Home » DIYer Guides » Upcycling Pallets – The Ultimate Guide

Upcycling Pallets – The Ultimate Guide

Upcycling Pallets

Table of Contents

You’ve likely seen a pallet before. They can be found nearly everywhere; you’re likely to spot one no matter what location you drive to! They’re built with different materials, such as steel and plastic, but perhaps the most familiar material is wood.

Those flat structures are essential in the shipment of goods and materials of all sorts. Many people, including myself, have also discovered that a pallet is also an awesome source of wood that can be used in building crafts, furniture, and other projects.

I’ve created this article for the purpose of providing an informative resource for upcycling pallets for use in furniture and crafts. This article will be regularly updated with new information, so be sure to check back again in the future!

Pallets Keep Goods Moving

Commercial Grade Quikrete Countertop Mix

As I mentioned above, you don’t have to look hard to find a pallet. Many big box and grocery stores just park them right in their aisles, stacked with products. They can be found outside of retail stores as well, underneath gardening supplies and seasonal products.

Otherwise, you’re likely to find them stacked outside of businesses, ready to be picked up by a company truck for return. Or perhaps they’re just offered for free to anyone who wants them. The point is… pallets are everywhere and for good reason. They are essential for the shipping and transportation of any product you can imagine.

Note these estimates from The National Wooden Pallet & Container Association:

There are more than 1.8 billion pallets in service in the United States each day. Ninety-three percent of these pallets are made from wood. This figure does not include the many more millions of pallets used to ship goods internationally. More than $400 billion worth of American trade is exported annually on wood pallets and containers worldwide.

– The National Wooden Pallet & Container Association

In other words, there’s no shortage of pallets and it would be hard to overstate how important they are to the transportation industry and world commerce. In fact, in the opening stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the pallet industry in the United States was deemed an essential critical infrastructure, which ensured that the manufacturing of pallets didn’t come to a stop.

So, pallets, especially ones made of wood, are here to stay for the foreseeable future. That’s also great news for anyone who works with pallet wood. From crafting to building furniture, pallets are an excellent resource for DIY projects. Indeed, there are several benefits to upcycling pallets.

Upcycling Pallets: Good for your Wallet and the Environment

Dismantling a pallet with a hammer and pry bar.

One reason why upcyclers love working with pallets is because of how inexpensive they are to obtain. They can even be found for free in many areas. In my town, a local manufacturing facility piles the pallets they received outside and welcomes the public to come get them for free.

In our age of rising costs, pallet wood is one of the few materials that is inexpensive to work with. Collecting pallets helps out the environment as well.

Repurposing pallet wood for decor items or furniture is a much better option than sending a pallet to a landfill. Pallet mulch is even available for gardens, landscaping, and soil enhancement.

Pallet Codes

It’s always good to check the pallet for a treatment code before using it. Pallets are treated to help prevent the spread of tree pest infestations. Most pallets in the United States are heat treated (HT, DH) rather than chemically treated (MB), but it’s always good to check first. You can learn more about this treatment program here.

These treatments, when properly implemented, have been scientifically proven to be highly effective in killing quarantine pests.

– The National Wooden Pallet & Container Association

If you’re an individual or a business, instead of throwing a pallet in a dumpster, why not put the word out that you have one available? Chances are, someone will willingly come and pick it up for you.

Breaking Down Pallets

Dismantling A Pallet With The Vestil Deluxe Pallet Buster

Yes, upcycling pallets is fun, but only after they’re dismantled, am I right? Breaking down pallets can be quite an exhausting chore. A pallet has to endure heavy loads and constant abuse, and they are built accordingly.

It can be tricky to pry apart a pallet without destroying the wood planks. Most pallets I’ve dealt with are built with twisted-shank nails which make them extremely difficult to work with. Here’s a few tools/methods I’ve used to dismantle pallets.

  • Vestil Deluxe Pallet Buster: This is by far my favorite tool to use for breaking down pallets. This heavy-duty pry bar has a 41″ handle and an articulating head which allows you to pry up a wood plank with minimal damage. It pulls up twisted-shank nails like they’re nothing. You’ll want to check out my article, How To Use The Vestil Deluxe Pallet Buster, to learn more about it!
  • Reciprocating Saw: Using a reciprocating saw (or SAWZALL) with a long blade is another great way to dismantle a pallet. Just slip the blade underneath the wood planks and cut through the nails. Use this method if you want to keep the nail heads with the planks for a more rustic look.
  • Circular Saw: I’ve also used a circular saw to cut a straight line across the face of the pallet, top to bottom, on each end. Then all you have to do is pry up the wood planks that are fastened in the middle of the pallet.
  • Pry Bar and Hammer: This method works, but it’s probably the most exhausting and it’s easy to split the planks.

Pallet Wood Projects

White Pallet Wood Shutters

If you work with upcycled pallets often, you’re likely familiar with just how many items you can make with pallet wood. The project choices are nearly unlimited! Below is a list of my favorite pallet wood projects. I hope these projects will help inspire you!

Upcycling Pallets – Let’s Start Building!

Upcycling pallets for home decor items.

I hope this article was helpful and inspiring to you! What pallet wood projects are you currently planning to work on? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *