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How to make and save money with pallets

They can often be had for free, and you can use them to build all kinds of things you can use or sell.

By Karen Datko Apr 22, 2010 10:57AM

This guest post comes from Buck Weber at The Buck List.


My last 9-to-5 job was an IT position. I had my own office in the front office area, and in the same building was the company’s in-house print shop and the supply department warehouse. Paper for the printing presses and supplies for the warehouse all came on wood pallets. What was not taken home by employees was stacked outside the building with the hope that others would come along and take them away.

Enter the scruffy guys in old beat-up pickup trucks, driving their daily routes looking for pallets to resell to pallet companies. If we happened to be outside while one of them was making the rounds, we were always amazed at both the tenacity of the searchers and at how they could double-stack pallets 20 high or more without losing their load. While I have not tried picking up pallets to resell them, I did learn after talking to a few of the old boys that they made $1 to $3 per pallet, depending on the size and condition.

Even if you don’t work at a place where pallets are readily available, there are plenty of places to find them for free. Think warehouses, manufacturers, print shops, feed stores, woodworking shops, department stores and shopping malls. I also see them all the time in the free section on Craigslist.

If gathering and reselling pallets is not to your liking, here are a few other ideas on how to both make and save money by using pallet wood. Most involve sawing them apart with a handheld circular saw or a Sawzall. Gloves and eyewear protection are two safety must-haves. Some kind of crowbar or pry bar and a ball-peen hammer can also be necessary for dismantling.

Ideas I have actually tried:

  • Burn them. Before I made anything with pallets I used to break them up and use them for bonfires and campfires. Still do.
  • Build bookcases and shelving. The planks are a perfect size to accommodate CDs, DVDs and books.
  • Use them to make outdoor benches and tables. I have made these for family, friends and my own backyard. This year I am going build some and try to sell them on Craigslist.
  • Make a doghouse. I used a half pallet for the floor of a doghouse I built last fall.
  • Use them to store items off the ground. Pretty obvious, I know. I use them in my basement to store things on, and outside I use a couple to stack my firewood on.
  • Build window boxes and planters. Last year I built and painted a replacement window box for the front of my house that looks store-bought.
  • Make a workbench. I have three workbenches I built using pallet two-by-four pieces for the frame and legs.

Ideas I have not tried yet:

  • Build a fence. One of my former co-workers built a rabbit fence around his garden using pallet wood.
  • Make a compost bin. I have seen these before and I might end up making one, but right now our compost pile is just a heap on the ground.
  • Use the planks to make rustic picture frames.
  • Build a garden shed. I would consider this but I currently don’t have the space for one.
  • Build cages and pens for small animals.
  • Make a deck. I saw this idea on the Internet but I can’t quite picture a beautiful deck made from rough pallet wood.
  • Use them to build raised garden beds. Another idea I might try.
  • Cut the planks to size and use a wood-burning tool to write sayings or names. I have wanted to try using a wood-burning tool and this would be a simple way to get started.

Almost all of the things to be made from wood pallets described above could not only be built for your own use but also to sell. Your cost, if you already own the tools, is usually your time and a handful of screws or nails. That makes for a pretty big profit margin.

What have you used pallets for?

Related reading at The Buck List:

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