Creative Uses for Wooden Pallets

| 1/21/2010 11:18:55 AM

Tags: DIY, question to readers,

I moved into a “new” house last spring — a 1923, one-story bungalow with a full basement. The full, dry, clean basement was a big selling point, as I have a lot of stuff in boxes — years (generations) worth of books, scrapbooks and other mementos. I was thrilled to know I could store these treasures in a safe, dry location.

Have you noticed I used the word “dry” a couple of times? Well, that would be the issue — whether the basement really was dry year round. And, no, it was not (as we found out after the first big rain storm). A lovely little stream runs from one corner, across the floor and pools in the area where the old coal furnace used to sit. Hmmmmm

The best solution for me was to put the boxes up off the floor. We occasionally have a pile of wooden pallets at work. I hauled six of them home, laid black plastic on top of each pallet and piled on the boxes. The plastic prevents any moisture that seeps into the wood from getting into the cardboard boxes. A great solution until I can build permanent shelving.

The pallets were free and have served me well. How have you used pallets or pallet wood? Tell us about it in the comments section below.
1/21/2015 7:15:36 PM

Alas, I am surrounded by brilliant people! Some of the ideas here are amazing. No wonder Mother Earth is my most favourite web-site!

lilah fistell
4/22/2010 4:20:22 PM

answer to Dr Doug Coding offices Lilah Fistell

3/26/2010 6:00:48 PM

Okay, all you smart people, what's stopping hundreds of thousands of business owners across the country from putting one or two layers of pallets on the roof of flat-topped buildings to provide shade and keep the AC bills down? Dr Doug

darron taylor_1
3/13/2010 11:44:58 PM

I have built a storage shed 8x10 wery nice and very cheap. 80 bucks in screws! total cost

3/10/2010 8:24:32 AM

I use pallets to raise my rainbarrels off the ground to increase the water pressure. They've held up for two years and are still in great shape. I also use pallets as a platform for my conatiner garden. Several pallets placed next to each other have made a great base to increase the drainage from my large planters.

lilah fistell
2/26/2010 9:39:11 AM

I have yet to be able to get the nails out of the new pallets that use the thin wood and the gluey nail-gun nails. The wood just splits. Can anyone tell me how to get around this problem? Thank you.

carmen allan_2
2/25/2010 3:01:52 PM

In our semi-arid climate, we use pallets whole as planters on erosion prone slopes. We just staple chicken wire to the bottom to keep out gophers, and place the pallet on the slope as is! The wooden slats are oriented horizontally and act as mulch to keep the soil inside warm, moist and in-place-resistant to the efforts of free ranging digger-chickens. We plant annual veggies and herbs in the "windows" and they spread their roots out under the wooden slats with no way for weeds to germinate.

2/25/2010 9:05:39 AM

I live in the Ozarks of Missouri and we have used pallets for hog pins, once they'er put together (3 or 4 for each side) the hog can't lift them up or burrow under. We have also used them for temperary sidewalks in muddy places, chicken coop fences (Not for chicks tho), stack wood we burn on them, dividers for composts,and the pallet company near by will also by them back a few years ago for $5.00 each. So we will go around and gether from businesses and then sell back to the maker we make money and they save money and trees.

samantha boyce_3
2/25/2010 8:41:06 AM

Good Morning! For a few years lately, I have been using wooden pallets in my vegetable garden; I have large rectagular planters that I use for some of the vegetables that I grow, but because they have holes in the bottom, they do not get good drainage when flat on the ground, so I use these for elevating the planters to allow for better drainage! Works out awesomely! I am currently trying to figure a way to build a tiered method of planter support so I can have a multiple leveled section, like stairs, to have all of my planters in one area but on mulitple levels (not too high, just three levels). If anyone ever goes to Home Depot and sees those display units they have outside the garden area where they sell their landscape and house plants, that's the look I want to achieve; if anyone out there has any ideas on how I can build something like that, give me a holler, because even the folks in the garden area of Home Depot can't tell me! Have a good Thursday!

