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What is a Cantilever Rack?

Paul Scott
Paul Scott

A cantilever rack is a storage system which employs a cantilever support arrangement for its individual racks or shelves. A cantilever system is one where a load bearing beam is supported at one end only with no other external braces. Cantilever rack systems have individual rack supports attached at one end to upright members by means of slot and tag or bolt-on fixtures. There are no other oblique or vertical supports involved which allows the racks to easily accommodate materials longer than the rack span. Cantilever racks may be constructed as single- or double-sided units and can be easily combined as modular assemblies.

Cantilever construction has been used for centuries in architecture and construction due to the aesthetic and practical possibilities offered by the absence of spars, lintels, and other supports. This type of structure is extremely strong even if it seems somewhat flimsy and can bear considerable weight. Loads on the horizontal support are carried to the vertical support contact point where they are distributed and resisted by a combination of moment and shear stress forces.

Manual pallet jacks operate hydraulically to allow lifting of heavy objects.
Manual pallet jacks operate hydraulically to allow lifting of heavy objects.

In the field of material handling equipment, the cantilever rack system offers several distinct advantages over other rack and shelf arrangements. Due to the absence of vertical or oblique braces, a cantilever rack can be used to store loads far wider than its own span. Loading and unloading can also be achieved from the front of the rack using equipment such as pallet jacks and fork lifts. This makes the cantilever rack arrangement an obvious choice for facilities that store lumber, pipes, steel stock, and boards.

These rack systems may be installed as a free standing structure or bolted to a suitable wall. In free standing applications, these racks may be utilized in a single- or double-sided configuration with back-to-back shelves. Cantilever rack systems allow users to maximize available floor space and are available in many different sizes and load capacities to suit a wide variety of storage needs. Due to their simplicity, they are also among the most cost effective of all rack types.

An additional benefit of these storage solutions is their speed and ease of assembly. Many smaller cantilever rack systems utilize a slot and tag assembly method that consists of a tag on the horizontal support which locks into a corresponding slot on the vertical member. This allows for quick and easy installation and makes the storage of the racks themselves simple if they are no longer needed. Larger systems typically uses bolt-on horizontal beams but remain simple and quick to construct. Cantilever units are also often modular by design allowing for several units to be bolted together to extend an existing system.

Discussion Comments


When you store wood on racks, you want to make sure that the uprights are not too far apart.

Wood tends to sag between the supports, and if the inter-upright distance is too great, then the sag might be extensive. If the wood is stored in that position for a long period of time, then the boards/panels might become permanently warped. A 3' (36") distance between supports is probably OK, but 2' (24") is even better.


When you order cantilever racks, keep in mind that they offer single sided and double sided varieties.

Single sided racks can be positioned up against the wall (although they don't have to be), whereas double sided racks should be placed in the middle of your shop/warehouse so you can access the items from both sides.

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    • Manual pallet jacks operate hydraulically to allow lifting of heavy objects.
      By: endostock
      Manual pallet jacks operate hydraulically to allow lifting of heavy objects.