Ultimate Cubicle Buying Guide

Designing an office space...it’s not as simple and straightforward as you may think. On top of choosing the best flooring for your space, comfortable yet attractive furniture that your employees will approve of, but remains within budget, and functional workspaces, desks, tables, and accessories, you’re also burdened with the task of choosing cubicle walls and panels. There’s much more to the process than simply answering the question, “How can we fit enough small cubes in our space to provide each employee with their own workstation?”

Also consider how much space your employees want/need, low panels or higher, more private workstations, modern, clean glass panels or colorful, bright walls which represent your brand. Will you need electric and data? How quickly must this huge project be completed? Are your cubicles durable, reconfigurable? And lastly, is this within the company budget?

So, maybe slightly more complicated than you thought, right? Well, we’re here to ease the process for you. We’ll compare all of the well-known cubicle brands to help you determine which one has the elements and functions that fit best into your space and, of course, doesn’t go over budget or past your deadline.

Keep in mind, just about every single cubicle brand or manufacturer will offer customizable options. The most popular is multiple panel heights. Because all of the cubicle brands mentioned offer this feature, we will not discuss it as a factor in our grading criteria. Many brands also have additional customizable accessories, such as whiteboard panels, organization, storage, etc. However, these add-ons will most likely be of an extra charge to you. Again, because majority of the various cubicle lines offer these additions for an extra cost, we will not include them in the following criteria.

Panel Composition and Thickness

Let’s start with the panel composition. You most likely want durable cubicle panels that are long-lasting and can withstand multiple reconfigurations and moves. After all, cubicle systems are a big investment; they should be built to last to avoid making another immense withdrawal from your company account in the near future. Like many other features, the more durable and thicker the panels are, the more they will cost. You’re paying for quality. Your options will vary between not only a specific company, but also each brand. While AIS Cubicles and OFM Rize panels are a mere 2” thick, Skutchi Designs’ Sapphire panels are 3¼” thick. However, AIS cubicles are constructed of a durable, rigid honeycomb core and steel frame. Also keep in mind that thinner panels result in your workspaces consuming less space; making them the optimal solution for smaller office spaces with high traffic and a greater number of employees.

There are two types of cubicle panels: monolithic panels or a tile system. Monolithic panels are single panels comprised of the same material. Tile panels are composed of multiple tile insert which make up a single panel. These tiles can be made of different materials, allowing you to mix and match materials and colors to create each wall. The tiles are also easily interchangeable, making this system more flexible and customizable. However, some monolithic systems offer stackable panels, such as Cube Solutions, AIS Cubicles, OFM, and Cubicle By Design, just to name a few. This means that you can add an additional panel of a different material, like a glass panel, for example, on top of your monolithic panel.

Raceways for Electric and Data

As technological advances continue to upgrade our workplaces and alter the way we work, it’s necessary that our workstations are able to keep up with our modern technology. Built in raceways for electric and data are becoming more of a necessity than a luxury. From there, it’s up to you to decide the amount of power needed for your employees and how easily accessible that power must be.

While some cubicle manufacturers offer more cost-effective, non-powered panels, such as Bush, OFM, and Bestar, others provide a single raceway for electric and data for a reasonable and realistic price. However, if your budget allows for an upgraded alternative, brands such as Haworth, Hon, Herman Miller, and Skutchi’s Sapphire system, offer two or more raceways for more accessible power features. Beyond that, AIS Cubicles and AllSteel supply workstations with virtually unlimited capacity for electric and data with power that can be accessed at any height, if your employees require this feature. Of course, improvements such as this often come at a higher price.

Glass Options

An overwhelming number of architects, interior designers, and business owners are choosing architectural glass walls for their office spaces for many benefits which we won’t get into at the moment. If you’re searching for this options as well, brands like the Sapphire Wall System from Skutchi Designs and Enclose by Haworth offer beautiful, floor to ceiling glass walls. Skutchi’s system is a tile system, allowing you to build each panel with only glass or replace them with one of the other materials offered. Haworth provides frameless, monolithic glass walls for a clean, sleek look.

