What Size Pallet Rack Do I Need?

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. 

Pallet Rack Terminology

upright or frame
Upright of Frame
Pallet Rack Beam
Beam or Cross Beam
Wire Decking
Wire Decking

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. 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.

Correct Depth of Pallet Rack Upright

What Height Pallet Rack Upright Frame Do I Need?

When designing your selective pallet racking systems you wan to maximize your vertical space as much as possible but there are a few things you should consider:

  1. Ceiling Height Limitations
  2. Equipment Reach Limitations
  3. Fire Code Limitations
  4. 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.

Fire Code Limitations To Height of Pallet Rack

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 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