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Carry That Weight: What is Your Warehouse Floor Capable of?

Ensure your slab can handle the load before adding heavy equipment

Pallet Rack Inquiry

Pallet rack floor

I’ve become an expert in the shifting soil beneath my house over the years. With most of my area enriched with clay soil, I have gotten to know and understand the subtle shifts that occur in my foundation for each season. There have been areas of concern and repairs to make as my foundation has shifted over the years. It’s something we just have to deal with.

Your warehouse covers a much larger area than my one-story home, but regardless of how much foundation you have, you want to make sure your floor can handle the shifts and carry the weight it holds.

What’s underneath counts

What’s the dirt?

What lies beneath (couldn’t help myself) your facility’s foundation is just as important as what is on top of it, so let’s start with what to look for. There are important factors to consider, and you definitely want an engineer or foundation expert to help you in reviewing either a newly constructed or existing floor. A floor subgrade made of natural soil or an imported variety is your first area of importance, as you want good thickness. This thickness will keep the foundation from too much expanding or shrinking, leaving your floor items less disturbed for the life of your facility. Trust me, you will want to avoid clay-like soil, as the annual shifting will keep you in constant vigilance over your foundation.

Not only do you want to be aware of the soil, but you will also have to factor in the environment your facility resides in. Drainage is very important, so to mitigate a wetter climate you will want to install and maintain many areas to re-direct water flow away from your slab. Similar preparations will be important for an area that endures either higher or lower temperatures than normal. Too dry a soil or too cold a soil will require extra preparation and monitoring so that you can continue a state of normalcy underneath. Adding special insulation between the soil and foundation for such harsh environments is also recommended, as these will provide a “buffer” of sorts and allow for some movement.

All of this knowledge will give you a good understanding of what your floor can handle as well, so as to prevent overloading.

Topside considerations

mezzanine on floorYou’ve invested a lot in your facility with racking systems, storage applications or lift trucks. You must know if the floor of your facility is capable of handling the weight of your stock, machinery or storage systems. In addition, being aware of the load capacities for whatever equipment you’re installing is paramount to avoiding potential pitfalls within your foundation. If you want to install a new mezzanine you have to know the weight-bearing capacity of your floor — both the platform and its load. Having your building specs on hand, or a consulting engineer are the best ways to determine exactly the weight your floor can bear.

See more: Can your floor bear the weight of a new mezzanine? 

Know your load differences: static vs. dynamic loads

Whatever your facility is working towards, you want your concrete slab to resist and transfer both dynamic and static loads from the surface to the subsoil:

  • Dynamic loads: This type of load is basically the weight placed on an object in motion. Think of most items being transported here and there by your lift trucks.
  • Static loads: Stored weight, such as any item you’re keeping in your rack or storage systems. This weight is resting weight and is constantly pushing onto your foundation while the items kept within them are being stored.

If these vertical forces exceed the floor’s bearing capacity, over time you will see cracks and damage start to appear. In the long run, this could lead to a sinking foundation, with uneven areas that sag. All repair options that follow this pattern are costly, so you want to prevent this future by keeping up to date with what your foundation is carrying. No one wants to have the headache of not only having to move racking systems, adding floor layers or rebuilding a floor.

Spending time to understand the strength and conditions in your facility’s foundation can help you prevent potential structural damage and cost. Just as in your home, continued monitoring of your floor and slab will help you to see the shifts, and know the limits that it can handle. All of these cautions and procedures will allow maintaining a safer operation.

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