Head to any Pinterest board or check out the latest home DIY magazine and you’ll undoubtedly get a glimpse of something handy made out of pallets.
Pallet furniture has taken the design world by storm and it seems there’s a tutorial out there to make just about anything your heart desires from a simple pallet.
The act of recycling or repurposing old wooden pallets has become one of the most popular ways to create furniture and accessories at home, and the reason for its surge in popularity is how easy it is to do.
Even those with basic tools and even less woodworking knowledge can knock together something cool in an afternoon, making your own Pinterest worthy project in hours.
What is pallet furniture and what can you make with them?
Pallets originate from the shipping world, and they’re wooden platforms measuring four by four feet, used to store and move items around the warehouse.
By taking pallets apart, people can use the durable planks of wood to easily create all kinds of furniture and accessories like benches, tables, and bookcases, just by recycling and repurposing the parts.
If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on some pallets, the internet is awash with fun projects you can take part in, and all requiring minimal skills and tools to make them a success.
However, it’s important to learn about the wood used and the construction of the pallets to make sure you’re doing things the right way, so check out our essential guide to pallet furniture for everything you need to know.
- 1 What is Pallet Wood?
- 2 The Different Types of Pallets
- 3 The Best Wood for Pallet Construction
- 4 How to Tell What Wood Your Pallets Are Made Of
- 5 The Versatility of Pallet Wood
- 6 What You’ll Need to Make Pallet Furniture
- 7 The Best Software and Apps for Pallet Design
- 8 The Benefits of Making Pallet Furniture
- 9 DIY Pallet Projects That Are Easy to Make
- 10 How Long Does Pallet Furniture Last?
- 11 Safety Tips for Pallet Furniture
- 12 Related Questions
What is Pallet Wood?
To understand more about the wood used to make pallets, we first have to learn about the purpose of the pallets themselves.
A pallet is a flat transport structure used to carry goods during shipping and storage, and they’re the structural foundation that holds everything together.
A pallet is moved around with a front loader, jacking device, crane, forklift, or pallet jack, and they need to be strong enough to withstand the movement, as well as safely securing the load inside them.
The wood used to make pallets depends on their purpose, where they’re made, and other factors, so not all of them are made to the same strength.
These structural foundations are generally made with a high grade of wood, and a common misconception that they’re made of scrap materials is wrong.
Therefore, when they’re no longer needed for shipping and storage, they provide a solid and good quality type of wood to use in household projects like making furniture, and they’re a lot cheaper than buying new planks of wood from the supplier.
The Different Types of Pallets
The two most common types of pallets used for storage and shipping are wood and plastic. Wood is the obvious preference as they’re can be repurposed and recycled, they’re strong, reliable, and far more environmentally friendly.
Better still, they can be used by the everyday person to create some cool projects, giving us access to high-grade wood for a fraction of the usual cost.
Within the wood range of pallets, there are further categories, with some better suited to DIY projects than others.
Although there’s no standardization in the world of pallets, you’ll find that most regions and countries have their preferred type of wooden pallet to use, and this comes down to the materials they’re made with.
In Europe, they have a large selection of 14 different types of wood that’s been approved for pallet construction. In the US, there are just two types of wood that are usually used in the hardwood category, including Oak and Southern Yellow Pine.
However, when it comes to softwoods, others are acceptable like Fir and Poplar, although they’re not suitable for every purpose when it comes to furniture.
The Best Wood for Pallet Construction
When choosing a wooden pallet for the sole purpose of recycling it and making it into furniture, the best two options are oak and pine.
However, the lumber chosen to make pallets is generally strong enough to withstand further use, so you shouldn’t have an issue turning any of them into something new.
Pallet makers produce these containers based on factors including local government regulations, where the pallet is being made, how much the wood costs, and how available it is. Although you can use any wood to make a pallet, they can differ greatly in their strength and quality.
Pine and oak are popular choices in the US because they meet a number of these factors. They’re affordable, strong, widely available in the country, and if needed, they can be treated.
As raw materials, they’re easily sourced and available all over the world, so there’s no short supply of either.
This is good news for you, the DIY furniture maker, as oak and pine are also popular choices for furniture.
Many items you find in a furniture store are made of these materials and with just as much care put into their harvesting and treatment, so you can be assured that whatever you make from a pallet will stand the test of time.
How to Tell What Wood Your Pallets Are Made Of
Even if you know nothing about wood, there are some ways you can tell what your pallet is made of. With a little detective work and a keen eye, use these tactics to determine what your brand new DIY furniture is made of, with our pallet material checklist.
