Pallet Flooring – “One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure.” Surely, this idiom talks about something else, but if we could take this one literally, wooden pallets might be the perfect example.
But why pallets?
Believe it or not, about 300,000 tons of these pallets are discarded into landfills in North Carolina every year. It is a huge waste of good resources (about 4.5 billion feet of hardwood, actually), when we can actually do something else about them.
How about pallet flooring? It is true that to some people, used pallet boards are not that appealing. They are coarse, knotty, and unrefined. They may not want to waste their time giving them a try and instead using brand new materials.
However, there are others who think these pallets are still worth it. Instead of spending more on new materials, why not getting environmentally-friendlier with these oldies but goodies for your home or business spot?
Before you decide to go ahead with pallet flooring, let’s check out the advantages and the disadvantages of giving these used wooden pallets their best place at home.
I. Pallet Flooring: The Pros and The Cons
It is no secret that in some cases, pallet flooring can be a DIY (do-it-yourself) project. If that is what you wish for, then what do you prefer to hear first: the good or the bad news?
Come to think of it, let’s give you the bad news first. This is also important to help you with your decision making.
The Cons of Pallet Flooring
Wooden pallets are not susceptible to bacteria, especially since they have been around various places when they were used before. As disgusting as this sounds, you have to admit that this is very much possible.
As long as you are not thinking about using them as a food container, a table, or a countertop, then it is not much of a problem. The bacteria, like E.coli or salmonella, can grow really well on these used pallets, so you had better not risk it.
Another problem that involves the use of these recycled pallet boards is the massive growth of fungus. This can happen, especially if the pallets are left in the dump for a longer period.
The only way to avoid these fungus from developing is to keep these wooden pallets dry. Unfortunately, these pallet boards are also difficult to clean, so you might need a bigger amount of patience when doing so.
Okay, so now we have learned the disadvantages of using these wooden pallets. They may not sound so pleasant, but they are helpful for you to strategize more carefully.
Now, what about the advantages? There are five (5) advantages regarding the use of pallet flooring that you can see here.
The Pros of Pallet Flooring
Now, it is time for the good news. The pros of pallet flooring include:
1. The pallet flooring is very affordable
Why do you have to spend so much for brand new materials, when you can use old wooden pallets? In fact, you can get them for free, as long as you are willing to start searching for them in the dump sites more thoroughly.
So, are you ready to start searching? It is going to take a while, but if you feel it is worth it, then why not? You can allocate your budget for other needs regarding your house, like: furniture for your new home.
2. These wooden pallets are very strong, durable, and versatile
These pallet boards function to keep all types of materials and contents. That makes them very reliable. With these, you do not need to invest on major renovations way too soon.
3. You can easily find them
Not only they help you to save more money, you can easily find them almost anywhere. The dump sites are the best examples. You can even ask some stores that sell used materials like these wooden pallets.
4. The pallet boards are repairable
Since they are not brand new, what if they break or get damaged? No worries, because these pallet boards are easily fixed. Again, you do not need to invest on major renovations too soon.
5. Yes, they are very much recycled
As mentioned earlier, these wooden pallets are also very much recycled. In fact, you can even reuse them for different purposes. For example: they used to function as part of the wall, but now you want them for pallet flooring.
Why not? All you need is your creative sense, alias your willingness to think outside the box. Who knows? You might surprise yourself with how many awesome projects you get to finish with them.
What if you are not that creative? No worries. There are plenty of great examples regarding the pallet flooring designs. You can choose one or more that would fit your wish design best. And, you can go from there.
From the great examples of pallet flooring designs, you can see that it does not always take brand new materials to make a house look beautiful. With the right maintenance, even recycled stuff can make it look more awesome.
You also do not need to be an interior designer. You can research online for designs and ask your more experienced friend or family member in this matter. Perhaps they can give you more advice on what to do next.
Hopefully, the pros and cons regarding pallet flooring described above can help you to make your final decision. Remember, this is the part where you can get as creative as you want. After all, it is your DIY project.
Your next step is also very important. Where can you get the pallets? If you still have no idea, the next chapter will give you pointers on what to do. After that, you can start hunting for them.
II. Where to Get Pallets
You have done a lot of thinking and come to this point: The advantages of pallet flooring have convinced you to start using these oldies but goodies. The next questions are very important:
How do you get the pallets? Where can you find them? Will you get the wooden pallets that you want?
