Lumber Racks: What You Need to Know for Efficiency, Profitability, and Safety

lumber racks | Speedrack West

Lumber Racks: What You Need to Know for Efficiency, Profitability, and Safety

When you run a lumber yard, storage is a top priority. Improperly stored wood can warp, bow, and attract insects. Sometimes, this type of damage makes the wood unsalvageable, resulting in money going down the drain for your business. The good news is that storing long and bulky materials — such as lumber, wood veneer sheets, plywood, and pipe – is not as difficult as it sounds. You just need the right lumber racks.

What Is a Lumber Rack?

The best way to store lumber is horizontally using lumber racks specifically designed for long objects, also called a cantilever racking system. Cantilever racking is a heavy-duty storage system designed to hold materials that are often hard to store because of their bulky size or awkward shape or length. 

This type of rack doesn’t have front vertical posts, thereby allowing you to load your product with a forklift without the restriction of a front column. You can then use the entire length of the cantilever racking for storage.

All lumber rack systems have the following three components:

  • Cantilever uprights. These are the primary vertical structural components of any cantilever rack system.
  • Cantilever arms. These arms make up the different levels of the rack.
  • Cantilever bracing. Horizontal braces (also called x-braces) go between the uprights and to stabilize the lumber racking.

Depending on your timber storage rack needs and the space you have available, there are countless options for configuring a cantilever racking system.

Lumber Racks | cantilever racking | Speedrack West

Two Main Types of Lumber Racks

The two most common types of cantilever rack formats are structural and roll-formed. A structural rack uses steel beams, while a roll-formed one uses coiled sheet metal that has been rolled into the appropriate shape.

Both systems offer durability, but there are some key differences between them. Let’s examine them:

  • A structural rack is made with hot-rolled structural steel. This type of rack can handle high load capacities and withstand harsher conditions than a roll-formed rack. Since it is made of heavier steel, a structural rack is more labor-intensive to install and more expensive than a roll-formed one. However, it also tends to last longer and requires less maintenance.
  • A roll-formed rack is made with cold roll-formed steel. This type of rack is made with lighter gauge steel and boltless beam pin connectors, so it is less expensive and easier to install than a structural rack. However, roll-formed racks can hold less weight and are more easily damaged by forklift impact than structural racks. 

We recommend structural racks for fast-paced, high-volume warehouses, such as beverage distributors, cold storage facilities, and food handling warehouses. It’s a good idea to fortify structural frames with an angle deflector or bullnose that is welded to the front column as a further shield against forklift damage.  

Here are some other suggestions:

  • Reinforce the front column with a doubler that is welded behind the column up to 60 inches.
  • Add a heavy-duty bottom horizontal that is welded front to back on the frame to help prevent damage from direct impact.
  • Use a slant leg frame to keep pallets from hitting the frames while forklifts load or unload products from the racking system. 

We generally recommend roll-formed racks for retail stores or for commercial or industrial warehouses that store lighter weight products with less forklift contact. These racks rely on shape for strength and do not offer extra capacity in the event of impact or overloading. Here are some factors to keep in mind:

  • Cold roll-formed racks are less expensive than structural steel racks. They provide enough strength for many products, but they are susceptible to damage from forklifts.
  • Roll-formed racks are lighter and use beam pin connectors, making them somewhat easier and quicker to install than structural steel racks.
  • A roll-formed rack often is more adaptable to varying product or pallet dimensions than structural steel. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Lumber Racks

Now that you know more about the cantilever racking systems, we’ll answer some of the questions our customers frequently ask us.

Can I mix the two different rack styles?

Structural and roll-formed styles will not fit on the same cantilever rack. If you select one type over the other, then you have to use that type for the entire rack. If you decide to change from rolled form to structural (or the other way around), you will have to sell one rack and buy the other.

We do buy used racks (see below), so that’s an option to consider if you decide to upgrade your racking system at some point. 

How do I know the rack will hold my lumber?

Cantilever racks are designed to hold large bulky items. You do need to make sure that the rack has enough arm capacity and upright capacity to handle the weight of the load you plan to store on it.

How do I know that the upright capacity can take the weight?

Most cantilever rack uprights can handle somewhere between 5,000 and 15,000 pounds per side. The biggest uprights can hold up to 56,000 pounds per cantilever upright frame. When you order a system, make sure it is built to withstand the load you need it to hold.

What does “pounds per side” mean in terms of the weight that lumber racks can hold?

Cantilever or wood storage racks can have two sides. Therefore, to ensure stability, you should try to have about the same weight distribution on both sides.

Is it possible to have a single-sided cantilever?

Yes. A single-sided system can work as long as you have the correct upright capacity and arm capacity.

What does seismic testing mean on racking?

Our storage racks feature seismic test results that measure how well they withstand seismic conditions without swaying, buckling, or moving across the floor. These test results may be required to obtain a permit in your area. 

Are there special kinds of cantilever racks for lumber?

No, but you can customize a cantilever rack for your specific needs. 

Can I buy used cantilever racks?

Yes. Many companies, including ours, purchase used cantilever racks for lumber. If you are interested, please give us a call at 503-640-5666. We will see what we have in stock and what we can do for you.

What do I need to know about permits?

Many locations require proper testing and seismic calculations in order to grant permits for cantilever rack installations. It can be difficult to use the same racks after it fails a fire marshal inspection. Stress testing a rack can cost thousands of dollars, often making it less expensive to replace the rack with one that is already tested and approved.

Talk to a Lumber Rack Expert

Are cantilever racks a good choice for your lumber racking needs? Do you have more questions? We’ll be happy to discuss your needs and your options. Contact Speedrack West today, and let’s talk.

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