Mezzanine & Platform FAQs

Click on any of the questions below to reveal answers to the most frequently asked questions we hear about mezzanines, work platforms and other steel structures. We cover questions on mezzanine engineering, siting, field measuring, stairs, ladders, clear height and more.

  • What is a free standing mezzanine?

    Free standing mezzanines, also known as work platforms, structural, steel, or wide span mezzanines, are used in a wide variety of industrial applications and offer great flexibility. Instead of knocking a hole in a wall and incurring costly construction costs, a free standing mezzanine provides an economical option for adding space to your existing facility footprint.

    Free standing mezzanines are platforms that rely only on their own components for support. A free standing mezzanine has columns that rest on the concrete slab and each column baseplate is anchored to the slab. If footers are required, the column baseplates are anchored to the footer.

    Advantages of Free Standing Mezzanines

    • Designed to maximize clear space under and above mezzanine
    • Incorporates wide spacing and high PSF capacity
    • Flexible set up and restructuring – accommodates changes, in the present and future
    • Easy relocation – to another area in a building or move to another facility
    • Tax advantages – considered capital equipment and can be depreciated over 7 years vs. 39 years
    • Shorter project timeline
  • What's the difference between a mezzanine and a work platform?

    A mezzanine is a permanent intermediate level within a building that is part of its physical structure; e.g., a partial story between two main stories of a building (auditorium, theater, entrance lobby, etc.).

    Read more in our blog about the term “mezzanine” vs “work platform.”

  • What should I know about framing options?

    Steele Solutions will provide you with the most cost-effective framing system based on your specific industrial or commercial project needs.

    We don’t pigeon-hole a project to what we do, rather we custom fit each application with the framing system that works best. You do not have to be a framing expert, however with a basic understanding of our framing solutions, you will have the knowledge to serve your customers better.

    Click here to learn more about Steele Solutions industrial framing solutions, including:

    • C-Section
    • Beam and C-Section
    • Beam and Beam
    • Beam and Bar Joist
    • Bar Joist and Girder Joist
  • What is the difference between a hand rail and guard rail?

    Hand rail is only on a stairway and that is typically what you hold onto when going up or down a stair. Handrail must be a minimum of 36″ high from each stair tread. IBC code requires handrail to be welded smooth and continuous.

    Guardrail is what you will see on a mezzanine and on an IBC style stairway. Guardrail is there to prevent a person from falling over the edge. Guardrail must be a minimum of 42″ high whether on a mezzanine or stairway.

    OSHA style stairs only require a minimum 36″ high handrail from each tread.

    Both handrail and guardrail can be two rail systems for most industrial applications per IBC and OSHA.

  • Do I need footings for my mezzanine?

    You might, but Steele Solutions does not determine if the existing slab can carry the loads imposed by a new mezzanine or if new footings are required. We can assist the process by getting the loading information to an engineer of your choice for review.

  • Do I need a cage on my ladder?

    OSHA does not require a ladder to have a cage until 20″ top of deck. Many customers will add the optional cage at lower elevations, but it is not required.

  • Can you provide a safety gate for platforms?

    Yes, Steele Solutions offers several different types of safety gates. Contact us for the right gate for your application.

  • How do you determine the right decking for a platform or mezzanine?

    First you must consider the application. Here are key questions you should ask yourself to determine what type of decking is best for your work platform application:

    • How is the structure being used?
    • What is going on top?
    • How is the material being moved or stored?
    • Is it a wet environment?
    • Is there an office being built on top?
    • Are there any budget concerns the end-user is facing?

    Read more about decking selection for mezzanines and work platforms.

  • What are the basics of bar grating?

    Bar grating is a common decking surface for mezzanines, platforms, catwalks and conveyor systems.

    Welded steel bar grating offers strength and reliability, with the added advantage of allowing light and air to pass through. With only one deck layer to install, it can result in quicker installation times.