What Does it Smell Like?
If you can’t get a sense of what the wood smells like, find a knot in the wood and rub it a few times with a piece of sandpaper.
The smell of pine will be obvious in a softwood pallet, and if you smell something earthier and darker, there’s a good chance that it’s made of oak.
Where Did You Get It?
The most obvious place to go if you want to know what the pallet is made of is the place you got it.
You can ask the manufacturer of the pallet or the company you got it from, and they should have a good idea of what they use, or they can point you in the direction of someone who can.
What Does it Look Like?
Spend a few minutes researching the colors and grain patterns of wood online and see if you can match them up to the pallets you have.
For the best clue, look at the end of the pallet to see the most natural state of the wood. Grayer woods could be oak and browner woods pine, but there can be variations in both varieties.
How Does It React to Water?
With a few drops of water placed on the wood, you should be able to determine what materials it’s made of. When the wood turns wet, it’ll change color, so if it turns a golden color it there’s a good chance it’s pine, and if it turns ashy, it could be a softwood like a poplar.
How Heavy Is It?
The weight of a pallet is an easy tell, and if you have two that look slightly different it’s even easier to tell them apart. Lighter pallets are generally made with softwoods, and heavier ones with hardwood, so pick them up and see if you can feel a weight difference.
The Versatility of Pallet Wood
When it comes to DIY projects around the home, nothing is more versatile than the wooden pallet.
The simple act of repurposing them and giving them another chance after their days are numbered in the warehouse makes them versatile as it is, and then you see just how much can be done with them at home as well.
Pallet wood is incredibly strong but also pleasing to the eye, and making your own pallet furniture means you can put it in any room of the house.
Their unique look makes them the perfect material for indoor and outdoor use, with everything from backyard tables and chicken coop doors to indoor bookshelves and bed frames making up their list of possibilities.
In addition to where they can be used, the wood used to make pallets is versatile in its design aesthetic. Pallet wood works with all kinds of décor including rustic, chic, country cottage, vintage, mid-century modern, and more.
They can be used as-is, painted, cut to size, stuck together, or attached to various other materials, and you’ll find that they’re extremely versatile in their capability to create.
What You’ll Need to Make Pallet Furniture
Working with these resourceful wooden slats is easy enough to do for the home handyman, even if you have no knowledge of woodworking.
Depending on the project you’re undertaking, there may be specific tools that you need, but in general, there are some basic supplies you’ll want to have ready.
You’ll need to measure up how much wood is needed and then giving yourself room for error, make sure you have an extra pallet or two. Where possible, choose pallets that are all made of the same material.
An electric handsaw will make quick and clean cuts in the wood and is a safer way to work for those who have minimal experience in this area.
A power drill helps fasten pieces together once you’ve established a design and have all the pieces cut. Rather than using a hammer, this enables a sturdier and more finished project.
An electric sander is used to smooth out the planks of wood, get rid of any obvious splinters, and give them a more professional finish. The sanding should be done at the end of the project before the final coat of paint is applied, and can be easily hired from a hardware store.
Paint or finish
You’ll need a quality wood paint for finishing the project, or lacquer or vinyl, depending on the look you want to go for, as well as the right brushes.
The Best Software and Apps for Pallet Design
Thanks to the simplicity of pallet furniture, you don’t need any high-tech software to create something for yourself at home. However, there are software programs used in professional furniture design and woodworking that can make it easier to achieve the end goal.
Smartphone apps that allow you to create basic furniture designs, do mock layups of décor, and share ideas with others are all helpful when it comes to making pallet furniture.
There are thousands of plans available online to use for free that others have created, so the internet can be extremely helpful when doing this DIY job.
The Benefits of Making Pallet Furniture
There’s not just one good reason why people are flocking to pallets for their furniture, but multiple. If you’ve been thinking about ripping apart a pallet and repurposing the wood for your next DIY project, check out the benefits it has to offer.
- Long lasting: Pallet furniture can last just as long as store-bought furniture, so once you create something it will be with your family for years.
- Cheap: Compared to the price of purchasing brand new furniture, making something yourself out of recycled pallets is the cheapest way to deck out your home.
- Indoor and outdoor furniture: The pallet is versatile enough to work inside and outside as furniture. As these pallets must be built to work indoors and outdoors for storage and shipping, they’ll hold up just as well in all conditions at home.
