstand wear and tear and the harshest elements.
So, how do you know if the table you're looking at is a good quality of plastic? Here's a simple test you can do… feel the table's surface. First sign is if it feels rough and brittle without just a little flex to it, then you know you have a table made from inferior plastic. Or, if it's chalky and creates a white residue on your finger, the manufacturer might use too many additives (like calcium) in the plastic to lower the cost. While calcium and other minerals can make the table more rigid, when a manufacturer adds too much it can make the table surface brittle and prone to cracking.
Next, look at the underside of the tabletop and check the tack-offs - the waffle-like pattern below the table's surface. Each tack-off supports the table surface, so when it is hit with force, they absorb the impact. Tighter tack-off patterns improve overall strength while utilizing less material. Tack-offs also improve impact resistance which keeps the top from crushing when dropped inadvertently on its corner. Also, look for double-wall construction which improves rigidity and keeps the panel flat so there are no sags or soft spots.
Last, but certainly not least, look at the frame of the table and how it attaches to the tabletop. Lifetime's patented steel frame "J-channel" design spans the length of many of our tables to provide a sturdy foundation for the tabletop. The tabletop is actually molded in a way that conforms to the shape of the channel to giving extra connection points that keep the frame and tabletop securely attached to one another and cross-tubing was engineered to equalize the stresses from opening and closing the table legs and also to give a more secure way for attaching the legs to the tabletop. The cross-tubing also works together with the J-channels or steel tubing to form the foundation of the tabletop.
Arming yourself with this information will help you more easily spot a folding table that will be both strong and durable.