What’s the most common form of wood that ends up in dumpsters? Shipping pallets – according to the EPA, they represent 90% of wood packaging waste. Dumpster divers can likely confirm this, as can anyone who’s ever worked in a manufacturing setting: many years ago when I worked an assembly line at a door factory, we often got sent out to disassemble pallets for the dumpster. But as we’ve demonstrated before, waste wood isn’t bad wood, and there are lots of ideas out there for putting this waste to good use.
Since distressed wood furniture is kind of cool these days, DIY pallet furniture won’t just save you some money; you could probably make some if you’re so inclined… or, at least, create a stylish look for your own living space. And there are always wooden pallets available for the taking: if you don’t want to just go out and take them from the backs of commercial buildings, you can get in touch with retailers, manufacturers, or any company/non-profit that has large amounts of materials shipped in to see if they’ll let you have them. Keep in mind that these organizations are paying to have them dumped; you’re saving them a little money by taking them off of their hands.
A Few Tips: Working With Pallets And Finding DIY Pallet Furniture Tutorials
Not all pallets are the same! Pallet manufacturers use different kinds of wood, and different kinds of treatments to preserve it. Some of those treatments are toxic, so you’ll want to avoid those. This post at Instructables provides the information you’ll need to make sure the pallets you gather are safe.
Pallets aren’t generally made from the highest quality wood, so breaking them down often means breaking some boards. A number of the projects below discuss the best ways to do this; from what I’ve seen from the palletsphere, separating boards with a sawzall/reciprocating saw works much better than prying them apart.
Since pallet projects are hot, a lot of sites have sprung up around the topic. Most of them are pretty useless, and only feature photos (often cribbed from other sites). From my own searching, I’ve found that the best places to find actual tutorials/instructions for DIY pallet furniture are Instructables (surprise, surprise), reddit’s Pallet Furniture subreddit (which you do have to dig through – lots of posts there are also just pictures… but pictures of projects the original poster actually created), and Youtube (of course, quality varies here).
9 Useful Projects I Found…
Don’t want to dig yourself? Here are nine good tutorials I found (at the sites mentioned above).
1. Adirondack Chairs: Pallets are great for outdoor furniture, and jkratman at Instructables breaks down this project very nicely (including lots of good information about working with pallets in general at the beginning).
2. Loft Bed: This space-saving bed also requires some 2x4s (likely for sturdiness). The end product looks great, and imgur user nosikcut has done a very nice job breaking the process down into understandable steps.
3. Wine Rack: A gorgeous and functional accent piece that also looks like a good starting project if you’re new to the whole woodworking thing.
4. Coffee Table #1: Yep, lots of coffee table projects out there… but a lot of them look really nice! This one from PBS’ New Yankee Workshop takes five pallets…
5. Minibar: This one also looks fairly simple, but leads to a unique piece for your entertaining space (or creates it if you don’t have it!).
6. Desk with Computer Shelf: Unless you’re an all-laptop household (like mine), you’ll want a convenient space to put that desktop tower. This plan from Instructables works that in.
7. Patio Sofa: Another piece of outdoor furniture that looks really easy to make – you don’t have to break down most of the pallets! The last minute or so of this video is filler – the instructions don’t take that long because they’re so simple.
8. Full-Size Bar: If you really want to deck out the entertaining space, here’s a cheap alternative for a bar to which your friends can belly up. Only $34…
9. Coffee Table #2: This video’s very thorough in terms of finding pallets, “processing” them, and then turning them into a really attractive coffee table.
Know of other good pallet furniture project instructions/tutorials? Share them with us… and let us know if you try any of these.
Image credit: Shutterstock
For me, the trouble with wooden pallets is the impact on the environment due to the demand. That’s why I recommend using plastic or metal pallets because of their long life time. Matt – Schoeller Allibert
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