Mother Earth News Blogs > DIY


Do-it-yourself projects and plans for anyone who can swing a hammer.

5 Easy Ways to Recycle Wooden Pallets

Today's used wooden pallets have two options after their initial useful life ends. They can be sent to a landfill, where they will linger until they have decomposed. Or they can be recycled and given a second useful life. Not only is recycling your used wooden pallets helpful for the planet, but it can help you stay young in brain and body by encouraging you to learn new skills. You can also have great fun as a family working on wooden pallet recycling ideas.

On my other blog, I have a list of 122 DIY pallet projects with great tutorials that you might want to try. But in this article, I will list 5 of the easiest ones that you can do on a weekend even if you're a beginner.

Create a Backyard Swing

Pallet Backyard Swing

Photo by Design Rulz

If there is one thing the average wooden pallet is perfectly sized and shaped for, it is a backyard swing.

You will want to remove all nails and sand down the pallet to remove splinters. Adding a coat of clear varnish can ensure a smooth, splinter-free seat. You can then paint the swing if you wish.

You can find sturdy weight-bearing twine or hanging string and ceiling hooks at a local home good store. By making loops through each end of the pallet section and looping them over the ceiling hooks, you have just created a nifty outdoor patio swing chair.

Deck Out Your Backyard

Pallet Backyard Deck

Photo by pamala.leonard

With just one or two used wooden pallets (depending on the desired size of your deck space), you have the makings of a cool outdoor deck for grilling and get-togethers.

First, you will want to remove any old nails and sand down the pallet surfaces. This will also give you a chance to test each pallet to be sure the wood is still firm and sturdy. Adding a clear coat of varnish or stain can match the deck to your home's look as well as seal up the wood against predation from insect pests and rodents.

The safest way to turn your wooden pallets into a deck (especially with little feet in the household) is to cover any openings in the pallet flooring areas with extra wooden boards. A packet of nails and a hammer or an electric nail gun can simplify this part of the project.

Adding another top coat of sealant or varnish will seal up the top layer of the deck (or you can also paint the deck to match your house if you prefer).

Build a Bed Frame

Pallet Bed Frame

Photo by homedit

There is no rule stating you have to have a bed frame that is specifically made to hold bed mattresses and box springs. In fact, the average wooden pallet is well-sized to hold a double or larger bed mattress. Cutting the pallet in half can make cute twin beds for the kids.

Your big decision is whether to lay the pallet right on the floor or add wooden legs. You can also add a pallet headboard by cutting your pallet into two sections - one smaller and one larger, and attaching them perpendicularly to one another.

You will need to thoroughly clean the entire pallet area, remove any old nails, sand down the wood and reattach any loose planks to prepare your pallet to hold your mattress. You can then varnish or stain it or you might prefer to paint it instead.

Make a Cute Coffee Table

Pallet Side Table

Photo by Ana White

You can use a wooden pallet in several ways to make a cute side table or coffee table. Your first decisions will be the height and width and use of the table.

For a side table, you might want it to be higher and narrower, with enough room for perhaps a lamp and some reading material. For a coffee table, a lower and wider table will give you more room when entertaining guests. Adding wheels can make the table more multi-purpose, even allowing you to wheel it outdoors for summer entertaining.

One of the neatest things about using wooden pallets for a table is that you can take advantage of extra storage in the open spaces between the pallet planks. You could tuck napkins, party plates, tea light candles and a lighter into the crevices for handy retrieval.

There are two ways to make the table. You can cut the pallet into smaller equal sections and stack each on top of the next, adding caster wheels at each corner. Or you can cut out one big section to use as the table top and make "legs" out of smaller pallet sections you add at each end.

Build a Garden Trellis

Pallet Garden Trellis

Photo by Christopher SeanH

One of the simplest and prettiest uses for a wooden pallet is to repurpose the pallet into a green trellis. The sky is the limit as far as the length, height, color and number of trellises you erect.

The simplest way to create your trellis wall is to simply prop the wooden pallet length-wise against the side of your house and plant climbing vines just beneath it, anchoring them to the trellis as they grow taller.

But you can also cut the pallet into lengths and use hanging hooks to mount them along the sides of your house. Another option is to create a free-standing trellis fence along the sides of your property. Still another option is to attach more than one pallet together into a freestanding gazebo trellis in your backyard.

There are so many ways to give used wooden pallets a second life. There are currently more than 223 million pallets sitting in landfills, yet with just a dash of creativity and a sustainable approach to living, each of those pallets could have more to offer!

As you are working to transform your wooden pallet, always keep safety in mind. Wear safety goggles and gloves and a face mask to protect against dust and fumes.

Jennifer Poindexter and her husband raise most of their food and a variety of animals in the foothills of North Carolina, where they built a small homestead on very little money. She writes about all of her adventures at Morning Chores, where she shares the knowledge she has gained with others that might want to take the full plunge into homesteading. Read all of Jennifer's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here. 

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.