At first glance, wood pallets don't look very special, but their DIY potential is actually pretty endless. These otherwise utilitarian platforms lend themselves beautifully to countless decorating projects, and can give your space an enviable rustic feel.
Ready to get your DIY on with wood pallets? We tapped the pros to learn more about their potential uses and get some tips for selecting the right wood pallet for your project. Enjoy!
What are wood pallets?
You've likely seen or used a wood pallet at one point or other. These wood platforms are most often used for lifting and moving items and feature an opening on the bottom that allows a forklift or crane to pick up the pallet along with whatever it's holding.
There are two main types of pallets — stringer and block — and they are most often made of southern yellow pine or oak.
"Stringer pallets have three long pieces of wood (a "stringer") to support the sides and middle of the parallel boards of wood. These are considered two-way pallets because a forklift can only pick them up two different ways," said Rose Ott, a designer for Casaza, a platform for home design.
Block pallets, on the other hand, are supported by blocks of wood on the sides and middle of each edge and are commonly known as four-way pallets because they're the same orientation no matter which way they're carried.
"These are generally used for heavier shipments because they provide more support for the platform," Ott said.
What are pallets made of?
Although oak and southern yellow pine are two of the most common materials for wood pallets, it's not uncommon to find pallets made of softwood — a cheap, expendable material. The problem with these pallets? They're often a wee bit flimsy.
Plastic and metal pallets also exist but are typically used for heavy industrial purposes. The good news is, you wont have to look very far to find any type of wood pallet because they're pretty readily available.
"Check your local tile and stone showrooms, as well as wine shops and grocery stores — basically anywhere you know they will be hauling loads," DiClerico said.
How to pick the right wood pallet:
When shopping for a wood pallet, keep your eyes open and make sure it's clean and free of any sprays. Steer clear of pallets that have cracks, warpage or spills, and avoid pallets that have been chemically treated.
"Look for the 'HT' marking on the pallet, which stands for 'heat treated,' a chemical-free process. Chemical-free pallets need to be inspected for mold, especially if you're planning to use them indoors," DiClerico said.
Pallets burn quickly so many people use them for kindling, but you have to be careful to make sure they're not treated with the chemical methyl bromide.
"The way you can check is to see your pallet has the letters MB stamped on it. If you see that, you know it was treated and you should absolutely not burn it," Ott said.
Exercising caution while selecting wood pallets is always wise, especially since many pallets come from overseas, where the safety standards are different. And during transit, oils and other items can spill on pallets, making them unsafe for burning.
Wood pallet project ideas:
Sometimes the best DIY projects come from the most unexpected items, and that's definitely the case with wood pallets.
"Pallets are a little bit like Legos for the Pinterest set. There really is no end to their DIY-use possibilities," DiClerico said.
In recent years, wood pallets have definitely grown in popularity among DIY mavens everywhere.
"Working with found materials is one of the hottest trends in home decorating and design. Wood pallets fit right into the trend because they're a versatile material that's inexpensive, if not 100 percent free, and readily available once you know where to look," DiClerico said.
Both stringer and block pallets are ideal for DIY decorating projects and can be upcycled into countless items, including:
- Tool organizer
- Kitchen hutch
- Coffee tables
- Dog bowl holder
- Wall art
- Flower box or planting boxes
- Wine bar
- Shoe organizer
Need some help with your DIY wood pallet project? Follow these tips from Ott and DiClerico:
- Pallet shelves are one of the easiest DIY projects around. To create your own, simply refinish your pallet and turn it on its side, removing panels as necessary.
- Want to create a table out of a wooden pallet? Add wooden blocks and wheels and consider adding a glass top for a functional and fashionable finish.
- Feeling artsy? Disassemble your pallet to create some fun art. Refinish the pieces and assemble them into everything from welcome signs to wall clocks.
Wood pallets are particularly ideal for outdoor gardening projects, like plant holders. Want to make your own pallet plant holder? Follow DiClerico's easy tips:
- Start by refinishing your pallet. Clean and lightly sand wood then add a fresh coat of paint or stain.
- Hang your pallet in the garden or backyard and place pots and containers on the pallet's vertical column.
- Ambitious? Consider a pallet fence. You'll need up to a dozen pallets (ideally similar in size) depending on the size of the space you want to fence in. Then bolt your pieces together and create a hinged pallet for the fence door. Staple some chicken wire around the fence if you're trying to keep pests out.
One last word of advice before venturing off for your DIY projects: Don't forget to have fun!
"The finish does not have to be perfect. The beauty of the pallet is in its imperfection," Ott said.