How to Find the Right Size of Pallet Rack

Choosing the right size of pallet racking can save your company a tremendous amount of money, make your workplace safer, and increase the company’s efficiency. Though the task can seem daunting at first, we can help identify the perfect pallet rack in four easy steps.

Step 1: Identify the size and weight of your pallets


The standard pallet is 48-inches deep by 40-inches wide, though pallets come in a variety of dimensions. So, measuring your pallets is a critical first step.

How heavy is your average pallet?

How heavy is your heaviest pallet?


Write down these numbers – we’ll need them later in step 4! These two weights are key factors in determining what load capacity is right for your racks. Going over the load capacity limit is a severe safety hazard, so be sure to get the weight accurately.

Step 2: Calculate Frame Depth


The frame depth sets the spacing between the load beams.

A properly stored pallet should overhang the beams by approximately three inches, allowing the beams to carry the full weight of the pallet. To easily get a proper fit, subtract six from the depth of your pallets. This will allow a 3-inch overhang on both sides.


Why do you want overhang?


Load beams are designed to carry the weight of your pallet, not the wire decking, which is placed on top of the beams. The wire decking is a good safety item that helps distribute weight, but it is not intended the handle the full weight of a loaded pallet.

Here’s an example; a standard pallet has a depth of 48 inches. 48 – 6 = 42. A frame depth of 42 inches allows for a 3-inch overhang at the front and back.

The most common depths of pallet rack frames, listed in order of popularity, are:

  • 42-inch
  • 48-inch
  • 36-inch


If you need custom pallet rack, we can do that too — just contact us for a quote!

Step #3: Determine Frame Height


Utilizing vertical space is almost always the cheapest way to store more product in the same space. If done properly, it can save a ton of money.

The standard sizes of pallet rack frames are:

  • 8 ft
  • 10 ft
  • 12 ft (very common)
  • 16 ft (very common)
  • 20 ft
  • 24 ft

The first question to ask when determining what frame height to select is:

How tall is your ceiling?


Allow at least 18 to 24″ of space between the ceiling (or your sprinklers) and your product. This helps to comply with fire codes and provide adequate clearance. So if you have 16-foot ceilings, and your pallets are 3-feet tall, you won’t want to go higher than a 12-foot tall frame. Be sure to also consider pipes, sprinklers, or trusses below your ceiling height!


We generally recommend that you go as high as you reasonably can, even if it gives you more space than you need right now.

Why?

Because the cost difference between a 12-foot tall frame and a 16-foot tall frame is most likely very small relative to the total cost of your project, so we don’t recommend going shorter just to save a few bucks.

Pallet racks are a long-term investment, so be sure to consider your future growth when planning which racks to get.


How high can your forklifts reach?


If your forklifts have a maximum reach of 10 feet, you won’t be able to fully utilize 16-foot pallet rack until you upgrade your equipment. Planning for growth is important, just make sure you are aware of your limitations and which racks you will be able to utilize.

Do you intend to go higher than 12 feet?

Does your building have sprinklers?


Storing product above 12 feet triggers “high piled storage” considerations. When obtaining pallet rack permits, your city/county will evaluate your fire sprinkler system and the flammability of your product. They may limit how high you can store product based on the adequacy of your sprinkler system and the flammability of what you are storing.


Step #4: Select Beam Size


Pallet rack beams have a length and height or “face size.” The beam length determines how many pallets you can store per beam level.

8-foot long beams are by far the most common beam length and allow for the storage of two standard 48 x 40 pallets. Plan for 3 inches of clearance between the upright and the pallet, and 4 inches of clearance between pallets. 12-foot long beams are also common and allow for three standard pallets on each beam level.

Beam lengths are commonly cited in inches. Check out the table below to get an idea of what you’ll need!


What is the weight of your pallets?


Do you have the weight of your pallets from step one? If not, take some time to figure that out now. The weight of your pallets is the main factor in selecting the correct beam. The length and face size of a beam determine it’s load capacity. Keep in mind that beam capacities are always stated per beam level, which is every pair of beams.

If you need a load capacity of close to or over 5,000 lbs. per beam level, you’ll probably want a standard 8-foot long beam. If your pallets are not very heavy, a 12-foot long beam may be a better choice.

When it comes to face size, beams range from 3-inch to 6-inch. For high capacity needs, select the 6-inch face size to allow for greater load capacity. You’ll want to make sure the beam length and face size is adequate for the capacity you require.

We’re here to help!

Once you know what height, depth, and beam size you need, you can place your order online or speak to a material handling professional to further discuss what fits your specific needs. Whether you want to ask a question or purchase a product, Speedrack West is here every step of the way to ensure you always have the best material handling solutions.

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2 Comments
  • Taylor Bishop
    Posted at 10:57h, 03 April Reply

    Thank you for these tips for finding a good pallet rack size. You mentioned that a stored pallet should overhand the beams by about three inches. I wonder if it could be good to have multiple racks if someone expects to be dealing with different types of pallets.

    • srwadmin
      Posted at 13:54h, 03 April Reply

      Great question. If you had a few different types of pallets, it could make sense to get different sizes of pallet rack. However, I would first consider the weight of each pallet and the decking on the pallet rack. If you have wire mesh decking that supports 2,500 lbs per pallet position, and your pallets are only 500 lbs each, then I would feel pretty comfortable if the pallet did not have the ideal 3″ overhang. However, if your pallets were 3,000 lbs each, then I would want to make sure I had heavy duty decking that supported that weight and/or the right depth of pallet rack that provided the right amount of overhang so that the weight was sufficiently supported by the beams.

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