While wooden pallets are free and readily available, upcycling them into home and garden projects can come at a price. The process of breaking down a 40-by-48-inch pallet (the most common size in the United States) into usable wood is time-consuming and requires strength, a high thres-hold for frustration, and sometimes pain.
If you appreciate the idea of an inexpensive pallet project but want to avoid smashed and gashed fingers, we’ve got some great ideas for you. These no-saw or low-saw pallet concepts are doable by anyone with a few hand tools and minimal building skills. After a few hours of enjoyable labor, you can have a useful fixture for your home or garden that you’ve built yourself from recycled materials.
When you’re on the hunt, look for wood that’s dry, straight, and in solid condition. Make sure to use pallets stamped “HT,” which means they’ve been treated with heat rather than with chemicals. Some pallets have forklift openings on all four sides, while others are only open on two sides — so consider which type will be best for your project. For more advice on selecting pallets, see “Wood Pallet Project Ideas
Deborah’s storage and recycling center
Tools and materials: bolts, 4-by-4s, coat rack or hooks, recycling bins.
When Mother Earth News Facebook follower Deborah Piotrowski moved to a Tennessee ranch, she realized that country living didn’t include curbside recycling. To organize waste for transport to a recycling center in town, Piotrowski and her sister designed this recycling center. Piotrowski crafted the upper section by bolting together two pallets side by side. These vertical pallets rest on the back edges of two horizontal pallets, which were also bolted together side by side. The horizontal pallets are supported by 4-by-4 legs, and the upper section is secured to the garage wall for stability. An old coatrack screwed to the center of the upper section provides a place to hang outdoor clothing, while the horizontal pallets offer a place to sit and pull off work boots. Labeled recycling bins are stashed out of the way below the seat.
The Merrythought swing bed
Tools and materials: tape measure, mattress, 2-by-4 lumber, saw, drill, screws, rope.
A single pallet and some rope are all you’ll need to craft a simple swing. But, Manda of The Merrythought blog had a more substantial project in mind when she created this bed-sized swing (see photo, opposite page) using a pair of pallets. Manda began by measuring the twin-sized mattress that she wanted to use as a topper. The mattress’s dimensions determined how many pallets the project required. Because two pallets end-to-end were too short for the mattress, Manda extended the space between them by screwing 2-by-4 rails to the bottoms of the pallets, and then added an additional slat to fill the gap. If you have solid sewing skills, you can forgo the 2-by-4 extension and instead stitch a cushion to fit two pallets bolted together at their sides. If you hang your swing bed from a tree branch, be sure to inspect the tree’s health and research some quality load-bearing knots. Otherwise, you can hang your pallet swing from a metal support structure with a chain.
Read more about this project online at http://goo.gl/mB5MOv.
DIY Console Table
Tools and materials: paint, paintbrush, wax or other sealant, plank for the top, stain, screws, metal brackets.
When Kevin and Gina Kleinworth’s new stove was delivered on a pallet, Gina smartly remembered an awkward corner in their bedroom entryway. After installing the stove, Gina took the pallet to the backyard and painted it with a single coat of chalk paint, which she sealed with a light-colored wax. Compared with varnish, the high degree of artistic control associated with wax makes it ideal for home pallet finishes.
Next, Gina found a 12-inch-wide plank at a local hardware store for a top and cut it to slightly overhang the pallet. She then sanded and stained the wood to match the home decor. She let the plank top dry overnight. Next, she used a couple of wood screws to attach the plank to the pallet. To wrap up her project, Gina anchored the console table to the wall studs using a few metal brackets.
The Arkansas goat shelter
Tools and materials: 2-by-4s, corrugated roofing, T-posts, 4-by-4s.
Each of the three walls in this 10-by-10-foot animal shelter is a single 5-by-10-foot pallet, discarded by a northwestern Arkansas company and salvaged by Jody Box of The Tactical Homesteader. For structural support, Box drove T-posts into the ground — two per side — and wired each to a recycled 4-by-4. Metal T-posts and 4-by-4s also support each corner of the shelter. Box further braced the pallets in the shelter’s interior with a single 10-foot-long 2-by-4. Finally, the last bit of 2-by-4 framework supports the corrugated roofing. Visit The Tactical Homesteader’s YouTube channel to see a video tour of this shelter and to hear Box’s description of the build.
For another version of a goat shelter made from pallets, go to http://goo.gl/yasC6A.
Folding gardening tableTools and materials: drill, heavy-duty screw hooks, heavy-duty strap hinges, chain, nails and small hooks as needed.
Jenna Burger designed this convenient gardening table to fold up against a home or shed when not in use. Best of all, a novice woodworker should be able to complete it in a couple of hours. Before building, first obtain two pallets of the same size. On the pallet that you plan to mount vertically, drill pilot holes and sink a heavy-duty, load-bearing screw hook into the end blocks on the top, and then place screw hooks on each outside slat about 6 inches down from the top. On the pallet that will serve as the work surface, drive a screw hook into each outside slat about 12 inches from what will become the front edge. Arrange the two pallets in a 90-degree angle and join them with four heavy-duty strap hinges. Cut two lengths of chain to extend tautly between the screw hooks on the wall and the work surface. Next, drive heavy-duty screw hooks into studs on your building and, with a helper, hang the table with short lengths of chain from the hooks. Add nails and small hooks to the vertical pallet as needed to keep your gardening tools at arm’s length while you work. When your pallet gardening table gets in the way, just fold up the work surface and shorten the chains on the hooks.
Find out more online at http://goo.gl/lkptTk.
Siff’s pallet fence with gate
Tools and materials: drill, bolts or screws, wooden posts or metal pipe, hinges, gate latch.
To craft an inexpensive fence, you can stand a line of pallets on end and join their sides together with bolts. Siff Skovenborg’s handy project bridges the area between two outbuildings without requiring a big investment. To secure her fence to the buildings, Skovenborg first bolted boards to the wall studs. Next, she stabilized the upright pallets with 4-by-4 posts driven 24 to 36 inches into the ground. For added stability, you can seat the posts in concrete. Skovenborg then fastened strong hinges and a latch to one of the pallets to create a gate. To prevent small animals from crawling between the slats, she added welded wire fencing to the rear of the pallets. You could enclose an entire garden plot or a small field with pallets by placing a post at each corner and at regular intervals along the sides.
Learn more online at http://goo.gl/HddTQ5.
Sassy Sparrow patio furniture
Tools and materials: saw, tape measure, sandpaper, paint.
Pam Zimmerman of the Sassy Sparrow blog saw a perfect pallet opportunity in her large, empty patio area. Rather than purchase expensive outdoor furniture, she drafted a simple, 15-pallet patio design. This project requires a saw, but the cuts are straight and fast. For the seats, Zimmerman cut down each pallet to 36 by 24 inches. She then stacked those sections three high for a comfortable sitting height.
Zimmerman used the spare pieces for chair backs by pulling the loose backboards from the blocks and slats. Then, she arranged these pallet pieces vertically on top of the seats with the blocks at the bottom, so that the top would lean against the house’s wall for support. To wrap up the project, she sanded and painted the seats and backs.
Find out more online at http://goo.gl/23iVf7.
Growing up on a Kansas farm prepared Rebecca well for her role as managing editor of Mother Earth News magazine. Her rural upbringing instilled in Rebecca a lifelong love of the outdoors and quality, locally grown food.