The Real Truth about using Pallet Wood

The Real Truth about using Pallet Wood

The Real Facts about Using Pallet Wood

Pallet wood is EVERYWHERE! It’s hard to browse Pinterest without stumbling on a pallet wood project. Everyone and their cousin’s best friend have experimented with and built amazing things using pallet wood. Admit it, you’ve seen those beautiful projects and began driving behind your local shopping centers looking for those wooden freebies. Sadly, most pallet project creators won’t tell you the Real Facts about Using Pallet Wood. Put your mind at ease knowing that I’ll tell you the bare wood truths about using pallet wood. Then the next time you find yourself in a back alley attempting to haul that pallet into your trunk, you can weigh the facts.

How to Make an Air Conditioner Screen from Pallets

A few weeks ago I slaved for over an hour trying to get those free pallets to relinquish their prized slats. As I bent over one pallet, sweating and swearing, I asked myself, “Wouldn’t it have been easier to spend $2-3 per board at Lowe’s?”

As I was building this porch swing with pallet wood, I began to create a list of the pros and cons of using pallet wood. By the time the paint had dried on the swing, I knew I had to be honest and share with you these facts so you could determine if using pallet wood is worth the effort and risks.

Facts About Using Pallet Wood

Benefits of Using Pallet Wood:

1. First and foremost, pallet wood is usually FREE!

2. Environmentally speaking, you are keeping pallets out of the landfill. Yay for being eco-friendly.

3. Pallet boards often have a beautiful rustic patina (pallet board on the left, new pine board on the right.)

Facts About Using Pallet Wood

4. The wood is usually strong.

5. It’s stylish and popular because the rustic industrial look is in style right now.

6. Everyone’s doing it—wait a minute! Just because everyone is doing it doesn’t mean you should jump on the bandwagon!

Why You Might NOT want to use Pallet Wood:

1. Actually removing pallet wood planks is difficult. Pallet wood is held on with spiral nails that are hard to remove without breaking or damaging the pallet wood. (Not to mention breaking your spirit!) Using a hammer and/or a regular pry bar is tedious and not super effective. You would be better off using a deck wrecking tool like this one. (affiliate link) 

Facts About Using Pallet Wood
2. Harvesting pallet wood often damages the planks or causes them to split. You can salvage pallet wood using a circular saw and this technique, but your boards will end up being shorter.

3. Yes, you can use a reciprocating saw and/or multi-tool with a metal cutting blade, but getting a clean cut is difficult (usually you cut into some of the wood). And you are left with cut off nails that need to be removed, filed down, or avoided.

Facts About Using Pallet Wood

4. Pallet wood may be treated with chemicals to prevent deterioration. If you can find markings on the pallet, you might identify if the pallet was treated by looking for these codes.

5. You can never truly be sure what has spilled on the pallet and has absorbed into the wood. I’ll let your imagination wander. You should consider how you’d feel if you found out the pallet had a chemical spilled on it, animal urine, feces, or raw food. (For this reason, it’s a good idea to seal the wood with a polyurethane or polycrylic if you decide to use pallet wood.)

6. Pallet wood is not perfect. It usually is low grade wood and has dings, cracks, splits, or large splinters.

7. Pallet wood may have staples and tacks that will need removal.

8. Pallet wood isn’t normally smooth and may need extra sanding to get a usable plank.

9. Pallet wood is rarely straight.

10. The planks aren’t usually a uniform thickness. To achieve uniform thickness, they’ll need to be planed. But, make sure you have removed all nails and staples or you risk damaging your planer blades.

Facts About Using Pallet Wood

11. When you’re done harvesting pallet wood you’ll need to find somewhere to dispose of the pieces you don’t use. Most waste companies won’t take pallets because they label them as construction waste.

Facts About Using Pallet Wood

Now that you know the pros and cons of pallet wood, you can weigh them and decide if you want to use that free pallet wood or buy new boards from your local home improvement store.

Facts About Using Pallet Wood

After all, pine framing lumber is cheap! And luckily, you can fake the age of new wood using this tutorial:

Facts About Using Pallet Wood

Lest you think I’m scaring you away from using pallet wood, here are a few cool projects you can make with it.

Clad walls with pallet wood to create a beautiful feature wall:

DIY Twinkling Pendant Light | Pretty Handy Girl

Use pallet wood to create a bread crate display shelf:

12 Inexpensive Ways to Decorate a Bathroom | Pretty Handy Girl

Or make a serving tray out of pallet wood (be sure that your pallet wood is clean, chemical free and always use a plate under the food.)

Rustic Pallet Serving Tray | Pretty Handy Girl

What are your thoughts and experiences with using pallet wood? Have you made anything using pallet wood? Would you do it again? Let’s open up the conversation in the comments below!

Facts About Using Pallet Wood

 

26 replies
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  1. Claude
    Claude says:

    All were well made points and any Reclaimed timber requires a lot of extra work which is why traded Reclaimed timber is usually more expensive. However the thing you didn’t discuss was using whole or part pallets and there are a lot of amazing projects illustrated out there but most pallets that I’ve come across are not consistently put together by which I mean as well as the varying thicknesses the spacing and width of individual boards vary also even if the pallets match in size and overall thickness some have the slats running length ways and some across. So multipallet projects become quite tricky unless you have access to a large supply from the same pallet manufacturer of a suitable quality for the project.
    That said, I always consider old timbers project worthiness before I relegate it to firewood because its possible to get some really great results on the cheap, with only some extra time invested.

    Reply
  2. Cathy G.
    Cathy G. says:

    I agree! That is exactly what I was thinking as I read the article. It would take 5-10 minutes max. Then you can hammer the nails out with a nail driver.

    xoxo, Cat in Raleigh

    I know a little about a lot! 😉

    Reply
  3. David Gray
    David Gray says:

    I HAVE MADE SEVERAL PROJECTS WITH PALLET BOARDS. BEDS, COFFEE TABLES, CHAIRS, SHELVES, MOLDINGS, ETC… I FIND THAT IF YOU USE A SAWS ALL TO TAKE OFF THE PLANKS, THEN TAKE THE NAILS OUT IT IS EASIER AND SANDING THE SMALL GROVES FROM THE SAW REALLY ISN’T THAT BIG OF A DEAL. EVEN IF YOU USE A PALLET WOOD BREAKER YOU STILL WILL HAVE THOSE NAIL HOLES TO DEAL WITH. SAVE YOU SELF AND TIME USE A LOG SAWS ALL BLADE AND GET THEM OFF WITHOUT MUCH EFFORT.

    Reply
  4. Sheryl
    Sheryl says:

    For sure pallets could be hard work I just put together a deck of pallets with decking wood on top for my summer entertainment area bbq BBQ etc .also going to make corner couch for this area an table all from pallets . Used in gardens made sheep shelter an could even do a fence if wanted .crazy wonderful ideas .yes some times hard to undo but if to hard becomes fire wood the plain ones not treated .so I feel well worth it .I’m women on my own live in country ,enjoy doing fun projects my chain saw chops well .my deck looking good can’t wait to fin couch in summer .

    Reply
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