What is High-Piled Storage?

What is High-Piled Storage?

What is high-piled storage? Storing product over 12 feet high. This triggers an increase in scrutiny from your city/county during the permitting process, mainly involving safety factors. If your product is deemed high hazard (ie: batteries, rubber tires, etc.) the threshold for triggering high-piled storage may be even lower, potentially as low as six feet. High-piled storage does not apply in most cases if your total storage area is less than 500 square feet.

Storing your product as high as you can vertically saves valuable space, but brings with it stricter fire safety requirements.

High Piled Storage Requirements

When submitting your application for a warehouse rack permit, you will be required to provide additional details about your project and building. Here are some of the safety factors they consider:

  • Fire sprinkler system specs, including flow rate, density, etc.
  • Flammability of the product being stored
  • Total area of the building
  • Ceiling height
  • Pallet type

This is just a start. Check out the high piled storage questionnaire that we submit with most permit applications for an example of the type of info required.

Commodity Classes

High Piled Storage requirements are determined primarily based on the commodity classes of the product you are storing. Highly flammable commodities have more requirements, while less-flammable commodities have fewer requirements.

There are five commodity classes, Class I, II, III, IV, and High Hazard. Class I to Class IV commodities are grouped together and generally have similar requirements. If your product falls within these commodity classes, then high piled storage requirements are triggered when storing product above 12ft.

High Hazard commodities have additional requirements. High Hazard commodities include “Group A” highly flammable plastics, batteries, charcoal, excess pallets, rubber tires, etc. If your product is High Hazard, then High Piled Storage requirements are triggered at 6ft.

For a list of example products and their commodity class, check out Table 3203.8 of the International Fire Code.

 

Will High Piled Storage delay my project?

Not necessarily, but it certainly could.

It does take a little more work to gather all the required information for the permit application. However, if your building is up to code and your fire sprinklers are adequate for what you’re storing, then there isn’t likely to be a significant delay.

The trouble comes when the city/county denies your permit application for fire safety concerns.

If your building fails to meet the requirements, you could be looking at a serious delay depending on what needs to be fixed. Most commonly, they may require an upgraded sprinkler system which is probably not fast and not cheap.

 

Will my Building Meet the Requirements?

There are four main questions to ask that can help you determine where you stand.

How old is your building? The newer the building, the more likely you are to pass your permit application. Older buildings that have had recent, documented updates are also more likely to be up to code.

How good are the sprinklers? If your building is older, but recently had all new sprinklers installed, you’re in a lot better situation than if you had an older building with the original sprinklers. If you don’t have sprinklers, it is unlikely you’ll pass unless your product is not flammable.

How flammable is your product? Storing cotton balls or batteries are much more likely to raise a red flag on application than if you’re storing metal screws. If you have an extremely flammable product, you should plan to compensate in the other areas.

How tall are you storing it? Not all high-piled storage is created equal. The taller you go, the more requirements you may have. In general, it is best to keep any highly flammable products on the ground and under 6ft.

 

My Permit Application was Denied. Now what?

Don’t worry! It’s not the end of the world if you fail your initial application submission. The goal of the application process isn’t to limit the number of companies storing product high, it’s just to make sure those that do are doing it safely!

When the permit is denied, they will give you a list of requirements that need to be met for the permit to be issued. Then you have two options;

Option 1: Make whatever changes the city/county says you need to make.

This usually means hiring a fire sprinkler expert to make your fire sprinklers adequate and/or getting a fire sprinkler permit to make changes to your sprinkler system.

All this can take several months and cost a lot of money, from $10k – 200k depending on project/building size.

Option 2: Change your storage plans

Consider avoiding this mess altogether and only storing your product below 12 feet. If you have highly flammable products, your city/county may want them on the ground below 6 feet. You could also consider changing the square footage of your storage space to fall below 500 square feet.

If this is the route you want to go, double check with your city/county before you make any changes to assure your new plans will meet current code.

We always recommend talking to a racking expert BEFORE you start any project so you know what you’re getting into and avoid headaches.

Are you struggling with high-piled storage? Leave us a message here and we’ll reach out within 24 hours to get started on a solution!

Additional Resources

Want to learn more details about High Piled Storage?

If you’re ready for some dense reading, you can learn a lot here:

High-Piled Storage from Chapter 32 of the International Building Code.

Here is our High-Piled Storage Questionnaire (PDF) that we submit with the permit application. Reviewing this will give you an idea of the kinds of information that most counties require when evaluating high-piled storage.

Shout out to Chino Valley Fire for some of the info provided in this post.

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