The typical wood pallet is affordable and highly versatile, making it perfect for all kinds of DIY project ideas. While some people consider wood pallets outdated, they are incredibly easy to find, and you can use them as a transport or storage option for almost anything. However, they’re even more useful for DIY projects. Your average pallet can become a table, or you can use it as raw material for constructing a larger item. Pallets are also 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
Pallets can be used for anything from small DIY tasks to full-scale construction, and they definitely aren’t hard to find. They might even come free with larger projects such as house renovations or outdoor work in your garden. Others can be bought at a fairly low price, often in bulk. Some people might even be willing to give theirs away if they’ve recently finished some creative work of their own. If you’re desperate for wood pallets, here are some key places you can look.
Sites like Craigslist, eBay, and other “seller to buyer” sites are full of people practically giving away their old wood pallets for a low amount of money. They usually don’t have the space to keep them. It’s far faster to get access to palettes this way than buying them from a manufacturer. Just be wary that many of these sites carry the risk of scammers. It’s not likely that somebody would try to scam you with wood pallets, but it could still happen.
Businesses often have a big backlog of palettes, but they usually throw them away or return them to the company that sent them. This is much more common with places that 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 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’ll have any left is a gamble. Since they were only going to be recycled anyway, you may be able to take them away for free. Make sure to call ahead rather than turning up out of nowhere, 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 pallets are more or less a collection of wooden pieces, they can be made into nearly anything you’d use regular wood for.
Some ideas include:
Pallets are good makeshift bed materials in the short-term. A few pallets will easily support a fairly heavy person, and the slim, smooth wood will make the bed 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. 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 the generic pallet is 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 when 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 ways to test your woodworking skills is to create a TV stand. This type of project will be challenging but won’t put too much pressure on you. Tasks like these are an excellent way to see how you like working with pallets in the home. 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 is an excellent way to get a table ready in the short term, especially if you’re on a budget. You can design them for indoor or outdoor use and protect them 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 to make a longer surface if a single pallet doesn’t suit your needs.
Pallet wood might not be the most durable material for bad weather, but they’re designed to take a lot of punishment without breaking. 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 achieve a good waterproof design.
Shelves and Storage
In most cases, wood pallets can hold a lot of weight, making them great for storage. Whether you turn one sideways and make the bottom struts into a shelf, or you stack multiple wood pallet designs for a free-standing option, they can hold plenty of items. Not to mention, they don’t take that long to piece together.
A DIY pallet shelf has the benefit of being made from a frame designed to hold heavy weights without cracking or splintering. Unlike building a shelf from scratch, you already have the basic shape, giving you added control.
Other DIY Project Options
You can turn wood pallets into almost anything – as long as you have an idea to follow! They’re fit for all sorts of items, including chairs, benches, walkways, decorations, sliding storage units, and so on. There’s so much you can do with a single wood pallet. Wood allows you to come up with some great ideas that wouldn’t be possible if you were using other materials.
If you’re working with pallet wood, you probably have a few DIY tools already and may even have a dedicated workshop area. This is a good place to focus your pallet projects. A reliable set of wooden shelves and some extra tables are always welcome. If you saw or drill into the table by accident, don’t worry about it! Pallet wood projects are easy to repair.
Another major benefit of pallet wood is the fact that it’s surprisingly lightweight. You can turn the pallets into mobile creations if needed, such as moving shelves or a wheeled bench. These might not be useful in the home, but they are a nice feature to have outdoors or in your workshop area.
Safety with Pallet Projects
Pallets 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 – some of them will be much more dangerous than others.
Any pallet used to carry food is a risky option. Many of them end up holding bacteria and hazards like E. coli. If you’re 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 food pallets as often as you can.
Be aware of pallets that have been used to carry chemicals, as they can end up stained with the chemicals. 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 you might be putting yourself at risk if you’re not sure. Some chemicals might be fine, but others can sink into the wood pallets. 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’s best to recycle these types of pallets. Not only are they toxic, but if you get them near heat or fire, they could catch alight. Burning pallets can spread flames faster than you might expect, and even if you can recover them, the pallets themselves will be ruined.
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, you won’t always be able to – this is because pallets aren’t always owned by the person who physically has the pallet and 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 steal pallets whenever they can. Businesses may have to record the pallets used in their projects and return them all. Pallets 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’ll want to follow these rules.
Like it or not, taking a pallet you don’t own is illegal. Even if a wood pallet is left outside a business, that doesn’t mean it’s free to take. Somebody still owns the unused wood pallet, and taking it can sometimes get you – and the business – in a lot of trouble.
A pallet is free to take when it’s dumped somewhere and forgotten, such as by the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. As mentioned earlier, wood pallet designs can sometimes be dangerous, so you shouldn’t take them home unless you are absolutely sure they’re safe. Even something small, like a faint chemical smell, is enough of a reason to head back home without that wood pallet.
Should I Use Pallets?
Pallets are an amazing building material. Even a single pallet can become something great, but more pallets give you far more options. In fact, pallets might be easier to get hold of than other wooden materials. 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’re lucky), then they’re 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.