Warehouses and distribution centers must maintain a balance of affordability and safety when designing pallet rack systems. Racking must provide adequate storage capacity without unnecessarily slowing down staff operations, creating complex engineering needs that vary from building to building.
It’s possible to place large pallets directly onto pallet rack beams, but this creates potential safety issues if a pallet is incorrectly aligned. Decking is designed to connect two step beams or crossbeams, providing a secure and stable surface for placing goods.
The deck surface does not have to be perfectly smooth, but it does have to be level and strong enough to use with forklifts or other picking equipment.
There is a vast range of pallet rack decking options available, but some have low weight limits or other potential problems. Here’s our guide to various decking types and how to use them appropriately.
Wire Mesh Decking
Wire mesh is the most common type of decking for warehouse storage systems. It balances durability, cost, and safety considerations while accommodating a broad range of cartons and pallets.
Wire mesh starts with support channels, which provide additional strength to the overall mesh. These support channels run perpendicular to the main pallet racking crossbeams. Although the wire mesh is not appropriate for very heavy objects with narrow feet, this mesh can store over 1,000 lbs. when supported properly.
Pallet rack wire decking is also compliant with fire safety regulations. Not only is it fire-resistant, but the holes are wide enough for water or a fire suppression system to get through, allowing water sprinkler systems to reach lower levels of the racking.
Bar grating is similar to wire mesh but has solid metal covering the cross-beams and uses thicker strips of steel instead of wire. The exact thickness of the grating varies but is typically around 1” thick.
Bar grating can support heavier point loads than wire mesh, so it’s ideal for storing bulky, oversized objects with narrow feet. A single section of bar grating can support 4,000 lbs. or more, depending on the exact gauge of the steel used.
Solid steel decking is incredibly strong and can securely hold objects of all sizes. If you are storing irregularly-sized boxes or containers with small objects, solid steel may be the right option for your warehouse.
One major strength of solid steel is that it contains leaks from boxes or pallets stored on top. Solid steel with raised edges may be an appropriate decking choice for liquids storage, especially in areas where spilled liquid could cause a slip and fall hazard.
However, solid steel usually causes issues with local fire codes because water can’t get through it, making your sprinkler systems less effective in the event of a fire.
Perforated steel is a solid steel panel with holes punched through it to allow water to flow through. This makes the decking lighter and more likely to comply with local fire codes without significantly compromising overall strength.
The size of the holes in perforated steel vary, and may not sit flush to the panel surface. Objects may get snagged in the openings, meaning that this pallet rack decking may be unsuitable for fabrics or other fragile goods.
Steel Pallet Supports
Steel pallet supports are long, plain beams that run perpendicular to and connect the existing racking beams. They are shaped to hook over the racking beams, which helps them stay securely in place with minimal reliance on nuts and bolts.
Pallet supports can support loads of up to 2,000 lbs. each, making them a good option for storing furniture or metal machinery. They are also great for placing underneath wire mesh racking for additional reinforcement.
However, pairing steel supports with the right mesh takes careful consideration of bolt and other fastener placement on the crossbeam as well as general weight limit concerns. Steel support reinforcement matters little if the wire mesh is weak and not designed for high weight limits.
Carton or Pallet Flow
Carton flow decking, also known as gravity flow decking, has small rollers or wheels that allow boxes to move easily. This decking is installed at a slight angle to allow boxes to flow with minimal effort from staff. This is perfect for first-in-first-out (FIFO) applications where boxes are loaded at the back of the racking.
Unlike carton flow, pallet flow decking is less solid and puts more of the pallet’s weight on just two beams containing large wheels. Pallet flow decking is more affordable than carton flow decking, so it’s worth investigating as an option for pallets if you are on a budget.
The bars supporting the carton or pallet are made of stainless steel, while the wheels or rollers may be made of heavy-duty polycarbonate or powder-coated steel depending on the intended weight limit. Since rack load limits can vary widely, facility managers must be careful to make sure employees always store pallets and cartons on the correct racks.
Timber or Particle Board Decking
Pallet deck racking made of composite wood or particle board is ideal for lightweight storage. It’s inexpensive and easy to shape to fit a variety of pallet racks. By using timber planks with spacing between them, your sprinkler systems can still reach all levels of the decking in the event of a fire.
Particleboard decking is the most cost-effective system, but it is only suitable for use in cool, dry facilities as the composite structure is prone to rotting and warping with moisture.
Wood decking can also be a fire hazard and may not comply with local fire code regulations. You’ll need to check carefully to make sure your facility is allowed to use plywood or particle board before investing in this option.
It’s also not a wise option for storing entire pallets of goods, especially if your facility uses forklifts. Wood is more vulnerable to damage than steel, so it may not be the right choice for facilities with heavy picking equipment.
Choosing the Right Decking
The right decking for your facility depends mostly on carton and pallet load requirements and weight limits. Since pallet racking is an important investment, budget, and buy the best quality system possible. Any safety hazards that result in the racking collapsing or damaging property could result in serious injuries to your staff and disruption to your operations.
While you can reconfigure your decking later if your business needs change, unloading racks and installing new decking can be a significant logistical hassle. It could potentially slow down your operations for days, especially if your facility is large and the decking can’t be replaced in one day.
The best choice is to invest in high-quality, multi-purpose decking initially. Unless you’re storing very heavy furniture or pallets, wire decking is an excellent all-round option, but it doesn’t make your goods any easier to move.
Pallet or carton flow decking is a better option for distribution centers where cartons or pallets must be moved around on a regular basis.
Used Pallet Rack Decking
Once you decide on the type of decking you need, consider used decking to balance safety and cost. Used decking from a reputable racking expert is refurbished to like-new condition, with any dents or scratches repaired.
You should thoroughly inspect any used decking before installing it. Any dents or missing parts can significantly compromise the weight capacity of the racking system. However, if you’ve bought it from a reputable dealer, you’ll find that it’s just as strong and dependable as new decking.
Let SRS-i Outfit Your Warehouse with Quality Decking
Your warehouse’s needs are unique, and you deserve expert assistance from a team that knows the ins and outs of warehouse racking. At Shelving & Rack Systems, Inc., our team brings together engineering and operational knowledge to improve your facility’s safety and help it run more smoothly.