DIY Pallet Furniture: Get the Distressed Look for Cheap

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outdoor pallet furniture

Get creative with wood pallets.

I enjoyed talking to Green Diva Meg about using wood pallets for a variety of projects. So listen up then read on for more…


Distressed wood furniture is kind of cool, but that handmade piece from barn wood will cost you.

One alternative: make your own. The beauty of such a plan—you don’t have to go out and find old barns to tear down. Rather, with a little dumpster diving, you can find plenty of freely available wood for the taking.

Wooden shipping pallets are everywhere, so with a few hours of hitting trash pick-up spots, or just asking for pallets from nearby businesses, you can start making your own furniture masterpieces.

Keep in mind that by turning pallets into home furnishings, you’re not just getting fashionable on the cheap—you’re also freeing up landfill space. Pallets are, by far, the most common form of wood in the waste stream. That new outdoor patio set, or coffee table, or desk won’t be just a point of DIY pride, but also a use of material that would’ve otherwise gone to waste… along with the energy and other resources required to harvest and process it.

Be safe when working with pallets

You may think a splinter’s the biggest threat from pallet projects, but you do have to be careful: some pallets have been treated with Methyl Bromide, a pesticide. Look for pallets with the IPPC logo, and then determine if they’ve been heat treated (good to use), or sprayed with the pesticide (leave ’em alone). It’s also good to get a sense of what products the pallets might have held in shipping, as liquid chemicals could spill out onto them.

Also keep in mind that you want to be careful disassembling pallets, both for safety, and for getting usable wood. Using a sawzall/reciprocating saw seems to be the safest way to get those boards apart without breaking most of them.

The best places to find pallet projects

If you hit Google, you’ll find all sorts of sites supposedly dedicated to pallet projects. Most of these are just pulling photos from more legitimate sites. If you want to find full instructions for pallet furniture projects, I suggest heading to Instuctables, reddit’s pallet furniture subreddit, or Youtube.

Ready to start building?

Pictures of pallet furniture are easy to find; project plans sometimes require a little more digging. Here are nine complete projects I’ve found (and first shared at sustainablog):

1. Adirondack Chairs: Pallets are great for outdoor furniture, and jkratman at Instructables breaks down this project very nicely (including lots of good information about working with pallets in general at the beginning).

2. Loft Bed: This space-saving bed also requires some 2x4s (likely for sturdiness). The end product looks great, and imgur user nosikcut has done a very nice job breaking the process down into understandable steps.

3. Wine Rack: A gorgeous and functional accent piece that also looks like a good starting project if you’re new to the whole woodworking thing.

4. Coffee Table #1: Yep, lots of coffee table projects out there… but a lot of them look really nice! This one from PBS’ New Yankee Workshop takes five pallets…

5. Minibar: This one also looks fairly simple, but leads to a unique piece for your entertaining space (or creates it if you don’t have it!).

6. Desk with Computer Shelf: Unless you’re an all-laptop household (like mine), you’ll want a convenient space to put that desktop tower. This plan from Instructables works that in.

7. Patio Sofa: Another piece of outdoor furniture that looks really easy to make – you don’t have to break down most of the pallets! The last minute or so of this video is filler – the instructions don’t take that long because they’re so simple.

8. Full-Size Bar: If you really want to deck out the entertaining space, here’s a cheap alternative for a bar to which your friends can belly up. Only $34…

9. Coffee Table #2: This video’s very thorough in terms of finding pallets, “processing” them, and then turning them into a really attractive coffee table.

Know of other good pallet furniture projects available online? Share them with us…


The full Green Divas Radio Show episode features author and Black + Green Mama blogger, Kenrya Rankin Naasel, on being a mom and how race can be a factor in green living. Other segments include a GD Foodie-Phile segment with Meatless Monday’s Diana Rice; GD myEARTH360 Report on the fashion industry’s dirty secret with Green Diva Lynn, and much more.

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Photo credit: Shutterstock

About the author / 

Green Dude Jeff

Jeff McIntire-Strasburg is the founder and editor of sustainablog. A former English professor, Jeff's an "old timer" in the green blogosphere, and has written for Treehugger and the Sundance Channel, among others. You can keep up with his work at Facebook, Twitter, and Google+

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