The Importance of Good Steel in Industrial Shelving

Metal Shelving for Warehouses

Steel is a hard and strong metal alloy consisting of iron and carbon. Most steels also contain at least one additional alloying element, such as chromium, to improve flexibility or increase corrosion resistance.

Modern industry uses steel alloys extensively to manufacture everything from machines and automobiles to ships, aircraft, skyscrapers, and bridges. Steel is also used in the production of pallet racking and industrial metal shelving that require impact resistance, high weight capacity, and rigidity.

Regardless of whether you need to store delicate items, such as consumer electronics or heavy engine and airplane parts, steel shelving is a versatile and cost-effective material for storage systems.

Benefits of Steel Shelving

In the warehousing industry, shelving and racking systems are commonly made from steel alloys because they’re strong, tough, relatively inexpensive (depending on the alloy), and readily available.

In warehouses where forklift traffic is high, welded or bolted structural steel racking increases impact resistance and weight capacity. When you need to reduce wear and tear, steel is the material of choice.

Part of the cost of steel shelving and racking systems is shipping. Steel alloys are heavier than other materials, such as aluminum and titanium. How shelving units and racks are assembled also affects the weight. You’ll need to take these factors into account when ordering the systems you need.

Types of Steel

There are a variety of steel alloys used in the production of finished goods, including industrial shelving and racking systems. There are numerous steel classes, but some of the most common types of steel include:

Carbon steels

While carbon steel is sometimes used to refer to any steel alloy that is not stainless, it does have a technical definition. Whether steel is considered a carbon steel depends on its lack of other specified alloying elements.

Low-, medium-, high-, and ultra-high carbon steels are subcategories based on carbon percentage. For example, low-carbon steel has at least 0.30% carbon, whereas, in high-carbon steel, this percentage increases to as much as 1%. As the carbon content increases, the steel becomes harder and stronger but less ductile.

Most steels produced are either carbon steels or alloy steels, and most shelving units and storage racks are composed of carbon- or alloy-steel components.

Alloy steels

While steel is, by definition, an alloy, alloy steels are a group in which alloying elements comprise at least 5% of the metal’s composition. Common alloying elements used in steels include manganese, molybdenum, titanium, tungsten, and vanadium, altering the steel’s mechanical properties differently.

Alloy steels are used extensively in the aerospace and defense industries in the production of vehicles and weapons systems.

Stainless steels

Stainless steels are a group of steel alloys in which the chromium content is at least 11%. Stainless steels are used for applications where corrosion resistance and ease of cleaning are paramount, as the chromium content prevents the iron from rusting. You often find stainless steel used for industrial shelving for hospitality or food manufacturing applications.

Corrosion Resistance

When stainless steel is inappropriate for a particular application, whether due to its cost or material properties, it’s necessary to find ways to increase the corrosion resistance of carbon and alloy steels.

Corrosion-resistant finishes are especially important if your shelving or racking system is located outdoors or in a humid environment. For example, in freezers, where condensation is high, a rust-proof finish is critical.

Steel Finishes

Shelving and racking manufacturers apply several different surface treatments and coatings to colorize steel components and protect them against rust. These include powder coating and galvanizing.

Powder coating

Unlike traditional liquid paint, powder coating consists of a dry powder composed of thermoset or thermoplastic polymer particles. The powder coater applies this powder using an electrostatic charge and cures it with heat or UV radiation. Powder coating is tough, thick, and available in a variety of colors.


Among these finish options, galvanizing is one of the most popular due to its cost. When steel is galvanized, the metal finisher submerges the components in a zinc bath. The resulting coating protects the steel surface against abrasion and corrosion. Galvanized steel is used in the automotive, construction, and warehousing industries.

When any of these coatings crack, chip, or flake off, it’s necessary to replace them as soon as possible.

Types of Shelving

Industrial steel shelving

There are several types of industrial steel shelving available to warehouse managers seeking to increase their storage capacity. Some examples include:

Rivet shelving

Rivet shelving is another name for boltless shelving. These shelving units are easy to assemble and install because they don’t use nuts, bolts, clips, or other fasteners. Instead, you’ll connect rivets to posts using teardrop-shaped holes. The only tool you’ll need is a rubber mallet to hammer the components securely into place.

Our high-capacity rivet shelving made byTennsco, is perfect for heavy-duty storage applications. If you need space for heavier or larger items, such as steel dies, metal stock, and automotive parts, each 16-gauge steel shelf can support up to 4,000 lbs. — two tons — when the weight is uniformly distributed. Each unit has five shelves, adjustable in 1½” increments, for a maximum weight capacity of 13,000 lbs. The semi-boltless design uses double rivets, which attach shelf supports to 14-gauge posts via keyholes.

Heavy-duty roll-out shelving

Roll-out shelving systems are designed to easily store heavy equipment on shelves that roll out to load and unload. You can use this system in conjunction with forklift trucks, hoists, or cranes.

Our roll-out shelving, made by Vestil, offers a total capacity of 6,000 lbs. Each 10-gauge shelf has a weight capacity of 1,500 lbs. and can extend up to 20”, one at a time. While the top shelf is fixed in place, you can adjust the height of individual shelves on 2⅜” centers.

For a tough, corrosion-resistant finish, Vestil applies a baked-on powder coating.

Wire shelving

If you need increased product visibility and to promote air circulation, the open design of wire shelving is ideal. Our heavy-duty chrome wire shelving, manufactured by Quantum Storage Systems, offers a relatively high weight capacity at 800 lbs. per shelf. This strength derives from the welded-wire construction and architectural wire-truss supports.

In addition, the chrome finish protects the steel wire strands against corrosion, allowing you to use these units safely in cold and wet environments. If you need to add mobility to your shelving unit, polyurethane casters are available as an accessory. This allows you to relocate your wire shelving unit to where it’s needed without having to unload it.

Shelves with storage bins

Shelving systems with storage bins are useful for storing small, delicate, or easily lost items in an organized way for efficient retrieval. Manufactured by Lewis Bins, this unit features thirteen 20-gauge steel shelves and a capacity of up to 96 bins. Durable and assembled using nuts and bolts, these shelving systems are sure to last.

Shelving + Rack Systems Uses the Best Steel Products

At Shelving + Rack Systems, Inc., we sell storage solutions incorporating high-quality steel for long-term strength and durability, featuring different load capacities, corrosion-resistant finishes, and assembly methods.

If you need lightweight, medium-, or heavy-duty steel shelving or racking for your warehouse, give us a call at (800) 589-7225. We’re happy to discuss your options and our inventory with you to find the best system for your needs.