Warehouse Storage 101: Your Guide to Pallet Rack Shelving

Pallet Rack Shelving

Pallet rack shelving is one of the most important additions you can make to modern warehouses and distribution centers. The primary difference between a commercial racking system and a standard shelving system is that pallet racks are designed to be used with materials on pallets, accessed by forklift trucks and pallet jacks.

Depending on the particular design and configuration, you can use pallet racks to store various goods, varying in weight and size in your storage facility.

When deciding on the types of industrial pallet racks systems you want to buy for your facility, you’ll need to balance storage capacity, weight capacity, cost, environmental protection, and ease of assembly.

Benefits of Using Pallet Rack Shelving

There are numerous benefits to using pallet rack shelving to organize your warehouse, including:

Taking control of your warehouse space

As a warehouse manager, you know that space is at a premium. Pallet rack shelving is a vertical space storage solution designed to help you optimize your use of the available storage areas. Many customers can obtain 25%-65% more storage capacity by reviewing storage options using a different type of pallet racking system.

From used pallet racking to custom solutions, it’s essential to find the perfect configuration to suit the unique needs of your warehouse layout.

Easier order fulfillment

Pallet racking efficiently organizes your warehouse space and inventory to make picking and order fulfillment fast and easy. Coding and labeling rows and columns with related SKUs allocated to a specific level of the racking system allows for easy product recognition and can even be adapted to suit automated storage and retrieval systems.

Easy expansion

The goal of most businesses is growth, but the additional storage needs can put a strain on operations if your inventory isn’t organized correctly. Warehouse pallet racking comes in modular designs that can expand vertically and horizontally to accommodate your new goods.

Popular Styles of Pallet Racking Systems and Components

There is a wide range of pallet rack systems available. The system you choose depends on:

  • The kind of inventory you intend to store
  • How do you plan to retrieve the stock (do you need forklift aisles?)
  • Storage density of your merchandise
  • If you need drive-through racking
  • Vertical spacing and ceiling height
  • The entire warehouse layout.

Some common styles of pallet racks range from standard single-deep units to more complex flow racking systems. Shelving + Rack System, Inc. stocks a wide variety of pallet racking systems, including:

Selective pallet racks

Selective pallet racks are one of the most popular types of pallet rack systems. They are typically single deep units that allow forklift operators to retrieve and store pallets without moving other pallets in the system. They can be made from roll formed or structural steel. However, structural pallet rack systems are fully welded and offer a higher shelf capacity.

Cantilever racking

Cantilever racks are specific for use with horizontal inventory items that are awkwardly shaped and heavy, such as piping or tubing, bar stock, rods, and lumber. These systems do not use decking but rely on angled horizontal arms to secure goods that allow easy access for material handling equipment like lift trucks.

Teardrop pallet racks

Teardrop pallet racks are easy to assemble, disassemble, and adjust. The uprights use a teardrop design for the slots. The shelves contain rivets that fit snugly into these teardrop holes, locking into place. As upward movement is necessary to unlock the shelf from the upright, there is little risk of detaching the shelving system.

Drive-in and drive-through racks

Warehouse pallet racking often requires a type of drive-in rack system. You need to plan for forklift aisles wide enough to avoid damage to racks. Aisles that are too narrow are safety hazards for operators also.

Pallet Flow Rack

Pallet flow racks

Pallet flow racks are a type of system that uses gravity to move palletized inventory from the rear of the unit to the picking area at the front. Pallet flow racking systems feature rollers and brakes to control inventory flow. They are an excellent choice for facilities with a high inventory turnover or warehouses that use a first-in-first-out (FIFO) management system.

Galvanized rust-proof pallet racking

High-carbon and alloy-steel pallet racking systems can rust in humid environments and require rust-protective coatings or platings. One of the most cost-effective options is galvanizing, a type of zinc coating. The steel part is submerged in a bath of molten zinc, which then cools and hardens.

Galvanizing is one of several protective coatings or platings available to ensure your pallet racking system remains functional and safe for years.

Pallet Rack Components

The shelf capacity and overall system load capacity depend on the components used. The closer the beam spacing, the more weight the system’s frame can hold. The more upright columns a system has, the higher the overall load capacity.

Pallet rack upright frames

The upright frames, also called upright columns, are designed to support horizontal load beams. The upright frames are located at the end of each pallet row and determine the system’s height.

Pallet rack beams

A pallet racking beam is the horizontal steel rails that connect the upright frames, supporting palletized inventory. A pallet racking beam also determines the width of the pallet racking system. The beams and vertical frames are also used to calculate the weight capacity of the system.