As mentioned earlier, collecting these wooden pallets might take a while. You also need to have a seriously huge amount of patience, since this is nothing like spending money for brand new materials.
If this is more like a hobby for you, then you are the one to decide the deadline. However, if you are doing this for a client, you might have to ditch this idea, even if you want to save some money. (Unless the client has no problem with this idea.)
Another thing that you need for your pallet-hunting is permission. Some dump sites or other places might be accessible to many. You can get them for free or at least in a much more affordable price.
To be on the safe side, here are some of the places where you can get your pallet boards, along with certain requirements if they are necessary. Go check them out while you are on a hunt:
1. Grocery stores, department stores, and warehouses
This is probably easier for you who live in urban areas, especially in large business districts. You can check out grocery stores, department stores, and warehouses for wooden pallets. Why?
These three places always order large shipments of products. They often come in large wooden boxes. After the storing, they usually get rid of the pallet boards. They are usually willing to give them to you for free if you ask.
2. Small hardware stores, small garden stores, and other new business places
Just like grocery stores, department stores, and warehouses, these places also order products that are delivered in wooden boxes. Usually, there is no systematic way for them to get rid of the wooden pallets.
That means, they will be very happy to hand those pallets to you, often without any charge at all. After all, you are doing them a favor by getting rid of the things they may not need.
3. Dump sites or landfill sites
These places are like the last stop for discarded wooden pallets. On a regular basis, you can see that people dump them here. Chances are not many would like to pick them up again, but perhaps you have different ideas. Why?
As mentioned earlier, these used pallet boards might have been around places you have no idea of. Yes, that includes spots where bacteria grows, like E.coli or salmonella. Make sure that you are willing to clean them up and it is not easy.
Does this idea sound disgusting? You might want to abandon the idea altogether if your heart is not really in it. But if you do think this is worth it, make sure that these pallets stay dry, no matter what. That will keep the bacteria and fungus away.
4. Hardware stores that sell secondhand wooden pallets
If you are not the hunting type (or just want to avoid the hassle), this is the easiest way out. Just go to hardware stores that sell secondhand wooden pallets. However, here is the thing:
Although they do not cost as much as the brand new materials, this means you still need to spend some money. They might offer you a generous discount.
You might want to think this one through, though. If your first purpose of this DIY, pallet flooring project is to save some money, then why do you have to end up spending any for these old materials?
Before you start purchasing (or picking up) those wooden pallets, you might need to take some precautions here.
III. Important Tips in Collecting Wooden Pallets for Pallet Flooring
1. Be realistic with your choices and what you may find
Besides keeping these recycled wooden pallets dry, there is another thing that you also need to consider: types of wood. In this case, you need to be more realistic and willing to compromise with what you may get. Why?
Hunting for used pallet boards might be easy, but you cannot expect to get the same type of wood from the pallets that you might get. How come?
For example: you would like to have all walnut for pallet flooring. Are you really sure you want to spend a huge amount of time hunting and checking each wooden pallet, just to make sure it is the type that you are looking for?
In other words, save yourself from such trivialities or you will never get your project done. You may have no specific deadlines, but time is still important. So is energy.
If that is the case, then how do you compromise? Mixing and matching different types of wood would be a good idea. If you cannot get the same type of pallets, mix them up based on shades. Use both darker and lighter shades of woods.
2. Wear safety gloves
One last thing: do you remember the bacteria and fungus that may be dormant on those pallet boards you pick up from the dump sites? If you do, then never forget to wear safety gloves when you go out for a hunt. Better be safe than sorry.
Well, even if you have worn those safety gloves while collecting the used pallets there, you still need to wash your hands after doing so. This is a matter of your own body health. The same thing goes after you clean those wooden pallets.
3. Get yourself a tetanus shot
Not only gloves, you need to get yourself a tetanus shot. Some of these old pallet boards might have pliers sticking out.
Earlier, we have learned that in some places, you need to buy even the used materials for your pallet flooring. The next two important questions are:
– How much do the wooden pallets cost?
– Which place sells them cheapest?
We are going to find out soon, more on the next chapter
IV. The Wood Pallet Flooring Cost
So, how much will wood pallet flooring cost you?
For a large area, it should only be under $ 200, especially if you can get the wooden pallets for free. (Yes, this means multiple trips to local dump sites besides asking for them from the grocery stores, department stores, and warehouses nearby.)
