The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Desk

When I first started working from home, I had no desk. A friend took pity on me and gave me a used desk they had, but it was no good. However, I wasn’t in a position to be choosy as I couldn’t afford a new desk. So, I used it until I saved enough money to buy a new desk – and a good one at that. 

I remember contemplating whether buying a desk at a furniture store was better than buying one online. I finally decided to buy one online. I checked out numerous desks before settling on one, and then I read some reviews on it.

I still use it up to date (years later) and have never regretted buying it. Buying a desk online gave me an opportunity to scrutinize a myriad of desks and make the best choice for my needs.

I must say, this has been my greatest investment in improving my working environment, work relationships, comfort, and productivity.

Having been a furniture consultant for many years, you can trust my advice when it comes to desks.

If you’ve been thinking of buying a desk, you’ll find this post useful. I won’t take too much of your time, let’s get right to it.

Debunking Myths About Buying a Desk (Infographic)

The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Desk

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8 Things to Look For in a Desk

There are many factors to take into consideration when buying a desk for your traditional office or home office. These factors determine the best desk for your workspace.

When buying a new desk, you probably look for, among other things, functionality, stylishness, durability and comfort.

These factors help enhance your productivity and organization. But there’s a lot more you should look for.

Desks come in a variety of shapes, designs, sizes, and materials. Where the desk is to be used and how it’s used dictate the one you choose. Buying a desk is a big investment – whether you work in a conventional office or you work from home. Therefore, you must approach this process armed with loads of information.

Buying a desk online has its perks while buying one at a furniture store has its perks. When you buy a desk online, you are able to get information on the desk and can do lots of research beforehand. You can also learn about common mistakes to avoid.

You get plenty of reviews from users and manufacturers and learn about the advantages and disadvantages of different types of desks. So, whether you are buying a gaming desk for recreation or a desk for your corporate office, here’s what to look for in a desk.

1)  The Quality

Quality is the essence of a great product. A warranty is one of the tell-tale signs whether you are dealing with a high-quality product or not. It also reveals the manufacturer’s belief in their product. Warranties can run from one year to a lifetime and can guide you in making the best choice.

Another factor that tells of the quality of a desk is the drawers. How the drawers are constructed is vital since drawers form a core part of the desk.

Whether you are buying a student desk, a writing desk, or a computer desk, storage is part and parcel of these desks.

When buying a desk, look for one with drawers that glide smoothly on slides. 
They should open to their full length with ease, allowing you to use all of the available space.

In wooden desks, a dovetail construction in a drawer is an interlocking of the joints, a construction that is stronger and more durable than stapling or gluing.

Metal drawers are examined a bit differently for quality. Scrutinize the drawers when they are closed and if there is a gap at the intersection between a drawer and the desk, then the assembly is wrongly done and needs to be rectified.

Additionally, the edges of a desk, especially a wood one, should not be frayed. They should all be smooth, showcasing its quality.

2)  The Style

Desks come in different styles. You can get a corner desk, a standing desk, a treadmill desk, a sit-stand desk, an L-shaped desk, or a U-shaped desk that offers immense storage and ample working space.

Desk types are not limited to the ones mentioned above. Whenever you are buying a desk, be guided by your tastes, preferences, your needs, the available space, and other factors.

A desk is the most prominent feature in any office or workstation and is always the first furniture piece to be bought.

Its style sets the tone for an office. Think of the image you want to portray and you’ll be sure to choose the right desk.

In addition, enhance the desk’s style with the right desk chair and accessories.

A desk can make an office modern, traditional, elegant, or plain. When you want a modern look, a glass desk will do, or a combination of glass and other materials. If your style is more casual with a Tropical Caribbean feel, a bamboo desk may work for you. For a classic look, get a wood desk.

3)  The Shape

When buying a desk, it is important to consider what you need the desk for since its shape will determine how you will use it. Desks vary in shape and this determines how they fit into spaces.

The last thing you want is to buy a desk that’s too small for your needs and you’re forced to put things on the floor or get another desk.

When only a corner space is available, an L-shaped desk or a corner desk will do.

An L-shaped desk is designed to fit into corners and offer immense workspace. It will accommodate your PC, office essentials, and even a desk plant.

A U-shaped desk will provide you with that much-needed storage and workspace, even if you have 3 computers.

If you get a small computer desk, you can be sure you’ll have an easy time finding space for it. This is because it fits anywhere in a room and makes an office functional without sticking out like a sore thumb.