Pallet supports

Although pallet racking systems are designed to fit the precise dimensions of a standard U.S. pallet, warehouses stocking inventory from international locations may receive pallets of different sizes.

European, Asian, and Australian pallets differ by several inches in length and width. Pallet supports fit between the front and rear beams to provide additional stability for heavier loads and non-standard pallets.


Pallet bracing are support components that run between the upright columns and increase the unit’s stability, rigidity, and structural integrity. There are horizontal and diagonal braces. Braces are typically used to reduce damage due to impact from forklift trucks and other mechanical picking equipment.

Decking Options for Pallet Racks

The decking acts as a safety layer, ensuring that incorrectly placed pallets don’t fall between the load beams, preventing injury and damage to inventory. However, there are various types of decking you can install.

In addition to protecting your pallets, decking allows you to store a more diverse range of goods, including boxes that are not wide enough to lie on load beams.

Plywood or particleboard

Plywood can serve as decking. This can be a cost-effective option if you already have access to wooden planks or can cut them to length. However, wood is also flammable and may not provide the necessary strength to support the inventory that you intend to store.

Wood can crack, deteriorate from exposure to moisture, and is susceptible to insect damage. If you only need temporary decking or decking for lightweight items, wood can fulfill this role. For long-term and heavy-duty use, consider an alternative option like wire.

Wire mesh

If you need a type of decking for ventilation, wire decking lays over the pallet rack’s support beams, providing a metal mesh layer for added safety. Wire mesh decking can prevent inventory from falling through to the ground and, unlike wooden or timber decking, is not susceptible to fire hazards.

Wire mesh decking promotes air circulation and allows sprinkler systems to access every part of the rack. As a result, wire decks are also more likely to meet fire-code compliance standards.

Pallet Racking Accessories

Shelving + Rack Systems, Inc. also has pallet rack accessories you can buy to enhance the unit’s functionality and safety.

Column protectors

Column protectors are shields that protect the uprights against the chances of damage from forklifts and other material-handling equipment. A forklift collision can damage the frame, increasing the risk of system collapse.

Foot plates

Also called base plates, foot plates are located at the base of each upright and may be part of the upright or a separate component. This part increases the surface area on which the upright rests and has a hole for bolting the plate to the floor, necessary for proper anchoring.

Row spacers

If you have two pallet racks positioned back to back, a row spacer can connect the two, attaching directly to the uprights. Row spacers can set the spacing between them while also increasing the stability and strength of the two systems.

Pallet racks safety panels and nets

Rigid industry-standard safety panels and pliable nets add another layer of safety protection to a pallet rack, ensuring that inventory won’t fall out. This not only protects your merchandise from damage, but it also protects your workers from falling debris, reducing the risk of serious injury and the incidence of workplace accidents.

Selecting Your Pallet Rack Frame

When choosing your industrial shelving and pallet rack system, determine the parameters you need regarding the frame to find the ideal solution for your facility. These include the following points.

Pallet rack frame height

The height of the pallet racking system frame depends on, first, the clear height of your warehouse. The clear height is the distance between the floor and the lowest point of the ceiling, such as light fixtures or sprinkler systems. This distance determines the maximum height of your racking system.

The second consideration must be the maximum height your forklifts or other material-handling equipment can access pallets.

Pallet rack frame depth

The depth of your pallet racking system will depend on the types of pallets that you need to store. Standard pallets are 48” deep and 40” wide. You’ll also need to account for the required appropriate overhang. This distance should not exceed 3” on either side.

Pallet Rack Shelving Solutions

At Shelving + Rack Systems, Inc., we specialize in supplying various storage solutions for your storage facility. One of the most essential storage systems for the warehouse is the pallet rack, which allows loading, storage, and retrieval of palletized inventory using material-handling equipment.

Contact a sales representative to get a quote. We offer free consultation services. Our customer service representatives can discuss the types and configuration options most suitable for your storage space.


Do pallet racks have to be anchored?

Anchoring is the process of securing the pallet rack to the floor, ensuring it remains rigid and stable, reducing flexion. Anchoring requires the use of bolts and foot plates.

How do you determine the capacity of a pallet rack?

The simplest way to calculate the weight capacity of a pallet rack is to consult the manufacturer regarding the complete system and parts. The weight capacity of beams, for example, depends on length, gauge, material, and other factors.

The best option is to have the manufacturer or a seismic engineer evaluate the pallet rack, including the assembly procedure.

What is selective pallet racking?

A selective pallet racking system allows an order picker to select and retrieve any pallet located on the rack. There’s no need to move another pallet to access the desired item. Most pallet racking systems in use in warehouses are selective.