Pallet wood is one of my all time favourite things to work with. But some risks come with it. Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about pallet would will be in this blog post.
Here are a few of my own pallet wood projects…
As you can see, I love the stuff!
And although the use of pallet wood is becoming extremely hot property lately, it also comes with some controversy. Before diving into the wonderful world of working with pallet wood, please educate yourself on the dangers involved.
Here are some tips and safety information you should be armed with before carrying pallet wood home for your own DIY projects.
Consider what it carried
I am fortunate to have worked with a firetruck manufacturer that always has stacks of pallet wood on hand.
Many of the pallets have been built for the very purpose of shipping firetruck parts because of their odd sizes. Which means a lot of the wood is in new condition, and has been only used for this shipment.
While that’s no guarantee that the wood is safe, it’s far safer knowing it wasn’t carrying pesticides.
Pesticide carriers (green houses, etc)
Contaminants (gas, grease, etc)
How to dismantle
While some projects can utilize the pallet as a whole, if you ever wish to harvest the planks on their own, be prepared to break out into a sweat.
Pallets are NASTY to dismantle without a doubt. Especially those with twisted nails.
I personally come across lots of loose wood as seen above from those that open crates. But not everyone is as fortunate.
There are some devices that can help you get the job done, but no matter which route you go, it will require effort:
How to dismantel a pallet:
Jigsaw or sawzall / saw just shy of the nails to harvest shorter pieces
Crowbar and hammer / it is what it is. Someone strong will be needed.
Google for special tools that will help you pry them apart. They’re out there.
Remove the nails
Now that you’ve dismantled those guys, make sure you remove each and every nail.
I search for boards with straight or very few nails, or ones I can saw off easily.
How to remove nails:
Pound and pry
I flip the board upside down and attempt to bang the nail out as much as I can, then flip it back over and pry out the rest.
Cut the wood right off the pallet just shy of the nails if you can use the planks for shorter pieced projects.
How is it treated?
Newer regulations require pallet manufacturers in Canada and the US to treat the wood before shipping. This can be by chemicals or by heat.
The HT on the above board means it’s been heat treated, or kiln dried. This is the safer kind.
If the boards are unmarked, they may be safe, but there’s also a strong chance it’s been chemically treated, which makes them dangerous.
Give it a pass if:
- it smells
- looks oily
- is stained
- is extra heavy
- too many twisted nails (not worth it!)
- it looks suspect period
I’ve also been emailed with a story where someone got a nasty sliver, which infected them to the point of requiring hospitalization. So, just be picky. Always wear gloves and choose wisely.
Beware of Bacteria
Chemicals are one thing, but bacteria is another.
Always be safe and scrub the wood down with bleach and soapy water. Rinse well, and allow to completely dry.
But do remember, wood is porous, so there’s a chance the bacteria is embedded. Just go into this knowing NO pallet wood is 100% safe.
Never use pallet wood for
Anything food related (vegetable gardens)
Near toddlers that chew (no children’s furniture nor toys)
Pallet wood requires LOTS of work, so be safe:
- wear gloves to avoid nail punctures and splinters
- wear safety glasses and a dust mask when sanding or sawing
- store it without the nails. (dangerous!) Pry them out ASAP.
Many places of business that utilize pallet wood actually recycle them. They may use them over again or they get picked up and reimbursed for their return.
So before you help yourself to what you think may be free, this could also be viewed as theft. Always ask for permission before helping yourself.
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This post may come across like one of those new medication commercials… “Buy me because I’m awesome, but you may die if you take me.”
You will have no need to worry about using pallet wood if you simply heed the cautions and use it for appropriate projects.
If in doubt, pass on it and head to the lumber store instead. Spending a few bucks on new wood is far smarter than bringing contaminated wood home for free.
I LOVE PALLET WOOD!
For additional inspiration, visit:
Please use pallet wood at your own risk.