If you manage a warehouse, it’s critical to balance safety, storage capacity, and picking efficiency when ordering or designing pallet rack systems. While you can place pallets directly on horizontal rack beams, improper pallet alignment can compromise the safety of your personnel and inventory.
To minimize the risks associated with direct pallet storage, you can install different types of decking.
What is Decking?
Decking provides a continuous, level surface between pallet rack beams on which you can load palletized merchandise for secure storage. Decking can also increase the versatility of your pallet racks, enabling you to store cartons and other small items.
The deck surface can vary significantly between types but must have sufficient strength for use with forklift trucks.
There is a vast range of pallet rack decking options available. Here’s our guide to the various decking types and how to use them.
Wire Mesh Decking
Wire mesh decking is the most common type used in warehouse storage systems. It balances durability, cost, and safety while accommodating a range of cartons and pallets.
Our wire decks consist of multiple steel wire strands welded to support channels, which provide additional strength. These support channels run perpendicular to the main pallet racking cross beams. Depending on the design, wire, channel gauge, and material, pallet rack wire decking can support several tons.
Welded wire decking
Our wire decking, manufactured by Nashville Wire Products, is compatible with a variety of racking systems on the market and has 14-gauge support channels for increased stability. Not only is this type of decking fire-resistant, but the spaces between the wire strands are wide enough for sprinkler water to penetrate, reaching lower rack levels.
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”.
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 up to 4,000 lbs. or more, depending on the gauge used.
Solid steel decking is incredibly strong and can securely hold objects of all sizes. If you are storing differently sized boxes or containers and loose items, solid steel decking may be the best option for your warehouse.
One major strength of solid steel decking is that it can effectively contain leaks from boxes or pallets stored on top. Solid steel with raised edges may be optimal for storing liquids, especially in environments where spills can cause slip and fall hazards.
However, solid steel can also interfere with the ability of overhead sprinkler systems to extinguish rack fires, as water is unable to penetrate the metal panels. This can cause solid steel to become non-compliant with fire codes.
Perforated steel decking consists of solid steel panels with holes, permitting air and water flow. This reduces the weight of the decking sections and increases fire-code compliance.
The size of the holes in the perforated steel vary and may not sit flush to the panel surface. Since objects can become snagged on the openings, this decking choice may be unsuitable for use with fabrics and other fragile goods.
Perforated steel rack decking
We offer perforated steel rack decking, courtesy of Little Giant, for warehouses that need the strength and support of solid steel and the fire safety of wire mesh. The 14-gauge steel surface has a powder-coated finish for resistance to rust and abrasion, and the holes are 1” in diameter.
The reinforced channels are 12-gauge and provide extra support. Each perforated steel panel can support up to 3,000 lbs.
Steel Pallet Supports
Steel pallet supports are beams that run perpendicular to the existing horizontal racking beams. Steel pallet supports are shaped to hook over the racking beams, which helps them stay securely in place with minimal need for nuts, bolts, or other fasteners.
These accessories can support loads up to 2,000 lbs. each, making them a good option for storing furniture, heavy machinery, or automotive parts. You can also place the supports under wire mesh racking for additional reinforcement. It’s important to remember that reinforcement doesn’t compensate for low weight capacity.
Carton or Pallet Flow
Carton flow decking, also known as gravity-flow or gravity-assisted decking, has small rollers or wheels that allow boxes to move easily from the rear loading face to the front picking face. The decking is installed at a slight angle to allow boxes to flow with minimal effort. This is perfect for first-in-first-out (FIFO) applications.
Unlike carton flow decking, 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 heavy-duty polycarbonate or powder-coated steel, depending on the intended weight limit. Since rack load limits can vary considerably, facility managers must ensure employees store pallets and cartons on the correct racks.
Timber and Particleboard Decking
Pallet deck racking made of composite wood or particleboard is ideal for lightweight storage. It’s relatively 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. The composite structure is prone to rotting and warping when exposed to moisture.
Wood decking can also be a fire hazard and may not comply with fire regulations. Before investing in this type, you’ll need to verify whether your facility can use plywood or particleboard.
It’s also not advisable to use wood or particleboard for bulk pallet storage, 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 correct decking for your facility depends on carton and pallet load requirements and weight limits. Since pallet racking can be a significant investment, it’s essential to budget for the best quality system possible.
If your racking system collapses, this can result in serious injuries to personnel, prolonged downtime, and expensive cleanup. It’s important not to exceed the load capacities of your racking systems — decking won’t compensate for overloading.
While you can reconfigure your decking later, depending on the needs of your business, unloading racks and installing new decking can be a logistical challenge. In a busy warehouse, unloading racks and replacing decking can cause delays or downtime, reducing productivity.
Therefore, it is best to invest in high-quality, multi-purpose decking from the beginning. Unless you’re storing bulky and cumbersome furniture or pallets, wire decking is an excellent all-around 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 regularly.
Used Pallet Rack Decking
Once you decide on the type of decking you need, consider used decking to strike a balance between safety and cost. When sourced from a reputable racking supplier, used decking is refurbished to like-new condition.
You should thoroughly inspect any used decking before installing it. Any signs of damage or missing parts can significantly compromise the weight capacity of the racking system. However, if you purchase it from a reputable supplier, you’ll find that it’s as strong and dependable as factory-new decking.
Consult SRS-I to Find the Best Decking Solutions for Your Warehouse
At Shelving + Rack Systems, Inc., we offer a wide variety of decking for sale to ensure your inventory items remain safe and secure. Give us a call at (800) 589-7225 to discuss the best types of decking for your specific warehousing needs.