    Common misconceptions and disadvantages of bar grating:

    • Not the least expensive option for mezzanine decking
    • Using bar grating eliminates the need for sprinklers below in all applications
    • Things can fall through onto people working below
    • Does not work well for rolling carts or pallet jacks
    • Not ergonomically friendly, creates fatigue

    In most cases, roof deck and wood will be more economical, and in most mezzanine applications sprinklers are required by insurance carriers and building departments.

    Click here to learn more about bar grating and other decking options.

  • How do you calculate stair run?

    For an approximate determination of how much floor space a mezzanine or platform stairway will take up, you can use the following approaches.

    OSHA Stairs
    Horizontal run is equal to your deck height.
    Example: 10′ mezzanine deck height = Approx. 10′ horizontal run

    IBC Stairs
    Horizontal run is 1-1/2 times your deck height (does not include handrail extensions or any landings).
    Example: 10’ mezzanine deck height = Approx. 15′ horizontal run
    To determine the exact stair run calculation – divide the elevation in inches by 7 and remove the decimal. Then multiply the whole number by 11. 
Example: 120″/7 = 17.14 // 17 x 11 = 187″ stair run

    Other IBC Stair Considerations
    IBC stairways with a deck height above 12’ must have an intermediate landing. If the stairway has an intermediate and/or top landing, that must be factored into the horizontal run. Typical landings are 4’ square.
    This quick rule of thumb formula will get you within a foot of the exact horizontal run of the stair and make you look like a hero to your customer when he asks you this question and you can give him an answer immediately.
    Need help calculating stair run? Contact Steele Solutions; we can assist you. 800-542-5099.

  • At what point does my mezzanine stair require an intermediate landing?

    Any mezzanine with a top of deck over 12’0″ requires an intermediate landing. Intermediate landings can be used to create a L-Shaped or U-Shaped stair design at any height on a mezzanine.

  • How many stairways are required on my mezzanine?

    There are many factors required to determine the number of stairways required on a mezzanine or equipment platform (size, use and occupant load of the mezzanine, location in building, etc.) but a safe rule of thumb would be to be within 75 feet of a stairway from any point on a mezzanine.

  • What does PSF mean?

    PSF is the abbreviation for pounds per square foot. This PSF is used as the design load or uniform load for mezzanines and other steel structures. Per Table 1607.1 of IBC Code, the minimum design load for mezzanines or work platforms is 125 PSF. We can design for loads much higher than 125 PSF however very few applications require a larger uniform load.

    For example, a 50′ x 50′ mezzanine with a 125 PSF rating can handle 312,500 pounds! That is the equivalent of 208 pallets weighing an average of 1,500 lbs. (which would not even fit on the mezzanine).

    Keep in mind that the design load in PSF is an average loading over the entire deck surface, rather than a heavy load in one area only. For example, a 250-lb. man working on the platform would not require a design load of 250 PSF.

    Understanding the difference between a design load (calculated in PSF) and a point load (calculated in pounds) is critical to a safe and economical design. For more details on calculating PSF, call us at 888-542-5099 or use our contact form.

  • What should be the minimum clear height under a mezzanine?

    Per IBC 2009 Section 505.1 the minimum clear height under a mezzanine is 7’0″ (84″). The same minimum clear is required from the top of mezzanine deck to the ceiling above.

  • How far can you span between columns on a mezzanine?

    Steele Solutions is not limited by span alone when designing a mezzanine or platform. The longer you span the deeper the profile of the steel needs to be. Longer spans can lead to a higher price for the mezzanine. The most economical would typically include column spacing where spans in both directions are under 20’0″ long.

  • Is there a simple way to handle field measuring for mezzanine siting?

    Getting Started

    • Understand the full scope of the project. Walk around the project area to get a complete picture.
    • Dissect the sections and area for potential obstructions. Obstructions can be found on the floor, overhead or associated with building columns.
    • Take overall measurements. Measure the longest dimensions. Note: If you take accumulative dimensions calculate prior to leaving to verify measurements are correct.  You don’t want to find discrepancies after you leave the customer site.

