The Best Types of Rack Shelving for Warehouses

Steel Industrial Shelving

When you’re searching for the best types of shelving for your warehouse, you have several options to choose from. The best type of warehouse shelving depends on various factors, from the layout of your warehouse to the inventory that you’ll be storing.

Warehouse shelving and racking are high-density storage systems that allow you to maximize usable space. 

Rack Shelving Systems

Racking and shelving are related storage systems. Depending on your warehouse and the kinds of inventory you store, retrieve, and distribute, you may need shelving and racking systems—these range from standard selective racking to pallet flow racking.

Aisle Width

Selective racking systems increase storage density and increase available storage space. This can also allow you to reduce the necessary aisle width, although it’s crucial to balance this against the space requirements for picking equipment; you need sufficient clearance to allow forklift operators to maneuver safely.

Boltless Shelving

One of the most cost-effective shelving options for the modern warehouse is the boltless variety. This is one of the simplest types of shelving to assemble, requiring no mechanical fasteners. In a boltless shelving system, you use a series of keyhole slots on uprights as the attachment points, inserting the rivet into the large circle and hammering it down into the narrow slot. These slots are akin to those used in door chains.

Boltless shelving is divided into two subcategories: single and double rivet.

In single-rivet boltless shelving, you insert one rivet into a slot on an upright post. The double-rivet variant uses two rivets, hence the name. The principal difference between them is that the double-rivet shelving type is that the latter variant can support considerably more weight — almost five times more.

Regardless of whether you choose single- or double-rivet boltless shelving, they are simple to assemble and secure. The weight that you lay on the shelf applies downward pressure, preventing the system from becoming loose.

Wire Shelving

Best for increasing product visibility, air circulation, and penetration by sprinkler systems, wire shelving is lightweight and low maintenance. Many wire-shelving units are stainless steel or chrome-plated alloy steel, ensuring that your shelving unit will resist corrosion. This is ideal for humid and cold-storage environments. The wire-mesh design is easy to clean and reduces weight, allowing you to maneuver or relocate the shelving system as needed. 

Heavy-Duty Steel Shelving

Steel shelving is optimal when strength and long-term durability are required. Available in various coatings and platings to protect against rust, steel shelving can support more weight than wire shelving. You can choose steel shelving in either open or closed configurations and with or without cross bracing for additional support.

Open shelving is ideal for promoting product visibility, identification, and access from multiple points. Closed shelving is more suitable for inventory that needs to be protected from free airflow and light. It can also safeguard inventory from dust accumulation.

Racking Systems

Once you have the necessary shelving systems for your warehouse, you can consider other types of warehouse storage options. Racking systems are designed to hold pallets and heavy inventory for access by forklift drivers and automated systems. The type of rack that you need will depend on several factors, such as what kind of inventory you’re storing.

Cantilever Racks

Cantilever Racks

A cantilever rack, available in either roll-formed or structural steel, uses cantilever arms on upright columns to support long, oddly-shaped, and heavy inventory. If you need to store piping, tubing, bar stock, lumber, and other awkward merchandise, consider buying a cantilever racking system.

You’ll find cantilever racks extensively in the manufacturing, construction, and timber industries.

Selective Pallet Racking

Selective pallet racking systems are the most common type of storage racks. This system allows you to select the pallet that you need by retrieving it from a specific bay. There is no automatic inventory rotation, whether electrically or gravity-driven. The racks are only a single row deep, accessible via forklift operators. Selective pallet racks are low-tech but functional.

Push-Back Racking

Push-back racking, however, is a comparatively high-density live-storage system that promotes inventory rotation using a series of nested carts set on a decline. This system operates on a LIFO (last-in, first-out) basis. When a forklift operator retrieves a pallet from the loading/unloading point, the pallet behind it slides forward on rollers, taking its place.

Mobile Shelving

Mobile shelving and racking systems, whether manually or electrically driven, run on tracks installed into the concrete flooring of your warehouse. These racking systems close aisles when not in use.

The aisles open to provide access to order pickers, whether on foot or in a vehicle. These systems increase usable floor space and reduce the heating/air conditioning costs, as there is less empty space.


Drive-in racks are designed to permit access by a forklift operator, who can drive into the system to load and retrieve pallets from specific bays. In a drive-in system, the forklift operator has to reverse to leave the system. In a drive-thru system, the forklift can retrieve the pallet and exit.

Drive-in racks use a last-in, first-out inventory management system (LIFO). This is ideal for long-term storage. However, if your product range has an expiration date, this may not be suitable.

As the forklift operator must drive in between pallet racking frames, turning to gain access to specific bays, there is an elevated risk of damage to the pallet racking system due to increased forklift traffic.

To minimize this risk, it’s essential to invest in forklift operator training and adequate protective barriers for the racking columns. Shock-absorbing column guards can reduce damage to upright columns considerably.

In addition, it’s essential that you always inspect the system periodically for damage as part of your standard safety protocols.

Safety Margins

The high-density system increases available warehouse space for other purposes and reduces the number of aisles necessary for forklift operators. The aisle clearance in relation to the storage system increases the forklift operator’s margin for error.

Forklift collisions can cause structural damage to pallet racking and shelving systems. Depending on the design, alignment, and other precautions regarding these storage systems, a collision can compromise the structural integrity of your racking system.

Used Pallet Racking

Purchasing used pallet racking systems can allow you to acquire effective storage options for your warehouse when you’re on a budget.

However, while used pallet racking can be a worthwhile investment, it’s imperative that you conduct a proper inspection before incorporating it into your warehouse. In some cases, you may have to hire an engineer or firm to conduct a detailed analysis of the racking system for potential failure points.

Contact Us for All Your Shelving Needs

At Shelving + Rack Systems, Inc., we sell shelving and racking systems to suit various warehousing requirements. These range from carton-flow racks to push-back racks and other high-density storage solutions. If you’d like to discuss our range of products with us, call us at (800) 589-7225.