The Real Truth about using Pallet Wood

The Real Facts About Using Pallet Wood

The Real Truth about using Pallet Wood

The Real Facts about Using Pallet Wood

Pallet wood is EVERYWHERE! It’s hard to browse Pinterest without stumbling on a pallet wood project. Everyone and their cousin’s best friend have experimented with and built amazing things using pallet wood. Admit it, you’ve seen those beautiful projects and began driving behind your local shopping centers looking for those wooden freebies. Sadly, most pallet project creators won’t tell you the Real Facts about Using Pallet Wood. Put your mind at ease knowing that I’ll tell you the bare wood truths about using pallet wood. Then the next time you find yourself in a back alley attempting to haul that pallet into your trunk, you can weigh the facts.

How to Make an Air Conditioner Screen from Pallets

A few weeks ago I slaved for over an hour trying to get those free pallets to relinquish their prized slats. As I bent over one pallet, sweating and swearing, I asked myself, “Wouldn’t it have been easier to spend $2-3 per board at Lowe’s?”

As I was building this porch swing with pallet wood, I began to create a list of the pros and cons of using pallet wood. By the time the paint had dried on the swing, I knew I had to be honest and share with you these facts so you could determine if using pallet wood is worth the effort and risks.

Facts About Using Pallet Wood

Benefits of Using Pallet Wood:

1. First and foremost, pallet wood is usually FREE!

2. Environmentally speaking, you are keeping pallets out of the landfill. Yay for being eco-friendly.

3. Pallet boards often have a beautiful rustic patina (pallet board on the left, new pine board on the right.)

Facts About Using Pallet Wood

4. The wood is usually strong.

5. It’s stylish and popular because the rustic industrial look is in style right now.

6. Everyone’s doing it—wait a minute! Just because everyone is doing it doesn’t mean you should jump on the bandwagon!

Why You Might NOT want to use Pallet Wood:

1. Actually removing pallet wood planks is difficult. Pallet wood is held on with spiral nails that are hard to remove without breaking or damaging the pallet wood. (Not to mention breaking your spirit!) Using a hammer and/or a regular pry bar is tedious and not super effective. You would be better off using a deck wrecking tool like this one. (affiliate link) 

Facts About Using Pallet Wood
2. Harvesting pallet wood often damages the planks or causes them to split. You can salvage pallet wood using a circular saw and this technique, but your boards will end up being shorter.

3. Yes, you can use a reciprocating saw and/or multi-tool with a metal cutting blade, but getting a clean cut is difficult (usually you cut into some of the wood). And you are left with cut off nails that need to be removed, filed down, or avoided.

Facts About Using Pallet Wood

4. Pallet wood may be treated with chemicals to prevent deterioration. If you can find markings on the pallet, you might identify if the pallet was treated by looking for these codes.

5. You can never truly be sure what has spilled on the pallet and has absorbed into the wood. I’ll let your imagination wander. You should consider how you’d feel if you found out the pallet had a chemical spilled on it, animal urine, feces, or raw food. (For this reason, it’s a good idea to seal the wood with a polyurethane or polycrylic if you decide to use pallet wood.)

6. Pallet wood is not perfect. It usually is low grade wood and has dings, cracks, splits, or large splinters.

7. Pallet wood may have staples and tacks that will need removal.

8. Pallet wood isn’t normally smooth and may need extra sanding to get a usable plank.

9. Pallet wood is rarely straight.

10. The planks aren’t usually a uniform thickness. To achieve uniform thickness, they’ll need to be planed. But, make sure you have removed all nails and staples or you risk damaging your planer blades.

Facts About Using Pallet Wood

11. When you’re done harvesting pallet wood you’ll need to find somewhere to dispose of the pieces you don’t use. Most waste companies won’t take pallets because they label them as construction waste.

Facts About Using Pallet Wood

Now that you know the pros and cons of pallet wood, you can weigh them and decide if you want to use that free pallet wood or buy new boards from your local home improvement store.

Facts About Using Pallet Wood

After all, pine framing lumber is cheap! And luckily, you can fake the age of new wood using this tutorial:

Facts About Using Pallet Wood

Lest you think I’m scaring you away from using pallet wood, here are a few cool projects you can make with it.

Clad walls with pallet wood to create a beautiful feature wall:

DIY Twinkling Pendant Light | Pretty Handy Girl

Use pallet wood to create a bread crate display shelf:

12 Inexpensive Ways to Decorate a Bathroom | Pretty Handy Girl

Or make a serving tray out of pallet wood (be sure that your pallet wood is clean, chemical free and always use a plate under the food.)

Rustic Pallet Serving Tray | Pretty Handy Girl

What are your thoughts and experiences with using pallet wood? Have you made anything using pallet wood? Would you do it again? Let’s open up the conversation in the comments below!

Facts About Using Pallet Wood


26 replies
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  1. Tammy
    Tammy says:

    Pallets are not hard to dismantle if using the correct tool. You can buy a pallet buster from Amazon or if you know someone who can weld have them make you one. I had a guy from my job make me one. You just slip it under the slat and pull back just make sure you are standing on the pallet. Do the ends first then the middle I built a shed from pallets. I love it. It cost me 60$ that was for the screws and paint( which I caught on clearance at Walmart for 2$ a can) I have also built a beautiful toddler picnic table. Like I said if you have to correct tool pallets is the way to go.

