by Doug Calderone
I have been a follower for many years now and wanted to take the next step and contribute. Around the same time I stumbled across your blog, I began experimenting with shipping pallets. Being a carpenter by trade, I already possessed the skills to build, but pallets are a whole different ball game. When building with pallets, one cannot just draw up plans and expect everything to work. Pallets need to be looked at as building blocks, like Legos for example. Drawing up plans is still a good idea, but the dimensions and structural integrity of pallets needs to be the main factor in design.
Before, I started building; I needed to find sources to obtain my pallets. The most common pallet can be found behind almost every store and it measures 4ft by 45 inches. It consists of 3 parallel 2x4s with 1x planks running perpendicular. These pallets are normally reused over and over and are riddled with nails. The wood is grade “d” lumber at best and is hard to drive a nail into. However, there are treasures out there; I have found many mahogany pallets and oak pallets. With some dedication, the wood can be reclaimed.
There are also pallets that I call, “one time use pallets.” These have all different dimensions that are based on the product that is being shipped. For instance, Motorcycles, Tractors, wood stoves, windows, furniture…etc, all have unique pallets. A lot of these pallets are constructed out of premium 2x4s and 2x6s, all held together with screws and bolts. This lumber can be reclaimed much easier and even hardware can be reused. At a local glass company I can gather 8ft x 12ft pallets, all made out of southern yellow pine. NOTE: Always get permission before taking pallets, some have deposit costs attached to them.
After collecting a dozen truck loads, I had enough pallets to begin experimenting. I took an inventory of what I had and recorded the individual dimensions of each pallet. I also took note of which direction the 2x4s ran, being that they are the main support. I had seen a couple people attempt to build chairs out of pallets online, so I started with that. The first one I built was just to get an idea of what I could do with the least amount of work. The next involved a little more effort and the third was actually built by deconstructing pallets and reusing the wood.
From what I learned in making chairs, I took my new knowledge and attempted to build a small structure. At a Harley Davidson dealership I found a 4 ft x 8 ft pallet made of 2 x 6s and heavy 1 x 6s. I used this as my base. I covered it with a sheet of plywood and leveled it on top of cinderblocks. Then I began to frame the walls. For the back wall I used another 4 ft x 8 ft pallet made of 2 x 4s. I cut a 4 ft x 45 inch pallet in half and stacked this on top. The front walls were constructed out of two 2 ft x 6 ft pallets with a door opening between them. The side walls were made of heavy duty 3 ft x 3 ft pallets that had 4 x 4s holding them together.
I added some reclaimed 2 x 4s to finish the rough framing. The roof was made of three 5 ft x 45 inch pallets, and then covered with plywood. The roofing is actually made of sheet metal from a newspaper printing facility. A raw piece can be seen in front of the door opening on the ground. I constructed a door out of reclaimed 2 x 4s and added a recycled window. From a demo job at work, I got a truck load of foot wide pine floor boards. They were already stained and had a nice weathered look to them. I nailed these to the frame as siding. Since pallets aren’t perfectly square, neither was my structure, so some custom skill saw rips were needed to make the siding work.
I then attached some more 5 ft x 45inch pallets as a second foundation to the back and leveled them on cinderblocks. Using more reclaimed lumber I built another frame. Then roofed with more pine floor boards. At this point, I decided to make my structure into a chicken coop. This new section would act as a covered run for my chickens. I built a larger run out of more reclaimed 2 x 4s and wrapped everything in chicken wire.
Other than some hardware and two sheets of plywood, the entire structure was made of recycled materials. This was last spring’s project and since then I have been collecting more raw materials. This spring I am going to attempt to make an 8 ft x 8ft structure out of mostly pallets. As soon as I have something made, I plan on showing it to all of you at tinyhouseblog.com. If you have any questions or want to talk pallets, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pootatuck Pallet Projects
Sandy Hook, Connecticut