DIY (do it yourself) is an acronym for “do it yourself” and refers to one of the finest methods to save money on any home design job. DIY projects save money since they don’t require paying a worker to do them, which can account for as much as 70 percent of the total. Still, you have to fork out cash for supplies, and if money is very tight, it can be more than you can afford.
Thankfully, shipping pallets are readily accessible, very adaptable, and inexpensive.
Pallets, which are often constructed out of wood, are used for storing and transporting products in trucks and airplanes, as well as in warehouses. If you use pallets, you may load and unload an entire stack of boxes or crates at once into a machine called a pallet jack or pallet lifter.
Due to their size and weight, many retailers choose not to return empty pallets to the manufacturer for recycling. The items are either discarded or sent to a recycling center.
DIYers on a tight budget will find all these abandoned pallets to be a veritable gold mine.
Used pallets may be purchased for next to nothing, if not for free, from a surprising number of retailers. In this way, shipping pallets become a cheap or free resource for a wide range of woodworking endeavors. You may feel good about yourself for helping the environment while saving cash by recycling and reusing.
Inventive Uses for Shipping Pallets
Pallet wood may be used into several useful objects for the house and garden. There are entire websites like “1001 Pallets” and “101 Pallet Ideas” devoted to the craft of building using shipping pallets.
Sites like these will show you step by step how to utilize pallets to create artwork, refinish floors and walls, and construct whole furniture items. What follows is a small selection of the most interesting pallet projects that can be discovered on the internet nowadays.
- The Accent Wall
Furniture should be arranged such that it faces a main point in the room, such as a fireplace or a picture window, as recommended by interior designers. If your room is otherwise a blank slate with nothing to draw the eye, an accent wall is a great way to give the space some personality. Simply painting or papering one wall a contrasting color will make it stand out from the rest of the décor.
While paint and wallpaper may be used to make an accent wall, some enterprising DIYers have discovered that a whole wall can be covered in pallet wood for the same price or even less. The vastness of the exposed wood has a stunning effect. Since the wood doesn’t have to bear any weight, even the thinnest pieces of pallet wood may be put to good use in a project of this nature. Pallet wood is ideal for this purpose since it is lightweight and easy to attach to the wall, making it a more cost-effective option than heavier boards.
Beautiful accent walls made from recycled wood pallets may be found online. For instance, the bloggers at Cape 27 used about 70 pieces of pallet wood (about eight whole pallets) to panel a wall in their living room for a total cost of $20. To complete a comparable job in half the time, DIY enthusiast Katie from Addicted2DIY bought pre-assembled pallets, which allowed her to sand them down and attach them to the wall using glue and nails in only two days. Because of their widespread appeal, pallet walls merit dedicated sections in both 1001 Pallets and 101 Pallet Ideas.
Shelving for your library may be made in several different ways using the wood from shipping pallets. For the most basic version, JennaBurger put a couple little shelves in her son’s bedroom. She simply cut out a section of the pallet’s center, attached it to one end, and finished the job by sawing it off, sanding it down, and staining it. She applied this to both ends of the pallet, creating two miniature shelves that hang from the ceiling in her son’s bedroom.
The “tree shelf” idea from Instructables has some additional requirements. A stronger pallet, made of two layers of thinner wood slats and a layer of heavier, solid blocks in between, will be required for this task. These bigger pieces are the shelves’ supports, while the thinner slats linked at right angles are the shelves themselves. Shelves placed on either the left or the right side of the blocks will create the appearance of a tree.
You can also use pallets to build a bookcase that stands on its own, but this is a more intricate project that will require more wood. At Made With Love That Can Be Felt, you can watch the blogger deconstruct a number of pallets into individual boards, sand them, and then reassemble them into a four-shelf bookcase. Each one has four wooden slats running in parallel and three more bonded at right angles to the bottoms for support. The completed work has a rustic, Mission style.
- Coffee Table
Pallet coffee tables are another common DIY item. Pallet wood may be used to create an astounding variety of looks. Some are as basic as two or three pallets painted to look like a single unit, with the added bonus of extra storage space provided by the pallets’ void middles. Some are simple, while others include ornate drawers or inlays.
