What’s the Difference Between Box Beams and Step Beams in Pallet Racking?

Pallet racking systems consist of multiple components that are designed to ensure the safe storage of your product inventory, from uprights (also known as frames) to beams that run horizontally across the uprights. There are two types of beams that can be used for pallet racks: box beams and step beams.

Efficient and safe warehouse storage solutions require the use of components and parts that are fully compatible with the design of the pallet racking system. Here are a few differentiating factors to consider when choosing between box beams and step beams in pallet racking.


pallet racking - box beam vs step beam







Beam Design

Box beams are rectangular in shape and they form a box-like structure when connected to uprights. Box beams are usually constructed of 2 interlocked U channel shaped pieces and welded on the tops and bottom along with the end brackets to hold the beam securely together. These beams are typically used with universal wire mesh deck and universal one piece pallet bars or welded pallet bars.

Step beams, also known or refereed to as crossbeams, are designed to connect to uprights and are completely secured in place to ensure safe and reliable pallet storage. Step beams are typically roll formed from one piece and have a step (ledge) with the connectors being welded into place on both ends of the beam. The purpose of the step is it is designed to support instep wire mesh deck, DIP’s (Drop In Panel’s), clip in pallet bars and other solid surface materials to help in keeping a flat storage surface area and the supports flush to the top of the beam.


Box beams are arguably the most popular choice for most pallet racks in the GTA. Their rectangular design offers far superior strength and storage capacity capabilities than step beams. Box beams are the preferred choice in areas where seismic is an issue as the box beams are more tolerable to stress levels and come with a much stronger deflection ratio than a step beam of the same dimensions.

To bring the strength of step beams up to par with box beams, you’d have to increase their height, which comes at a higher price tag and consumes more valuable storage space.

Support Bar (safety bars / pallet bars)

Support or safety bars (sometimes also refereed to as pallet bars) are a standard feature in pallet racking systems. Their main purpose is to reinforce the strength and load capacity of the unit to safely store a variety of product inventory and prevent pallets or boxes from falling through the gaps. Many do not realize pallet bars are also required to prevent the spreading of the beams especially in the case of longer length beams.

There are a couple types of pallet bars available in the market for box beams.

  • Universal pallet support bars featuring U-shaped designs on both ends are used in conjunction with box beams to secure them in place.
  • Welded type which as the name states has the cups welded on to each end of the bar but are limited to the use of the beams they were designed for.

The other type of pallet bar is a universal one piece punched pallet bar which typically works with any style or size pallet racking as per the name ‘universal’ (these type of pallet bars also work with step beams).

In addition to these U-shaped pieces of metal taking up more space on the storage unit, delicate items like clothing often get snagged on them, resulting in damaged goods and financial loss for the company. Step beams are the better choice in this regard because they can simply be clipped or locked in place without any components sticking out that could potentially damage the products being stored.

Step beams are the better option for a flush fitting safety bar. There are 2 types of pallet bars for a step beam, a clip in type pallet bar that locks into the step part of the beam and are limited to the beam they were design for (most manufacturers design their clip in bars to work only with their racking), and the second is a somewhat universal step beam safety bar that sits loose on the step but also hangs over the beam and is secured by tek screws to the side of the step beam.

Wire Mesh Decking

Wire mesh decks are a great safety apparatus to keep product falling off of pallets on to the staff below. Mesh decks also help provide extra security to prevent pallets from falling through the beams when being placed or removed from the racking. Another great advantage using wire decks is they can be used to create hand picking levels in pallet racking systems with out any extra need for in-rack sprinklers due to the open surface design (solid surfaces in racking systems may require costly in-rack sprinkler systems). Wire mesh decking is also required in all tunnel area’s of a rack system where lift equipment and pedestrians will be working or passing under.

As with pallet bars there are different types of wire mesh decks that work with each of the box beam and step beams, in this case there are 3 types of wire mesh decks that work with these pallet racking beams.

  • Universal waterfall mesh decking (works with both box beam and step beam)
  • Step waterfall type wire mesh decks (only works with step beam, NEVER use these type of mesh decks with box beams).
  • In-Step wire mesh deck (only works with step beams)

Box beams are only suitable for a universal waterfall type wire mesh decking while a step beam is capable of use with all 3 types of mesh decks that are available.

Step beam mesh comes in 2 styles, a waterfall instep type mesh deck which is similar to the universal type decks only it works with the step part of the beam for the support of the mesh deck rather than sitting over the beam itself for support as a universal deck does, the second type is an in-step mesh deck that sits inside the beam on the step part of the beam flush to the top of the beam and does not have any parts of the decking above the top of the beam itself. The universal wire mesh decks also designed to work with step beams.

Convenience and Accessibility

A benchmark of a fully functional and safe pallet racking system is the level of convenience and ease of access it provides when warehouse workers are maneuvering pallets and inventory around. Box beams are the standard components that come with most pallet racking systems in Canada, so they’re usually the more convenient option for repairs and replacements.  That’s not to say that step beams are harder to come by; they’re just more of a special order item if and when you need them. Not to worry, Canadian Rack stocks both types of beams in most standard sizes.

Get High-Quality Pallet Racks in Toronto and the GTA

Regardless of your pallet racking needs in Mississauga, Toronto, and other parts of GTA, Canadian Rack Technologies Inc. has you covered. We provide high-end pallet racking systems and warehouse storage solutions that are perfectly suited for your company’s unique storage requirements. Contact us today to learn more.


Kevin Ausman is the founder of Canadian Rack Technologies. He has over 30 years of experience in providing safe and efficient turn-key storage solutions and he specializes in pallet racking, pick systems, industrial shelving, mezzanines, cantilever racks, and more. Kevin is dedicated to providing great customer service, listening to client’s needs, and supplying the best products available.

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