Building a TV cabinet, making your own bar, creating simple shelves … Nowadays the number of things you can make with pallets are limitless. There remains a key question, however – where can you find free pallets!? (When you don’t have a brother-in-law working in a road transport company, that is!)
We’re here to help you tackle that question!
In this article, we’ve put together a list of places you can get pallets as well as top advice on how to choose and prepare your pallets. This is important as some pallets you find can be toxic.
1. Where to find free wooden pallets
2. Find pallets for sale
3. Which pallets to choose
4. How to prepare your pallets
1. Where to find free wooden pallets
Five places where you can find free wooden pallets are:
- Industrial areas
- Supermarkets and department stores
- Construction sites
- Small businesses
Supermarkets, Hypermarkets and other Food Sales Areas
We’re sure you’ve all seen a supermarket supervisor emptying pallets to put products on shelves. Ask the supermarket staff when they are getting their stock, and ask them to keep some pallets for you from that day. Most of the time they will gladly help!
These sites have their materials delivered by pallet. If large sites aren’t convenient to get to, smaller sites such as houses under construction are often more accessible. You will certainly find a few pallets waiting for you (although it sometimes takes some daring to go and ask a stranger for their pallets!).
For example, printing, appliance or furniture shops. Small shops often seek to give pallets away because they clutter their delivery areas and forces them to call professionals to remove them. The best solution is to go in the evening just before closing to ask.
Rubbish tips are actually not a good idea. Indeed, although there may be many pallets at the rubbish tip, it is forbidden to take them! The content of the skips and containers belong to the community owner of the site or to the management company.
So even if you know an employee of a rubbish tip who agrees, his generosity can be considered professional misconduct… you have been warned!
2. Where to buy new or used pallets
You will find many pallets around recycling companies. With large organisations, it’s rare but not impossible that they will agree to sell you small numbers of pallets. You can buy used pallets or find people giving them away online. It is better to go and pick them up, because the delivery costs are high on packages of such a large pallet size.
Used pallet online
|PreLoved||Free to £5|
|Universal Pallets||£5 – £20|
|Ebay||Mostly under £5|
3. Which pallets to choose
Pallets can be used for a huge range of projects, for example, making a garden planter. When preparing for these projects, be careful not to put your health at risk! The wood used to make the pallets is sometimes treated to improve its strength or lifespan, and certain chemical processes and components can be toxic.
Unmarked pallets or pallets marked with DB
Unmarked pallets are used to transport goods within the country. There are no special rules as to their format and you can find everything: 80 x 120 cm, 100 x 120 cm, 60 x 80 cm … If there is no marking on the palette it means that it has not undergone any treatment. It is therefore raw wood. They are lightweight and are generally used for single use. The wood, therefore, may quickly deteriorate.
These pallets are used for light, semi-heavy or heavy loads. They are also called “lost” pallets as they are for single use.
The strongest of these are the “cement” pallets. They are made of fir, Spruce or Pine and are intended for the transport of heavy loads used on construction sites: bricks, breeze blocks, bags of cement, lime or sand. According to the manufacturing standards, these pallets must be made of non-faulty wood and have a moisture content of less than 25%.
DB pallets are raw wood from which the bark has been removed and has not undergone any treatment. They are therefore safe to use.
Europe Pallets marked EUR EPAL
Resistant and non-toxic, they are perfect for all your DIY projects!
Logistics professionals use different names for the EUR / EPAL pallet: Europallets or Euro pallets, pallets Euro, Europe pallets or SNCF pallets.
The Europe pallet size measures 80 cm by 120 cm. This pallet is EPAL approved (SNCF) and manufactured in premier quality wood. These pallets support loads of 1200 kg (equally distributed on the surface).
Europe pallets are used to transport goods abroad. These are the easiest to find and are designed to withstand loads of up to 1,500 kg. They are mainly made of Maritime Pine or Poplar. It complies with ISPM 15 standard (International Standard for Phytosanitary Measures).
EPAL EUR pallets must be treated in order to prevent the spread of insects or fungi. The European Union only permits heat treatment. The HT (for Heat Treatment) inscribed on the pallets attests to this treatment. The treatment consists of heating the wood at 56°C for 30 minutes and drying the pallets for 1 to 2 days to reach 22% maximum humidity (this is not a kitchen recipe). This process removes up to 8 litres of water per pallet. The advantages of this treatment are numerous: non-toxic, non-polluting and it strengthens the wood.
Toxic Pallets: beware of Methyl Bromide
If a pallet contains the mention MB, it means that it has been fumigated with methyl bromide. This very toxic component, used in the past in the processing of fruits, vegetables and packaging, has been banned from use since March 18, 2010. All the risks related to Methyl Bromide have been referenced by the CDC (Centers For Disease Control and Prevention). It is rare now to be confronted with these pallets. Be aware – these pallets may bear the EUR EPAL label, but this is not a sufficient guarantee of quality. Make sure that the pallet is not labelled MB.
Stained Wooden Pallets
Stained pallets can be very toxic. Even if you like their look, it is better to avoid them.
4. Prepare your pallets in 5 steps
The tools you need:
- Claw Hammer
- Sledge Hammer
- Blade Saw or Jig Saw
- Sander or Multi Sander
- Metal Saw (optional)
- Manual Plane or Electric Plane (optional)
Step 1: Use the crowbar to dismantle the pallet
To dismantle your pallet, you need a crowbar and a hammer. To separate the boards from the block, place the crowbar in the gap between the board and the block (so that the pallet is not damaged any further). Strike with the hammer to hammer in the crowbar, then use the crowbar to separate the board from the block. Repeat this step for all boards from the same side of the pallet. Then remove the block with a sledge hammer, taking care to prevent the pallet from moving by placing your foot on it.
Step 2: Remove the nails
Depending on the design, there will be nails either on the block or on the board. You can either use a hammer and hit the tip of the nail, pushing it through to the other side. Otherwise, use a claw hammer to remove the remaining nails. If a nail is resistant using these two methods, use a hacksaw and saw the nail off.
Step 3: Cut away the damaged parts
Cut away the damaged parts with a blade saw or jig saw. Damaged wood will weaken your future construction projects.
Step 4: Plane the boards
To adjust the thickness of the boards you can use a plane. However, be careful of possible nails and other foreign bodies like gravel that could damage the surface of your tools and would require you to re-sharpen them (or cause permanent damage).
Step 5: Sand the pallet
Sand the slats of the pallet (and the blocks if you want to reuse them). A multi-function sander can be useful for accessing difficult areas if you have kept your entire pallet. Do not forget to brush away the dust. For a finer finish, we recommend using 80 medium sandpaper rather than 120 fine sandpaper. Vacuum the dust and finally wipe your boards with a damp cloth.
Good luck with your fantastic pallet constructions!