One easy-to-replicate design shown on 101 Pallet Ideas is a flat tabletop constructed from five parallel wood planks supported by four legs fashioned from the pallet’s sturdier crosspieces. To reinforce the top, a basic frame of four extra pieces was fastened to the perimeter.
The bloggers at The Merry Thought, in comparison, constructed a far more elaborate table out of pallet wood, plywood, and framing timber. They slantedly cut the wood strips from the pallets and then arranged them atop the plywood in a chevron pattern, alternating between brighter and darker wood to provide visual interest. They built a shelf into the base of the table for storing books, toys, and periodicals.
- Compost Bin
Having a bin to corral your compost pile into is helpful if you generate compost at home. Compost bins and kits are available for purchase, but it is far more cost effective to construct your own, and doing so using shipping pallets is a breeze.
For the simplest of plans, you won’t even need to disassemble the pallets. Three full pallets are combined using L-brackets to form a box, and a fourth pallet is put on hinges to serve as a door, as seen in a lesson from Bob Vila. For proper composting, air must be allowed in, and excess water must be allowed to drain, both of which are facilitated by the spaces between the pallet boards.
You can make your bin more aesthetically pleasing by staining the outside and maybe building little pots into the sides, but it will function just fine without them.
Pallet wood may be used as flooring with some work. Because you may need to put all the boards through a plane to get them to the same thickness, this job is more labor-intensive and costly than building a pallet wall. And if you don’t already have a flat, level flooring, you’ll need to put one in so that the sides and edges are uniformly smooth.
Though time-consuming, the payoff for all this effort might be well worth it. You can see how one couple used pieces from hundreds of pallets in varying sizes and colors to create a stunningly original wood floor at A Building We Shall Go.
The writer cautions that installing hardwood flooring is not a cheap process because it involves many specialized tools and that they could have likely hired a professional to do it for the same amount. In spite of this, she insists that she wouldn’t give up the last level for anything because of its one-of-a-kind character.
- Garden Fence
It may be rather costly to hire a contractor to construct a fence around your property. HomeAdvisor estimates that the average cost of this project is $2,650. Prices range from $400 to $8,000 for this type of service. If you construct your own barrier from shipping pallets, though, the cost is minimal at best.
Pallets may be used to construct both compost bins and garden fences without any prior disassembly. Nail or bolt together a row of pallets. One of the pallets may be converted into a gate by installing hinges and a latch. Several modifications to this fundamental fence plan, such as adding height or planting flowers and vegetables in the spaces, are suggested by MorningChores.
It’s possible for tiny animals like rats or rabbits to squeeze through the spaces in a pallet fence. Stapling chicken wire within your fence will make it impenetrable to small animals. Also, moisture and termites will ultimately cause the wood from the pallets to rot, but luckily, this is easily remedied and the pallets themselves are inexpensive and straightforward to replace.
- Outdoor Furniture
It’s shocking how much patio sets often cost at home improvement stores and furniture outlets. A modest outdoor dining set may be purchased for $500–$2,500, and a casual wooden Adirondack chair can be purchased for $60–$200.
Many pieces of outdoor furniture may be constructed from pallet wood for the cost of the necessary hardware provided you are prepared to do the job yourself. Some examples of the different styles of pallet-wood outdoor furniture that can be found online are shown below.
- Tutorial on how to build an Adirondack chair, from start to finish, available at Home Stratosphere
- The My Outdoor Plans bar stool set is a basic yet stylish addition to any patio or bar.
- At R.K. Black, they have a bench fashioned almost entirely from uncut pallets.
- An Instructables recliner that needs minimal modification to the pallets.
- From NeedlesandNails, a kid-sized picnic table that can be built using just one pallet.
- Vintage porch swing from Instructables
- Picture Frames
For picture frames, which don’t need to hold much, pallet wood is a great option. The blogger at Southern Revivals constructed some primitive picture frames out of parallel pallet boards and two smaller crosspieces. She plastered her pictures on the board using something called Mod Podge.
DIYPete made a beautiful frame out of pallet wood to show off a relief map. Due of the elevated edge of the map, he simply laid out the pallet boards around the perimeter and cut them at a 45-degree angle. He used glue and nails to put the parts together, and then he finished it off with a quarter-inch trim. Then he affixed the map to the wall using a staple gun.
