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:
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
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.
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
“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
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.
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.
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
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