It seems like you can’t open Facebook or Pinterest these days without seeing a “pallet project.” What’s all the fuss about?
A pallet is a horizontal wooden platform used for storing and transporting goods. You’ve probably seen pallets holding stacks of cereal boxes or laundry detergent at your local warehouse club, home improvement store or even grocery store.
With very little skill, you can turn the reclaimed wood from these pallets into inexpensive, attractive, functional items for your home. All those pallet upcycling projects are helping people save tons of money on furniture, wall art, organizational structures, and even home renovations.
Ready to explore DIY ideas that can save you hundreds (sometimes thousands) of dollars? Grab a tool box, paintbrush and a few wooden pallets, and let’s get started.
What Can You Make With Pallets?
Choose from all sorts of creative pallet projects. Your only limit is your imagination! Many of these projects cost as little as $20 for materials, whereas store-bought versions can run you hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Here are a few options to get you started:
Since furnishings can account for a large portion of a new homeowner’s budget (over $5,000 on average), these projects can definitely help you save money. Chris Ronzio estimates that making his own furniture has helped him save $5,000!
All set for furniture? Consider creating your own wall art from pallets. This trendy option incorporates distressed wood into many different decorating styles. For inspiration, check out Architecture Art and Design’s 30 Fantastic DIY Pallets Wall Art Ideas.
Floors, Walls and Other Renovation Projects
How to Choose a Pallet
Not sure how to pick the perfect pallet? Donna Williams at Funky Junk Interiors offers advice for working with pallets.
When choosing a pallet, consider what it carried — you’ll want to avoid pallets that carried pesticides or contaminants. Williams also says to “give it a pass if it it smells, looks oily, is stained, is extra heavy, has too many twisted nails, or if it looks suspect period.”
If you choose a project that requires dismantling the pallet, Williams suggests using a jig saw or reciprocating saw as well as a hammer and crowbar. And since you can never completely ensure a pallet’s safety, Williams says that it’s a good idea to scrub the wood with bleach and soapy water and to never use pallet wood for anything food-related (including vegetable gardens).
For additional information and advice, read Apartment Therapy’s guide to choosing and dismantling pallets. They recommend avoiding pallets from your local grocery store, as they are more prone to food spillage and therefore bacteria. Also, check the markings on your pallet to see whether it was treated with chemicals.
While you can often find pallets for free, do not assume that pallets sitting out behind a store are up for grabs. Many businesses reuse their pallets, and taking them without permission is considered stealing. Make sure to check with a store’s management to get the green light before you start loading pallets into your car.
“Distress” Your Pallet Project
Once you’ve chosen and cleaned up your pallet, you’re ready to tackle one of those DIY projects, most of which involve distressing the wood.
To learn how to give brand-new wood that trendy “distressed” look, I spoke with artist Sarah Detweiler from Church Street Designs about her process. She uses a hammer, chisel and round drive punch to distress the wood she uses for her custom hand-painted signs and artwork.
Here’s how Detweiler recommends distressing your pallet wood:
- Begin by using the chisel to create gouges and cracks in the wood.
- Then take a hammer and tap down most of the harsh corners and edges around the board. Make small “ding” marks on the face of the board using the hammer.
- Finally, use the round drive punch to create faux nail head holes throughout the board.
- Once you have reached the amount of distressing you want on the board, paint a dark base coat (like black or dark brown) over the entire piece .
- Once this is dry, run a wax block over the corners, edges and any other place that you think it would have naturally accumulated wear.
- Using a foam brush, paint a light-colored top coat over the wood. Make sure not to fill in too many of the “punch holes” and gouges with the lighter paint.
- Once the top coat is dry, take a sanding block and lightly sand off any paint that covers the wax layer. Run the block over the entire face of the wood to ensure a dull finish on the entire piece.
Can You Make Money With Pallet Projects?
Absolutely. As noted above, Detweiler turns pallets into artwork and signs, which she sells on Etsy. A quick search of the site shows many pallet projects for sale for as much as $250 for a coffee table, or $600 for a headboard.
I’ve also seen many of these projects for sale at local farmers markets, flea markets and craft fairs. So if you’re looking for a fun and creative side business, pallet upcycling could be a good fit!
What are you waiting for? Grab a pallet and get to work on a money-saving DIY project you’ll enjoy for years to come.
Your Turn: Have you upcycled a pallet into furniture or home decor? What did you create?
Leah Thayer is a Nashville-based writer and teacher. An avid pinner on Pinterest, she enjoys DIY projects and decorating.