Awesome Wood Pallet Wall & How It Could Have Killed Me

Wood pallet projects seem to be all the rage these days. They certainly have all the popular elements. Basically free. They look great. They reuse what would be trash and they are easy to find. Just one thing.., they could kill you.  And I’m not talking about rusty nails or a bad splinter.

In most cases you should be totally safe but be sure to check out the warning at the bottom of this post.  The last thing I need is for my blog readers to go dying on me.  “Don’t you go dying on me“.

This entire adventure started from single picture that I posted on my Pinterest board. Well, technically it started when I made a sudden and compulsive decision on Sunday at 2:00pm to go ahead and start a project that’s been renting space in my head since I saw this picture:

wood pallet wall pinterest inspiration

This is the inspiration photo from my Pinterest account. Looks awesome right?  Well, instead of just commenting that I wanted to do it (which I did) I decided this weekend that I WOULD do it!

The wall in the photo above is being covered in wood strips from old shipping pallets. I think this look is really cool and I’ve been wanting to try it out.

Sunday. Around 2pm. Kids, asleep or “having quiet time”.  Wife, half asleep in front of the TV. Me, wired from drinking way to much iced tea and watching way to many HGTV shows. Time to do this! Time to take action and make something super cool from something old and free.  

If it works out, I plan to feature a wall like this in the work room of my basement or as a dartboard backdrop. But my smaller test location is going to be the entrance to our house from the garage. I’ve been meaning to paint and decorate this wall anyway but the wood pallet idea seems awesomer. (yes, that is a word, ’cause I just added it to my dictionary)

Garage Entrance : Wood Pallet Target #1

wood pallet wall before the wood

Here’s the garage entrance to our house. Looks fine I guess, if normal and boring are your thing. I want more of a rustic Virginia barn type feel.

Step 1 : Go and Get Some Wood Pallets

Prep the car – We have a 2003 Honda Pilot. Great car! I had to put the two back rows down. For me that meant removing 3 child seats. If you’ve never installed kids car seats, its super fun, like a horse kicking you in the head fun.

Find the wood pallets – I had been eagle eyeing some pallets for weeks. Once you start looking they are fairly easy to find. Just take a drive behind the grocery store or industrial type buildings and you’ll spot some.

Loading the pallets – I fit 6 pallets in the back of the Pilot. They are heavy and a bit awkward to handle. If you’re 6′ 3″ and have arms that can wrap around the world with muscles on top of muscles…. like me… then you can lift and load them yourself.

Otherwise I suggest you trick a friend into helping you. Tell them you want to grab some ice cream and catch up. Then, once they’re in the car and the doors are locked, thank them for helping you find and load some heavy wooden pallets. They will look at you weird, just stare straight ahead and keep driving. I did this once when I bought a slate pool table, works like a charm.

car full of wood pallets - for basement finishing

This is why having an older car is so money. Say you want to go pick up 6 wood pallets from the trash behind the store and put them in your wife’s car… is that cool? It is if that car has 125k miles on it. MARRIAGE SAVE!

Tips for Wood Pallet Selection:

  • Some pallets are made from über heavy compressed plastic. I’m sure there’s a kick-ass project somewhere with those but for now skip them. We want the wood!
  • Pallets with a lot of broken or cracked boards aren’t worth the effort or the space. Old pallets are good (great color) but they need to be more or less in one piece.
  • Look for color variation.  You can try to get all the same if you want but most of the projects I’ve seen look best with variety.  Plus, you don’t have to spend as much time hunted for one shade.

Step 2: Remove the wood board from the pallets

wood pallet with kids on a playground

Cameron – wanted to help but was easily distracted by airplanes flying over head.

“Listen to me now and believe me later” This is a pain in the A double S. You will not like it. It will hurt.

This is the part of the DIY show where the host gives the homeowner a crappy job to do overnight, then they show up the next day and it’s done.

What you want to do is breakdown the pallets into usable strips of wood.

To do this you need a crowbar and a hammer at the very least. The first board I did took almost 15 minutes and it cracked a little at the ends. Time to get out the big guns.

I took my Milwaukee Sawzall, and cut off both ends. Who has two thumbs and just tripled his productivity… “THIS GUY”. With both ends cut I just had to remove the nails from the middle board.

Here’s a video of me and my Sawzall going to town on the end of the pallet boards. (credit to my daughter Charlotte for her videography skills, not bad for 7 years old)

It takes about 15 minutes end-to-end (excluding beer breaks) to break-down one pallet – using my patented “cut the ends first” method.

WARNING – Avoid Chemically Treated Wood

wood pallet stamp heat treated certified

The HT means it was heat treated and is safer than chemically treated.

This is the “almost killed me” part. Props to @rokville  for pointing this out. I had not seen this warning anywhere else. (ps: I sometimes tweet boring stuff  @JasonMorgan77)

Some wood pallets used to be treated with dangerous chemicals to kill pests and disease. Today’s treatments are much safer. They simply heat the wood up to kill any living organisms.

Pallets without this stamp (left) probably aren’t a safe choice for indoor walls or surfaces where you might sit or eat.

What You Get – Wood from a deconstructed pallet

You end up with roughly 10 usable boards. Each board is roughly 36 inches long and 3 inches wide. I say roughly because there is a lot of variety in the board width and length.

One Honda Pilot load of 6 pallets therefore yielded about 60 boards, which I’m guessing is 70 to 80% of the amount that I need for my project.  We’ll know next weekend.

In the end, although it was rough work, I left the house at 2 and was sipping on a Dos Equis in the back yard by 6pm. All cleaned up. Car seats back in place. Rusty nails and sharp wood pieces more or less removed from the ground.

wood from a wood pallet - for finishing a basement

I believe this is all from one or maybe two pallets (not all 6). Remember there are boards on the front and the back. Not to bad.

