Pallet Rack Basics: Wire Decking vs. Pallet Supports

Javier Ramirez
Updated on April 5, 2017

wire-decks-vs-pallet-supports

Pallet supports. No, wire decking. No, pallet supports. There is an argument in the industry that comes up now and again about which is better, pallet supports or wire decking. Want to know which one is correct? Well, to know the answer, you need to have all the facts.

First, it is important to note there are no specific codes requiring warehouses/distribution centers use either product except in situations where there is traffic below the racks. However, because the cost of decking and supports is minimal, why wouldn’t you invest in these products? Wire decking and pallet supports are worth the investment in terms of injuries prevented and damage to products.

The truth of the matter is pallet supports and wire decking each serves a purpose. You need to determine which product is better suited for your application. Let’s look at both and help you decide.

The case for wire decking

Look at wire decking. It is easy to understand why some warehouses incorporate decking as part of the support strategy. Steel is a strong material; and though the thickness of the wire isn’t what it used to be, it’s still required to meet industry standards for supporting a uniform distributed load including the surface of the deck over racking load beams1. In other words, the decking must support the static load of a pallet with a deflection no greater than 1.5 times the rated capacity and at two times the capacity that is sustained for five minutes.

This may sound as if it’s all right to use wire decking as a support mechanism. However, this standard offers safety protection guidelines, not support.

There are two main reasons to use wire decking:

1. Allows for the storage of open and split cases
2. Keeps loose items from falling, preventing damage to other parts or injuring workers

A third potential reason is additional safety when it comes to fire danger. Plywood sheets were/are sometimes used as a substitute for wire decking. While plywood also helps in preventing loose items from falling, it also serves as fuel in the event of a fire. Wire decking on the other hand, won’t add to the flames. It will however, allow water from sprinklers to pass through the racking, aiding in knocking down fire.

There are several “types” of wire decking including:

• Inverted flange (a common type that works well with step/b ox style rack beams – it also prevents debris from collecting inside the support channel)
• Flush flat (the deck is flush with the top of the rack beams)
• Waterfall (support channels rest on the “steps” of the rack beams while the “waterfall” wraps around the top)

What about pallet supports?

Pallets are generally made using a basic uniform design and strength. That design however, does not remain static like its load. Use, abuse and type of loads all affect how the pallet performs. In other words, there is always a need for additional support to prevent issues. These supports work best with pallets of uniform size.

Pallet supports like wire decking are not intended to provide added strength to the rack system, allowing for increased load weight. The goal is maintaining the structural integrity of pallets in the rack by minimizing the amount of deflection while supporting the bottom of the pallet to prevent it from falling between the beams.

Most pallet supports are metal and come in four main designs:

• Bolt in (as the name implies, the crossbeam is bolted to structural beams)
• Drop in (placed inside the “step” of the rack beam)
• Snap in (for slotted beams)
• Drop over (also place inside the “step” but has a flange that waterfalls over the beam and holds the support in place)

Financial considerations

We mentioned earlier that both products (wire decking and pallet supports) are quite affordable. Pallet supports tend to cost less than wire decking. Because the two represent such a small fraction of the operations cost, it is not unusual to find situations where some operators use both on their racks.

Are pallet supports better than wire decking? Does it make sense to consider using both? As always, it depends upon your application. An experienced professional who specializes in pallet racks can help. Contact us today.

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