2/24/2010 4:30:38 PM

We burn pallets for firewood. We also used some once for a greenhouse floor. They did not last real long but they cheaply served the purpose. We also seal basements, or anything below grade. I am in Florida and we have underground houses. If not for great engineering and sealant they would be enclosed pools. Blessings, Tom

2/24/2010 4:18:19 PM

I would like to brag that I've been reading Mother Earth News since 1978 and each issue has been just as exciting to read as the last. Being a DIYer I find myself constantly thumbing through each issue making sure I didn't miss a thing that could help me out of any jambs I sometimes get myself into (the magazine in general and now being online to interact is terrific), I would like to take this oportunity to Thank the other readers and Mother for the educating and awsome reading I've had over the past 32 years.

sandra dyer
2/24/2010 4:11:10 PM

We use pallets to stack our hay, firewood or anything else we want to keep off the ground. I've built tables for my greenhouse out of them. My father built sleds for us kids out of pallets. Now that was one heavy sled! Our local newspaper office gives them away free. All that beautiful free wood! You've given me an idea for a set of rustic cabinets!

sharon kendall_1
2/24/2010 2:40:12 PM

I worked in maintenance at a manufacturing plant. Huge motors wer shipped in on heavy duty pallets. I could get first dibs on any pallets I wanted. I had a pickup so could get them any time. I would haul them home and disasemble them. I raised calves and pigs, so they would come in very handy. I could use them for seperators for the stalls. They were excellent to use for the little piglets. I could put them up high enough that where the little ones could get away from mama pig when she would lay down. They are good use to make rabbits hutches out of also.

louise hall
2/24/2010 2:25:10 PM

I use free wooden pallets for everything imaginable on my farm. 3 of them made a big composting bin. I also remove the wood and reuse it in the barn for shelves, in the food storage rood for shelves, to build or replace steps on the deck stairs, built a couple of dog houses, a hen house, the list goes on and on and the wood is FREE. Give me a pallet or two, a hand full of screws and some paint-and I can do it.

ron willing_1
2/24/2010 1:27:12 PM

4 pallets standing vertically in a square, 8 screws and a piece of plywood makes an instant bench anywhere on the farm. I used one when I build my greenhouse.

ríoghán browne_2
2/24/2010 1:22:26 PM

Just finished a living roof for my cob/bale-cob home. Used beach logs in the round for rafters, and pallet slats for sheathing, as the spans are no more than 2 feet. Chainsawed off the outside 2x4/4x4's (firewood), then blasted the slats off of the middle support with a sledgehammer, resulting in some beautiful 1x4 or 1x6's (many hardwood!) with only two nails to pull. all nails were re-used in the structure. what a great resource! sure, a bit of work, but didn't pay a dime. Tapping into the waste-stream!

jack centonze_1
2/24/2010 12:44:21 PM

I live in Vermont where we normally get a lot of snow and ice. This leads to the necessity to shovel off our roof several times during the winter. My particular problem was an upper roof that dumped unto a large porch roof,complicated by a valley in one area that dripped and formed thick ice on the porch roof.Also all along the rest of the drip edge I would get a good thickness of ice. I had just had a rather expensive rolled roofing job done on the porch roof and I couldn't envision myself chopping ice against my new roof the following winter. To the rescue came WOODEN PALLETS! I placed a number of them along the drip edge and below the valley and have been able safely remove the lion's share of the ice without the danger of perforating the roofing. I have used the same pallets for a number of years now and am quite pleased. The biggest problem is removing them in the Spring and placing them in the Fall. I hoist and lower them up by hand with a rope and now at 67yrs. old I find that the pallets have put on weight,I don't understand it. One more suggestion would be to put old rugs under the pallets to further protect the roofing from any chucking and chafing from the pallets. Jack Centonze Waterbury,VT

2/24/2010 11:40:20 AM

I mainly just use the wide pieces off of the pallets. I have used them sheeth a club house for my kids (now it keeps square bales of hay dry). I have also closed in a chicken house,and small sheep shelters, even a deer stand. Farm stores often get lawn mowers and attacthment in wood crates (more like a frame), If you ask they usally let you have it (because they just cut it up and throw it away). Material from such things has helped make rabbit hutches, roosts for chicken, and other stuff. I also use them to stack firewood I lay two on the ground and stand one at ether end of the two on the ground held up by a T-posts in each voids between the 2x4's. We use round bales to feed our livestock and putting them on pallets when they are stored help keep the bottoms of the bales from rotting. I have made a creep feeding pen for sheep and goats just line up the pallets and fasten together with srap lumber and remove boards to leave a hole for the young ones.

