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What are Casters?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 17, 2024
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Casters are small wheels designed to make furniture, appliances and various types of office, institutional, commercial, industrial and medical equipment easily movable or even mobile. Today most home appliances such as stoves and refrigerators come with wheels, as do many types of furniture.

Not only do casters make moving easier, they simplify house cleaning as well. Moving a refrigerator away from the wall to clean beneath it is hard work without wheels, but with them, all that is needed is a slight tug. Couches and chairs on casters can also be easily moved for vacuuming or sweeping.

If a piece of furniture loses a wheel, it can easily be replaced. Furniture casters are commonly designed with a steel peg at the top that simply slides into a pre-drilled hole on the underside of the furniture. Other types utilize a steel bracket at the top.

Some casters have a built-in brake design. These are frequently used in institutional, industrial and medical settings. Gurneys and hospital beds use this design, along with countless types of industrial carts. The brake system usually consists of a lever that can be depressed by the foot to lock the wheel in place.

Caster wheels can be made from a variety of materials and can come in many designs. Wheels might be grooved aluminum, plastic, wood or soft rubber. Though some are more decorative than others, with wheels in various bright colors, most are fairly utilitarian.

When buying casters for use in your home, be sure to take into consideration the type of flooring you have. Different types of rugs might require a certain type of wheel material, or a certain size wheel, for the best result. To protect wood flooring, experts recommend rubber wheels. Beware that casterized chairs on a wood floor have a tendency to move when someone sits down.

Casters are inexpensive and readily available at home improvement stores. They are rated for the amount of weight they will support. Most standard sizes can support up to 300 lb (181 kg), but heavy-duty industrial ones can support as much as 7.5 tons (15 kilopounds) each.

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Discussion Comments
By PatStarr — On Sep 27, 2012

Very true, buying a good caster saves hours of hassle.

By anon200132 — On Jul 26, 2011

Great article. thanks for the information about casters.

By oscar23 — On Jun 19, 2011

Another great use for casters is in the setting arena of live theatre! I have always been a theatre buff, and I’ve actually dabbled in everything from acting to directing to every single area of technical theatre.

One of the easiest solutions that many community theatres and small scale theatres turn to when they need to make set pieces quickly movable is to attach casters on the bottoms. There are many different sizes to choose from. You can get some really huge ones if you need to from any theatre supply. Casters for furniture can also be used for smaller pieces.

This makes hundreds of pounds worth of sets be able to be maneuvered by two or three folks for faster, safer set changes.

Now, I wouldn’t say that your large scale theatres use casters as much in this day and age because of all of the high tech improvements that have been made over the years (hydraulics and the like), but there was a time when they were widely used in these areas as well.

By blackDagger — On Jun 16, 2011

@Anon4240 - Hi! My fridge doesn't have that problem because it doesn't have small casters, but have you thought about sliding a small wedge up under both of the front wheels?

I haven't tried this myself, but when I saw your question that is just what popped into my mind! It seems like an easy solution that can also be easily removed when you need to clean it out and around it!

I'm a little jealous over that - I'd be afraid to look behind and under my frig right now. The last time we cleaned under it or behind it was actually when we put down our new floor about two years ago. Yuk!

By anon4240 — On Oct 09, 2007

Our larger refrigerator has casters which is great for cleaning. The problem is that by simply pulling on the door handles, the whole refrigerator easily rolls out - even our 6 year old can make this move. Is there something we can buy to prevent rolling? Caster cups seem too hard to use and not easily removable. Thanks.

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