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What You Need to Know When Working with Pallets

FI can not hide it. And I’m not ashamed. I love pallets. 

If you walked into our very…rustic (that’s a good word for a dilapidated farm-house, right?) … house, your eyes would first see the built-in cabinet made with pallets and old barn wood. It has been a great addition in helping the chaos of our affectionately named “dog porch”. 

And when you climb the stairs and enter the kitchen, your eyes will fall upon the fridge, oh, and the cabinets built to fit the area next to the fridge

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And soon, I will have redone all my kitchen cabinet doors to match, and I have an exciting plan for my desk that will also be a window seat area that will keep contained our future homeschooling and business items. 

See? You can’t just stop with one! 🙂

But there are a few things to know when working with pallets before you dive in. 

Pallets | Building with Pallets | DIY Pallet Projects | Old Wood | There are at least 5 things you need to think about when you are working with pallets. They are a great tool: when used properly they're even more brilliant!

  • Pallets by nature are rustic… that’s such a good word to use for somewhat dilapidated things, isn’t it? This means that pallets will be:
    • Rough cut
    • Quite likely crooked
    • And probably not square
    • Possibly broken
    • And filled with a lot of charm!
  • A huge pile of pallets is a small pile of boards. This means that:
    • You will need a huge, HUGE pile of pallets to get any amount of projects done.
    • You will drool when a semi-load of pallets drives by…Just ask, I know from experience. 
  • There are pallets made from hardwood and softwood. This means that pallets will be:
    • Either really, really hardwood or really, really softwood in my experience. All of which changes how you will handle the wood. 
    • I have found that the hardwood pallets are much harder to take apart. You can see how I take my pallets apart and may note that I don’t cut the boards to disassemble them because I like to use every last stitch that I can. And to cut off the ends seems like such a lost waste of 6-12 inches. Most of the projects I’ve done require longer boards anyways. 
    • For Christmas, my husband gave me a nail gun (woohoo!). On my first projects in the porch and kitchen, I didn’t have the nail gun and so wish I had! I used screws to screw everything together and the softer the wood, the more likely the screw would sink deep into the wood very easily and sometimes too far, too easily. I mostly used softwood and have noticed that they shrink as they dry more than the hardwood does (see below). 
  • Pallet wood has spent its entire life outside. This means that pallets should be:
    • Brought in and dried out by the woodstove (or something like that) if you plan on using the boards in an inside project. The pallet wood will “shrink” as it dries. If they aren’t dry when you nail or screw them in place, cracks already between each board will quite possibly become larger.
    • Did you know? If you install a new door in your home, you should keep it closed most of the time because the wood shrinks and possibly will warp if left open. Keeping it closed until it dries ensures that it will remain a great fit for the frame of the door. The same is true for pallet wood. 
  • Most likely you will get continual resistance from your husband with your continual string of pallet ideas. This will mean…
    • It will be hard to hoard pallets because he just doesn’t understand the importance of a LARGE pile of pallets.
    • His eyes will glaze over when you tell him, in excitement, your next plans, and a fight might ensue as he challenges you to finish the last project. (Where is that eye-rolling emoji when I need it?) 😉
    • But sometimes there will be a chink in the armor, and he will buy you a nail gun.

Pallets are quite possibly just like humans: every one unique, every one beautiful, and each quite frustrating.

So I would suggest practicing your sweet, honey-laced words and doing some sweet talking as you plan your next project and begin working with pallets. Keep an eye out for piles and start collecting them any way you can!

Pallet on!

Pallets | Building with Pallets | DIY Pallet Projects | Old Wood | There are at least 5 things you need to think about when you are working with pallets. They are a great tool: when used properly they're even more brilliant!

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Tammy Tinkle

Saturday 28th of March 2020

I live off the grid on close to 800 acres. I take in wild abandoned animals until they are capable of caring for themselves. I like to build things with reclaimed wood and other "free" items for use around the house or for my babies. I am going to make a pallet barn & a night time pen for my new baby bull calf. I am glad to know I have a new source to help me expand some of my ideas on living off the land as the frontiers had done. As I said we live off the grid,so we make our own power,well water and we hunt for our meat 90% of it anyways. I don't pen any of my animals up except the small ones (until they can fend the coyotes off themselves)they are free to roam and feed as they please. But as I said I am building a night barn and small enclosure for my new baby calf. Thank you for this very informative news letter and videos. Great to know there are others that can and choose to live off the land.

Delci Plouffe

Tuesday 31st of March 2020

What you are doing is so amazing! I applaud you all the way! Keep at it and don't give up!