Searching for a warehouse space? Consider your pallet racking

Whether you are looking for a commercial building to lease or considering building your own, you want that building to allow your operations to flourish. There are countless factors to consider when dreaming of that perfect warehouse space. Here are a few criteria related to pallet racking that will help your employees and equipment in the long run.

Pallet racking is a key part of most warehouses

The standard pallet racking system (selective pallet racking) requires a lot of aisle space. In fact, the average system requires about 3 sqft of aisle floor space for every 2sqft of racking floor space. That tells you a few things.

First, tall ceilings will allow you want to use that vertical storage space with tall pallet racking. This sounds obvious, but being with all that floor space being reserved for aisle and other support, every additional level of racking is incredibly valuable.

Secondly, most buildings have a column grid. Your pallet racking will need to fit between and around this existing structure. Try to avoid aligning racking aisle with building columns. The columns can be very hard for your material handlers to see and can make some racking sections inaccessible.

If possible, layout your pallet racking so that the building columns are sandwiched between back-to-back racking rows. But doing so consistently throughout your warehouse will mean that your racking layout is dependent on your building grid. If that grid is not optimal, your racking will come out with undersized or oversized aisles. Commonly warehouse managers need to compromise the layout to accommodate the existing conditions. But what if you are building a new warehouse?

Optimal structural grid dimensions to accommodate standard pallet racking

In the U.S. the most common dimension of pallet racking is 42” deep by 99” long, per section. It’s generally optimal to orient rows back-to-back and provide 144” to 150” wide aisles. So, a 40’ x 40’ or 41’ x 41’ column grid will allow you to fit the most common racking in either direction, with aisles unencumbered by columns.

If that grid were to be a little larger, say 44’ x 44’, you would have the flexibility to use deeper racking or have more comfortably wide aisles. While this may make material handling easier, it is probably not adding any pallet positions.

However, if that grid were to be a little smaller, like 38’ x 38’, your racking layout may suffer. Building columns will likely fall in the middle of your racking row, which will eat up pallet positions. You may be tempted to make very narrow aisles, but this is highly discouraged as it leads to forklift impacting the racking. If the grid was 35’ x 35’ you would start to see columns in the middle of your aisles or loose entire racking rows.

So, if you’re building a warehouse and plan on using standard racking, try to get your structure on a 40’x40’ grid, or there about. Your warehouse will be very flexible for you and the average future tenant, which should increase the value of your property.

A note about plumbing in concrete slabs

Some commercial building contractors will place plumbing supply lines under a concrete slab. While they may have a logical reason for doing so, this practice creates a major risk. Once that plumbing is placed, it is easily forgotten. Equipment installers almost always need to anchor fixtures to the slab. If they break the line, you will need to make a major repair. Not to mention, the equipment project will be put on hold. No one wants to be involved in a situation like this. So, avoid burying plumbing or any mechanicals in your floor.


While pallet racking is itself very flexible, it is constrained by the building that houses it. Irregularly shaped warehouses often limit how much pallet racking can be utilized. In general, the taller the ceilings and larger the column grid of your building, the easier it will be to build an optimal storage layout. The 40’x40’ grid will be even more optimal for standard pallet racking.

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