What Makes A Great Pallet?

If you’re considering pallet options and you are unsure of where to start, it’s important to know what makes the ideal pallet. Sure, much of it is based on what you’re going to ship however there are basic characteristics of a pallet that every purchaser ought to know.

This blog post will go into those characteristics and much more so that you’ll have everything you need to know about pallets before making that important purchase.


Skids And Pallets 101

Often skids and pallets are referred to as one in the same, however they are two different shipping product types. So let’s go over what exactly a pallet is and what a skid is and where they are similar:


  • commonly called a platform
  • top boards fastened to stringers, no bottom boards
  • lower profile than a pallet
  • can be stacked nested for empty skid storage


  • top boards fastened to stringers with bottom boards
  • various customization formats available


Pallets & Skids are measured in imperial units

  • dimensional lumber is sold and measured using the imperial system not metric
  • pallets & skids are measured in inches and in feet

Understanding Pallet & Skid Sizes

  • industry standard is length multiplied by width (LxW)
  • the length is the first dimension stated followed by the second dimension of the width when describing a pallet or skid
  • pallet length is determined by length of the stringers
  • width of the pallet is the top and bottom board length
  • the industry standard pallet size is 48″x40″ this measurement is 48 inches long by 40 inches wide


Different Types Of Pallets And Build Styles

Pallets can be made in many sizes and specifications. Shippers have needs of all kinds – needs that surpass standard size pallets. Understanding the components and the terminology of pallets will help you choose the pallet that works best for your company. The following listing are just some of the many varieties of types and styles that are available.


Types of Pallets

Reversible Pallet

  • identical top and bottom boards
  • able to use either side of the pallet as the surface; does not have to be flipped right side up by warehouse employees

Plywood Top Stringer Pallet

  • plywood top fastened to stringers and bottom boards

Block Pallet

  • uses blocks between the top and bottom boards instead of stringers
  • allows 4-way entry


Pallet Build Styles


Four-Way Stringer Pallet

  • stringers are notched allowing all way access; notches are best for forklift use

Two-Way Stringer Pallet

  • this pallet can be entered and lifted by a forklift or pallet jack from two ends

Top Overhang Pallet

  • top board extends beyond the outer stringer sides
  • bottom boards are flush

Double Overhang Pallet

  • top and bottom boards extend beyond the outer stringer sides


Here’s a table of the top pallet sizes in North America in 2000; not listing entry or specific customization
(Source: ISTA via Southern Illinois University)

Pallet Size (in) LxW Production Rank Typical Industry
48×40 1 Grocery
42×42 2 Telecommunications
48×48 3 Drums

4 Qualities Of A Great Pallet

There are 4 basic benchmarks to qualify a pallet as great: Strength, durability, distribution of weight, and functionality. All categories are interwoven to make a great functional pallet for commercial use.

  1. Strength is the load bearing capability of a pallet; a standard 48 x 40 4way wooden pallet is capable of supporting 1 metric ton or 2,205 Ibs.
  2. Durability is the ability for the pallet to withstand the rigors of transport.
  3. Distribution of weight is important for the integrity of the goods transported. Depending on the weight of the product being shipped and the surface area of which it covers, the deck of the pallet may require customization. Pallets with an uneven distribution of weight may create weak pressure points that can result in breakage.
  4. Functionality means the compatibility of the pallet with the objects being shipped and how they are being shipped. 2way, 4way pallets or block pallets provide different access points of entry. Another example – pallets are heat treated to prevent pest infestations in forests and wood products for international export.

Pallet Customization Based on Manufacturing Requirements

Customizing a pallet is simplified when you know what the pallet life cycle is before your product is shipped. How can the pallet be adapted to machinery or equipment in your manufacturing process? What kind of ease of access and maneuverability is required in the production areas, warehouse spaces, and racking storage? Will your products be shipping to and from a distribution center or directly to your customer? How will customizing improve the handling of the pallet and protect the integrity of your products? The answers provided will help the pallet supplier formulate more specifically to your company’s needs.

Pallet Customization Based on Shippers Requirements

Part of what makes a customized pallet great is that it can be built specifically to fit whatever products you put on top and made to fit into a production machine; it can also be customized to reflect the specific type of entry and way it will be handled in the shipping process.

Do you value what you’re shipping? Having your pallets customized to fit what and how you’re shipping helps protect the integrity of those products. Dealing with damaged products add cost and unnecessary hassle to the receiving process that can be averted by discussing with your pallet supplier what you will be shipping; size, weight, and how the pallet will be used or stored with your products on top.

Additionally, think of customization as adding value to your product; you have the peace of mind that your product is arriving as intended and your customers are receiving a well shipped product. Customization does have benefits that can affect your company long-term.

Protecting Your Product For Transportation

Wooden pallets are eco-friendly, recyclable and reusable. Pallets made from wood dominate the market by 93 percent. Empty wooden pallets weigh in the range of 30 Ibs to 70 Ibs depending on the wood used for construction, a 48 x 40 pallet has a static load bearing capacity of 3 tons.

Additional ways of packaging your product for shipping once the pallet process is complete are the following: bottom load protectors, edge boards, column stack, interlocking, stretch wrap:

  • Corrugated pad trays or (bottom load protectors) are the first step in protecting the bottom of your cargo.
  • Bottom load protectors help prevent boxes from slipping into the gap between the boards on a pallet.
  • Edgeboards can also be used in unison with pad trays to protect the edges of vertically stacked boxes.
  • The column stack method is recommended when transporting goods via freight, stacking an equal number of boxes by length, width and height increases the top to bottom compression strength for most palletized shipments.
  • The interlocking stacking method is recommended for transporting items such as liquids, for example pails of paint. The interlocking of cartons results in increased stability.
  • Stretch wrap film can also be used for added security, wrapping freight tightly prevents load shifting.

These methods are just a few of the recommended ways to transport products safely (after the pallet process) without the concern for potential damage to freight inventory.

Wood Pallets vs. The Rest

In terms of usage, wood pallets get the market share. Just take a look at these revealing facts:

  • Plastic comprises 2 percent of the pallet market
  • Composite wood made from particle board, laminated veneer lumber represents 2 to 4 percent
  • Paper pallets represent less than 1 percent
  • Metal pallets make up less than 1 percent of the market and are prohibitively expensive
  • Wood dominates the market by 90 percent and is the most economical option
  • If pallets are beyond repair, they can be repurposed, upcycled or chipped into mulch; pallets that are returned to the landfill are 100 percent biodegradable


A great pallet combines strength, durability, functionality, sustainability amongst other factors to serve as a solution for your shipping needs.

Moreover, knowing what the possibilities of a pallet are by style type or modification can open you to customized pallet options that could better suit what you’re shipping. I often hear from shipping and purchasing agents who call in and ask for a standard pallet size – a 48 x 40 because that’s what they’re told to get; by asking the right questions it is sometimes discovered that there’s an even more specific size that better suits their pallet needs.

Be sure to consider all of these factors when making that next pallet purchase for your company.

About the Author:

Sarah Barrell is the Operations Manager of A-1 Pallet Enterprises; founded

by the Barrell family in 1997. Sarah has been dedicated to creating

harmony in her business; focusing & learning how to be more effective &

efficient and supporting A-1 Pallet’s vision of providing Shipping Solutions

& Peace of Mind. You can connect with her on Google+.

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