In fact, you will actually spend more time instead of money for these pallet boards, that if you have no idea how to go hunting more effectively. You will also need proper tools to help you with pallet flooring, whether you rent or borrow them.
If you have already got your own tools, that is even better. If you can borrow them from anyone you know, that is also good. Renting them would be your last resort if the first two are impossible. Surely, that will cost more money too.
Do not forget the underlayment that will help you with the moisture control and hardwood floor finishing. Why? You might want to apply them over the wood. In some cases, this technique is seriously recommended.
A decent hardwood floor will cost you thousands of bucks, but it is still worth it. Surely, you will give up a lot of your spare time and work harder for this. Finishing this DIY project from the heart will make it easier, since time is more than precious.
If you have already got enough savings in your account that will last you for six to twelve months ahead, then you can start doing this fulltime until it is done. But if not, then you have to start arranging a proper schedule for this pallet flooring project.
Although pallet flooring is a DIY project, this does not mean you have to do it all by yourself. If friends and family are willing to help you, then why not? With the suitable schedule, then all of you can take turns doing your part, shift by shift.
How long does it usually take to collect these recycled wooden pallet? Unfortunately, there is no exact answer to this question. It all depends on how you would like to manage.
This is why you have to spread out the search party and check out more than one place if you are alone. In some places, sometimes you can find a huge amount of pallet boards. Lucky you, because that means you only spend a weekend.
What if you are not that lucky? Then you have to do better than that. Go from one place to another, until you get the right amount of wooden pallets that you need. This may take a couple of weekends at least.
If you do not need a lot (like only to fix your broken hardwood floor), then you might only need to go to one place and it is just once.
Then again, it is all up to you. It depends on the amount of what you need and also your availability. This is why you need to arrange a proper schedule while you are on this project, although you are the one to decide the deadline.
To make the hunting more effective, here are some steps that you can do:
1. Start from the closest areas to where you live
This is more than just walking around aimlessly, hoping that you will catch your luck. Get to know the neighborhood, including your neighbors too. Who knows? They might have some spare in their backyard and they can help you with them.
If not, then check out the closest grocery stores, department stores, warehouses, and hardware stores too. Oh, do not forget the dump sites, although these last spots might be tad icky to some.
From there, you can start searching. You can even ask your friends, family, or neighbors to help you to find the pallet boards that you are looking for.
2. Keep important contacts
This is more than just saving local business cards in your wallet before you forget they even exist in there. Please remember the names of the people from those business spots who have helped you find the wooden pallets that you need.
You will never know. Just because this is your very first DIY pallet flooring project, that does not mean it is definitely a one-time thing. Who knows? You might start liking it and would like to do that again next time.
Keeping important contacts regarding finding the right pallet boards is also about being the nice, loyal customer. Once you like certain suppliers or vendors, you would surely come back for more if you want to do the same thing next time.
This is not just for you. Surely, you can thank them for having helped you with the wooden pallets. If you like how much they have helped you, then you should promote them to your friends who are looking for the same things. Be helpful.
3. Promote this building and home designing strategy to as many people as possible
You have been aware that using recycled pallet boards are environmentally-friendlier than buying completely brand new materials. However, there are still many people out there who still have no idea regarding this strategy and why it is worth it.
Why not promote this building and home designing strategy to them? With pallet flooring, you can also save your money and help the environment to reduce the waste.
With this step, you can also help other people to be more effective in hunting for used wooden pallets. It is even better if they can get more of these pallet boards for free.
Now you have already figured out how much pallet flooring can cost you. Of course, you also need to find out which pallet boards that have been used and/or recycled. But, why do you need to do that?
When a piece of pallet board has gone through more than one recycling process, it usually gets thinner. This can help you to decide which thickness level you would prefer before any pallet flooring is done at your home. Then go from there.
V. Recycled Pallet Wood Flooring
How can we tell that the pallet flooring will last the floor for a long time? It depends on how thick the wooden pallets are. Usually, if the pallet boards have gone through more than one recycling process, they are thicker than the brand new ones.
Some wooden pallets are still thick enough despite being secondhand, but others are not so much.
It also depends on how often the floor is stepped on or trampled on by people’s feet. However, you do not have to worry too much about this. The level of thickness is not the only thing that makes the pallet flooring lasts.
