6 Amazing Uses for Pallets

by heather

pallet compost binNo matter where you live, you can likely find pallets behind a store, at a construction site, or by any loading dock. Wooden pallets are everywhere, and most of us rarely give them a second thought. They’re just waste, right? Nothing to do with us.

But pallets can be used for a ton  of really cool DIY projects.

For instance,  if you’re on a budget and need some furniture? One word: pallets. I’m not kidding…you can really use pallets to make some awesome furniture for your house.

Need to re-landscape your backyard? Put up a fence? Build a garden? One word: pallets.

Since so many pallets end up in a landfill once they’re done with, using them in your home or garden is a great way to repurpose them and extend their life.

Let’s take a look at what you can do with this versatile building material…

1. Build a Fence

If you take a look at the first image here, you’ll see that pallets can be used to create a fence around your yard. Treated with water sealant (like you’d use for your deck), they can last for a long time.

When choosing your pallets for fencing, try to find the highest quality pallets you can find. This means no existing mold or mildew.

You can find some great instructions for building a pallet fence here and here.

2. Build a Compost Bin

There’s no need to spend $100-$200 on an outdoor compost bin. You can easily build one yourself out of pallets.

Want to learn how? Check out the post I already wrote, How to Build a Pallet Compost Bin.

3. Build a Pallet Armchair

Ok, so check out the coolness of this pallet armchair:

Again, treated with waterproof sealant this would make a great indoor or, even better, outdoor chair. And here’s another cool design to look at…

Courtesy Design Spotter

Yeah, neat.

4. Build a Pallet Bench

Pallets work great as outdoor furniture because they’re rustic. They also lend themselves well to any kind of paint color you want to throw on there. Picture this cool pallet bench in your garden…

Personally I’d coat this bench with several colors to give it some pizzaz!

5. Build a Pallet Chair

Need some extra straight back chairs for your house? Don’t hit the furniture store…build some yourself.

6. To Cover Your ISBU Home

Ok, so I’ve been a bit obsessed with shipping container homes ever since I first learned of their existence over two years ago. Building your home using steel shipping containers (ISBUs) is super green because you’re upcycling these containers which otherwise would sit empty, rusting and taking up space. They’re also incredibly cheap to build with, and they look super cool.

If you’re not thrilled with the industrial look of shipping containers, then you can use pallets to disguise the outside. Take a look…

Although I’m super in love with the industrial look of ISBU homes, I do really like how they look covered in wooden pallets. At the very least, you could cover one side of your home with pallets and start a super cool wall garden.

What You’ll Need…

Pallets can be really hard to take apart. And getting the nails out of them might give you an aneurysm. So you’re going to need some heavy duty tools to work with pallets.

For instance, you’ll likely want a sledgehammer and crowbar for taking them apart. You’ll also want a steel or carbide saw to cut the wood. If you want some first-hand instructions for taking apart, and building, with pallets then don’t miss this great forum thread on Garden Web.

Pallets will also need to be sanded, since they’re often made with low-quality wood. But this is where it gets tricky. My good friend Alex, expert ISBU home builder, has turned pallets into all sorts of things (including, I kid you not, an pallet outhouse). He says the more you sand American pallets, they worse they get. It’s important to pick through your pallets to find the very best ones, especially when you’re using them to build furniture.

Last Word…

Have any of you built something cool using pallets? If so, I’d love to hear what you made!

(Photo #1 Courtesy: alisdair)

(Photo #2 and #4 Courtesy: http://blog.makezine.com🙂

(Photo #3 Courtesy: Design Spotter)

(Photo #5 Courtesy Design Boom)

(Photo #6 Courtesy: Arch Daily)

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeremy February 10, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Okay, some of this stuff is pretty neat, but the idea of using most pallets for furniture is folly, and antithetical to being either green or saving money.

Most pallets are rough, and if you tried to sit on that raw wood you’d end up with splinters in your arse. To get them smooth enough for furniture or paint would require either several passes through a planer or a lot of time with a sander (or both) requiring significant time and money, and producing waste.

Granted, there are some pallets out there that use smoother wood, but none that I’ve seen are smooth enough to use as furniture as-is. Even outdoor furniture requires some level of smoothness if you’re going to apply any type of paint or stain and not have it look like junk.

