At first glance, shipping pallets may all seem alike to you, but they are actually quite different. There are different sizes and also different designs of pallets. There are also a variety of materials that are used for pallets, and it's good to note the differences in strength and durability. Note a few terms you might want to learn before you shop for pallets for shipping purposes.

1. Deckboard

This is somewhat self-explanatory; the top deckboard is the top of the pallets. This is usually made of slats but sometimes it might be a solid piece. You need to understand this term because you need to know how strong the top deckboard is, according to the type of wood used or the thickness of plywood. Other parts of the pallet may be made with wood that is less strong but if the top deckboard is made of thin plywood or balsa, it may be more likely to crack and break under the weight of your materials.

The bottom deckboard would be the boards or materials that make up the bottom of the pallet. Since this part of the pallet isn't bearing the weight of your materials directly, it's often acceptable if it's made of a thinner plywood or a weaker wood type such as balsa.

2. Runner

The runners are the wood pieces that connect the top and bottom deckboards. Be sure the pallets you choose have wide, sturdy runners. You also don't want runners to be overly tall, as short runners will help to better disperse the weight of your materials. Tall runners will create a higher center of gravity for the shipment and, in turn, increase the risk of the pallet breaking. Be sure the runners are just tall enough for the forks of a forklift to slide through and nothing more.

3. Treated versus untreated

If you're shipping internationally, you need to realize that timber pallets are often highly regulated. This is because bugs and other pests can burrow into wood pallets and make their way into that foreign country right along with your shipment. Treated pallets are those that have been treated with some type of chemical or sealant to keep out bugs as well as mildew, mold, and the like. Very often you're required to use only treated pallets for international shipments. Note too that these may be preferred over untreated pallets for repeated use, as they may hold up better against moisture absorption and other such damage.