2/24/2010 10:32:57 AM

Well after reading all this I guess I lack imagination! All I've used pallets for is compost bins and firewood! Thanks for all your ideas!

2/11/2010 4:59:11 PM

I got a truckload of 64 pallets, and 28 4x4 pieces of 1/4" plywood for $50 delivered. So far I have built a compost bin, a garbage box at the end of the driveway, a chicken coop (for 10 chickens), raised beds for a greenhouse, two large doghouses, and we burned any pieces I broke while disassembling the pallets as kindling. A great deal for $50 and a whole lot of elbow grease :)

2/5/2010 2:54:03 PM

I'm not sure about other readers but I'd prefer to read the first comments first & the most recent last.

heather d._2
2/1/2010 3:37:13 PM

Patricia, I would love to see some pictures of your hutch and baking cart. I'm planning on using some pallets to put a fence around my garden. Probably this summer.

patricia nicholas
1/30/2010 9:06:42 PM

My husband and I love pallets, we started years ago with a compost bin and have progressed to furniture. I currently have a beautiful country hutch, a bakers cart with 2" thick oak wheels cut from 10" wide planks that were on a pallet for conveyor belt parts at an airport, an 8x10x2 oak mantle, numerous shelves, a crock cabinet, chest and several outdoor dry storage areas. We just moved into a house with no kitchen cabinets so we are currently building an entire kitchen from recycled shipping pallets. I'm also looking for a supply of used metal for a backsplash and want to create our own counter top with recycled glass. I'll let you know how that turns out.

1/29/2010 3:41:07 PM

We use pallets all the time! We used the solid topped ones for heavy doors for the chicken coop. I also used 6 pallets for a calf pen. I nailed scrap tin on one side, t-posts inside and 1 outside each pallet for holding them up and an old "domed" piece of steel for a roof. Looked pretty good! We also have built a "travel nest" for the birds we put in the "love nest" for hatching eggs, and use some of the wood for various projects that require a smaller piece here and there. They can be used widely!! Thanks for some of the tips above.

lamar havard_2
1/28/2010 11:24:44 PM

I use the pallets from my workplace (mostly oak), to build deck tables and Shaker style step stools and sell them at the flea market.

1/28/2010 10:52:18 PM

I built my wife a grape arbor bench out of a 2' x 4' pallet, scrap lattice, old wooden tomato stakes and 10 8' 2x4s- I did try reusing nails at first, but I eventually had to switch to deck screws to hold it together properly- first building project I ever did besides a doghouse when I was a kid- looks great- old wood makes it look rustic- still standing 5 years later

dan carter_2
1/28/2010 3:03:42 PM

I love pallets. There's lots of great uses and ideas out there. Personally, I've used them to build a compost bin, raised beds in the garden (cut them up, overlap them and screw or nail them together. The only problem was the soil coming through the larger openings), a bed frame (I laid two down on the floor and set another upright to make a head board, perfect for a twin bed) and I'm currently in the process of collecting pallets to build a sauna. This will be the most elaborate endeavor yet. I plan to cram the pallet openings full of different materials for insulation. I've seen rammed earth work with pallets. The internet is full of pictures and ideas using pallets.

1/28/2010 1:37:26 PM

I'm planning to use the coldest part of winter to build a cold frame or two. Cut to size the cross boards of the pallets and use the 2x4s for uprights to hold it all together ...

1/28/2010 11:04:06 AM

A few years ago I set up an old army tent for my boys (5) and myself (plus some others) to use at our deer camp. We had all of the finer things such as a pot belly stove, electric lights strung on two wires like the old farm houses had when they got wiring, old bunk beds from an army surplus store, a Boy Scout designed cook box with all of the cubby holes for stuff. The finest thing was the carpeted floor thanks to some pallets. We set some solid topped pallets side by side on the ground and put the tent right over all of them. Next we covered the enitre floor with old carpet from some hotel remodeling. Finally we added some tables and chairs to eat and play cards and games with the kids. This was a great set up until an ice storm did some damage. It still was great for 5 years. Every year we would patch some small holes or tears and recoate the canvas with waterproofing. Unfortunatelly it finally bit the dust and we removed the finer things and torched it like a Viking sailing off in a funeral pyre. We couldn't have done it with out the pallets. They really saved our bacon several times with rain and mud.

