The typical wood pallet is both affordable and highly versatile, making them perfect for all kinds of DIY project ideas. While some people consider them outdated, they are incredibly easy to find and can be used as a transport or storage option for almost anything – however, they are even more useful for DIY projects. Your average pallet can become anything from a table to raw materials for constructing a larger item, and they are a great way to get access to cheap, pre-prepared wood. But how do you track them down, and what are they good for?
Where You Can Find Them
While pallets can turn up anywhere from small DIY tasks to full-scale construction, they definitely aren’t hard to find. They might even come free with an order of something related to medium-sized tasks, such as house renovations or outdoor work in your garden. Others can be bought at a fairly low price, often in bulk, and some people might even be willing to give theirs away if they have recently finished some creative work of their own. If you are desperate for wood pallets, there are some key places you can look:
Sites like Craigslist, eBay, and other “seller to buyer” sites can be full of people who are practically giving away their old wood pallets for a very low sum of money, usually, anybody who doesn’t have the space to keep them. You will have to pay a small amount, of course, but this can be a nice way to get access to palettes far faster than buying them from a manufacturer. Just be wary that many of these sites can carry a risk of users being scammers: it is not likely that somebody would try to scam with wood pallets, but it could still happen.
Businesses are often going to have a big backlog of palettes, but they will usually just throw them away or return them to the company that sent them. This is much more common with businesses that have to take in a lot of deliveries, such as factories, large-scale supermarkets, or anywhere else that receives a lot of large industrial items. Contacting them directly and asking to buy some (or, in rare cases, take them away for free) can often turn out well since they would usually just return or recycle the palettes anyway.
You may be able to buy palettes from a recycling center or business directly, although whether or not they will have any left can be a gamble. Since they were only going to be recycled anyway, you may be able to take them away for free, although you should call ahead rather than turning up out of nowhere and asking to see how many wood pallets they have left.
Wood Pallet Project Creations
So, what do you make with your new pallet collection? Since they are more or less a collection of wooden pieces, a pallet can be made into nearly anything that you would use regular wood for, with the added benefit of the trademark strength offered by a pallet. Some ideas include:
A pallet can be a good makeshift bed material in the short-term. A few pallets combined together in the proper way can easily support a fairly heavy person, and the slim, smooth wood can make it look surprisingly nice if done correctly. You can also modify each pallet to have more space underneath, giving you a pallet bed with extra storage.
Pallet Coffee Table
A pallet coffee table doesn’t take much work; you only need one or two pallet options to make a basic pallet coffee table, so simply stacking them on top of one another and keeping them secure can work. If you want something more reliable, you can place a flat surface on top or split the pallet in half to create a slimmer piece of furniture. Given that a generic pallet will be almost entirely made of wood, it isn’t hard to modify the shape or size with some simple changes.
Pallets are already low to the ground, so using them for DIY projects like this is easy. Pallet wood can be painted over quickly and doesn’t require reinforcement for holding smaller weights – the only worry might be the gaps in the top surface, but it doesn’t take much time to cover them up if you don’t like having them there.
You can create similar small tables with ease, too. One of the best pallet projects for testing your woodworking skills is to create a TV stand: getting a unique, rustic design that can continue to support a television at the right height for your sofa gives you a lot of criteria to match but doesn’t put much pressure on you. Tasks like this are an excellent way to see how you like working with pallets in the home, and you can re-purpose the pallet TV stand into something else (like an outdoor plant stand) if you don’t like the end product.
Using multiple pallets to create a raised flat surface can be an excellent way to get a table ready in the short-term if you are on a budget. These can either be designed for indoor or outdoor use and can be protected from damage with something as simple as a large blanket or tablecloth. Since almost all pallet designs are the same size, you can also combine multiple together to make a longer surface if a single pallet won’t suit your needs.
Pallet wood might not be the most durable in bad weather, but they are also designed to take a lot of punishment without breaking, meaning that many wood pallet designs are more than capable of standing in for outdoor furniture. A quick paint over the wood with some protective layers might be all you need to get true waterproofing.
Shelves and Storage
In most cases, a wood pallet is capable of holding quite a lot of weight, which can make them great as a storage method. Whether you turn one sideways and make the bottom struts into a walls shelf or stack multiple wood pallet designs on top for a free-standing option, they can hold plenty of items and don’t take that long to piece together.