I decided to break this post into 2 sections. I wanted to publish the first steps with as much detail as possible. Often this is the part that’s overlooked by other DIY web sites and TV shows.

basement finishing jasonMy promise to you is to give you the real story, so you will know what you are getting into. This is going to be a two or three weekend project for sure.

I’m really excited for you to see the final outcome, I think it’s going to look great.

If anyone else tries this type of project, please post pictures and comments here, I’d love to see how yours turned out.

Cheers –  Jason

Check out Part 2 of this story – Pinterest Wood Pallet Project.  Subscribe using the box below and get notified via email about other cool projects!

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Questions and Comments

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  1. says

    I have a friend who did a similar project and turned it into a headboard. They have a beach them going and it looked really awesome. Like the planks of an old dock. Props for the Dumb and Dumber quote. “I got robbed by a sweet old lady in a motorized cart! …And I didn’t even see it comin!”

    • says

      The sad thing is that I’ve seen that movie so many times that as soon as I thought of dying I thought of that line. -Jason

    • says

      Thanks Marlane. I’m biased but she is amazing. I told her one time – hold it steady, shoot me, then zoom in and get a close-up of the saw cutting the wood. Boom, first take – she nailed it. Genius kid.

  2. says

    Hey,
    The pallet idea has been around for a great while… Hit the big box stores for damaged pallets that they may be throwing out. A friend of mine used to collect oak pallets. THESE are the valuable ones! Also, once you have your number of boards…get or rent a planer/shaper, so that you can shave the boards to a consistant thickness. This also gets rid of any nasty grime or other ‘stuff’ that may be on the boards. And obviously, take all the nails out first.
    To make your projects stand out…stain first before applying to project, then see the beauty come out.

    • says

      Karl, you read my mind. I almost bought a planer for this project but I thought I’d just test out the idea first. That’s why I’m just doing a small wall in the garage. Although, it’s looking so good, Jenn wants to add a bit more. I’d love to find an oak pallet, I’ll have to do some more hunting. – Jason

      • Bobbie Bonner says

        Make sure to wear a mask when planing these boards. I use them for a lot of projects. Also, check out some spa dealers and motorcycle dealers for some great pallets!

  3. Kat says

    Love this!! My husband and I saw an installation of this at our local home show, although I don’t think they used strictly shipping pallets. We plan to do this in our entry……some day. For now we are starting small with making a compost bin and some raised garden beds.

  4. Cam says

    Jason,

    Really like the idea of the pallets, just one word of caution that stores especially grocery store get charged for the pallets in alot of cases, so be sure to tell your readers not just to take them. (A theft charge might not be worth it.) They need to ask permission to take them. I own a grocery store and get charged $15.00 a pallet from my main supplier.

    Thanks

    Cam

    • says

      Cam – Absolutely! No stealing guys. But, I will assume that if they are in the trash or stack up next to a dumpster, they intend to trash them. The older ones have the best color anyway, newish ones are a bit boring. – Jason

  5. Gayle says

    Hey, could you frame walls with wood pallets instead of traditional framing? Seems like there would be plenty of space for electrical and could seriously simplify the framing process… lol

    Just thinking out of the box. Thoughts? ;)

    • says

      Negative ghost rider. You need to use standard dimensional lumber to frame your basement. I guess, technically, it could work – but it would never pass an inspection.

      Good thought though – I love thinking outside the box, it’s so much more refreshing.

      Jason

  6. Veronica says

    Hey Jason if you do more pallet projects an easier way to get the pallets apart is use your sawzall to cut through the nails. I use a 9″ metal blade. The nails are still in the boards, which is great if you want a rustic look. Tried the crowbar and hammer method when I first started using pallets…..never again!!

    • says

      Good point V, at the time I had just bought that saw and didn’t even think about just cutting off the nails. I will definitely do that next time. – jason

  7. says

    Great post! Thanks for the HT notification, did not know that. I’, in the process of coming up with a wood pallet fence/wall outside my RV parked in Slab City year round…need to create more shad on the rig for the hot summer months. If you see pallet fence ideas, let me know. Thanks!

  8. says

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  9. Alex says

    Did you just screw/nail them directly into the studs? Would it be possible to use this same awesome look on a masonry wall? I’m wondering if I need to install external studs to my masonry wall and then screw in the palette planks to that. Any thoughts would be great!

    Your wall looks fantastic by the way!

    • says

      Thanks Alex. I used a trim nail gun, the nails were about 2.5″. For a masonry wall you’d need a different approach, the nails will not go through the concrete or cinder block. You could glue them on, that would work. Use something like liquid nails. Or you could attach two vertical wood beams with a “tapcon” screws then attach the boards horizontally to those supports. Hopefully that gives you a few ideas. Cheers – Jason

  10. jen says

    Haha seems I’m 2 years behind but came across ur blog just now that has very little to do with what I Google besides the pallet part. Funny how hgtv squirms it’s way under your skin and you find yourself constantly thinking of what next to do with your home. I’m stuck on the channel and find myself more like your wife (half asleep in front of the tv) when I should be more like yourself (putting thoughts into action). It’s great to hear a dad’s point of view of things. I cracked up imagining u shoving all the pallets in after arranging the car seats and sarcastically enjoying the removal them. The joys of parenthood and saving a buck! Kudos to you. Now I’m heading back to my original Google search of how to attach pallets (or then pieces of wood) together without using a nailgun)…

  11. David says

    I’ve been thinking of a way to hide my TV/Receiver cables when i saw your blog. I was able to talk my wife into using a raised wood “idea”. I never thought of using pallets. My only cost will be paint and nails. I may even use some laminate flooring that was left over and glue those into some 1×2 boards.

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