Pallet Racks and Pallet Racking Systems
Build your pallet rack system step by step:
Pallet Rack Anatomy
Pallet racks, also called “selective pallet racks,” are part of a warehouse shelving system primarily used for storing pallets of product. Pallet racking is made of upright frames, beams, and wire mesh decking.
There are many different styles of pallet racking, but the most common style in use today is called “teardrop” (sometimes called “Interlake Old Style”). Teardrop pallet rack frames have a distinctive teardrop-shaped hole, spaced two inches apart, that allows a secure connection to the beam.
For more information about warehouse shelving, visit our warehouse shelving basics resource page.
Pallet Rack Frames
The structure of your pallet racking is generally called the frame. Pallet Rack Frames can be made of different materials, but the strongest and most common is steel. The frame is what provides the structural support, and are made to hold huge weight loads.
There are multiple types of frames that are used for different storage options. One of the most popular is the pallet rack upright frame, which is perfect for creating pallet racks that are more like standard shelving. If you’re planning on working with longer items, like pipes or lumber, cantilever frames are the best solution. For things that stack, you might want to consider an industrial stack rack frame.
Take stock of what the purpose of your shelving will be, and then explore the frame options to match.
Selecting Your Pallet Rack Frame
To pick the right frame for your pallet racks, you need to determine the height and depth of the frame.
Pallet Rack Frame Height
The most common frame height is 12’ or 16’.
To calculate the right height for your space, measure the distance from the floor to your ceiling (or sprinkler heads, if you have them). Subtract 1.5’ (18”) for clearance, and also subtract the height of your pallet + load. This will give you the maximum height of your top beam level.
21’ Sprinkler Height
– 1.5’ Clearance
– 4’ pallet + load height
= 15.5 feet – so select a 16’ height frame.
Select an upright height that is tall enough for the height of your top beam level.
Can I put a beam level at the very top of the frame? Yes, but it doesn’t have to be.
When selecting the height of your frame, be sure to consider:
- Height of the ceiling
- Height of the sprinkler head
- Maximum height of your forklift
Pallet Rack Frame Depth
The most common frame depth is 42” because it properly supports a standard 48” deep pallet. If you are using non-standard pallets, or you’re storing other products, be sure to calculate the correct frame depth based on the size of the product you are storing.
The frame depth sets the distance between the beams. Because the beams are designed to support the weight, the pallet should overhang the beams by 3 inches on the front and back.
To determine the correct frame depth, measure the depth of your pallet and subtract 6”.
Example: A standard GMA pallet is 48” deep. Subtract 6” = 42” frame depth.
Pallet Rack Support Beams and Crossbars
While the frames are what hold your warehouse shelving upright, it’s the beams that hold the frames together. Shelving or racking cross beams are usually made of heavy-duty steal, and match with the teardrop connecting systems of the frames.
The pallet rack beams are what give your shelving the length they need. The longer the beam or crossbar, the longer your shelving will be. Take this into consideration when you’re measuring out your space and planning your warehouse layout.
Selecting Beams for Your Pallet Racks
To choose the right beam for your pallet rack, you’ll need to determine the length of the beam, and the height of the beam.
8ft pallet rack beams are the most common beam length, because they allow you to store two standard 48”D x 40”W pallets per beam level, and the shorter length helps to support heavier pallets. If you have larger pallets, you may want to select a 9ft or 10ft beam.
If your pallets are not very heavy (ie, less than 2,000 lbs), 12ft beams could be a good choice. 12 ft beams allow you to fit three standard pallets per beam level.
Pallet Racking Beam Length
The length of your beam should be determined by the width of your pallets / product, and the capacity you need per beam level. Shorter beams will give you a higher capacity than longer beams.
Pallet Racking Beam Height / Capacity
The capacity of the beam is determined primarily by the length and the height of the beam, sometimes called the “face size.”