The downside of a conventional desk is that it does not offer a lot of flexibility. The upside is that you can hold consultations and group work at such a desk. When you are buying a desk, shape is a factor that cannot be ignored. 

This is because it determines how comfortable you are and how cramped or spacious your office is. Measure your office in advance and get the desk’s measurements before buying. This way, you’ll know if it will be a perfect fit.

4)  The Dimensions

There are 3 important desk dimensions: width, depth, and height. A regular office desk is 60 inches wide, 30 inches deep, and 30 inches high (152cm wide x 76cm deep, and 76cm high). A desk for kids is usually 36 inches wide, 24 inches deep, and 30 inches high (92cm wide x 61cm deep, and 76cm high).

However, there is no standard desk size because people are different and the activities they carry out at their desks vary. Get a desk with the right dimensions for you. Also, make sure it will comfortably fit into the available space.

Here are some things to remember when checking a desk’s width, depth, and height.

  • Most desks are 28 to 30 inches high, an ideal sitting height for people between 5'8" and 5'10". If you happen to be shorter or taller, look for a desk with the right height.
  • A desk’s work surface should be at least 20 inches deep and 24 inches wide.

Look for a desk that allows you to place a chair under it and sit comfortably – regardless of how tall or short you are. Your work essentials should also be within easy reach.

Also, avoid wasted space on a desk. When you buy a desk, make sure it has the right dimensions.

5)  The Material Used

One major thing that dictates the price of a desk is the material used. This is why you must know the specific material you want beforehand. This way, you can determine how much you’re willing to spend and shop around to see what fits your budget.

You can choose between solid wood, wood veneer, laminate, glass, bamboo, marble, medium density fiberboard, and metal. Even though solid wood desks are heavy, they are the most durable and come in almost every design imaginable.

A desk made of wood veneer, glass, or bamboo is light in weight and is what you should get when you want a desk that is easily portable.

Plastic desks are relatively cheap but are not as long lasting as other desks. Laminate desks are available in a variety of colors and grain patterns.

Stylish glass and marble-top desks are more delicate, have a tendency to scratch easily, and require frequent maintenance. Metal desks are durable and function well in high traffic environments.

When looking to buy a desk, know how long you want the desk to last and whether you are making a long-term or a short-term investment. This makes it a lot easier for you to choose the best material for your desk.

Some materials used to make desks can react to the environment. For instance, if you put a wood desk in a room with high humidity, it may warp. A medium density fiberboard desk stands the best chance in such an environment.

6)  Comfort and Ergonomics

Considering that you are likely to spend a significant amount of time behind your desk, you cannot afford to ignore comfort and ergonomics. Top of the agenda should be adequate room for your legs.

The leg room should be at least 20 inches wide, 20 inches high, and 12 inches deep. When you are seated at the desk, three and a half feet of space should be available.

The height of the desk needs to be perfect. Your head should not strain to look into the computer and the keyboard should be close enough for your hands.

If you happen to buy a computer desk and it turns out to be too low, you can get a desk riser and choose the most comfortable working position.

Try to buy a desk with rounded or smooth edges. But just in case you get one with sharp edges, get a desk pad to protect you as you work.

When buying a desk, check the dimensions and ask the manufacturer questions to ensure it is right for you.

7)  The Working Surface

We carry out different activities on our desks. Take this into consideration when shopping for a desk. Do you handle a lot of files and papers and require loads of space to spread out your work? You need a desk that offers a lot of space – like a U-shaped desk or an L-shaped desk.

These desks provide room for paperwork and several computers. Alternatively, you can get a traditional desk and make the most of the storage space offered by the numerous drawers.

A plastic desk may disappoint you if you have many files or PCs since it tends to curve in the middle if a heavy load is placed on it.

In such a case, a wooden desk or a metal desk is ideal. It can take care of your needs without caving in from the weight of papers, PCs, and office accessories.

8)  The Available Storage

If you are buying a home office desk and you don’t have a lot of storage space at home, you may need to get a desk with a hutch or a file cabinet. The desk hutch or file cabinet can be built-in or come separately as an accessory.

The good thing about a hutch is that it goes on top of a desk and only takes up vertical space. A file cabinet, on the other hand, consumes horizontal space. Only get it if you have enough floor space available in your office.

If you are an avid gamer, you may not require a gaming desk with lots of storage. All you need is space for your monitors, keyboard, and mouse.