Jeremiah February 12, 2011 at 6:10 am

It’s true that pallets are made of crap wood that’s not good for any other finish purpose and would require some significant sanding/prepping before painting BUT recycling or re-purposing ANYTHING is the very essence of sustainability. You’re taking something that had a use or outlived it’s original usefulness and gave it new life and purpose. The extra time/energy that it takes to prepare a thing for re-purpose is FREE (unless you’re really lazy and pay someone to sand pallets for you), the pallet most likely is found and therefore FREE. Also, if you use a enamel paint, those “rough spots” can not only be filled in but smoothed over for “ideal arse conditions”, but enamel paint can later be lightly sanded and reapplied if the piece is damaged or otherwise worn in some way.
What really chaps my “arse” is for every good idea there is some jackwagon waiting in the wings to trash it as “silly” or “wasteful” or whatever. So, Jeremy, take your head out of your arse and try using your imagination a little before completely dismissing a new idea as “impossible”. You might be surprised at what is possible with a little imagination and elbow grease.
I think I’ve abused “arse” enough for one post. Cheers.

Jeremy February 13, 2011 at 9:58 am

Jeremiah,

The amount of sandpaper and energy required (if electric sanding), as well as the embedded energy for the paint, the can it comes in, production thereof, paintbrush and miscellaneous other goodies will, I believe, outweigh the embedded energy of purchasing new wood from a lumber yard.

Most, if not all, enamel paints are toxic and high in VOCs (as compared to latex paints which can have low/no VOCs.) I don’t think painting pallets with toluene, benzene, xylene, etc. is a good way to reuse a material, do you? Save the material by making it toxic to ourselves and those who might use it?

Jeremiah, you might try learning a bit about your target before suggesting I’ve got my head up my ass. You have no idea what I do personally or professionally to reduce emissions, reuse materials, lengthen durable life of materials, etc.

Jeremy February 13, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Jeremiah, you might also want to re-read my original post and then check the attitude you took in your response.

Emily October 26, 2011 at 3:19 pm

I think the only way I would re-use pallets as furniture is if I were placing a pad on them to sit or covering them with something. A backyard table would be another thing I would do. I have re-used them for backyard shelving, to put potted plants, etc on, and also as a wine rack inside.

I think they are a great idea for converting into something new and useable…just not for places to lay or sit.

jason January 10, 2012 at 11:43 pm

I think these are awesome ideas. It is truly reducing reusing and recycling. Also I hate haters.

Michelle May 13, 2012 at 11:02 pm

I think pallet furniture is an awesome idea. Ya it may take some extra work and you may spend a little money on stuff to get the end result you want but in the end it would be worth it. I payed $3,000 for my couch that is pretty much dead after only 4 years with having 7 kids. In researching how my couch was made I found it is full of all kinds of toxic things and in the end will end up in a landfill. Even if we did use paint that had some toxins it would still in the end be better for the environment. We can save a ton of money along with finally have a long enough couch for everyone to sit on. At $6,000 every 4 years for enough couch space for all……think were going with pallets this time around.

Richard Kraft September 27, 2012 at 12:22 pm

There are many used of pallets.
you given nice ideas to use it.it helps to make the earth green.
People have started using Used plastic pallets instead of wooden one as they are less harmful and more sustainable.
They are affordable into cost too.

Davie Sunshine September 13, 2013 at 9:28 am

I’m just using some pallets to make an ‘insect hotel’ Only just got them so will give them a couple of coats of wood sealant next week, then pile them up. nail them together and fill bits with turf, bits with hollow tubes/stems from garden, some with dried up logs, branches/twigs, some with crumpled waterproof paper/card etc.. An ideal home for solitary bees, bumblebees, hibernating insects and hibernating hedgehogs.

Connie July 19, 2014 at 1:15 am

Do you have any instructions for the pallet bench. Looking at the picture, but can’t quite make everything out.

Dean February 24, 2015 at 11:09 pm

Hi,
I’ve started making raised portable garden beds out of pallets..great fun…i do have a question..the purpose of making these from pallets is to make something for as little money as possible (as you know, you can pick pallets up from anywhere free), but I’d like to prolong their life with some sort of sealant. Can you suggest anything that wouldnt be cost of labour intensive?

Bill April 17, 2015 at 1:05 pm

Jeremy you do have your head up your ass.

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