Beams with a larger face size will have a higher load capacity. The height of the beam typically varies between 3” and 6”. Choose a beam height that provides the capacity you need. Take a look at our beam load capacity guide for a look at approximate beam capacities.
Pallet Racking Beam Levels
When determining the number of beam levels for your pallet rack, allow for at least 3-4″ of clearance between the top of your stored product and the bottom of the beam above it. Also, include in that spacing between levels the height of the beams you selected.
Pallet Rack Decking
Rack Decking is what the actual shelf is made out of. This is important to consider when planning what you’re actually going to put on the pallet rack. For instance, if you’re putting large items on your racks, then a wire mesh decking will work well, as they allow a load of up to 2500 pounds of uniformly distributed weight. But if you have small or thin items that might fall through the holes in the wire mesh, then something more consistent like a perforated steel or solid steel deck might be a better solution.
Keep in mind that the weight of your load matters. While the frames and beams might support the weight of your materials, if the decking can’t support the weight, it likely to break through the shelf and crash into what’s below. Fire safety is also a consideration, so if you have flammable materials, or items that could spark and cause a fire, wood decking may not be the best option.
Selecting your Wire Mesh Decks for Your Pallet Racking
Wire Mesh Decks are an optional safety item, but we highly recommend them on every pallet rack system. We would estimate that roughly 90% of our customers choose to use wire mesh decks on their pallet racking.
To select the right wire deck, the depth of the wire deck must match the depth of the frame.
The width of the wire deck is determined by the length of your beams.
- 8ft beams – choose (2) decks that are 46”W each
- 9ft beams – choose (2) decks that are 52”W each
- 10ft beams – choose (2) decks that are 58”W each
- 12ft beams – choose (3) decks that are 46”W each
If you are using our pallet rack builder (above), it will automatically select the correct wire decks for your beams and frames.
Pallet Rack Safety Considerations
Safety is everyone’s top priority, so you’ll likely want to add some extra items to increase the safety of your rack system:
Anchors – Pallet rack that is not anchored to a concrete floor is extremely unsafe. You need four anchors installed per frame. Anchoring pallet rack is an essential part of proper pallet rack installation.
Column Guards – Damaged pallet rack is unsafe, and the most common damage to a frame happens when it is hit by a forklift. Installing column guards on each frame can reduce the likelihood of damage during low speed impacts. Any exposed side of a frame needs protection with a column guard solution such as a RAMguard or a column guard.
Drop Pins – Beam safety drop pins are an easy and inexpensive way to reduce the chance of beams being accidentally disengaged. This common error happens when a forklift operator lifts a pallet too high, causing the pallet to raise the beam above and disconnect it from the frame. This results in the entire beam level failing and pallets falling to the floor. Installing two drop pins per beam prevents this type of accident.
Designing your Pallet Racking Layout
When laying out your pallet rack system, there are starter bays and add-on bays.
Starter bays consist of two frames plus the beams, and can stand alone. Add-on bays only have one frame plus the beams, and they are designed to connect to an adjacent frame.
Each row must begin with a starter bay, and then use add-on bays to increase the length of the row. There is no limit to the number of add-on bays you can connect together in a row.
When determining the length of your row, you must account for the 3” width of each frame, in addition to your beam length. For example, a row with two bays of 8ft beams would consist of one starter bay and one add-on bay, which would have three uprights. At 3” each, the three uprights would take up 9” of space. Add this to the two 8ft beams, for a total length of 16’ 9”.
Using our pallet rack configurator (above) will automatically calculate the correct length of each row of racking. You can also have a copy of your designed layout instantly emailed to you.
Buy Pallet Racks Online
Once you have designed your pallet rack system using our easy step-by-step builder, you can add the pallet rack system to your cart, get an instant shipping quote, and check out. It’s that easy. If you need any help to plan your warehouse layout, or to know what your pallet racking needs are, feel free to contact us, and a racking professional will help you out!
So easy to get what I needed. The racking was delivered quick, and was super simple to set up. I'll be back for more!
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