If you write a lot, get a writing desk with a small working surface and minimal storage. If you get one with numerous drawers, you may rarely use them.

If you will be using the desk most of the time, get one with cable wire holes for cords to pass through in a neat and safe manner. Something else worth considering is a file drawer that can hold hanging folders.

5 Important Things to Consider When Buying a Desk

Now that you know what to look for in a desk, let’s talk about crucial things you should take into consideration when buying a desk. These vital issues relate more to you than to the desk you are planning on buying. Without any delay, here they are.

1)  Your Budget

When it comes to any purchase, the budget is always a top priority since it is the one that determines the product you will buy. It is a vital factor that you cannot afford to ignore. When looking to buy a desk, have a budget in mind as it is what will guide your purchase.

Your budget will dictate whether you can sacrifice aesthetics for comfort and functionality. Having a budget enables you to make the best purchase without going over budget.

If you are on a tight budget when buying a desk, opt for a desk that can meet your needs without sacrificing quality. You can get desk accessories later on.

2)  Your Personal Preferences

No doubt about it, the wide range of desks available can leave you feeling confused. This is why you must exercise caution when buying a desk. Remember, there is a thin line between ugly and beautiful; professional and unprofessional. Just because you are drawn to pink does not mean you have to buy a pink desk.

Think of the image and ambiance you want your office to portray. Your desk should be stylish but also functional and comfortable. A desk that has these three features is bound to enhance your productivity and ease your stress.

If your profession is all about creativity, or you work from home, go for a desk that is the embodiment of your style and personality – by all means.

You may not know it, but some colors can work to your advantage. You can choose colors like green and orange which enhance creativity and energy or blue that portrays calmness and tranquility.

If you have a white-collar job, get a desk with a neutral color. Neutral colors are gentler than bold colors. They are not eyesores or too colorful for an office environment.

The bottom line is that your office should give a picture of your company’s image and culture. The material you choose when buying a desk also speaks of your preference. Do you prefer durability above anything else or do you like to blend durability, style, comfort, and functionality?

3)  How You Work

After completing a task or project, does your desk look like some form of flea market for papers? Are you the kind of person who likes to work in organized chaos and knows where everything is even if your desk is messy?

If you answered ‘yes’ to these questions, then you will probably need more working space than a neat, organized person who likes putting everything in order every morning and evening.

​A neat person may feel at home with a smaller working surface as they can work efficiently anywhere

Do you have tools or equipment that you use in the course of your work? Factor this in when buying a desk to ensure that these tools are always close at hand.

4)  The Available Space in the Room

One of the most important factors to consider when buying a desk is the square footage of your office or working area. This space should determine the desk you end up buying.

Take into consideration the amount of space you require to move around, work, or hold meetings with colleagues. Before you buy a desk, walk though your office and take time to measure it. This way, you’ll avoid getting a desk that is too big or too small. Don’t just visualize the desk and the complementing furniture.

Measuring a room or working area before buying a desk enables you to get one that fits perfectly into the environment.

If you work with other people in your office, you don’t end up consuming too much space – and making your colleagues hate you in the process.

Don’t wait till you get the rude shock of your desk not being able to fit through the door after you’ve purchased it.

Another thing you should do is check the location of the electrical outlets and phone jacks. Also, turn the lights on and off to determine whether a lamp is needed. If a desk lamp is needed, make sure the desk you are buying has enough space for a lamp.

If your office is spacious, you can get a U-shaped desk or an L-shaped desk that offers immense working space and storage. You can even get additional units like a desk hutch or a file cabinet which provide a lot of storage. Smaller spaces are a bit tricky and may limit your options.

Get a desk that will not take up all the space and will allow for easy movement within the room. If your office or working area is small, get a portable desk or a folding desk you can fold and store when you need to use the space for something else.

5)  Location: Where the Desk Will Be Placed

Do you work from your living room, bedroom, or share an office with colleagues? Where you plan to place your desk matters.

If you are buying a home office desk, check the location of the power outlets and the phone jacks to determine where you’ll position your desk. If the only available space is a corner, buy a corner desk.

If you are lucky enough to have a spacious room that is exclusively for work, you have a range of options to choose from as you can place your desk anywhere.

But if you have little space to spare, get a portable desk, a folding desk, a floating desk, or a small corner desk. 

A floating desk is mounted on the wall and only takes up vertical space – which you never use anyway.

