Industrial Shelving Systems: What to Know Before You Buy

In a sea of options, it can be hard to find the perfect industrial shelving system. Not only do you have to consider the type of shelving, but you also need to take a full assessment of your storage needs and your environment.

If this all seems a bit overwhelming, don’t worry, we’re here to help. Below, you’ll find a quick overview of industrial steel shelving, some common options and other factors you need to know to make an informed decision.

Shelving might seem all the same to the untrained eye. But the reality is that you can find all kinds of shelving systems, and each serves a different purpose. Making the most out of your floor space means determining which type of industrial shelving is best for your facility.

Below, you’ll find some of the more common industrial metal shelving types. We’ve outlined some basic need-to-know information to get you started on the right track.

Rivet Shelving

Heavy-duty, economical and easy to install, rivet shelving is an excellent choice for many different shelving applications. If you’re looking for an affordable industrial shelving system that can stand up to heavy capacities, the solid steel frame construction of rivet shelving makes it a suitable candidate for industrial, warehouse or other storage environments.

Rivet style shelving in warehouse
Rivet shelving (pictured) is an affordable option for everything from small parts to heavy load storage.

Rivet shelving comes in a variety of wide and deep sizes, as well as decking materials. In most cases, you’ll choose between these decking choices:

  • Particle board
  • Wire decking
  • Plywood
  • Solid steel

Some advantages of rivet shelving include its limited hardware installation, price and wide range of sizes. But some argue that this type of shelving is less aesthetically pleasing than other shelving systems and lacks options for accessories and customization.

Bulk Rack Shelving

If your warehouse requires a hand-loaded shelving system, bulk rack shelving will be a great candidate. It can hold up to medium to heavy loads and is suitable for diverse inventories in any goods-to-person picking environment.

Keep in mind that you access bulk rack shelving by foot, and this type of shelving will not be the right choice for industrial storage environments utilizing forklifts. For that type of storage, pallet racking will offer more flexibility and access. You can, however, utilize bulk rack shelving:

With adjustable shelves, bulk rack shelving (pictured) can offer your facility flexibility when managing a diverse inventory.

Much like rivet shelving, bulk rack shelving consists of a steel frame and industrial storage shelves made of materials like particle board or metal decking.

Steel Shelving

It’s hard to find an environment where steel shelving wouldn’t be useful. You find this common style of shelving in warehouses, tool cribs, offices and more. While not as easy to assemble as rivet shelving, steel shelving outperforms in terms of versatility and overall load-bearing capacity.


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With a clip-style configuration, industrial storage shelves adapt to changing inventory easily. Using compression clips, you can quickly adjust shelving in one-inch increments. This makes steel shelving the perfect choice for small parts storage. Some steel shelving also comes in a nut and bolt configuration — but be aware, you’ll need tools to assemble this style. 

You’ll find a few steel shelving options:

  • Open shelving — This type is best for high-volume environments that need fast access for restocking and picking.
  • Closed shelving — If you’re dealing with sensitive items or need to manage possible contaminants, closed shelving can protect stored inventory.
  • Bin shelving Some steel industrial storage shelves feature a smooth painted surface that works perfectly for plastic bin storage.
Clip-style steel shelving (pictured) is the most common type of steel shelving on the market today.

Considerations for Design and Layout

When planning out your shelving design and layout, you should consider quite a few factors before making any decisions. Not only will an assessment of your space and needs inform you of how to set up your shelving, but it can also help you determine what type of shelving is best for your facility.

Here are a few considerations to help you make the most of your new industrial shelving system:

  • Aisle space is an important factor. Consider both the side-to-side spacing and front-to-back dimensions of your installation if you intend to use multiple rows.
  • Consider what you will store. Pay close attention to load width, depth, height and, of course, weight. 
  • Don’t forget the shelf opening size. If you are dealing with tall loads, it may mean using an easily adjustable shelving style like steel shelving.
  • Factor in shelving capacity. Each shelf will carry its own capacity requirements. For very heavy loads, you may want to reach out for professional consultation.
  • Watch the height of your shelving system. Before installation, ensure that obstructions like vents or sprinklers have proper clearance. This is especially important if you intend to store items on top of shelving units.

These are just a few of the considerations you should keep in mind when planning out your shelving system. If you need any assistance, our team of storage professionals is happy to assist you with facility layout and design.

Where to Find the Right Shelving System for Your Facility

Industrial shelving systems can help you make the most of your storage space. But keeping organized means finding the right storage system for your environment and storage needs. If you’re still in the dark about which type of shelving is best for you, reach out to East Coast Storage Equipment.We carry a large stock of different shelving types, from rivet to steel and everything in between. Our team is also more than happy to walk you through the buying process to ensure you’re getting the best shelving system for your warehouse. Reach out online today to get started.


John Yater
January 28, 2022

Nice informative article.

I know that insurance companies can be sticklers when it comes to sprinkler locations, and shelf material. For example, If sprinklers are above some of the shelves, it might be okay if you have wire shelves that would allow the water to reach the bottom.

It is a conversation that you may want to have with your insurance company before making a final decision on what shelving to buy.

Thanks for letting me join in on the conversation,
John Yater
Engineer of Material Handling Equipment
Owner of

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Paul Parisi
March 3, 2022

No problem, John. Thanks for stopping by.

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