Pallet Racking Buyer's Guide 2022
Let's take the stress out of buying pallet racking. Buying Pallet Racking looks easy on the surface, but as you get into it, it can start to feel more overwhelming. This pallet rack buyer's guide was built to help serve you and make the buying process easy. We want you to end up with the pallet racking that you need.
To be able to discuss some of the options you are facing and maximize your vertical space we need some common terms that we both understand.
Now that we have that out of the way, here is the step by step plan to figure out what pallet racking you need for your warehouse.
Determine What Depth Upright You Need
Determine What Height Upright You Need
Determine What Capacity Upright You Need
Determine How Wide of a Beam You Need
Determine What Capacity Beam You Need
Determine What Kind of Pallet Rack Decking You Need
Figure Out How Much Pallet Racking You Need
Now, lets get started!
What Depth Pallet Rack Upright Frame Do I Need?
Selective pallet racks can be used to store many depths of pallets and increase storage capacity. When buying pallet racks you want to make sure that you get the correct depth of upright frames for your rack system. Standard pallet rack upright frames depth is 36", 42", and 48".
Most standard pallets are 48" deep and are designed to go on a 42" deep upright frames. Now you may be saying, why would I want my pallet rack to be more narrow than my pallets? This is because you want 3" of overhang on either side to make sure the pallet loads are sitting directly on the beams, not the wire decking. The picture below is a representation of this.
The wire decking is supposed to act as a safety feature, not necessarily be supporting the load by itself. Now that being said you can get a wire deck made to be able to support whatever load you need, but note that wire decking is not good at supporting point loads.
So if you have a variety of pallet sizes what is the best option? Say you have 36" deep, 42" deep, and 48" deep pallets. For this type of scenario we would recommend 42" deep upright depth and make sure the wire decking is manufactured to support all the loads.
What Height Pallet Rack Upright Frame Do I Need?
When designing your selective pallet racking systems you want to maximize your vertical space as much as possible but there are a few things you should consider:
Ceiling Height Limitations
Equipment Reach Limitations
Fire Code Limitations
Rack Structure Limitations
Ceiling Height Limitations for Pallet Racks
Ceiling height will obviously restrict how high you are able to go with your pallet storage. You should also take into consideration any low hanging items from the ceiling such as sprinkler pipes or lights. You want to make sure your pallet rack loads, not just your racking uprights will be under your ceiling clearance.
Equipment Reach Limitations for Pallet Racks
To most effectively design your pallet rack system you want to make sure that your forklift is able to reach to top level of the desired shelf. There should be an information plate on your forklift that will tell you what the overall lift of the forklift is.
Something too also consider is the back rest on the forklift. When you are getting to that top shelf, you want to make sure the back rest is not going to hit the ceiling or plumbing above even if the pallet on the forks will not.
Fire Code Limitations To Height of Pallet Rack
A good rule of thumb is the top of your pallet load needs to have 24" of clearance from the sprinkler heads above. You don't want to get closer than this regardless because you run the risk of busting the sprinkler head and then you have a real mess on your hands.
Rack Structure Limitations
There is a height to depth ratio of 6:1 that you are not supposed to exceed with pallet rack or you run the risk of it tipping over.
Well how does the 6:1 ratio work and what do I do if I need to exceed it?
For example if you have a 42" deep upright, you can go 252" high with your upright before you exceed the 6:1 ratio. If you exceed this ratio, the racks will need to be tied back to back, anchored to a wall, or top tied to another row to ensure structural stability.
Determine What Capacity Upright Frame You Need
This one gets a little tricky so bear with me and there are examples below to clarify.
There are several things that affect the capacity of the upright.
Gauge and Size of the Column
Gauge and Size of the Column
Gauge and size of the column play a large role in determining how much weight your pallet rack system will hold. The lower the gauge, the higher capacity of the upright. Column gauges can range from 15 gauge down to 11 gauge. 15 being lighter capacity and 11 being higher capacity (I know this seems backwards).
Column Sizes are generally from 3" x 1.5", 3" x 3", or there is a 4" wide and 5" wide column for extremely heavy scenarios. The smaller the column the lower the capacity and lower the resistance to damage is a good rule of thumb.
There is not one capacity for an upright, it changes dynamically based on how the beams are spaced vertically. This one is a little bit surprising but the more beams you have per bay of pallet rack, and the tighter the pallet rack beams are spaced, the higher the capacity of the upright will be.
This is because the beams give the rack more structural integrity.
Pallet Rack Manufacturers put out upright capacity charts of there standard sizes that are based on the gauge and size of the column on one axis and beam spacing on the other axis. You read the chart by identifying the gauge of the column and then identifying the LARGEST TOP OF BEAM TO TOP OF BEAM DIMENSION.
So in the example above if you have Interlake Mecalux Pallet Racking (welded style which is green) 75F Column (should be stamped on it) you would have 18,500 lbs. @72" beam spacing if your upright is less than 21'.
Manufacturer of the Pallet Rack
You have to identify which manufacturer your pallet rack is made by so you can use there chart to determine the capacity of your pallet racking. All manufacturers have a little different design and have been pre-engineered to be able to tell you how much weight it can hold in your specific scenario.
