Will corrosion affect the strength of my pallet racking?
Updated: Jan 27, 2020
Most definitely yes. It is one of the biggest enemies of pallet racking so you must take it seriously. At its simplest the metal oxidises eating away at the structure reducing the metal content. In severe cases holes may appear in your racking. Don’t forget with cold rolled steel racks the metal is usually only a couple of millimetres thick so its strength will be lost very quickly.
The best solution is prevention so keep your racking in a dry environment. Standard storage racks are typically powder coated and this is not a waterproof coating. Powder coating covers the outer surfaces of the rack and will provide some resistance against oxidation or rust but particularly in the case of beams, the inner section of the beam will have no protection. If kept in a moist or humid environment water will collect or condense inside the beam and with minimal ventilation corrosion will rapidly eat away the metal.
Even within an enclosed space such as a warehouse corrosion can still occur. Leaking door seals, badly finished flashing on roofs and walls, leaking down pipes, blocked gutters etc will all allow ingress of water that will pool on the floor and eat away at the base of your racks and floor fixings. Racks close to doorways that are left open will often show signs of corrosion. Several of my clients on the coast suffer this problem due to the salt spray. I’ve often encountered corrosion where water from wet bags of gritting salt has leeched out and seriously corroded the footplates.
The guidance from SEMA is that any significant corrosion requires replacement. If the paint is peeling and there is pitting to the metal then it is likely that it needs replacement and should be offloaded as soon as possible. SEMA also state that racking should not be stored outside or reused if it has been stored outside for any significant period of time, unless of course it is galvanised! My experience on this is that even if it outside and covered it will still suffer from condensation so always store racks indoors.
If you do intend your racking for use in an environment exposed to moisture or corrosive materials then hot dip galvanised racking is the answer, but don’t forget the floor fixings. They will also corrode and so you must also use corrosion resistant fixings.
In summary the best solution is to keep your storage racks dry and carry out regular building maintenance to keep everything inside dry, or fit galvanised racks!