Know the exact spot the desk will occupy since it influences the type of desk you will end up buying.

Top 6 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a Desk

1)  Forgetting to Measure Your Office

Can you imagine buying a desk, an elegant oak desk, only to discover that the beauty cannot make it further than the lobby leading to your office?

That is the bitter price most people pay due to overlooking room measurements. Do not make the same mistake. Remember, a desk is an investment. Invest in your investment by preparing in advance.

Ensure that you measure the room’s or area’s square footage, the doorways, lifts, and any area that the furniture piece may need to pass through before reaching its intended location. If you forget to measure your office, you may underestimate or overestimate the size of a desk.

As a result, you may end up with a cramped office that hampers productivity and regret your purchase every single day.

When buying a desk online, take note of all the measurements indicated and compare them with your office’s measurements to ensure you buy a desk that is ideal for your space.

Do not be deceived by pictures – measure, measure, measure.

2)  Looking at the Price Tag

​Are you one of those people who believe that expensive things are the best? I used to believe the same thing until I realized that expensive may not necessarily mean comfortable, functional, or beautiful.

Most ads claim that their expensive products will deliver beyond your wildest dreams – only for you to swallow hook, line and sinker a promotion that is a hoax. You fall prey to retailers who want to make a quick buck – who don’t have your best interests at heart.

Before you buy a desk – whether it’s online or at a furniture store – get information about the brand, manufacturer, and read reviews by people who have bought and used it. This wealth of information can enable you to get the best value for your money.

Many factors contribute to the price of a desk, including the material, design, quality, and finish.

Your knowledge of desk materials and designs can help you to establish whether a desk is worth its price tag or not.

Be guided by the features rather than the price tag. Your budget should also help you to choose the best desk for your money.

3)  Going Over Budget

Are you guilty of going over budget even when you have a set budget? Do not be enticed by expensive desks you cannot afford. The desk you get should not break the bank, you’ll only have yourself to blame if you get such an expensive piece of furniture. Stick to your budget.

Sure, your desk is an investment, but even investments have limits. Decide whether you want it to be a long-term or a short-term investment then set a budget. Let your budget guide you in picking the best desk.

You do not want to spend too much money only to experience buyer’s remorse later on.Carry out extensive research and you’ll be sure to get a good desk for the money you have. 

Research will also help you to make an informed decision when buying a desk.

4)  Choosing Beauty over Function

When you’re shopping for a desk and go online or into a furniture store, it is easy to become like a kid in a candy store.

Every desk looks stunning and they all seem to be perfect for your office. But you should not allow yourself to be enthralled by the beauty that the desks exhibit. A desk may be the most beautiful you’ve ever seen, but it may lack comfort and functionality.

When buying a desk, remember that it will not be on display but will actually be used for work.

For that reason, ignore the fads and go for a desk that is comfortable, durable, and most of all, functional.

Beauty should be fourth on your list as it is not a top priority when it comes to buying a desk.

5)  Picking the Wrong Color

It is easy to pick a wrong color when buying a desk. This is because natural and artificial light affect colors differently.

If you visit a furniture store when shopping for a desk, the lighting may be very bright, a lot different than the lighting in your office – which means the desk will look different in both settings.

The amount of light determines the color of an object. If you are buying a desk online, verify whether the color is the one you want. If the manufacturer has not stated the exact color, ask them.

Color also differs when it comes to manufacturers. There are countless hues available in the market and what one manufacturer may call cherry another may call light brown.

6)  Buying on Impulse

Buying a desk is an investment that cannot be taken lightly. This is why you cannot afford to buy a desk on a whim. Take your time and shop around. Even after you see a desk you like, keep on researching and making comparisons.

Weigh the pros and cons of the desks you are interested in before you make a final choice. When you buy a desk on impulse, you are unable to take vital factors into consideration.

You may end up buying a desk that may not fit into your office, one that falls apart almost immediately, or paying more than you would have if you had done some research.

You save both money and time when you do some research before buying a desk. Impulse buying may be ideal for other things but not a desk.

Buying a Desk vs. Building a Desk

If you are a DIY enthusiast, you may be asking yourself ‘should I buy a desk or build a desk?’ Well, only you know the best answer to that question as you are the only one who can make the choice that suits you best.

But since we’re desk experts, let us give you enough information that will enable you to decide whether you want to buy a desk or make one for yourself from scratch.