  2. Helen R
    Helen R says:

    Yes, I agree pallets are a lot of work but my son and I have made a few nice things from them. We have a tool which my son uses to take them apart. I take the nails out. We really don’t mind the work. Some of the boards split and can’t be used but we have made tables, large hall tree, signs and other things. Some people like the rustic look but we also plane some of the boards for a cleaner, newer look. I enjoyed your article, it was informative. Thanks

  3. Jen M
    Jen M says:

    Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren’t. The very best thing to do is go into the store and talk to a manager. Our local Petco has them out back and gives them away for free, but you have to go on a certain day, because they have a guy who comes to get them. You have to be quick in situations like that!

  4. Karen FitzGerald
    Karen FitzGerald says:

    There is a third alternative between pallet wood and buying new wood at Lowe’s. Many cities have stores that sell used building materials. We have one in Bellingham, WA where I live called the RE Store. Not only do they have wood of all kinds, but also used lighting and plumbing fixtures often of an antique or unique style, used cabinetry, doors, hardware of all sorts, and more. Salvaged building materials are not free, but they are less expensive than new, and they save resources and keep these items out of landfills.

  5. Debora
    Debora says:

    No doubt getting those pallets Sparta is a total bear. I’m currently working on a barn quilt and the pallet wood is absolutely perfect for it. Can’t wait for the finished product.

  6. tammy Ohagan
    tammy Ohagan says:

    Thank you for an honest review! I am one of those gals who looks through Pinterest Boards and thinks to myself… hey I can do that! — NOT! I too tried the pallet thing and it didn’t end well! Hours of labor for splintered wood, splintered fingers and boards I wasn’t happy with! It’s off to Lowes for me! I want to save the landfills and mother earth as much as anyone else, but most of all I want to keep my sanity! Go to Lowes, get what I need.. hire someone to come help me or hubby do what I want, then sit on my back porch enjoying a good book!

  7. Suzanne W.
    Suzanne W. says:

    I begged my husband to get me some pallets, so he did. He brought me 2 beautiful intact pallets. I spent 2 hours and finally got one side of 2 boards loose, the nails were like 4-5 inches long (maybe exaggerating a bit) I was hot and drenched in sweat. I laid down the hammer, went into the house and took a cold shower and a nap. When my hubby got home, I told him to throw the pallets away. I explained to him how my day had gone, and he says that most pallets the nails are dipped in glue before they are driven into the pallet.
    I have never asked for a pallet again, and I ignore all things on Pinterest that says the word pallet.
    I go scavenging for fence wood now. Most of fence wood is treated also, so I only use it for signs, shelves , etc.

  8. Cathy
    Cathy says:

    My husband and I tried harvesting the wood from 2 pallets and it was a bear. We were both spent after just getting enough boards to do what we needed and most of them were split or had nails in them. I ended up using them to make signs and we went to Lowes to get the wood we needed.

  9. Kathy Bishop
    Kathy Bishop says:

    I jumped into the pallet craze and made Christmas tree yard decorations. Very nice but I am with you Brittany ,way too much work. Those nails are not meant to come apart. It’s so tempting though since they are free.
    Love reading about Etta!

  10. KImberly
    KImberly says:

    I’ve pinned several pallet projects, but have never done anything with my “ideas”. I have often wondered about what you have posted.
    Thank you for this post.

  11. SuryaSmiles
    SuryaSmiles says:

    Thank you Brittany for an experienced (!) honest and realistic explanation of the pros and cons of pallet art! (I love, love your porch swing!). Using pallets is so tempting if you can find ones in pristine condition, otherwise IMHO they’re best used for bonfires!

    Actually, I’ve made a raided garden bed with pallets with success, without the laborious task of removing some pallets.

    Btw – enjoying Etta’s remodel and rebirth! You and your husband are troopers with a big heart for saving an old gal!

    • Brittany Bailey
      Brittany Bailey says:

      Thanks, wow, I’d love to see pictures of that raised bed. Yes, I think you need to weigh the effort vs. the desire to use pallet wood. And thanks for your comment about Etta. I think my husband is enjoying the demo more than I am. ;-D

  12. Ivory
    Ivory says:

    So pretty. I know there will be many more to come, because you alway come up with so many beautiful creative ideas to use pellets. Thanks for sharing more of your creativity

  13. Marianne in Mo.
    Marianne in Mo. says:

    You should ask before taking pallets, as some companies are required to hold them for pickup by the company that sent the shipment. Most are happy to let you take them if they don’t have to return them and must pay to have them hauled off.

  14. Lauren
    Lauren says:

    Huh – I have pinned a few of those projects. I kind of thought pallets by the dumpster were gonna get re used and maybe weren’t free. But now I know!


  15. Cath
    Cath says:

    Brittany. Thanks for this info; I’ve always been anti pallet but there are some that aren’t too bad. Thanks for an unbiased informative review


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