How to Plan Your Pallet Rack Storage Area

How to Plan Your Pallet Rack Storage Area

Whether your pallet rack storage area is large or small, a big box warehouse in the hundreds of thousands of square feet, your own garage at home, or anything in between, we all want to make the most out of the space we are given. For today’s purpose, let’s take an example of a fair sized industrial storage area where we are trying to maximize storage efficiency and squeeze as much out of every cubic foot that we can. Obvious questions that need to be answered before moving ahead with your design:
  1. What are the actual dimensions or footprint of the usable square feet in your storage area? Let’s assume the dimensions are 50’ wide x 100’ long, or 5000 sq ft.
    • Be as accurate as possible when taking dimensions as even being a ¼” short can create big problems if you have more rack width than you have floor space.
    • Be sure to make allowance for curbs, building columns, pipes, ducting or fixtures that cannot be moved that may be protruding from the walls or floor.
Don’t be tempted into thinking, “I’ll just use a bigger hammer.” Walls and curbing typically don’t move without a major fight or unintended consequences.
  1. Identify any openings, such as doors, windows, vents or other obstructions. Note any fixtures such as lights, outlets, electrical panels, or switches and plan accordingly. Make note of these on your drawing so they do not interfere with the safe and efficient operation of the rack.
  2. Look Up!!! Make sure you have adequate head room above the rack to safely store material on the top shelf and still stay sufficiently below the ceiling or roof joist level. What is your clear height from floor to the lowest part of your ceiling? If you have an overhead fire suppression or sprinkler system, check with the local Fire Authority to make sure the top of your stored product is below the required distance according to fire codes. (Often times that will be about 18-24 inches).
  3. After identifying all of the above, along with any other special conditions, using a piece of graph paper or computer software, determine the areas that are available to place the storage racking and how it will complement your flow of material or handling preferences.
  4. Identify the type of material you wish to store on the rack. Measure the size concerning height, width, and depth and consider the combined weight that you plan on putting on each beam level.
  5. Shop for the product that best suits your needs.
    • For pallet storage, a typical 42” deep rack allows for 3 inches of overhang on both the front and back of the storage rack. A standard GMA pallet is 40” wide x 48” deep. Two of this size pallet fits nicely on a 96” wide horizontal beam, allowing a 4” clearance on each end and a comfortable space between the 2 pallets of 8”. Depending on the experience of the equipment operators, the spacing can be reduced and a shorter beam can be used. The 96” beam is among the more popular sizes, but most manufacturers will make special sizes if the order is large enough. Used product is often available in different sizes to fit applications where less common beam sizes are needed.
    • Check with your local building department for heights in excess of 8’. Some areas of the country require permits for racking systems in excess of 6’ while other areas do not require permits for racking of any size. Some areas of the country deal with seismic conditions requiring engineering for the safest installations.
    • If you are choosing to install the material yourself rather than hire a local professional, there are several things you will need to know. As a precaution, you will want to verify that your floor surface will hold the weight of whatever you are placing on it. Concrete or steel would be preferable surfaces to affix rack systems to, yet other surfaces can work with the proper preparations, ie wood, asphalt, etc. (We’ll save this for another article)
OK, now onto the physical layout:
  1. Using a chalk line, mark the area where it makes the most sense to place your rack. If there is any component assembly required, do that first, as it will make things much easier during installation.
  1. Place the uprights along the chalk line and proceed to install beams, pallet supports or wire deck at the levels that match the needs you have previously determined for both size and weight requirements.

It is recommended that all pallet rack uprights be anchored to the floor surface with an appropriate anchor to avoid movement or tipping. Most pallet rack uprights will have a suitable footplate designed for their approved use by the manufacturer.

Most of the layout involved in any installation will revolve around common sense and awareness for the safety of those who will be working around the storage rack and the surrounding area. A good rule of thumb is to always use a manufacturer who has a solid reputation or a rack design that has been proven. Inspecting the welds on used material can help in avoiding failure in the future once the pallet rack is loaded.

All racks are not the same and buying a rack that is a little over designed for your needs is not a bad idea. Even the right rack in the wrong application may save money initially, but could be the most expensive investment you ever make if it fails prematurely. Good luck on your layout and installation.

And enjoy the extra space!! I hear it’s the final frontier??