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When To Replace Pallet Rack

Many reasons, from damage to age, play a factor

Pallet Rack Inquiry

View of warehouse pallet rack used for storage

As a long-term investment, pallet racks tend to “go the distance”; you can count on them to retain their strength and integrity for years.

Even so, replacing your pallet rack might be a matter of damage (over time or suddenly) or from other reasons such as age or changes in your storage operation. Let’s review the reasons you might want to partially or fully replace your rack.

All rack damage matters

When something strikes your rack, even if the damage appears to be minor, it should be a red flag. You’ve probably seen extreme examples of twisted frames or cross-supports after a forklift backs into a rack leg. It’s common sense to replace those pieces. There are also times when the damage appears to be minor where a rack is still compromised and in need of replacement or repair.

Here’s what the RMI (Rack Manufacturers’ Institute) has to say about damage:

Structural issues

pallet flow rack system in useAccording to RMI: “If there are any concerns about structural problems with the storage rack system, the first priority must be to safely and immediately unload the area supported by the damaged component and to prevent loads from being placed into that area. Then, the manufacturer’s representative should be contacted for an engineering evaluation of the problem. If the manufacturer cannot be identified, an independent engineer, experienced in the design of storage racks, should be retained for an evaluation.”

The RMI has it right when it comes to the issue–unloading an entire bay for a bent frame is a hassle, but worth it. Don’t gamble with thousands of pounds of product and steel high above a floor where people work or walk. You may avoid serious injuries, product damage, lost production and damaged inventory that are far more inconvenient and costly.

There are a number of rack repair alternatives that let you fix the rack without unloading. They are convenient, in that you don’t have to unload, but often cost more than new components and sometimes require specialized installation services. They can take time to schedule.

Read more: Inspecting Pallet Racks

A note on inspecting racks: It takes a structural engineer to truly evaluate the rack’s sturdiness following damage. While you should inspect your racks, unless you are a qualified engineer, you won’t be able to make the call on its fitness. Often, replacement or repair is your best alternative.

Takeaway: You can safely say a rack component needs replacement, but you can’t safely say that it doesn’t need replacement.

Frame bracing damage

Frame braces are the horizontal and diagonal steel members that connect the front and back of an upright. They exist to provide cross-aisle stability to the pallet rack and need to be in good shape to do that correctly. If they are bent or twisted, you need to take action to ensure the stability and safety of that rack. In fact, these can be as critical to rack safety and stability as the vertical posts. Damage to them weakens the entire rack.

According to RMI, “If a frame brace is damaged, the first priority should be to immediately unload the area supported by the damaged component and to prevent the placement of loads into that area. In the case of the frame braces, it may be the bays on either side of the upright which are damaged.”

Repair and replacement options

Rack repair systems are common. RMI has some pointers about that, including the following:

  • You should always discuss “acceptable repairs” with a qualified engineer.
  • Installation is critical when you do these repairs, as some solutions involve doing this with live loads still on the rack. Also, these repair solutions are frequently driven by specialized technicians who are trained for safety and technical expertise. Check certifications for anyone who will work on your rack, particularly welders.
  • Check ANSI, in particular the ANSI/RMI MH 16.1 Specification.

Repairs should produce a rack at least as strong as the original, undamaged rack.

Read more: Pallet Rack Buying Guide

Preventing damage in the first place

Of course, we would like to think racks will not get hit, but if you have walked any warehouse, you’ll be pressed to find one that looks pristine. Some things you can do include training drivers, monitoring performance, guarding racks with protective equipment and guardrails, and performing regular inspections.

Replacing undamaged racks

Sometimes you will need to replace racks that aren’t damaged due to other factors. While these might seem less critical compared to damaged rack, they’re certainly worth reviewing for any operation.

  1. Your older rack can’t be evaluated for capacity –Rack manufacturers have come and gone over the decades. They also change specifications from time to time.  You may not be able to confirm that an older rack can support your load or meets modern standards. You may not want to continue to use rack when you don’t have access to all its specifications and supporting information.
  2. When your older racks can’t be matched with modern components – If you need to add positions or replace damaged racks, and your existing equipment is older, it may not interchange with new components.
  3. When loads and inventory change – This can be tricky. If you are receiving loads that are heavier, with different shapes, or have other varying load characteristics, you may need to acquire new racks. The load’s characteristics and distribution of weight are always an issue when it comes to capacity rating; don’t depend solely on total weight.
  4. If you can’t verify critical capacity or other characteristics – When older racks aren’t identifiable, you may not be able to determine their safe loading capacities. It’s always best not to trust a rack unless you absolutely know what it can bear.

Use the Cisco-Eagle pallet rack guide

Download our Pallet Rack Guide

Pallet rack enhances your warehouse and improves overall facility performance when correctly specified, laid out and installed for the right load in the right positions. Check out our guide to specifications, styles, accessories and applications with expert tips from our employee-owners.

You’ll find quick, useful information on racks and how you can use them more effectively.

Download the guide today

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