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  • Writer's pictureEdison Vasquez

Docks and Doors: Your Industrial Building’s Exterior Explained

There is a lot of lingo that tends to be used when describing industrial real estate. Whether you’re a first-time owner, long-time tenant or someone who falls somewhere in between – making sense of these terms can be challenging.

Loading dock vs. cross dock? Ramp door vs. rail door?

If you don’t know the difference between these terms, you aren’t alone! In this article, we explain some of the terms most often used when talking about an industrial building’s exterior features.


· Loading Dock: An elevated platform at the shipping or delivery door of a building; usually at the same height as the floor of a motor truck or railroad car to facilitate loading or unloading. These doors can be exposed on the outside wall of the building or covered with a canopy or other construction to cover or protect the loading area.

· Cross-Dock: A loading dock situated along two walls of the same building where goods are transferred from vehicle to vehicle for further distribution.

· Side-Loading Dock: A loading dock configuration designed to facilitate the loading and unloading of a vehicle through its side.

· Flush Loading Dock: A dock that just acts as an opening flush with a warehouse wall, which allows the back of a truck to attach seamlessly to the dock. Flush docks save space because they neither jut out nor require an enclosure for the vehicle.

· Enclosed Loading Dock: One of the least common types of loading docks, an enclosed loading dock allows an entire truck to park indoors, protected from the elements. Enclosed docks require their own ventilation systems to properly remove the exhaust and other pollution produced by the vehicle parked within.

· Sawtooth Loading Dock: Sawtooth docks are used in situations where outdoor maneuvering space is limited. They allow trucks to approach docks at an angle, saving space outside a warehouse.


· Dock-High Door: An elevating loading dock door that usually opens at a height of four feet from the truck court level (the standard tractor-trailer height). Some doors, called semi-dock or half-dock, are constructed at two-foot height to accommodate smaller-sized delivery trucks. · Drive-In Door: A door through which trucks, forklifts and other machinery or vehicles can enter and exit without a change in elevation.

· Ramp Door: A dock-high door that has been converted to a drive-in door by creating a ramp from ground-level to dock-level.

· Rail Door: A door, generally side-loading, with access to railroad tracks that can be used to facilitate the loading or unloading of railroad cars directly to or from the building.

· Door to Square Foot Ratio: The ratio of the total number of loading docks and drive-in doors to the building’s total square footage. Most warehouse buildings will have at least 1 loading dock for every 5,000 to 15,000 sq. ft. of space. Distribution buildings will have a ratio of 1 per 3,000 to 10,000 sq. ft. (general purpose distribution) to 1 per 500 to 5,000 sq. ft. (truck terminal).

There are many nuances to the docks, doors and other areas exterior to an industrial or warehouse building.


· Truck Court: An area adjacent to a building’s loading docks that consists of the loading and truck maneuvering areas. The most important measure of the truck court is the depth from the building to the end of the truck court, as this will impact truck maneuvering.

· Apron: The area within the truck court where trucks are parked for loading and unloading. This area will be paved with more durable material than the rest of the truck court (e.g., concrete or other structural reinforcement rather than asphalt alone) to withstand the heavy loads while parked here.

As you can see, there are many nuances to the docks, doors and other areas exterior to an industrial or warehouse building. While most people are focused on the interior space, the exterior considerations are equally important.

Call to Action Are you interested in learning more about different types of industrial or warehouse properties? Maybe you’re trying to determine which would be the best investment or leased property? Contact us today to explore your options!

About the ComReal Miami Industrial Team: The ComReal Miami Industrial Team has been assisting companies with their South Florida real estate needs for over 30 years. The industrial team specializes in the sales and leasing of industrial properties. Visit Warehouses Market and/or call 786-433-2380 for more information.

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