Readymade desks come in different shapes, sizes, and materials – ranging from wood to metal. You can also get a desk with a blend of materials. You have no shortage of options when buying a desk.

The key things you have to decide on are the type of desk you want and the kind of material you prefer.

While there are many other things to consider, it is generally easier and cheaper to buy a desk than to build one.

But don’t take our word for it; let’s look at the pros and cons of each to help you make an informed choice.

The Pros of Buying a Desk

  • Buying a desk can be as easy as ABC. However, since there is a myriad of desks to choose from, you must undertake loads of research. This is not a bad thing since knowledge is power. The more you know about desks, the better your chances of buying a high-quality, functional, and comfortable desk.
  • In the process of buying a desk, you also furnish yourself with plenty of knowledge on desks; knowledge that may come in handy at a later date when you are upgrading your desk.
  • Buying a desk can be cheap especially if you buy a gently used desk at an auction, a garage sale, or from commercial furniture liquidators. Commercial furniture liquidators have a wide range of furniture. In case you get a big desk with immense storage, count yourself lucky. Liquidators always want to do away with bulky products and can sell high-quality products at throw-away prices.
  • Online stores and yard sales make the job of buying a desk easy. You can easily find a good desk at a great price. The best thing about buying a desk online is that you can buy it from the comfort of your home or office. With a few clicks, you buy a desk that satisfies your needs. Most furniture manufacturers have online stores to simplify the buying process for their customers.
  • New desks are cheaper than desks built from scratch. Since furniture manufacturers deal with mass products, they can add a few features to desks that may be expensive to add if you build a desk on your own.
  • It is cheaper to buy desks made from materials other than wood due to the manufacturing intricacies involved. Some materials are easier to manipulate than wood.
  • Buying a desk is time-saving as compared to building a desk from scratch.
  • You can add accessories to a readymade desk to make it more functional. This means that you can buy other things that you may have been unable to buy together with the desk due to money constraints or limited space.
  • Buying a desk is an investment. If you ever want to upgrade, you can trade-in and get a better one. You won’t have a hard time selling the piece of furniture as it was professionally made – with durability in mind.

The Cons of Buying a Desk

  • When buying a desk, your budget is a vital part of the purchase process. You may have to forego a few add-ons due to your budget. This downside, however, has a remedy since the additional parts, like a desk hutch, can be added to the desk with time as your budget allows.
  • If you buy a desk online, there’s no way of knowing how it really looks like until it arrives at your office or doorstep.

The Pros of Building a Desk

  • The biggest upside of building a desk is the satisfaction that you get after you complete your project. Nothing is as rewarding as making something from scratch. You get to enjoy the fruit of your labor. Even if the end result is not what you expected, you still get a feeling of satisfaction.
  • You can save money by using things in your home as materials for the desk. For instance, you can use an old sideboard to form part of the desk. This way, you will be able to save money and materials.
  • If you use wood, the end result may be stunning. Wood is a versatile material and a lot can be done to it to change its appearance and make it appealing. When building a desk using wood, you can manipulate the material and stain it to your satisfaction.
  • You can customize the desk you build to fit your specific needs as you know them best.

The Cons of Building a Desk

  • Even though you’ll derive satisfaction from using your hands to build a desk, the time, money, and energy you spend may not be worth it. These can be directed elsewhere – and the best part is you’ll have no headaches to deal with. Furthermore, building a desk may cost the same as buying one, or more.
  • Finding the materials to build a desk is a time-consuming affair. If your budget is small, you will have to look for cheaper materials that are of good quality – an uphill climb. You have to find the right suppliers who can offer you a good deal.
  • Building a desk can be an expensive affair especially if it is the first time you are undertaking such a project as you need to acquire the right tools for the job. You also need money to buy materials. These materials can at times cost more than a brand new desk.

Looking at the pros and cons of buying a desk vs. building one, it is safe to say that buying a desk seems like a better option. But if you have the time, money, and energy, by all means build one.

To Sum It Up

Unless you are a professional carpenter or are seasoned in desk making, it is best to leave the job to the professionals who can put together units that are not only durable but are also easy on the eyes.

Building a desk limits the materials you can use. When you buy a desk, you have a host of materials to choose from. You do not have to sacrifice style, aesthetics, or comfort.

Take time to understand the pros and cons of buying a desk and building one before you decide which way to go.

 Building a desk seems like a rewarding, attractive and courageous path to take, but very few people travel on this path successfully without ending up with an eyesore.

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