Pallets are universal tools found on farms, as well as at storehouses, warehouses, packhouses and distribution centers. And yet, the professionals that use them – and even depend on them – might not think about just how versatile, vital and carefully engineered pallets are. They are designed for specific purposes or needs; different equipment, products, transport requirements, weight variances and more. At a casual glance, you might not realize there are so many different types of pallets. It also might not have occurred to you to ask: which specific one do you need to get the job done?
Here are the most common and widely used pallets across the agriculture industry, in supply chains, throughout warehouses and beyond.
Limited use pallets
Most pallets look pretty sturdy, but the fact is that not all are suited for the job. With some tasks such as carrying cargo or equipment, limited use pallets may not carry the load. Exceptional for certain loads, limited use pallets live up to their name. If you take a closer look, you’ll see that they are not made to be exceptionally sturdy, and are almost always made out of more economical wood.
According to Pallet Consultants, limited use pallets are designed to only be used up to around 10 trips and handled 5 times per trip. After that, their strength, reliability and integrity start to decline. This type of pallet is best for medium to lightweight, stacked loads that get moved or transported often.
Although block pallets are another category on their own, you may find that some block pallets also fall under other categories. What “block pallet” means is that they are built with “block” supports between the pallet sides (also called pallet “decks” – the sides that are strong and load bearing.) There tends to be anywhere between 4-12 blocks per pallet to provide excellent stability. Sometimes they are referred to as “deck board pallets.”
One of the standout traits of the block pallet is that they are built in such a way that a forklift can lift them from any side. As such, they’re a great option for supporting hulking, heavy loads that need moving by forklift machinery or other implements.
Stringer pallets are another important option, and are built with even more support in mind than block pallets. Instead of blocks, stringer pallets have “arched” supports between their deck and bottom. Due to this type of support, they only have one strong supportive deck or side. They are not reversible, except with winged pallet styles.
These notched, arch-shaped supports are called “stringers,” and are especially noted for adding far more support to the pallet corners — which can be their weak spots. Unlike block pallets, stringer pallets can only be accessed on two sides by a forklift. They are still pretty handy, but not as easily or conveniently maneuvered as a block pallet. All in all, they are great for the same uses as block pallets, but may require a bit more extra handling as they are only one-sided.
Any pallet can be made into a reversible pallet. Block pallets can be reversible too, as can stringer pallets. When reversible, stringer pallets are called double winged pallets.
Another term for reversible pallet is a “double-faced pallet.” Reversible or double-faced pallets don’t just mean you can stack on top of either side of the pallet. Having two sturdy deck faces make the entire construction of it exceptionally durable, as double the sturdy deck face helps spread the weight and area of the load. These are good for multiple purposes, and will save you extra handling — especially with heavy machinery.
Single wing pallets
When you have a single wing pallet, you basically have a more reinforced stringer pallet — though some block pallet types can have single wing as well. It also makes stringer pallets stronger and more reinforced when used double-sided.
The “wing” means that the boards that make up the deck are longer than the actual length of the pallet, reaching over the stringers or blocks. Not only does this make the stringers on the pallet much, much stronger when flipped over, but you get a little extra surface area on the winged side of your pallet!
Double wing pallets
Pallets can also come with both sides winged. This adds even more usability — and extra reinforcement and stability no matter which side is in use. Double wing pallets are even sturdier than single wing pallets in this way. When used on top, the longer boards give the pallet a slightly greater surface area. When used on the bottom, the wings help distribute the weight of the pallet on the side underneath. Again, the wings also add support to the corners of stringer pallets.
Plastic vs. wood pallets
Most of us think of pallets as exclusively wood-made, but plastic or composite pallets are also out there in circulation. Those can come in the form of block pallets, stringer pallets and more.
While plastic may seem like the obviously stronger and long-term option, this is not actually the case. For outdoor use with exposure to the sun and elements, plastic is weaker than wood. UV rays, cold and ice will eventually wear away at the material, making it crack and more prone to breakage. While wood may seem less strong, it is more weather-resistant.
Another thing to consider: once plastic pallets are cracked or broken, they are difficult or almost impossible to fix. Broken or even weakened and limited use pallets made of wood can be fixed with the help of some fresh wood and a few good tools.
There are many different types of pallets to explore. We’d love to help you find the most reliable and sturdy option for your operation.
Have any questions? We’re happy to help – stop in one of our supply stores today, or fill out our contact form by clicking below.