If one section of the floor cracks or breaks, you have no problems replacing it with the new one. Make sure you have more than enough stock, especially if you can get them for free, like from the dump sites or stores that do not charge.
Another thing that you can do to keep the pallet flooring last is to have a “no footwear” rule in your house. Ask your family members and guests to leave their shoes outside before they come in.
The rule may not be familiar in the west. During winter, you need to keep the heater on in the house, so people will voluntarily remove their shoes and leave them outside.
This also means a “no pets indoor” policy. Make sure your dog(s) do not run around inside the house if you have any, especially the big ones.
VI. Tips on How to Have Suitable Pallet Boards
Since you can and will definitely end up with different pallet boards, then how can you find which ones are suitable? To have suitable wooden pallets, these tips are important:
- Only use pallet boards that have the IPPC logo on it. Avoid the chemically-treated ones, including the colored pallets.
- Check out the wooden pallets’ old history (like what they have been used for before you take them.) This way, you will know whether those pallets need special treatments to get rid of the fungus and other bacteria or not.
- Check the dryness of the wooden pallets. If they have been wet (especially for quite a long time), then you need to do special treatments to get rid of the fungus as well.
VII. How Many Pallets Should Be Collected?
So, how many wooden pallets should be collected? What if what you have collected are still not enough?
A single pallet can be removed for 1.1 square meters of wood planks. Then again, you ought to measure up the room size first before you start choosing pallet boards.
Tools to Help You with Breaking Up the Pallets and Removing the Nails
These are the four (4) tools that you can use to break the pallets up and remove the nails:
- A claw hammer, although not really ideal because it can break the planks. So, be careful when using this tool.
- A crow bar or a ply bar, but this can also break the planks if you are not careful.
- A pallet breaker, which is the most effective.
- A circular saw to cut the pallet board into smaller pieces of planks.
Of course, when you remove the nails, make sure that you do not leave even a bit of metal which is embedded in the wood. After that, you can move on to pallet flooring.
A small, handheld metal detector is very useful when you want to get rid of the nails completely. That way, you will not miss any metal bits that are still stuck in the planks, even after you have removed the nails.
After deciding the number of wooden pallets that you need, then it is time to start installing the wood pallet flooring. For different conditions (like on concrete, for example), you will need a different method.
Of course, you will also need a different strategy when you finish installing the wood pallet flooring. Besides that, you also need to put some protection on your pallet floor as the finishing touch.
VIII. How to Install Wood Pallet Flooring
Now, how do we install wood pallet flooring? In short, these are the four (4) steps that you can do (especially if you do it all by yourself):
1. Find the joists
The joists can be found throughout the floor. You can use a stud finder or tap the floor with a hammer. That way, you can tell from the different sounds as you hit lightly.
2. Start laying the planks
Before you start laying the planks, check the direction of the joists related to the room.
3. Stick and hammer the nails down
Make sure that the pallet boards give a strong hold with each other, so be careful when you stick and hammer the nails down. Normally, before that, you will need to install the new floor with the correct angle to the joists.
4. Complete the room with pallet flooring
With pallet flooring, you cannot just do it halfway. If some of the planks are still slightly uneven, you can either exchange that with the right-sized piece or try to fill the missing gap with another smaller piece.
This is what you can do when you want to do any pallet flooring indoor. However, what if it is done in a different condition? For example: you would like to know how to install pallet flooring on concrete. Is it still the same thing?
If you are curious, then you are about to find out on another section here.
IX. How to Install Pallet Flooring on Concrete
So, how do you install pallet flooring on a concrete floor? More or less the same, although there are four (4) things that you need to do first:
1. Check the moisture
Most builders will put a vapor barrier before the concrete slab. Use polyethylene plastic to tape the slab. If the plastic is still clear after 24 hours (that means, no water droplets or clouding), then it is not moist and you can start the pallet flooring.
2. Put a moisture barrier
If you are still unsure, then paint the slab with a moisture sealant and wait for 24 hours to check any signs of moisture.
3. Add a subfloor
This subfloor functions to minimize the pallet flooring’s direct contact with the concrete.
4. Apply an adhesive
Do this after you have paint the slab with a moisture sealant. Since adhesive dries up quickly, you need to work quickly.
X. How to Finish Pallet Flooring
In short, there are three (3) steps that you can do to finish pallet flooring at home:
1. Prepare the floor
This activity involves not leaving any things on the floor.
