There are seven key components to a basic pallet rack system. A basic pallet rack system is sometimes referred to as selective rack. Selective rack offers the greatest selectivity because each and every pallet is available to the forklift operator at all times. This isn't true for more advanced types of pallet rack such as push-back rack, or drive-in pallet rack.

The basic components of a selective rack system are:

  1. Uprights
  2. Beams
  3. Wire decking (or pallet supports)
  4. Row spacers
  5. Concrete anchors
  6. Post protectors
  7. Rack back

A Basic Pallet Rack Setup

A bay of pallet rack consists of the following three components:

One bay of pallet rackA basic pallet rack setup "adder bay"

1. Uprights consist of a vertical column with horizontal bracing that is welded or bolted together. A minimum of two uprights must be ordered to form a starter bay. Uprights typically come in depth of 36", 42" or 48". 42"D is ideal for a standard GMA pallet as it provide the most reinforcement for the pallet itself. Standard colors for pallet rack uprights are typically blue or green.

2. Beams are the heart of the rack system. They bear the downward force of the material being stored. Standard colors are either orange or yellow. Typical sizes are: 96", 108", 120" and 144". Beams tend to be sold individually and you need to order two beams per shelf level you'd like to create. 

3. Wire Decking keeps product from falling through the shelf levels and does support the pallet. Although, they are typically only meant to bear about 50% of the weight of a pallet, so if you have a shelf level that is rated at 5,000 lbs capacity. You can typically utilize a wire decking with a rating of 1,900 lbs to 2,500 lbs. Wire decking tends to be sold individually and you need two wire decks per shelf level. A quick rule of thumb is to order as many wire decks are you order beams.

A secondary option is to utilize pallet supports in lieu of wire decking. Pallet supports typically offer a cheaper price point as they don't provide the protection wire decking provides. They are also a better fit in heavy industrial situations as wire decking tends to get beaten up by very large, heavy pallets. You typically utilize 4 pallet supports per shelf level or 2x the number of beams.

pallet supportA pallet support

Pallet Rack Safety

4. Row Spacers

The two final components of a basic pallet rack system are row spacers and concrete anchors. These are both safety tools. 

Row spacers connect two runs of pallet rack. This is important because it ensures two things happen. First, it ensures there is space between the pallet in one row and the pallet in the next row. This allows sprinklers to reach down in between shelf levels in the event of a fire. Second, it keeps the ratio of height to depth low. If you have really tall uprights and a skinny base they are prone to falling over. When you connect two runs of pallet rack, you increase the stability of the system by effectively increasing the width at the base of the rack.

We recommend you utilize a row spacer every 75". So, if you're uprights are 16'H, you should utilize two row spacers to connect the two uprights - one at 76"H and the other at 150"H.


5. Concrete Anchors

Similar to row spacers, concrete anchors help ensure that your pallet rack system won't fall over or collapse. It is recommended that you use one anchor per foot, or two per upright. The standard anchor is going to be 3-3/4" although a 20'H pallet rack system might require something more substantial like a 5" or 6" anchor.


6. Post Protectors

Post protectors stop a forklift from damaging an upright. At $15 to $20/ea, they are a great return on your investment, since it could cost a few hundred dollars to repair a damaged upright or even more if you decide to not repair the upright and your system fails.

When buying post protectors you want to make sure you get enough anchors to secure them to the floor and you buy post protectors wide enough to fit around the base plate of your rack. A post protector that is 3"W won't fit well on an upright with a 5"W base plate as the holes to secure the post protector will fall right in the middle of the base plate.


7. Rack Back

Rack back is a wire mesh panel that attaches to the back of pallet rack and stops pallets and product from falling out of the rack. It can also be used to keep pallets from hitting sensitive structural components (walls in a cold storage facility) or expensive fire suppression systems. Typically comes as a panel that is the same width as the beams utilized to make the bay of rack. So, if you have 8' beams, you'll want to look for an 8'W rack back panel.

rack back for pallet rack

A rack back panel

How to Pull it All Together

Now that you know the basic components of a rack system, there is some industry terminology that be helpful to understand. 

Starter Bay: A starter bay of pallet rack consists of two uprights and a number of shelf levels. So, if you're looking to build a starter bay with 2 shelf levels you'll need 2 uprights, 4 beams (2 beams x 2 shelf levels = 4 beams total) and 4 wire decks (no. of wire decks = no. of beams).

Adder Bay: In an adder bay the additional beams connects to the last upright on on the starter bay to create a run. Because the adder bay adds to the starter bay, this only one upright in an adder bay. So, if you're looking to build an adder bay with 2 shelf levels you'll need 1 upright, 4 beams (2 beams x 2 shelf levels = 4 beams total) and 4 wire decks (no. of wire decks = no. of beams).

Run of Rack: A run or row of pallet rack is when you combine an adder bay with a starter bay. There can be a single starter bay and 10 adder bays or one adder bay. It depends entirely upon your needs and your space.

Back-to-Back Run: A back-to-back run is just two runs of pallet rack that run parallel to each other and are connected by row spacers. 


In the end, while pallet rack can seem confusing when you first begin, there are really only seven components (uprights, beams, wire decking (or pallet supports), row spacers, concrete anchors, post protectors and rack back) that go in to any pallet rack system. 

Pallet rackPallet rack beamsPallet rack uprightsPallet supportRack safetyWarehouse designWarehouse rackWire decking