Grades of GMA pallets – A detailed overview

Over 80% of all materials and equipment is moved and transported using wood pallets. It can be easy to overlook the various types and qualities of these pallets when deciding the most economical one to use.

GMA pallets, the most popular and commonly used of all sized pallets, are constructed subject to standards issued by the Grocery Manufacturers Association of America. However, not all GMA pallets are made the same. When acquiring pallets for your warehouse or distribution facility you should become familiar with the different grades of GMA pallets.

GMA Pallets Generally

Pallets considered GMA pallets, regardless of grade, are always 48” x 40” with the stringer length always being the 48” length. They are built using three stringers to support between three to five base boards and five to seven top deck boards. The average top deck spacing is 2.5 to 3.5 inches. The three stringers are 3.5 inches by 1.5 inches. GMA pallets are always built with a four way entry and with flush mounted boards. The GMA grade depends largely on the condition of the stringers and the boards that compose the pallet.

Description of a GMA 48″ x 40″ Pallet

Premium Grade A


These are most commonly used at retail where they will sit out on the selling floor becoming an integral part of a display.

  • 7 boards on top
  • 5 boards on bottom
  • 6″ lead boards top and bottom
  • Average top deck spacing 2-1/2″ to 3-1/2″
  • 3 stringers (1-1/2″ x 3-1/2″ each)
  • 4-way entry
  • Flush
  • No block or metal repairs to stringers
  • No colored or painted stringers
  • Mostly clean of paint or markings on sides or end of stringers. Occasional small black out markings on sides

Grade A


Pallets are mostly used by food, pharmaceutical or others.

  • 7 boards on top
  • 5 boards on bottom
  • Average top deck spacing 2-1/2″ to 3-1/2″
  • 3 stringers (1-1/2″ x 3-1/2″ each)
  • 4-way entry
  • Flush
  • Each stringer can have one metal repair plate to strengthen any split
  • May have some paint or blank out markings on sides of stringers or have one or more stinger end color coded
  • May have minor cracks or chips in wood
  • Wood blemishes are acceptable

Premium Grade B


The perfect fit between a Grade A and Grade B. This cost saving pallet will have had fewer transfer cycles than a Grade B and as a result will likely have fewer markings, chips, cracks or other wear and tear damage.

  • Same as a standard Grade B pallet but with only one of the three stringers having added a plug or other type of repair
  • Will likely have some paint, blank out or other markings on sides of stringers and may have two or more stringers with painted ends

Grade B


Considerably less expensive than Grade A and are used primarily for warehousing or shipping where it is likely the pallet will not be coming back.

  • 6 to 7 boards on top, depending on board width which can be
3-1/2″ to 5-1/2″ wide
  • No less than 4 boards on bottom
  • Average top deck spacing 2-1/2″ to 3-1/2″ but can be up to 4″
  • 3 stringers (1-1/2″ x 3-1/2″ each)
  • 4-way entry
  • Flush
  • Has plugs (repairs) on stringers
  • Plugs can be various length and location
  • No more than two boards (stringers) thick at any one point
  • Chips or partial split boards are acceptable and may have multiple blemishes and color degradation

Most other sizes of pallets do not refer to the GMA grading process but they do come in different conditions. Tell your salesman what your use is and he can offer you the best choice for the size you need.