Project Guide: Building With Pallets
Building with pallets is an extremely popular phenomenon in the DIY community and there are ample tutorials, ideas, and inspirations to be found all over the web for projects you can make with them. Because shipping pallets are a readily available source of free wood, as long as they're treated and prepared properly, they can be very useful in smaller building projects.
Building With Pallets
- Before You Start
- While You're Working
- After You've Finished
1. Where to Find Shipping Pallets
Pallets are used for transporting wares, so many stores have pallets that they may be willing to give away if you ask politely. Here are some types of stores where DIYers have had success scoring free pallets:
- Flooring and Home Improvement Stores
- Grocery Stores
- Pet Supply Stores
- Wine Stores
- Furniture/Equipment Stores
- Construction Sites
2. Choosing Good Pallets
There are many factors to consider when finding the right pallets for your project. Some are safety issues, some are dependent on your project of choice, and some reliant on your preference.
- Only salvage pallets that are marked with an HT stamp, meaning that they have been heat treated, as opposed to treated with chemicals.
- Look for pallets with healthy, undamaged boards. If the boards appear greasy, stained, or cracked, move on to the next pallet.
- Pallet boards are originally made for transportation, not for home decor, so their planks are often slightly different lengths and widths, even within the same pallet. Be aware of the planks yours has before getting to work.
- Pallet planks tend to warp and can be difficult for precise construction. Make sure to pick pallets with the flattest possible planks.
3. Prepare Your Work Space
- Clear space to work insight a wood shed or outside
- Make sure you have a clean, sturdy surface to lay pallets against when dismantling them
- Work on a solid floor (not over grass or pebbles) as stray nails and splinters can get buried in the ground
4. Prepare Yourself for Working
- Wear all protective gear when working with wood and nails to prevent accidents
- Wear work boots or other sturdy closed shoes
- Clothing may get covered in wood splinters, so wear work clothes
Basic Tools Include:
- Woodworking Gloves
- Protective Glasses or Goggles
- Sanding Block or Palm Sander
- Sturdy Work Bench
- Wood Clamps
- Sawzall (Optional)
1. Types of Projects for Pallets
Pallets come in different shapes and sizes. When you've chosen your project, pick the correct pallet or planks to work with.
- For heavy duty projects, like a pallet patio or porch chair, you'll need a type that can support more weight.
- Plan out which planks will go where as you work.
- Planks that are straight will be needed for the structural parts of your project, while more curved or uneven planks can be used as decoration or cover, giving the project a rustic look without threatening the structural integrity.
2. Taking Apart Pallets
There are many tried and true ways to dismantle pallets:
- Table saw method: Use the table saw to cut the planks free just inside of the nails. This will leave you with far less nails to remove on each plank, and if you're doing a small project that requires shorter planks, this is a quick and easy method.
- With a Duckbill Deck Wrecker: This tool makes pulling pallets apart very simple. Just apply leverage to the handle (like a crowbar), pull the boards apart, then pull out the nails with the backend of a hammer.
- With a Sawzall: Though this is an additional expense, this might be the easiest and quickest removal you'll find. Simply guide the blade of the sawzall straight down each end of the pallet, cutting through the nails as you go. This technique (from Old World Garden Farms) will leave you with nails embedded in the wood, which saves you from wrenching work and creates a characteristic finish.
- With wooden blocks or boards: If you're looking for a very bare-bones removal method, place a wooden block or plank between the planks of wood and stomp (carefully!) on the edge of the plank, using the pressure to break the plank free. This method may lead to some breaking and splintering.
1. Painting or Staining
Pallet wood has a very unfinished look, so many DIYers choose to decorate or seal it once they've finished building. Pallets are generally made from very porous wood, so they're easy to paint, stain, wax, or simply seal.
After working with pallets or any other woodworking project, check your work area for looks nails and make sure to sweep up splinters, larger wood pieces, and bits of metal that may have collected in your workspace.
Projects to Look At
- Tropical Porch Paradise Using Pallets
- Pallet Wall Organizer
- Pallet Shed With Tin Roof
- Console Table from Full Pallet
- Full Wooden Deck from Pallets
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Published August 23rd, 2015 7:19 AM
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3 of 6 comments
Liliana Wells on Oct 11, 2015Good to know.
Lydia Cervantes on Jan 24, 2017I've been dying to try projects using pallets. Actually i will be using them when I build my tiny home..
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