- Wall and Tabletop Art
Create new works of art or frame your current favorites using pallet wood. Shipping pallets are one of the finest sources of free or cheap wood for the purpose of making art from discarded materials.
Bloggers from all around the world have come up with unique art projects that utilize pallet wood.
- Displayed at The Few, The Proud, and This Marine Wife is a painted wooden American flag.
- Blogger Karianne of Thistlewood Farms opened a wooden pallet clock on Christmas morning.
- Scavenger Chic has these charmingly rusty Valentine’s Day hearts fashioned from pallet wood and old hinges.
- At The Idea Room, they have a global map fashioned out of pallet wood, just like the easy photo frames up there.
- Wooden “Welcome” sign from The DIY Playbook (for just $2.27)
- At Nothing but Room, you may find triangular pallets of wood that have been painted green to resemble Christmas trees.
- Wine Rack
A decent wine rack that won’t break the bank is a must if you prefer to stock up on high-quality vino on a limited budget. The blogger at Sweet Pea created a hanging wine rack that can store five bottles and six wine glasses using only one shipping pallet.
She started by removing the top board from the pallet and sawing off the bottom with a handsaw, resulting in a box. She took off the two connecting boards in the center and trimmed the outside boards using a jigsaw to make them look more finished. After smoothing it out with sandpaper, she bolted the removed top board back into the bottom to give it more support.
She took off an extra plank from the pallet and hacked out a slot for each glass stem to use as storage. By screwing this to the rack’s base, you may store glasses underneath the bottles. She simply needed to buy screws for her job instead of paint or stain.
Where Can I Find Wooden Pallets?
You’ve seen the many uses for pallet wood, and you’re probably eager to get started on your own pallet projects. First things first: locating suitable pallets. You may find pallets at little or no cost if you know where to look, as well as what sort of pallets to seek for. It is crucial to know how to identify pallets that have been treated with chemicals that make them dangerous to deal with before beginning to filter through stacks.
Making phone calls to local mom-and-pop shops is a great method to score free pallets. Most small firms don’t have the capital to recycle their pallets, so they must pay to have them hauled away for disposal. It’s likely that these companies would rather donate their unwanted pallets to a willing DIYer than pay the price.
Free pallets may be found in many different types of businesses, including supermarkets, pet stores, hardware stores, furniture stores, garden centers, motorcycle dealerships, and even newspaper offices.
Pallet Purchasing Advice
Knowing how to ask for free pallets is essential. Follow these pointers from the 1001 Pallets site’s guide:
- Always Inquire. For anything as simple as taking a pallet from a trash, it’s always preferable to just walk up and ask the store’s owner for permission to do so. If you approach a company with friendliness and politeness, they are more likely to be helpful.
- Make a timely request. It’s advisable to ask a company for pallets first thing in the morning or late in the day. During these times, business is often slow, so the proprietors should have more time to speak with you. If you need pallets, it’s preferable to get to the store in the morning when most deliveries occur.
- Explain what you have in mind. If you explain your need to the store owner, they will likely offer you some free pallets. Sharing your plans with them (a playhouse, a picnic table, a chicken coop, etc.) will stimulate their interest and make them more eager to lend a hand.
How to Choose Pallets
Keep in mind that not every pallet you discover in the trash may be used again. Mold, spills, and toxic substances can contaminate some pallets, making them unfit for re-use. Some things to bear in mind when looking for clean wood pallets:
- Sectors of the Economy to Avoid. Any organization that produces or processes chemicals is likely to have contaminated shipping pallets. The general guideline is that you shouldn’t utilize pallets from a firm whose products you wouldn’t want to come into contact with on your furniture. Pallets used to carry dry products are often in better condition than those used for perishables since they have not been exposed to any potential spills.
- See whether there are any leaks. Even while grocery store pallets can be OK occasionally, there is always the chance that they can be contaminated with mold, mildew, or other unpleasant substances. You should look them over thoroughly before picking them up. Don’t accept that pallet if it has a strange odor or appearance.