1/28/2010 9:38:23 AM

Occasionally at work we get normal size pallets with solid plywood tops. I've used two of those stacked sitting on blocks as a small porch in front of the door to my RV, with another single one in front of those as a step. I also used another of the solid top pallets as the platform for a milking stanchion, with a couple of stray 2x4 studs cut up for the uprights, braces and neck-hold. I figure the stanchion all-told cost me around 10 bucks, between lumber and screws/bolts. Several regular slat-top pallets made a two-bay compost bin, and I built a reasonably nice looking street-side garbage can holder for 3 plastic trashcans with with four normal pallets, using a single 1x4 board across the front middle and bottom to keep the cans in and act as braces. Added some paint and voila. Pallets are my friends. :)

1/28/2010 8:49:58 AM

Pallets are great for firewood, both burning & storing your split wood. I use a pallet cut to size as a base for my cast iron benches by the garden. It keeps the bench legs from sinking into the soft earth. I have used them to build small animal shelters. Cut one to size for the base & cover it with rolled roofing. Cut two matching pallets for the sides. The boards on the bottom of the pallet I cut flush with the stringer, the top side I let them overhang 4". Stand the side up on the base, overhanging boards overlap the base & get nailed in. The back has overhanging boards on both ends & gets nailed to the side pallets. Same with the top. Cut it to fit, drop it in place & the overhanging ends get nailed to the sides. The interlocking pallets make a very strong "dog box" that is heavy enough that the wind won't blow it over. Wrap it up with rolled roofing & it is dry & no drafts. Make the front removable for easy cleaning. I use one for my turkeys. The box is inside a dog kennel in the pasture. The birds run free during the day & I lock them up at night to protect them. They roost on top of the box unless the weather is bad then they huddle together inside. I put in some straw & a feeder. The box keeps the feed dry & if they spill any they can still eat it off the floor. It sounds complicated, but really it is easy. The box can built quickly & for almost no money. Just size it to your need. Mine accommodates six turkeys.

karen schoening
1/28/2010 8:29:31 AM

I use pallets to hold the water dishes for our 100 or so geese, ducks and chickens. Because of the waterfowl the area around the water dishes becomes a mud hole or sheet of ice, depending on the season. The pallets help keep the waterers out of the mud so the birds don't have to work so hard to get a drink.

1/28/2010 3:30:32 AM

I have been using pallets to pile my split wood on to keep it off the ground. I then stand one on end at each end of the wood pile, tied together with a rope about half way up the stack, to make sure the pile doesn't fall over. I also saw the recent article about building a wood storage shed out of pallets. Picked up a load of 7-8' pallets and will begin work soon!

1/28/2010 2:45:34 AM

I've used pallets for firewood - thanks to Michael for the idea of using a magnet to remove the nails - it makes great kindling if you split it up with a hatchet. I also made a few simple wooden toys from some particularly nice pieces. My favorite use, though, was a picnic table I made for the kids - they love it. And I plan to make a few more for the kids' nursery school, where they love the idea of a 'recycled' (except for a few bolts) picnic table. It takes time and energy to remove the nails - does anyone have any tips re: this? - but it's satisfying work.

terry wilson_1
1/27/2010 2:29:27 PM

In western Canada, we get big pallets, 8-12 ft long with 4x4 stringers. I made an 8x20 ft sundeck, using all the cross pieces from others to make the decking. It was a lot of nailing, but it's sturdy, to say the least. It makes me shudder, when I see them being cut up and being thrown in the garbage. A sign of the times, I guess.

mona parker
1/27/2010 1:49:34 PM

In 1984 we moved into a small ranch style house that needed kitchen cabinets. We had 4 children and not much money. My husband built upper and lower cabinets in the kitchen with pallets. The pallets were gray and rough sawn lumber. We used porcelean electric fence insulators for the door handles. We used those cupboards until my husband remodeled the kitchen and then used knotty pine to build my cabinets. He also built a small shed barn, about 12'x12', covered in used galvanized tin. That small shed barn housed at different times our son's 4-H steer, a pony and mule and then latter chickens before being removed to build the present day pole barn. Our kids are grown now but are resourceful in their own rights.

