What size, type, and grade of lumber would I need to use as joists to support wire decking used for pallet racks over an 11-foot overhead span?

42D" x 46W" wire decks supporting up to 2,500 lbs. are commonly available
online. This is industrial-strength wire decking but my intended use would be general purpose overhead garage storage so I'm not looking for 5,000 lbs. per span. 1,000 lbs. would be nice, if possible.

According to one manufacturer, their wire decks can be supported by a 1.5 inch wide beam, so 2x lumber would be a fit. My plan would be to use 2 46" wide decks over each 11' span, so each set of decking would be supported by 2 joists 42 inches apart connected to wood beams (ledger boards) anchored to the cement block side walls.

The garage is 11' wide, so shorter or longer spans are out. Steel pallet beams are out as an 11' span is not a standard size (not to mention mounting considerations).

I'm turning to this forum in desperation. After hours of searching online it seems that I am the only person in the world to come up with this idea. The only links returned by search engines only seem to be ones that want to sell you something.

I see a number of span/sag calculators online but none seem to fit these parameters.

I might be getting the hang of this. It apears that the design of the racking transfers the load direcly onto the beams.

According to the SFPA tables, a #1 2x6 over a 12 ft. span could support a total load of 41 lbs./lineal foot with L/240 sag. Interpolate for an 11 foot span and you wind up with ~50 lbs./lineal ft.

Double that because the weight would be distributed between two joists and you wind up with ~100 lbs./ft., suggesting that a 1,000 lb. load is practical. Would probably have to derate for commodity lumber grade.

Probably still qualifies as an experiment though.

Southern Pine Headers & Beams

  • "2 46" decks over each 11' span"? Can you clarify? You want a shelf that is 11' wide and 46" deep ? so your supports ( beams ) would be 11 feet long. Why wood?
    – Alaska Man
    Feb 3, 2020 at 18:09
  • Why have 11' spans when the decks are 46" wide? Why not an 12' span for 3 decks or an 8' span for 2 decks? Are you planning on fully loading these, so you want 5000lbs over that 11' ?
    – JPhi1618
    Feb 3, 2020 at 18:11
  • 1
    A drawing (even a cell phone picture of a hand-drawn sketch, if necessary) would help a lot.
    – FreeMan
    Feb 3, 2020 at 18:57
  • Thanks for the update, Tom. Would a center support be feasible? If you only want to hold 1000 lbs, something like a 2x8 would be reasonable with a center support. Can you go with bigger lumber like a 2x10 or 2x12?
    – JPhi1618
    Feb 3, 2020 at 21:15
  • After reading the description and looking at the rack I understand your question. Is your goal a single pallet at 1000lbs or maybe 3 spread wide? I believe the reason you don’t find the exact spacing is because in construction we might do it on 12’ span on 48” , this calculation would support your 11’ span on 46” , in other words if you use slightly longer measurements, for the calculations it will be even stronger with your actual span.
    – Ed Beal
    Feb 3, 2020 at 21:23

2 Answers 2


I think I see what you want to do. You want to run two joists 11' across your garage 42" apart, and use 42" x 46" pallet rack for the floor rather than the usual plywood, and you're trying to determine what size joist to use.

The usual span tables are not quite right to answer this question. The span tables that are published are based on the length of the span, the size of the joist, the type of wood, the live and dead (uniform) loads on the floor, the acceptable deflection, and the spacing between joists.

Right off the bat, the span tables won't list spans for 42" spacing. They make tables for the commonly used values, 12", 16", and 24" on-centers spacing, but not for arbitrary values like 42".

You could take this to an engineer, they can do the calculations that are used to generate the span tables, so they can handle the oddball 42" spacing.

The span tables are also built around uniform live and dead loads per square foot, so that will work a little different.

You might be tempted to guess that since you're less-than-doubling the 24" spacing to 42", maybe if you doubled up the joists, you'd be OK. So if the span tables say you're good at 24" spacing with 2x10 joists, maybe you'd be OK with doubled 2x10's at double that spacing. It's a reasonable guess but it would be an experiment.

Of course you could just use three joists - the outer two spaced 42" and the third halfway between them - then you are at 21" OC and if you use the 24" span tables you should be OK. The pallet rack wire grid would still fit over the joists.

It's still a bit of an experiment, I don't know if there's anything problematic about wire grid on wood joist supports that are not immediately apparent - it's not an accepted construction method and it's not anything the manufacturer intended.

I don't like the idea that the wire grids are not attached to the joists, but I couldn't point to a specific hazard where they would lift up either.

edit: this very interesting link was posted in the comments

Wood Beam Calculator

That calculator does allow you to enter 42" spacing. The only part that seemed a little wonky is the Grade selection, it was only with the Grade "misc" selected that doubled 2x10's came up as an acceptable beam:


Keep in mind that if you just use plywood and standard joist spacing, you can turn this experiment into a nice boring, safe, standard, business as usual construction project. You'll save money, gain some peace of mind, and when it comes time to sell the house, you won't have to have a long discussion with the home inspector and prospective buyer.

  • 1
    I agree with taking the boring safe standard approach, but if you yearn to be able to find info for odd spacings and length yourself, courses.cit.cornell.edu/arch264/calculators/example8.1
    – Ecnerwal
    Feb 4, 2020 at 17:31
  • @Ecnerwal - that's great, thanks! Perfect for this kind of project. Feb 4, 2020 at 22:31
  • I looked at that Cornell calculator and decided not to put a lot of faith in it. I'm sure doubled 2x10s would be a safe bet, but I also bet it's overkill for my use. I don't know what assumptions he's making in his calculations and I'm not going to take his course or buy his book to find out.
    – TomEE
    Feb 5, 2020 at 19:11
  • Incidentally, if you enter the actual dimensions of a White Eastern Pine 2x6 'beam' into the Sagulator, the calculated sag over an 11' span is 0.30" which is 'Acceptable' - maybe for shelving but not for flooring.
    – TomEE
    Feb 5, 2020 at 19:23

You could go with used 12' steel cross members and take them to a fabrication shop and have them cut to length and have mounting plates welded on in order to bolt them to your wall.

Or buy the uprights that go with them take them to a fabrication shop and have them cut to length and have the brackets welded on and have the advantage of adjustable height shelving.

Pallet Racks

It would not cost to much to have them modified and you can move them or take them with to a new location. Plus you would save space from haveing 2x10 ( or bigger ) wood beams.


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