- Find the secret code. An International Propeller Pallet Code (IPPC) label shall be affixed to each international shipment pallet (for International Plant Protection Convention, a branch of the United Nations). Below the registration number are two extra letters indicating the type of wood treatment that was used. Safe for use wood has a treatment code of DB (debarked), KD (kiln dried), or HT (heat treated). You should not use the wood since it has been treated with the poisonous chemical methyl bromide if the label has the letters “MB” in it. The lack of any IPPC designation on a pallet indicates that it has been utilized solely inside a single country. The vast majority of home pallets are not chemically treated and are thus safe to use; nevertheless, if you like to err on the side of caution, you may choose to steer clear of these pallets.
- Treat With Caution Even if the pallet was constructed with non-hazardous wood, it may nevertheless damage you if splinters or nails were to get free. Protect your hands by always wearing robust gloves when handling pallets.
How to Bring Them Home
The standard dimensions for shipping pallets in North America are 48 by 40 inches. You may easily transport these pallets in a pickup truck, SUV, or even a large hatchback. If you have a little car, you can probably make it home with the pallets in the back, but if not, you’ll need to figure out another solution. Here are some suggestions:
- Put a Rack on the Roof If you need to transport pallets but don’t have a vehicle large enough, you may always drive with them. It is possible to secure two standard-sized pallets to a roof rack using a sturdy rope. Make sure they’re fastened down properly, and not just with a bungee cord, so they don’t come loose as you turn a curve.
- Get a larger vehicle with a loan. Get the help of a friend or family member with a truck or SUV if you don’t have a vehicle big enough to transport the pallets you bought. You may sweeten the deal by offering to refuel the automobile on the way back home. You might even consider giving them a portion of your freshly acquired pallets.
- Use a Truck Rental Service. It’s possible to rent a truck or van by the hour from a number of different locations. Rental fees for moving trucks and cargo vans from Home Depot start at $19 for the first 75 minutes, with an extra $5 every 15 minutes after that. A compact vehicle rental from a service like U-Haul would set you back around $20. Naturally, this raises the overall price tag, so you should check to see whether you can save money by just purchasing the wood instead.
- Employ a Driver. People with vehicles who are prepared to help with transporting in exchange for a fee often post ads on Craigslist. You may locate someone to assist you transport the pallets using an app like TaskRabbit.
- Miniaturize your pallets. However, you may also buy pallets that are smaller than the standard 48 by 40 inches. One thousand pallets reports that 42 by 42 inch pallets are frequently used to transport paint and telecommunications sector materials. Dairy uses 40×40 pallets, whereas other drinks make use of 36×36 units. These pallets are compact enough to be stored in the trunk of a compact automobile. To achieve the same quantity of wood, you’ll just have to split more of them.
- Disassemble Them Into Smaller Pieces. Last but not least, you may break down your pallets into individual boards before loading them into your car provided you have lots of time and the proper equipment. Many tools, such as a hammer and chisel, a pry bar, a hacksaw, a Sawzall, or a specialized pallet disassembly bar, are listed on 1001 Pallets as options for deconstructing a pallet. Wear protective gear like gloves and eyewear when working with pallets to avoid injury. Make sure the pallets have been thoroughly inspected for any stray nails before loading them into your vehicle.
The aforementioned initiatives barely touch the surface of what can be done using shipping pallets. If you look for “pallet projects” on the internet, you’ll find thousands of other possibilities, such as pallet beds, lights, pet furniture, and even full-scale buildings. Pallets have been used for just about every woodworking project imaginable.
Certainly, pallets may be used for construction, but that’s hardly the only cost-effective option for furnishing a home. Garage sales, thrift stores, Craigslist, Freecycle, and the “as is” department of your local furniture store may be better options for you, depending on what it is you’re trying to find. You may get great deals on furniture from these stores, and in many cases it will cost you less than if you were to make it yourself.
However, if you’re not just looking to save money but also like the satisfying experience of creating something from scratch, then pallets may be a fantastic resource. As each pallet is unique, the finished product you create from them will be one-of-a-kind and unlike anything else on the market. What’s more, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you built it yourself, which is something that money can’t purchase for yourself.