Warehousing Basics: Understanding Pallet Rack Systems, Part 4 – Frames & Load Beams

In Part 4 of our “Warehousing Basics” series, we take a look at most visible parts of the pallet rack system, the upright frames and horizontal load beams. 

Pallet Rack Frames

Pallet rack frames are the vertical components that support the horizontal beams. Also called upright frames or uprights, the frames vary in height and depth and design depending on load requirements and storage needs.  The upright frames are comprised of columns and braces.

Upright Columns

The columns are the two vertical posts in the frame. Holes or slots are punched up and down the columns in standard intervals during the manufacturing process so that load beams can be mounted onto the upright columns.


Diagonal and horizontal braces connect the two upright columns to form upright frames. The diagonal braces will alternate direction from the top to the bottom of the frame for added strength. Sometimes cross bracing is used – a full cross is put in the center of each “square” –  to increase the strength even more. Braces can be bolted or welded to the columns. (The engineers here at Next Level firmly believe that bolted rack is structurally superior. To learn more, click here.)

Pallet Rack Load Beams

Load beams are the horizontal supports in a pallet rack system. They provide the surface storage area for the loads that are placed on a pallet rack. There are two basic styles; step beams and structural channel beams. Load beams are secured to upright frames, with their heights being adjustable in 2” or 4” increments. All load beams have standard capacity per pair, and that’s for evenly distributed loads.  Beams may be bolted, welded, or clipped to the columns.

Two Types Steel Used for Uprights & Beams

Frames and beams are typically made of either roll formed or structural steel. Roll formed steel is made by a process called cold roll forming: sheets of cold flat carbon steel are bent with rollers to form the shapes. The process is not that much different for structural steel, except the steel is made from hot rolled channels of steel. The design of hot rolled steel allows structural rack to hold more weight and withstand more impact than cold roll formed rack. If your rack will be exposed to a lot of lift truck impact, is located outdoors or is in a freezer or cooler application, you might want to consider structural rack. Roll formed pallet rack, however, is tough enough and strong enough for most warehouse applications. It is less expensive to buy and install–and  if you don’t expect a lot of abuse, roll formed rack can be quite cost-effective. Consider using upright column protectors and end-of-aisle protectors to lessen the chances of forklift damage. Our next post in this series will address the variety of accessories that can impact the capacity and stability of a pallet rack system.  ]]>

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