Wooden cargo pallets have great potential for upcycling into low-cost or even free furniture, and many of the incidental hallmarks of the cargo trade such as shipment stamps can give the projects an authentic industrial feel.The timber they are made from is often remarkably strong (in order to be able to deal with the vast weights of goods they are required to support), and the hollow structural frameworks make a great starting point for a lot of DIY pallet projects.
Some of these upcycling ideas are somewhat advanced, and require you to break up a pallet and then reassemble the wonderfully weathered wood to create new furniture. However a lot simply involve using the existing pallet’s structure, and offer remarkably straightforward projects for those with limited carpentry skills.
Vertical Garden in a Wood Pallet
A simple idea to start, this vertical garden requires just one intact pallet along with some gardening fabric stapled to the back. Great for small city gardens and balconies to maximise growing space. Read a guide for this pallet project here.
Upcycled Pallet Sofa with Cushions
Probably one of the easiest (but most effective) ideas here are pallet sofas. You can simply stack pallets to create a raised surface on which to lay broad cushions, and you can even use screws to affix vertical pallets at the sides and rear to create arm and back rests.
Wooden Pallets as Garden Decking
Pallets already present a flat surface made up of parallel strips of timber, much in the same way as conventional decking. The depth of a pallet can make it an ideal structure from which to build an expanse of decking, but you can also disassemble the pallets for free wood to build your own bespoke decking such as in this example.
Wood Pallet Outside Furniture
Wooden pallets are pretty hard wearing and are an ideal material for outdoor furniture. However its worth treating the wood with an oil or lacquer to extend the life of your recycled pallet furniture. An entire set of table and chairs has been created on this roof terrace, with castor wheels fitted to easily move the pieces around.
Upcycled Pallet Bicycle Rack
This bike rack can be made by simply arranging two pallets perpendicularly. No screws or any other fixings were required in this example, but could definitely be added if desired for a more solid piece.
Tiered Seating for Home Cinema from Stacked Pallets
Not everyone has a cinema room in their house, but this tiered seating could present a low cost solution. Pallets have just been stacked incrementally with square cushions fitted for comfort.
Pallet Bed Frame
All a bed frame really does is raise your mattress off of the floor and several pallets simply laid out can achieve just this. In this example only one layer of pallets was used, but if you favour a higher bed then multiple pallets could be stacked with fixings.
Who would have thought an armchair made from wooden pallets could be so elegant. There’s unfortunately no DIY guide for this chair, but it shows what’s possible with a bit of planning and creativity when it comes to making upcycled pallet furniture.
Garden Path from Pallet Timbers
While departing from the archetypal pallet format, Funky Junk Interiors used wooden planks removed from pallets to lay out this garden path. The wood looks wonderfully weathered, but may need treatment to prevent decomposing and creating a slippery surface.
Compost Bin made of Upcycled Wood Pallets
Four vertically arranged pallets secured together can form the ideal compost bin for your garden. A compost bin is a simple structure but one which can end up being irritatingly expensive to buy at garden shops. The parallel gaps between the planks in a pallet make the perfect breathing holes for your organic material to compost. This YouTube video shows you how to make one of your own.
Entire Shed Built from Wood Pallets
This definitely goes beyond the scope of a standard DIY project but several people have successfully built garden sheds from upcycled pallets. The in-progress pallet shed pictured below has a great guide and there’s also a whole pinterest board devoted to these structures here.
Extra Pallet Info
Common Pallet Sizes
The sizes of pallets vary between different countries and particularly amongst different industries. Chances are you’ll want to be working with several pallets of the same size for a lot of these upcycled furniture projects which can be difficult to locate. Pallet sizes vary between 1220mm (48 inches) and 800mm (31.5 inches) and are outlined in this table.
Is it Legal to Take Pallets?
Pallets are of course bought by companies for transporting goods on and as a result are their property. However at certain points in the logistics chain they become uneconomical to return or dispose of and are considered waste. Their statuses range from companies paying you to take their excess pallets away, to companies that fit tracking devices to ensure they keep their pallets to keep them in circulation.
In any case it’s always best to ask warehouse managers if they have any unwanted pallets you can take away, but if pallets have been clearly abandoned and are not near a business premise then it’s likely that they’re free to take. You can also just search online for ‘pallets for sale’ or ‘free pallets’ in your local area.
Painting Pallet Furniture
A lot of people prefer to leave their pallets unfinished to retain the industrial feel. However some also decide to paint the wood, both to ensure the finished pieces fit in with their decor, but also to reduce the risk of splinters.
If you’re looking to paint your pallets, our guide detailing how to paint Ikea furniture might come in useful, particularly if the pallets have been given a sealing treatment in order to weatherproof them.
More Pallet Inspiration
Pinterest is awash with unique recycled pallet furniture ideas and we discovered a lot of the projects featured here from some boards entirely devoted to pallets [1, 2, 3, 4]. Please share links to any other great guides you find detailing how to make pallet furniture in the comments below.
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