You can find a repurposed pallet almost everywhere nowadays. In bars and shops, and as living walls, decking, planters, insect hotels, compost bins, bird boxes, cold frames, raised beds, fences, swings, staging and much more.

Insect hotel or bug mansion. Pallet

Bug Mansion, West Grinstead Station. The area of the old station has been converted into a picnic site and wildlife area. This spider/beetle/butterfly house has been constructed from old pallets, bricks, carpet and cardboard.
© Janine Forbes and reused under Thanks to Geograph project.

You don’t have to be a highly accomplished woodworker to make some great things out of pallets. Knowing a few facts and having some good tools, though, will help. Read on for information about safe pallets to use, projects which use whole pallets, how to disassemble a pallet and what tools you’ll need.

Safe pallets

Pallets are used to transport all kinds of things from place to place. Some are treated to control moisture and extend their life and some are untreated because they’re only used for a one-off trip within the country. Heat treated or kiln dried pallets are great for DIY work because the wood has been hardened and is less susceptible to swelling and shrinking.

These pallets are OK to use:

  • Untreated ‘national’ pallets – you can tell these because they either have no stamps, symbols or codes on them, or the stamp just says EPAL.
  • Treated pallets with a two letter country code (for example, GB or FI - as in the image below) and another two letters indicating the treatment. These three pallet treatments are safe: HT (heat treated), KD (kiln dried) and DB (debarked).
Pallet markings

Pallet markings. IPPC = International Plant Protection Convention. FI = Finland. HT = Heat treated. KD = Kiln dried.
© oaktree_brian_1976 and reused under

These pallets are not OK to use:

  • Stained pallets - because you don’t know what the stain is or where the pallet’s been.
  • Pallets stamped with MB, code for methyl bromide, a very toxic insecticide. Methyl bromide has not been used on pallets originating in the UK or EU for some years but old pallets are still around and other countries still use this chemical. Do not reuse these pallets and do not burn them.
  • Coloured pallets - the paint is toxic and the pallets are the property of the pallet rental company.
  • Pallets stamped with EUR, an old logo which indicates these pallets will themselves be fairly old.

Vertical planters

Vertical planters made from pallets are becoming very popular now and it’s easy to see why. Using living plants, they can quickly ‘green’ small areas or areas of hard landscaping such as paved areas and even drives, making them pleasant places to sit. At a stroke (well, perhaps slightly more than that) you can increase your plant growing area. The warmth retained by the hard landscaping in summer will probably mean that your plants will flourish beautifully as long as you keep them watered.

The basic idea is to fill the vertical pallet with potting compost or soil and plant into it. You stop the compost spilling out by creating planting pockets from landscape fabric stapled to the pallet.

Rick of Rick’s Allotment takes one of the easiest approaches to building a vertical planter from a pallet that I have seen. He adds props to the pallet and this gives you two excellent benefits. You won’t have to prop your planter against a wall so avoiding any potential damage from moisture. It also maximises the area of plants facing the sky.

Large compost bins

Pallets are ideal for making large compost bins and you don’t have to take them apart for this project. These compost binds are behind the scenes at several stately homes and well regarded plant nurseries, as well as on many allotments. Just follow these Gardeners’ World instructions and you’ll be all ready for the summer in no time.

How to dismantle a pallet

You need to be able to get at the useful timber in a pallet without splitting the planks. This can be quite a challenge and 1001 Pallets has brought together some of the best ways of dismantling a pallet. I particularly like method 4 which uses a hammer and old plank, and method 8 using a pallet dismantling bar.

Moving on with pallets

Now you’ve got your pallets dismantled, the world is your oyster!

You’ll need the basics: safety goggles, safety gloves, tape measure, screws, nails, and hand tools like a hammer, screwdriver, saw. A bench or Workmate will help in holding things steady. And a workshop with power tools like a jig saw, perhaps a circular saw, sander, drill and screwdriver will really help to transform your pallets into something quite special.

Pallet upcycled to coffee table.

Pallet upcycled to coffee table. © Pave69 and reused under

Good luck!