- Modern: The simple pallet is so versatile that it can be transformed to suit any design style, making it an incredibly modern choice for furniture.
DIY Pallet Projects That Are Easy to Make
A quick online search of DIY pallet projects will pull up some of the most popular and easiest plans out there.
If you’ve never created something with pallets before and want to start with a straightforward design that’s been tested by thousands of others before you, these are some of the better options.
DIY Pallet Table
A pallet table is a straightforward project and one that can be adjusted to make whatever size table you require.
You might also choose to use a different material for the legs, with some people repurposing old cinder blocks to join with the pallet wood to create a table, rather than joining the wood.
A DIY pallet table requires you to strip apart the pallets and assess the wood you have, then line them up to first create the tabletop and four matching legs. With the right dimensions, lay them onto a wooden frame, and then drill together. Finally, attach the legs on either side using wood cut from the pallets.
DIY Pallet Shelves
Pallet shelves are a cool way to add a rustic look to your home, and you can utilize them outside as plant holders or even indoors as somewhere to keep your books.
Compared to the flimsy shelf options at most hardware stores, the wood in a pallet is a lot more durable and able to carry more weight.
To make pallet shelves, you can use the already cut sizes of the planks to create either a floating shelf or a box shelf. Simply sand down the pieces you want to use, paint them, and drill them together to fasten.
DIY Pallet Patio Furniture
The possibilities for patio furniture made from pallets include a day bed, sofa base, coffee table, dining table, bar, and decorative pieces like signs and, plant holders.
Matching furniture made entirely from pallets can give a cohesive look to your patio and will make it appear as professionally made pieces. All you have to do is come up with a color scheme and choose the right furnishings like cushions and covers to tie it all together.
How Long Does Pallet Furniture Last?
There’s a big variety in the grade of wood used to make pallets, and this can have a huge impact on how long the furniture you make will last.
How the pallets were used before you got them and what condition they were in will also have an impact on their longevity from here, so make sure you learn their history.
The other more important factor is how well it’s constructed, which is why it’s important to follow tutorials precisely and use the correct tools when putting them together.
Even without woodworking skills you can still make a quality piece of furniture and considering the grade of the wood is high, it’ll last just as long.
In general, you can expect a standard piece of pallet furniture to last anywhere from five to 20 years.
This depends, of course, on how often it’s used, the conditions it’s kept in, and whether it’s an interior or exterior piece of furniture. However, provided you take care of it and you take the time to get construction right, there’s no reason it can’t last as long as any other piece of household furniture.
Safety Tips for Pallet Furniture
Making furniture out of pallets comes with all of the standard risks you’d expect with DIY furniture making, but there are other things to keep in mind. Considering you’re working with pallets as your choice of material, you’ll want to follow these safety tips to do it the right way.
- Check the pallets for stamps that can verify their safety. Several official resources can help you identify the stamps that signify they’re safe for use and those that have been treated with chemicals like fungicides and pesticides. Avoid the chemically treated pallets, especially when making furniture for the home.
- Avoid using any pallets that have stains on them, as they could be from toxic chemicals. Pallets are used to transport all kinds of goods which can include harmful products, so don’t use any wood that appears to have a mark.
- Get a basic understanding of how to safely operate the power tools you plan on using. Equip yourself with safety gear including masks, earplugs, and safety goggles before starting any DIY project.
Pallet furniture has been a popular choice for handy people looking to create unique pieces for home at a fraction of the cost.
If you’re looking for your next big project and have some spare pallets lying around, check out the answers to some commonly asked questions that first-timers have about this choice in material.
How Do I Prepare Pallet Wood?
To take the wood from the pallet and turn it into something worthy of using for furniture, there are a few easy steps. Break the pallet apart and assess which parts can be used, clean the wood, sand it, cut and shape it, and then finish it with paint or lacquer to get it to the desired state.
How Much Do Pallets Cost?
A standard four by four foot pallet can vary in costs depending on your region, with the standard price for a used pallet between $10 to $20.
However, some businesses have an oversupply of pallets that they regularly need to get rid of, so you may be able to pick up some pallets for free to use for your next DIY project.
Can Pallet Wood Make You Sick?
There have been reports of people making furniture with pallet wood and then becoming ill, but this is due to the chemicals used to treat some types of pallets.
To avoid this, you need to check the pallets you plan on using for any stamps, that can signify the types of chemicals used to protect them against things like pests and fungus. A pallet without stamps is generally safe to use for furniture and won’t make you sick.