Wooden pallets are the backbone of the shipping industry. They’re versatile, cheap and are durable enough to be reused time and time again.
But here’s an interesting thought – how many times have you driven through an industrial area and seen these workhorses of logistics discarded by the side of the road? If you can’t remember (and let’s be honest, why would you?), have a look next time you’re cruising the warehouse district – it’s a surprisingly high number in most cases.
While many manufacturers and suppliers offer buy-back schemes to make recycled pallets, some businesses simply take the easy route and leave them on the street for the council or garbage men to pick up. These pallets often have many miles left in them, either for their intended purpose (shipping) or in other more creative roles.
You’d be surprised, for example, at how many different types of furniture you can make from pallets. Without the need for major effort or expertise, wood pallets can easily be transformed into tables, chairs, bookcases, TV units, beds and even flooring.
Best of all, in some cases, the pallet’s design already lends itself to many applications, without the need for sawing or even painting.
Here’s a great example; propping the right sized pallet upright against a wall makes an ideal shoe rack – just nail or screw it to the wall and put your shoes in the gaps between the boards. It’s that simple!
So how do you get your hands on these wonderful environmental champions of the shipping world?
How to Find Pallets for Free
Finding your pallets is far easier than you might think. Just search the Yellow Pages website (or Google) for ‘pallet suppliers’ and see what comes up near you. Starting with the closest, give them a quick call and ask if they offer pallets that can no longer be used for shipping to the general public for free. You’ll have more success than you imagined, as it makes more sense for suppliers to give you pallets for free than to pay for a recycling company to pick them up. You’ll just need to make sure they’re open when you have some free time so you can drop in and collect your pallet.
If you have no luck, try calling factories in the area and ask them the same question. It’s just a matter of time before you hit the jackpot.
So you’ve picked up the main component for your next DIY project and it’s cost you absolutely zero. Great start! What next?
It makes sense to start out with a simple project, like the shoe rack idea. If you’re feeling slightly more adventurous though, how about trying your hand at building a coffee table? All it takes is an hour or two and some basic additional materials.
I know what you’re thinking…wouldn’t it just be much easier to visit one of the plethora of furniture stores that reuse pallets to make their tables? If they’re using reclaimed materials, they can’t be that expensive…right?
While $250 to $350 may not seem much like much to part with for an environmentally-friendly coffee table, the amount you’d save doing it yourself is staggering. To make your living room’s new centre piece from scratch, all you need is:
1 x heavy duty wood pallet (such as the one pictured) picked up for free.
4 x castor wheels with screws. They’re around $10 secondhand on eBay.
1 quart (or 1 litre) tin of wood stain/varnish which will cost no more than $10 from any hardware store. Oh, and pick up some sandpaper for a couple of bucks while you’re there.
Other peripherals you’ll need are a basic power screwdriver and a paint brush. You probably already have these lying around. If not, ask to borrow a friend’s or neighbour’s.
Are you ready for the total saving?
$230 to $330.
Best of all, the time investment is minimal and it’s so easy to do, virtually anyone can have a go.
There are just three very easy steps involved:
Step 1. Sand any rough edges with sandpaper. Nobody likes splinters!
Step 2. Varnish the wood with the finish of your choice and leave to dry overnight
Step 3. Using a power screwdriver, drill the castor wheels into the four corners of the pallet’s underside.
Voila. You’ve just created your first piece of furniture from scratch in about the same time it takes to assemble an IKEA table. Not only have you saved a couple of hundred dollars, you’ve also saved a tree or two. Your bank manager and Mother Earth will be very happy!
About the Author
Scott Bampton is a marketing advisor for Plain Pallets, a Melbourne supplier of wood pallets.