How to reuse pallets: 4 DIY ideas for the garden

All it takes is a dash of creativity

Inspirations / How to

29/08/2022

Estimated reading time 5 minutes

If you can find some in good condition, they are endlessly useful: we are talking about pallets, also called skids. It’s a little-known fact that they were once used to speed up the transport of military hardware during the Second World War. They are made in various sizes, both standard and non-standard. They can be reversible or non-reversible (depending on whether or not the top and bottom deck boards are identical), two-way or four-way (depending on whether they allow entry by a forklift truck on all four sides of the pallet, or only on two sides). They are generally made of wood, but also come in plastic or metal.

Wooden pallets consist of deck boards, stringer boards and blocks held together by nails. With a little patience and elbow grease, you can give them new life by repurposing them as garden and indoor furniture, decorative items and lots more besides. In this article we reveal some ideas for making garden accessories using pallets. These are just for starters: there’s no limit to the DIY potential of pallets in the garden and home.

Furniture made with pallets: create a seating area for the garden or balcony

To build your own pallet furniture you can buy new pallets from retailers specialising in packaging materials, or from a DIY store. If, on the other hand, you decide to recycle old pallets, bear in mind that they could have been used anywhere and transported any product, so they may contain traces of dirt or toxic contaminants. We recommend that you obtain used pallets from a trusted source and clean them thoroughly, first with a high-pressure washer, then by wiping them carefully with a solution of hot water, soap and bleach; finally give them a good rinse.

Let's see how to build a table from pallets, specifically a coffee table with wheels:

  • Find 2 identical pallets.

  • Sand them by hand or using an electric sander, being careful of splinters: wear utility gloves and protective spectacles.

  • Repair chips, cracks and similar damage or imperfections using wood filler.

  • Apply a levelling primer for wood.

  • Sand the primer once it is dry.

  • Flip one of the pallets over and place the other one on top of it (the upper deck of this pallet will form the surface of your coffee table).

  • Align the blocks and fasten the pallets together using flat plate brackets.

  • Attach castor wheels to the corners of the bottom pallet.

  • Paint the pallet coffee table with wood glaze (at least two coats).

Your pallet table would go nicely with a matching pallet bench:

  • You will need a pallet measuring at least 1200x1000 mm, 4 square wooden posts about 30 cm long for the legs, 2 planks of equal length to the pallet (use a hacksaw or chainsaw to cut them to size).

  • Divide the pallet into two: cut through the stringer boards after the second row of blocks, leaving the upper and lower deck boards intact, so as to create a seat about 60 cm deep (the cut-off section will form a backrest about 45 cm high).

  • Flip the seat over so that the top deck of the pallet is on the ground.

  • Connect the legs to the corner blocks using angle brackets (on the inside of the legs) and flat plate brackets (on the outside).

  • Screw one of the planks vertically to the back of the seat (its height will depend on how high you want the pallet section that forms the backrest to be): this will act as a support to which the backrest is fixed.

  • Secure the backrest to the seat using flat brackets at the rear and angle brackets at the front.

  • Close the top edge of the backrest by screwing the second plank to it.

  • Complete your pallet bench by sanding it, filling any holes and applying wood primer, sanding again and painting with wood glaze.

Do you prefer something more basic and comfortable? In just a few steps and with three identical pallets (ideally 800x1200 mm), you can build a DIY outdoor pallet sofa and cover the seat and backrest with comfy padded cushions:

  • Place one pallet on top of another: they will form the seat.

  • Stand the third pallet (this will be the backrest) on one of its short edges and place it along the length of the other two.

  • Assemble your DIY outdoor pallet sofa using plate brackets and screws.

When using a chainsaw to cut wood for your DIY projects, wear appropriate cut-resistant clothing and pay attention to the fundamentals of using a chainsaw safely. If you want to quickly clear the sawdust from your patio or lawn you can use a blower.

Creating with pallets: enhance your balcony or greenhouse and furnish your garden

To decorate your garden or balcony or enhance a greenhouse where you keep plants over winter, you can build simple planters using pallets. For each planter you will need one pallet and three planks of matching size: simply stand the pallet on one end and screw the planks to the underside of each row of blocks, to form the base of the planter shelves.

Once finished, your flower pot holder should be placed on the ground, against a wall. Or you can suspend it from the wall, bearing in mind the combined weight of the pallet and plant pots. An 800×1200 mm pallet will weigh around 20–25 kg: if you need to move it then a transporter will come in handy.

Depending on where it will be put, you can protect your pallet planter against the elements by coating it with impregnating agent—which can be coloured—or wood glaze. If you want to try your hand at another DIY project for your plants, here's how to build a trellis for climbing plants.

Speaking of flowers, would you like to make your own compost to fertilise them? Pallets can be used whole or cut into sections to build a compost bin.

For all the pallet creations above, as well as the other DIY project ideas on our website, we recommend using recycled materials. The only exception is the DIY tree house, which for safety reasons should be built with new wood, at least for the supporting structure.

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