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Is steel shelving better than wire shelving?

When you’re shopping around for shelving solutions, it can be surprising to find such a wide variety of styles and materials on offer. After all, a shelf is just a shelf, right?

Well, not quite. Different types of metal shelving provide different strengths and advantages - and the right choice for you may depend on your budget, your DIY skill level, and the kinds of objects you want to support on your shelves once they’re up. For many people looking to invest in shelving units, the choice often boils down to a straight shootout between steel shelving and wire shelving. Here we look at these two frontrunners, and decide which is best for you:


What is wire shelving?

Characterised by cylindrical chrome-plated poles, wire shelving units are the kind you’d typically see storing ingredients in a professional kitchen. The shelves themselves are wire racks, as opposed to solid shelves, and they are held in place by circular grooves on each of the four poles.Like our steel shelving units, wire shelves are boltless systems which can be assembled and disassembled using just a rubber mallet. They can also be height-adjusted in a similar manner, with grooves positioned usually at one-inch intervals along the pole.

What is steel shelving?

Steel shelving units combine a sturdy steel frame with solid shelves made of chipboard. The four corner pieces of the steel frame feature a series of ‘keyholes’, which allow the beams to click firmly into place - before the chipboard shelves then slide safely and securely on top of the fixed beams. Wire and steel shelving both offer boltless assembly, and can be built, dismantled and height-adjusted using nothing more than a rubber mallet.

Wire shelving v steel shelving

Both wire shelving and steel shelving units are affordable and easy to assemble - so far, so similar. But there are a couple of key differences between the two options which often see steel shelving come out on top. The first of those is strength.

Steel shelving units are typically stronger than wire shelving versions, due in part to the shape of the four corner poles. Where wire shelving tends to use cylindrical poles, steel shelving units like our Rax 1 heavy duty shelving (and indeed all our other boltless shelving units) use square poles with a greater surface area. That extra stability allows steel shelves to hold a higher maximum load - around 300kg for a medium duty steel shelving unit, compared to 225kg for similarly sized wire shelving.

The second advantage of steel shelving is those solid shelves.

Wire shelving units use gridded racks, similar to what you’d see in your oven grill - making it unfeasible to place any small items on them for fear of them slipping through the gaps. Particularly for a garage or workshop, with all manner of nuts, bolts and other small components to store, it’s a key consideration and a potential pitfall of using a wire shelving unit.

Therefore, whilst both forms of shelving offer their own advantages; due to their extra strength, stability and simplicity of design, steel shelving units commonly represent the better option for those seeking a strong and secure storage option for environments such as garages, workshops, warehouses, stockrooms and offices.

If you are looking for a storage solution and require some advice on the options available, please do not hesitate to get in touch on 0845 194 7370 or by email at