2. Clean up the top layer or the surface
Either by a broom and a dustpan or a vacuum machine, you need to keep the floor clean so the pallet flooring project will run smoothly.
3. Apply the finish
In hopes that you will feel satisfied with the end result of using the wooden pallets, you can apply the finish after putting on those planks.
XI. DIY Pallet Floor Project
So, are you ready to start exploring the possibilities of pallet flooring before you make up your mind? Here are some of the examples that you can follow
1. Removable Pallet Kitchen Floor
With 16 pallets to cover about 12-14 square meters, you can make a removable pallet kitchen floor. Dry-fit the pallet slats into the area you want to cover. Once they are all laid out the way you want them to, start removing them. Put a plastic barrier sheet and make a three-plank base to keep the floor floating above the ground, at least 2.5 centimeters.
Secure the slats with 30×4 wood screws. Then finish the planks with five liters of satin-finish yacht paint. This is to avoid water from leaking out between the planks.
2. Pallet Patio Deck
For your pallet patio deck, use eight pallets as the base. Arrange them around a brick fire pit and walkway put in white. Secure them together with screws before you break down the other twenty pallets. Apply deck boards in a diagonal pattern. To avoid splitting use a power drill to pre-drill the holes.
3. Pallet Floor Cottage Back
For your pallet floor cottage back, use as many pallets as possible before working with your table saw to square them up. Then do the face-nailing to keep them down. After that, use cherry stain and two coats of high gloss and another for satin polyurethane. The challenge would be to plane the boards and clean up the sawdust after that.
4. Pallet Wood Floor Redo
Want to redo the pallet wood floor? Collect the individual cut pieces of wood. Arrange them on the floor. If they have not covered the whole room, then get some more. You can also trim the edges that meet the walls.
After trimming down the edges, stick the portion of the wood pieces in small piles. Stick the underlayment down and relay out the woods.
5. Balcony Frame with Recycled Pallets Floor
To have your balcony framed with recycled pallet floor, you have to avoid using dirty pallet boards. This often happens with recycled wooden pallets, because not only they have been used in various environments, but also too oily from the mechanical parts. The last thing you want is a slippery balcony.
6. Pallets Flooring in Kex Hostel
Kex Hostel, which is located in Reykjavik, Iceland, is one perfect example when it comes to using pallet flooring as part of their property design. They only used recycled wooden pallets. Designed by Hogni Stefan Porgeirsson from Arctic Plank, this concept also shows their participation in becoming environmentally-friendly. It is beautifully artistic.
7. Pallets Flooring in The Garden
If you want to add some pallet flooring in your garden, you need to level the ground first. Then, recess the pallets before you fill all the gaps with wood and start painting it. You only need four pallets and some time to do the levelling. After that, you are done.
8. Reclaimed Pallet Kitchen Floor
To reclaim your pallet kitchen floor, pull the already existing boards apart without damaging the wood pieces, especially if the nails are the steel spiral kind. Have the planks that are the same size and width so they will fit.
Since they will be part of your kitchen, avoid taking the wooden pallets from the dump sites to avoid taking the bacteria with you.
Once you find the right planks, sand them so they will be smooth as you walk in your kitchen. Use vintage flooring nails for an antiqued look and staining as the finishing touch.
9. Pallet Wood Flooring Stairs
The trick to make the pallet wood flooring stairs include the correct choice of the wooden pallets. Make sure that they match with each other and the color will make the design as close as timeless. Do not worry too much about the price, because it is very affordable. The minimal maintenance should be done, though.
10. Outdoor Pallet Flooring
When it comes to outdoor pallet flooring, you can do almost the same thing with your garden pallet flooring. Collect as many planks as possible. Put the sturdy ones on the floor before you align them appropriately. Use one more layer of removed pallets on them, so you will get a fine complete look. Multiple patterns are alright.
11. Pallet Porch Floor
Start with decking, using little pallet boards. If you want your porch floor to look very neat, cut them in precise shape with the right measuring and levelling tools.
The bottom supports should be installed first. The rough pallet boards should come on the fixed supports. Patterned layer of pallet slats will make a nice finish on the deck.
Want to do the diagonal alignment? Start from one corner. Cut of the excess wood edges to make a patterned wooden floor. Add nails so the planks will stay tight in place. Apply the final coats of stain as protection.
With pallet flooring, you can get as creative as possible. From one room to the next, you can also save some money too. So, when will your project start?