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Everything to Know About Pneumatic Standing Desks

This is a guide and an introduction to pneumatic standing desks. What does it mean for a standing desk to be pneumatic? How do they work, and how do they compare to other types of standing desks?

What is a pneumatic standing desk or pneumatic sit/stand desk?

Pneumatic standing desks are adjustable height workstations with one key feature: air-powered assistance to raise and lower the work surface. 

How do pneumatic adjustable desks work?

A pneumatic desk is powered by pneumatic cylinder (a spring that has been filled with air). A gas flows either around or through a piston on either end of the cylinder, maintaining equal pressure on both ends. When activated by someone pushing a lever, the piston moves into the chamber. This action further compresses the air inside the chamber, resulting in a lifting motion that allows the work surface to rise. When the piston is moved further out of the chamber, it expands the air inside and allows the work surface to lower.

Engineers design the size of the pneumatic cylinder’s chamber based on the amount of weight it needs to move. The cylinder can be designed to open and close at exact and constant speeds.

What gas or fluid is used in pneumatic standing desks?

As mentioned before, a pneumatic standing desk is raised and lowered by a pneumatic cylinder, which is filled with a compressed gas. That gas can be either a dry or lubricated compressed air or inert gas. Dry compressed air is most common. 


The Andern Desk in a users workspace.

How do pneumatic standing desks compare to electric or motorized adjustable desks?

Many people prefer some type of powered assistance to make their standing desk easier to use. Pneumatic and electric desks are the two options that can provide assisted lift, so comparisons are often made between the two, pneumatic vs electric standing desk.

The differences can be broken down into a few main categories.

  • Durability. The best pneumatic standing desk and electric desk models can both be durable if they are produced to commercial grade standards such as BIFMA x5.5. A pneumatic adjustable standing desk can have an advantage in durability because their lift mechanism doesn’t have an electric motor that can burn out over time.
  • Strength / weight rating. In general, electric motors are used to move heavier loads than pneumatic cylinders. However, the weight capacity of the best pneumatic sit stand desks can easily accommodate the weight of most items that would normally be found on a desktop. 
  • Speed or ease of use. A pneumatic sit stand desk can provide some of the fastest, smoothest movement compared to other types. Generally, operation is intuitive, with no complicated presets and a simple adjustment mechanism.
  • Cost & availability. There are more models of electric desks on the market than pneumatic, so electric desks are widely available. Both types vary widely in quality and affordability.
  • Environmental impact. A pneumatic desk’s overall carbon footprint is lower than an electric desk’s, since a pneumatic desk requires no electric power to operate. 

What are some specific benefits of pneumatic standing desks over other types?

The most commonly mentioned benefits among people who prefer pneumatic desks compared to other standing desks are:

  1. Noiselessness. Quiet as air, these desks are unlikely to disturb even the touchiest coworker.
  2. Freedom from cords. If you want a desk that can be moved around on casters, or if you’re limited on the number of electrical outlets, a pneumatic desk can be a game changer.
  3. Speed. Pneumatic stand up desks can offer the smoothest, speediest adjustments of any sit-stand desk. When you’re trying to maintain focus on your work, even a few seconds a few times a day makes a difference. 

Kloud Standing Desk

Kloud Standing Desk in a home office.

What are some cons or disadvantages, if any?

With many pneumatic stand up desk models, the pneumatic cylinder is designed to move a certain amount of weight smoothly, so you need to have an idea of the expected weight on the desk surface to operate it under ideal conditions. Some people find that hard to decide up front, before they use the desk. 

Keep in mind that most desks are assigned to a single user, and that person generally uses the desk for one type of activity. So in most cases, the weight on a desk doesn’t vary that much from day to day. However, when a desk is shared by multiple people doing different tasks, there could be more variation throughout the day.

Some specialized pneumatic desk models can be adjusted to suit whatever weight capacity the desk needs to lift. These sophisticated versions require an extra adjustment to work as a light-weight laptop lifter one day and a barbell holder the next. The power-free Kloud adjustable desk is weight adjustable up to 150 lbs., and even lifts off-center loads smoothly.

What materials are used for pneumatic standing desks?

Pneumatic standing desk legs are occasionally made from polymer plastic, but most often they’re made from steel, which may be powder coated or chrome coated to achieve different colors and textures. Work surface materials include solid hardwoods like walnut, soft woods like bamboo, plastics, or laminated substrates. 


Man working on a computer 3

Tyler working on an urban oak work surface

What finishes, color options, or desktop surfaces are available?

Surfaces are generally laminate or veneered particle board, but you’ll also find solid wood or plastic. For laminate surfaces, a range of colors are possible, although the most popular colors are the timeless neutral options that will last as long as the desk – white, black, gray, or tan. Veneered and solid wood surfaces are often birch, walnut, bamboo, or oak. 

If you have a particular desk surface in mind that isn’t readily available, look for a pneumatic standing desk frame only. That way, you can turn something unique, like a custom sawn live edge walnut slab, into a great pneumatic desk. If you do order a pneumatic standing desk frame only, be sure to factor in the weight of the desktop surface when figuring out the weight capacity of the desk.

At The Standing Desk, pneumatic sit stand desks come in a selection of colors – neutral twill, graphite twill, Dover white, or urban oak. Each is made from a recycled wood substrate, with a durable Formica finish for long-lasting appeal. Coordinating color options for the powder coated steel pneumatic frame include black, gray, and white.

What sizes? How large can a pneumatic desk be?

Pneumatic desks are available in a range of work surface sizes, from large to small, and a wide adjustment range too. Small student models or portable models often work well for small spaces. Larger desks are designed for multiple monitors or for collaboration. 

A large pneumatic desk might measure 30” x 60”, although you will a few slightly larger desks up to 72” wide. And of course you can start with a pneumatic standing desk frame only and create a DIY pneumatic standing desk with almost any size desk surface you choose.

At The Standing Desk, you’ll find pneumatic desks in a variety of sizes to suit every need:

30” x 60” surface (Kloud, Luften)

30” x 48” (Kloud, Andern)

24” x 40” (Andern)


What else would you like to know? Connect with us – our standing desk pros would love to help.

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