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Building That New Warehouse

Furniture World Magazine


This article is for you if you are considering obtaining existing warehouse space or building a warehouse from the ground-up.

If you currently have enough warehouse space, put this material away until the need arises (for it surely will!). Pre-planning is absolutely essential. The history of our industry is full of retailers who found themselves stuck with sites that did not even meet minimal requirements.

An architect once told me there are 2,200 decisions and choices to be made when building a facility. Experience makes me believe there are seven fundamental factors related to warehouse property acquisition.... location, location, location, location, location, location, and last but not least, location. Individual factor importance ranking may differ among retailers but all are important. After these are resolved, the remaining decisions are easier.

SAFETY: Some sites require armed guards while others are safe virtually all the time. Is this site currently safe and what direction is the surrounding area going? Is the area subject to flooding?

VISIBILITY: Marketing oriented companies typically want a site that potential customers will see while driving by. The building can be a landmark that even may be nicely lighted during evening and early morning hours as inexpensive advertising.

INBOUND TRUCKS: The typical furniture warehouse receives trucks directly from manufacturers - tractor semi-trailer rigs up to 70 feet long and 13' 6" high. Verify that the trucks can easily get from the major highways to the warehouse. Is there a low underpass that would block trucks? Does the route go through residential areas that have weight limits or is the route subject to periodic flooding? At the building, does the truck have enough maneuvering room to reach the dock and is room for parking available?

DELIVERY TRUCKS: This might appear to be an oxymoron because if over the road trucks have easy access, access will be easy for furniture delivery trucks. The issue here is to locate the warehouse to serve both current and future customers.

Using sales records, generate a delivery profile and a color coded map by zip codes or community name in rural areas. This map should be reviewed and adjusted based on anticipated growth patterns and where you plan to open additional retail stores. Your goal is to avoid excessive driving time to and from your customers and to accomplish store shuttles.

WILL CALL CUSTOMERS: If will call pickups are important, it should be easy to find your warehouse. That means easy access from and to a major street or highway.

NUMBER OF DOORS:Any warehouse should meet the following minimum criteria:


Under 2,000'  1 Door
2,000' - 10,000'  2 Doors
Each extra 10,000 ft.   Add one additional door

Truck docks are typically 48" high, sometimes 30-42" for delivery trucks. In addition, there also should be at least one grade level doorway with a 6-8' width to allow easy wheeling of product out to customers' cars. An overhead drive-in door is very desirable for loading.

BUILDING FLOORS & HEIGHT: Regardless of warehouse height, a good floor is essential. A rough or highly cracked floor causes picker damage and concrete dust settles on the furniture. A leaking roof may be fixed but a bad floor is an extremely difficult problem.

Many older buildings are only 10-14 feet high. It's almost impossible to use any mechanical equipment in these warehouses. With 16 feet of clearance, cantilever racks begin to be feasible. Remember that overhead guards on pickers are about 7' higher than the platform so level transfers can only be at 8-9'. Anything higher requires product lifting. With 16' clearance we generally put the top shelf at 12' and use that level for light weight products.

Between 16 feet and 28 feet of ceiling height there are numerous options. Reasonably priced used racks and pickers are readily available in this range.

The cost to increase the clear height is nominal because the incremental costs are column length and the sidewalls, foundation, floor and roof costs are virtually the same. Clear heights to 40' are being used more frequently where land prices are expensive. High warehouses also have greater requirements for fire protection and floor flatness than can be described here.

In summary, following these factors will reduce the chance of selecting an inappropriate warehouse building or site. Many other related questions will come up as the seven factors are reviewed. Make up your own check list, and weigh each factor, based on your individual circumstances before signing on the dotted line. You may decide the investment in using a qualified professional engineer with specific warehouse experience who has "been there, done that" many times is a wise decision. 


  • Building has flooded 3 times in last six years.
  • Underpass on only access road floods 3' deep every time it rains.
  • Low Bridge (12' clearance) prevents all tractor trailers from reaching building.
  • Tractor trailer rig has to be backed 600 ft. to reach docks. No turnaround area.
  • Will call driving instructions from retail store to warehouse takes a full page.
  • Site will become almost inaccessible in two years with construction of new highway (Already approved by city but the seller didn't disclose).
  • Local zoning will not allow any building more than 25 ft. high while 35 ft. was necessary for anticipated inventory.
  • Water pressure and quantity available required $250,000 water tank and fire pump.

Daniel Bolger of The Bolger Group helps companies achieve improved transportation, warehousing and logistics. Questions can be directed to Mr. Bolger care of FURNITURE WORLD at dbolger@furninfo.com.