Pallets come in a wide variety of materials, sizes, and configurations in order to suit different tastes, preferences, requirements, functions, and even budgets. If you need to order pallets, the type you choose will depend on these factors—most specifically what the pallets will be used for and how much you can afford.
What is a Pallet?
First, it’s important to know exactly what a pallet is. According to Dictionary.com, a pallet is a “small, low, portable platform on which goods are placed for storage or moving, as in a warehouse or vehicle.” Pallet platforms both store and transport goods and cargo, typically through the use of forklifts and large trucks for moving, in warehouses, factories, stores, and farms.
Stringer Pallets vs. Block Pallets
Pallets of many sizes and materials generally fall into two broad categories: stringer pallets and block pallets. Stringer pallets, often made from softwood and sometimes referred to as “two-way” pallets, use a frame of three or four pieces of timber (called “stringers”) that are parallel and attached to top deckboards, thus forming the structure of the pallet. While a forklift can lift this type of pallet from all four directions (although using the stringers to lift is recommended, as it’s safer and more secure), a pallet jack is able to lift a stringer pallet from only two directions.
Block pallets, on the other hand, are generally stronger and more secure than their stringer pallet counterparts. The reason for the greater strength, security, and durability is two-fold: block pallets are typically made from hardwood, and they use both parallel and perpendicular pieces of timber (“stringers”) to create their structure, which helps with more efficient handling. Block pallets are called “four-way” pallets because both forklifts as well as pallet jacks can move them from any direction or side.
As mentioned, different materials are used to manufacture the various types of pallets. Each material has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. While this list of the various types of pallets is not exhaustive, it does describe the main and most common types of pallets out there.
Wood is the most common type of material used to build pallets. Wooden pallets can be softwood stringer pallets or hardwood block pallets. The advantages of using wood for building pallets are many: wood is strong, sturdy, flexible, abundant, and easy to use. However, wooden pallets are generally only good for single-use travel. Once the cargo is unloaded, wooden pallets often have to be repaired or disposed, which has created excessive waste over the years. Recycling wood pallets into pulp is an option.
Metal pallets have also increased in number and usage over the years; however, they are far less commonplace than their wooden counterparts and comprise only a small percentage of the pallet marketplace. They are most often used to store and/or transport especially large or heavy cargo because of their stellar strength and durability. However, metal pallets are usually very heavy themselves (and therefore more difficult to manufacture), and much more expensive. Different types of metal are used for pallets—most commonly stainless steel, carbon steel, and aluminum. Generally, carbon steel provides excellent durability at a lower cost than stainless steel or aluminum.
The plastic pallet is another type of pallet used for storing and transporting cargo. There are different types of plastic pallets, and they vary in terms of cost and durability. In general, plastic pallets tend to be fairly strong and durable, lasting for many trips, but are often expensive and difficult to repair.
Cardboard and Paper
Other types of pallets include pallets made from cardboard and paper, which are newer to the market. Both types of pallets, made with structural reinforcements, are lightweight, recyclable, and inexpensive, and are often used for lighter loads.