3 Things to Consider Before Signing a Warehouse Building Lease

Are you considering signing a lease for new warehouse space? Have you evaluated its sprinkler system against your racking plan and your commodities? There are several factors in determining a sprinkler systems adequacy and many other considerations to take in when making the decision on a lease. 

Time and time again, McGee Storage & Handling is approached to design, permit and install a pallet rack system after our potential client has signed a lease. There are typically thoughts of utilizing the building clearance height and placing pallets on pallet racking, most often with a storage height of products over 12' above floor level. Beware! A storage Height over 12' is considered "high pile storage," and will be scrutinized in the permitting process.


 1. Commodity Class of the product being stored.

The NFPA designates all materials based on their combustibility. They have classification for materials from Class I to IV. An example of Class I would be frozen foods and glass (noncombustible). An example of a Class IV would be paints, foamed back rugs and may contain Group "A" plastic packaging (even if the commodity itself is a Class I). The allowable amount of Group A plastics in a product is less than 15% by weight or 25% by volume.

Once you are over 15% by weight and 25% by volume you are now entering what are called "high hazard commodities" These are Group A-B and C plastics. Special attention is needed to accommodate this category.

There are still many other product categories, such as aerosols, to worry about, and other questions to consider. How the product will be stored and at what height? What's the distance from sprinkler heads? Are the pallets wrapped in plastic (encapsulated)?

The point of this is that you will be asked what you are storing during the permitting process. Investigating this prior to signing a lease is much less stressful than doing so afterward! There are also fire protection engineers that can help you in your space planning.

2. Flue Space (System Design) 

The flue space is the space between pallets or pallet racks. They are necessary to allow water to reach the product. Transverse flue space is the space from one pallet to the next while facing a rack, think going left to right. Assuming there is a standard 40" x 48" pallet on an 8' wide bay, the flue space to maintain 6". Longitudinal flue space is the space from 1 rack to the next in a back-to-back arrangement. With most 42" deep racks the flue space is 12" with 3" of pallet overhang per side leaving 6" of space. Some municipalities may ask that you ensure the integrity of these flue spaces by adding pallet stops or separators.

Check out one of our previous blogs on pallet racking to learn more about flue space! 

 3. Sprinkler Output

After you understand the commodity class of the product to be stored and the design of the rack system, it's time to evaluate if the sprinkler system is adequate for you. There are two conventional types of wet sprinkler systems. The older systems are often now just called "wet," and are limited in their effect for high pile storage, though not necessarily inadequate. The other is ESFR (Early Suppression Fast Response). Most modern warehouses today are equipped with ESFR systems that are designed for high pile storage, but are not without their limitations either.


Whether or not you should sign a lease should depend on all three of the considerations discussed. What are you storing? What system design and sprinkler system is/will be installed? At McGee Storage & Handling, our experts often can walk you through the entire process, but will recommend a fire protection engineer get involved in some cases. In fact, some jurisdictions even demand a fire protection engineer sign off. There are options to alter the sprinkler system, but in our experience, they are expensive and never well received. So buyer, or should we say, lessee, beware!

Call McGee Storage & Handling ahead of time and let's work together to design the best storage system for you in the proper building.!

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