michael c leblanc
1/27/2010 1:23:45 PM

I have used pallets as firewood for many years.They are often made of hardwood.They are very dry from years of sitting in warehouses. I cut them up with a cutoff saw using cheap carbide tip blades(less than $3.00 on sale) that just cut through the occasional nail that I don't see. I burn them with the nails and about once a month I clean out the ashes and with the magnet from an old speaker I seperate the nails and put them in my metal recycling bin which gets turned into money once or twice a year.Pallets can be found everywhere and on average my shop stays toasty for a cold Canadian week on one to two pallets.I avoid the painted ones or ones that have an obvious spill on them just in case its toxic.

david beemer
1/27/2010 12:40:26 PM

In the forest on our property, we are in process of constructing an aviary for a flock of Muscovy ducks. The first of three sections has a 40' X 24' base made of 42" X 42" wood pallets arranged vertically in "T's" which allows for stalls containing 1/4 50 gallon "nesting" barrels. The other two sections will also be at least 64' X 20' with wood pallet perimeters, and all three sections will be fully enclosed (as is the first one) with a FarmTek bird net covering and base poultry fencing on the outside perimeter. Despite occasional evidence of the usual predators ( eg. raccoon, 'possum, skunk, weasel, mink, coyote, dog and various raptors) NONE have "scored" any of our birds(with just over 4 months penned in "Fort Muscovy"), thus far (knock wood). Another factor in their safety? -- soaking the lower foot of the entire wooden base with regular application of urine amply supplied by myself and three sons (so far, at least) seems the best, most effective four-legged varmint "repellent" suggested.

dake jordan_1
1/27/2010 12:15:24 PM

Pallets a great for compost bins because they let air circulate and very strong and can even be moved.

suzanne horvath
1/27/2010 12:06:40 PM

I've also used four pallets tied together for a compost enclosure. Worked great. A simple use is for firewood. I would think you could pull the nails out or leave them in(?). Does anyone know of any reason that the nails would be a problem if left in the pallets? It would seem that they would just end up in the ashes. I wish we could have some of the posts include photos. There are some interesting ideas out there.

1/27/2010 8:42:21 AM

I used pallets to build two top bar bee hives. they are wonderful! check out on how to build one for yourself!

1/25/2010 10:33:26 AM

I've broken them up and built planters out of them. I had 2 cucumber and 5 tomato plants living and growing in dirt, recycled pallets and recycled horse chow (manure). I did my best not to bend the nails and reused them as well. Free building materials. How can you go wrong.

sr davis
1/23/2010 6:30:42 PM

my son and I built a really nice fence and gate with pallets around my 150x100 garden. We placed chicken wire on the inside and it turned out great!

1/23/2010 4:45:40 PM

I love shipping pallets! I have built a compost bin, like someone mentioned before, a work table by putting two pallets together with 2X4's and 4X4 legs. and now I am in the process of putting them down in a part of my yard that goes under water at the mention of rain. It's on the north side of my house, and I'm putting them on 8X16X2 inch pavers that I already have to keep them out of the wet ground. Once I have the entire area covered, I am going to either use old fence boards for planking, or invest in composite decking. I pick them up from the side of the road, so it's going to take a little while!

1/23/2010 12:05:59 AM

Husband built a cabinet that hangs in the garage to hold his cleaners and paint and stuff, all out of the pallets and same nails.. the only thing bought was a lock for it

don brackbill_1
1/22/2010 10:43:55 AM

I have cut a standard pallet in half and reconfigured it for a plant table - stands 40" high, has a top which is 40" x 24" It has a lower shelf which braces the whole thing. By carefully reusing the other wood and even the nails, it's free!

todd reece
1/22/2010 8:09:09 AM

I built a compost bin out of 4 pallets and tied them together with zip ties.... Pretty? no... Functional and cheap??...ohhh yeah. I saw an article on Mother about a firewood shelter made of pallets... I had thought of a one car garage as well... now that I know that some one did it, maybe I'll do both of these projects sometime soon!!!

ron menchini_1
1/21/2010 8:41:26 PM

I had a neighbor who built a one car garage out of discarded wooden pallets. I was a doubting Thomas until I saw it for myself, it was amazing the way he did it, most of the materials were FREE, from stuff other people threw out, even the nails,(he straightened all of them).

1/21/2010 3:05:22 PM

I recently purchased the magazine, and love it. Thanks

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