Many other companies supply glass options as well for their workstations. Most tile systems allow you to replace any fabric or laminate tile with glass instead. Monolithic panels often enable you to add stackable glass tiles to include additional glass-top panels in order to give your cubicle walls a brighter, more open appearance while still providing a noise and privacy barrier between workspaces. As you’ll find in the comparison chart below, all of the brands and systems being compared offer some glass option with the exception of Bush. Keep in mind that if you’re on a strict budget and glass is a feature you could do without, you might choose to go with a more budget-friendly alternative.

Fabric Colors and Laminate Options

If customization is an important factor, look into the array of panel or tile materials and colors each cubicle brand offers. While budget-friendly brands such as Bush, OFM, and Bestar offer only one panel material (each of these brands supplies panels of a different material), others have a selection of hundreds of fabrics and laminates in addition to interchangeable tiles composed of a variety of materials. For example, glass, marker board, acoustic, tackable, woodgrain, and veneer, just t name a few in addition to the numerous fabric and laminate tile selections.

Also consider trim color and worksurface selections. Skutchi Designs’ two cubicle lines come in different color trim and both Skutchi Designs and Arnold’s Office Furniture offer eleven different laminate worksurface colors to choose from. Specific brands may have a selection of fabrics in stock, however, if you choose to order custom fabrics and are not on a tight time frame, your options could dramatically increase. While Cube Solutions has just 41 standard fabric finishes, they offer 271 premium fabrics.

Ease of Installation and Configuration

The ease of installation and configuration is an important aspect to consider, especially for growing businesses, because you will most likely face a relocation or expansion in the future which will require you to alter and add on to your previous systems. You will want this process to be as quick and easy as possible for yours and your employees’ sake. A few features to look for are tool-free installation, modular systems, interchangeable panels, minimal components, pre-assembled elements, and installation guides. These are all signs of flexible, reconfigurable cubicle systems.

Shipping and Quick-Ship Options

For those last minute projects on a strict deadline, it’s convenient to have some options that are guaranteed to ship within a day or two. However, while these choices are advantageous, they are most likely items that the supplier already has in stock, and therefore lack the customizable freedom and broader selection that you would have had otherwise. Some brands, such as OFM and Cubicle By Design, can produce all standard orders within five days. Other brands offer a selection of quick-ship products which can be shipped between three and fifteen days, depending on the company.

How quickly your order can be produced and the locations which it will ship to play another major role in your decision of office cubicle manufacturer and brand. Perhaps you’d like to meet with the owners or sales people in person to get a closer look of their products and selections. While some cubicle suppliers have numerous showrooms across the country or even worldwide, others may only have one or a select few locations.

Cubicle Comparison Chart


System

Monolithic panels or tile system

Stackable panels

Glass panel

options

Data & electric available

Flexible (easy to reconfigure)

Quick-ship options

Skutchi Designs - Sapphire

Tile system/architectural walls






Skutchi Designs - Emerald


Monolithic panels





Bush - ProPanels

Monolithic panels

Arnold’s Office Furniture - Sunline Series



Tile system







(at additional price)



Cube Solutions

Monolithic panels

OFM - Rize Panels

Monolithic panels

AIS Cubicles - Divi

Monolithic panels






AIS Cubicles - Matrix


Tile System






AIS Cubicles - AO2


Monolithic panels






AIS Cubicles - MWall


Monolithic panels






Bestar - Pro-Biz

Monolithic panels

Cubicle By Design

Monolithic panels

Herman Miller - Ethospace


Tile system





Herman Miller - Action Office


Monolithic panels




AllSteel - Stride

Monolithic panels

AllSteel - Terrace

Tile system

AllSteel - Concensys

Monolithic panels

AllSteel - Optimize

Monolithic panels

Hon - Abound

Tile system

Hon - Accelerate

Monolithic panels

Haworth - Compose

Monolithic panels

Haworth - Premise

Tile system

Haworth - UniGroup Too


Monolithic panels





Haworth - Enclose

Architectural walls/monolithic or tile panels






I hope this guide has helped simplify the cubicle buying process for you, hopefully making your decision more clear. Cubicle shopping doesn’t have to be as complicated as it’s depicted to be. Keep in mind which elements are important to you and which you could do without. Of course, don’t be afraid to talk to a representative from a few of your favorite bands. Remember, we’re here to help!