    What to Consider

    • Tapered building columns – Identify if there are any tapered building columns in the project area. Acknowledge they exist so they can be accounted for in the design process.
    • Floor obstructions – Look down to evaluate if there are any floor obstructions that will impact the mezzanine design. Common floor obstructions include – existing equipment, drains, access panels, pits, and sloped floor sections.
    • Perimeter of area – Measure any doors, windows, and wall openings. Are there sprinkler risers or electrical panels and conduit that need to be noted?
    • Overhead obstructions – Walk the project area and look up for any overhead obstructions that need to be taken into account. Common overhead obstructions include – sprinklers and garage doors.  It is important to know about these obstructions so the design provides proper head clearance.

    Important Tips

    • Always provide the actual dimensions of the space. Let the manufacturer build in tolerances in the design process.
    • The more you measurements you take the better. This helps if the scope of work for the project changes.
    • Take as many photos as possible. Photos are a great reference for later, when you return to the office and questions arise.

    Steele Solutions is here to assist our customers through the field measurement process. Please feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns, 888-542-5099

  • What's the Difference Between Design Load and Point Load?

    Design load is the overall capacity of a structure, while point load is the capacity at a specific spot on the structure. Let’s look at a situation to show the difference:

    A common misconception in work platform or mezzanine design is you must make the Uniform Live Load (design load) equal to the pounds per square foot (PSF) of the heaviest item.

    For example, if you have a 2,500-lb. pallet, that equates to 178 PSF; let’s make it 200 PSF to be safe. It’s important to understand the differences between a point load and a design load if you want to ensure safety and keep costs reasonable.

    The design load represents the total amount of weight the work platform (mezzanine) can handle. For example, a 50’ x 50’ mezzanine at 125 PSF design load can hold 312,500 lbs. spread out over the entire deck surface.

    A point load is a heavy load in one specific area of the structure. Items that typically have a heavy point load could be shelving legs, rack uprights or a particular piece of equipment sitting on four legs. The most common point load situation we encounter is the load wheel on a pallet jack (specifically when the pallet is being jacked up).

    If point loads are ignored, you could have a deck failure (creating hole in wood decking or crushing of the corrugated decking).

    The good news, you don’t have to be an expert in point loading, just contact your Steele Solutions design professional and we can help you determine the correct loading for your application, call 1-888-542-5099 or use our quick contact form.

  • How do I get a project off to a good start and avoid pitfalls?

    When initially discussing a project, try to visualize the structure in 3D to see where pitfalls may occur; this alleviates design changes and added “gotcha” costs after the fact.

    Show your customers you are the expert with these helpful tips:

    • 1/3 Rule: Mezzanines cannot take up more than 1/3 of a fire contained area, otherwise it could be viewed as a second floor. A second floor could have several implications including tax liabilities, need for additional restrooms and other restrictions.
    • Deck Surface: Roof deck and Resindek is the most cost effective, while bar grating is a more expensive option. Learn more about deck surfaces.
    • Obstructions: Look for potential obstructions like building columns, machinery, piping, etc.
    • Number of Stairs: As a rule of thumb, any mezzanine over 2,000 square feet requires two stairways (always check with local building officials).
    • Clear Height vs. Top of Deck: Pick the more critical one, this allows Steele Solutions to design the most cost efficient solution.
    • 12’0” Top of Deck: Try to keep mezzanine floor at or below 12’0” to alleviate an intermediate stair platform. As a reference point, 10’ 6” clear will keep you below 12’
    • Column Spacing: Let us design the most economical solution. Advise up front if there are specific obstructions or requirements.
    • IBC Stairs: Stairs are longer than you think and can be difficult to position. Be sure to ask how the stair is being used and look for obstructions. TIP: Keep in mind the 7:11 rise/run ratio. As an example: 12’ top of deck stair with a top landing requires 22’ 6” for straight stair run. Find out more about stairs.

What Would You Like to Know? Ask Steele Solutions

The experts at Steele Solutions are happy to answer your questions about mezzanines, equipment platforms, equipment support structures and steel towers.

Email your questions.