A DIY pallet shelf has the benefit of being made from a frame that is designed to hold heavy weights. Unlike building a shelf from scratch, you already have a basic shape that is more than capable of supporting various items without cracking or splintering, which gives you more control over how they get used. Some people will even take a wood pallet and attach it to a wall, allowing them to swing it down and get a large shelf in seconds.
Other DIY Project Options
Wood pallet projects can be almost anything, as long as you have an idea to follow! Chairs, benches, walkways, decorations, sliding storage units, and so on. There is so much you can do with a single wood pallet that it is easy to get overwhelmed, but the fact that they are made of wood allows you to come up with some great ideas that wouldn’t be possible if you were using other materials.
If you are working with pallet wood, you probably have a few DIY tools already, and may even have a dedicated workshop area. This can be a good place to focus your pallet projects: a reliable set of wood shelves and some extra tables are always welcome, and since they are made with pallet wood, you can easily repair them if you saw or drill into the table by accident.
Another major benefit of pallet wood is the fact that it can be surprisingly lightweight. This means that you can turn them into mobile creations if needed, such as moving shelves or a bench with wheels mounted to the bottom. These might not be useful in the home, but they can be a nice feature to have outdoors or in your workshop areas.
Safety with Pallet Projects
A pallet can be used to carry many things, and not all of them are safe. Some pallet types should be avoided when it comes to DIY pallet project ideas, especially since some of them will be much more dangerous than you first expect. Aside from all the usual risks involved with wood, pallets are almost always used to carry items around, and some pallets deal with materials that can end up bringing some risks into the equation.
Any pallet that has been used to carry food can be a risky option since many of them will end up holding bacteria and hazards like E. coli. If you are planning to build something like an outdoor waste bin or compost holder, this isn’t really a problem, but anything else can be a dangerous choice. Avoid a food pallet as often as you can.
A pallet that has been used to carry chemicals can end up stained with said chemicals, and others have been specifically treated with chemicals for various purposes. If you can verify that they are clean and safe, this isn’t really a problem, but if you are not sure, then you might be putting yourself at risk. Some chemicals will be fine, especially if they can wash off, but others might sink into the wood pallets and keep it actively toxic to people around it. Sometimes, even a pressure washer won’t clean these pallets entirely – they are better off being professionally recycled.
Allowing petrol or oil to seep into a wood pallet can effectively leave it permanently tainted. In this case, it is best to ignore them and allow them to be recycled: not only can these be dangerous, but getting them near heat or fire might cause them to burst into flames. Burning pallets can spread flames faster than you might expect, and the pallets themselves will obviously be ruined even if you can recover them.
Who Owns Each Pallet?
One thing that many people get confused by is pallet ownership. If you own a business or want to take a pallet from a business that clearly has some, you won’t always be able to – this is because pallets aren’t always owned by the person who physically has the pallet, and thus can’t be given away for your pallet projects. For example, a business that gets pallets as part of a shipment might be legally obligated to return each pallet to the delivery company.
Because pallet wood has become so desirable to the Do-It-Yourself crowd, various countries have had to crack down on “takers” who are always ready to take a pallet back home whenever they can. Businesses may have to record the pallets used in their projects and return them all, and pallets that you get as part of home renovations or home construction may be owned by the company doing the work. Wood pallet projects live and die by your ability to get wood pallets that you can use, so you will want to follow these rules.
Like it or not, taking a pallet that you don’t own is illegal. Even if a wood pallet is behind a business and propped up against a wall, that doesn’t mean that it is free to take: a wood pallet that isn’t being used is still owned by somebody, and taking it can sometimes get you – and the business – in a lot of trouble.
The only time a pallet is always free to take would be those dumped somewhere and forgotten, such as a wood pallet left by the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. As mentioned earlier, though, wood pallet designs can sometimes be dangerous, so you shouldn’t take them home unless you are absolutely sure that they are safe. Even something small, like a faint chemical smell, can be enough of a reason to head back home without that wood pallet.
Should I Use Pallets?
Pallets are a great building material. If you have access to even a single pallet, you can create something great, but more pallets give you far more options. In fact, pallets might be easier to get hold of than other wooden materials if you need a lot of identically-sized items: there are various standard pallet sizes to work with, and they aren’t hard to track down by dimensions alone.
If you can find pallets for a low price (or free, if you are lucky), then they are one of the best ways to jump-start a new project. Just be aware that not all pallets are usable: some will need to be recycled for safety reasons, and others are legally owned by somebody else, even if it seems reasonable to take them away.