Seismic Considerations for Pallet Rack
If you live in a seismic zone such as Los Angeles, all of these calculations kind of go out the window and need to be addressed by an engineer for the specific location that your pallet rack will be and what pallet loads will be put on it.
Determine How Wide of a Pallet Rack Beam You Need
Pallet Rack Beams commonly called horizontal supports or step beam come in several different standard sizes. The most common step beam sizes are 4', 8', 9', 10', and 12'.All of these different widths come in different capacities based on your pallet load.
You want atleast 4" of clearance on either side of the pallet (and any pallet overhang) to be able to comfortably get you pallet in and out of the rack without hitting the rack. Also keep in mind you need 4-6" of lift off above the pallet before you place your next beam level.
Here is a reference guide for the most common standard pallet widths and there corresponding beam sizes:
48" wide beam - (1) 40" wide pallet
96" wide beam - (2) 40" wide pallets
108" wide beam - (2) 48" wide pallets
120" wide beam - Usually just 1 really wide pallet around 108" wide
144" wide beam - (3) 40" wide pallets
Determine What Capacity Pallet Rack Beams You Need
Standard beam heights range in size from 2.5" to 6.5". The smaller the profile the lighter the capacity of the beam. Smaller profile beams are generally used for hand stacking items or light weight pallets. Pallet Rack beam capacities are based on evenly distributed loads.
To read a beam capacity chart there are 2 axis' with information. There is the beam width and the beam height. So in the chart below, if you had an Interlake Mecalux Teardrop Beam 108" wide x 5" high you would have a capacity of 6,150 lbs. per pair based on the 50E Profile.
Beam capacities are done on a per pair basis using the front and back beam determining the capacity of the entire shelf level. With a 6,150 lbs. capacity beam (per pair) you can store 2 pallets 3,075 lbs. next to each other and be right at capacity.
Determine What Type of Pallet Rack Decking You Need
There are many different options for selective pallet rack decking and some people do not even use any decking. Wire Decking is by far the most common decking system for pallet rack as it is the most versatile and economical. Pallet supports are also commonly used.
If you want to learn about all the different types of pallet rack decking and which one works best for you, check out this article.
Figure Out How Much Pallet Racking You Need
To maximize your storage space you need to figure out how much pallet rack you need. To do that you need to do the following:
Measure the perimeter of your space. Note any columns or obstructions
Determine how much aisle spacing you need based on your forklift
Measure the Perimeter of Your Space
First off if you have a large space you may want to call in one of our professionals so we can measure your space and lay your facility out in CAD to make sure you get exactly what you need. We offer this as a free service. But if you are feeling froggy and want to try it yourself, you need to measure the perimeter and place any obstructions or columns in the building.
Make sure you leave floor space for staging and unloading trucks. Also remember it is not good to have columns in your selective rack aisles because they will be subjected to forklift damage. You like to have the building columns in the flue space or inside of a bay of rack.
Determine How Much Aisle Spacing You Need to Accommodate Your Lift Truck
Here is a good rule of thumb for determining necessary aisle spacing when buying warehouse racking.
Head Length + Load Length + 12" add on for flexibility. Now let's break this down.
Head Length of Forklift
The distance from the back of the forklift to the front of the load's back rest
The length of the pallet down the stringer (board that spans the length of the pallet) taking into account any pallet overhang.
It is nice to add 12 extra inches of flexibility to make sure you can comfortably navigate your pallet rack systems.
6" add - on
In addition to the 12" the extra 6" will accommodate any pallet overhang.
Pallet Rack Aisle Clearance for a 3-Wheel Forklifts
Most warehouses prefer 11-12' clearance for this style
Pallet Rack Aisle Clearance for 4-Wheel Forklifts
Most warehouses prefer 13'-14' clearance for this style
Pallet Rack Aisle Clearance for a Stand Up Forklift
This style of forklift only requires 10.5' to 11.5' as it is able to make tighter turns when you are storing and retrieving pallets in your warehouse pallet racking.
Pallet Rack Aisle Clearance for an Order Picker
Unguided Cherry picker needs 76" of clearance
Guided Cherry picker needs 52" of clearance
Pallet Rack Aisle Clearance for a Swing-Reach or Turret Truck
For narrow aisle systems the aisles will need to be between 7'-9' depending on the lift. Pallet overhang into the aisle needs to be taken into consideration.
Pallet Rack Aisle Clearance for a Deep Reach Truck
A deep reach truck features a longer scissor and heavier capacity. Because of this it requires an additional 12" -18" of aisle spacing making the minimum aisles from 9'-11'. However newer electric models only require 4'-5' of space!
Well, that should put you in a position to get started designing your warehouse racking system. If you are feeling overwhelmed with all this information and don't know where to start, reach out to us and let us help. We will do all the hard work for you!
So when you send in a request and want a quick response back here is what we need:
- Depth of the Upright Frames
- Height of the Upright Frames
- Capacity of the Upright Frames
- Width of the Beams
- Capacity of the Beams
- Decking Choice
- Qty's of everything.