How To Take Apart Wooden Pallets To Use For Building

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Yesterday morning, as I left my house to take the boys to school, I saw two large wooden pallets sitting in the dumpster. There are so many things you can do with wooden pallets, including making it into furniture, so I really wanted those wooden pallets.
Only they're big and bulky, and we live in a teeny tiny house with no yard of our own, nor even a porch of our own, so if we'd bring in those pallets, they'd take up a lot of room in our house. And I wouldn't bring them in without first speaking to Mike.
I called him up, told him I saw something that I wanted to dumpster drive. He said "Oh, you mean the wooden pallets? I wanted to take them when I saw them, but I was in a rush waiting for the bus- please take them!" He also saw the value in having them to use for upcycling projects.

Before we could make any project with them, we first needed to take them apart so we would have access to the wood.

I thought it would be very easy to take it apart, but my pallets were super hard to get apart! The nails were embedded below the level of the wood so I couldn't use the back of the hammer to pull them out... And the nails were breaking often when I did manage to reach them.
I had some success prying them apart by wedging the back of the hammer between two pieces of wood, and then using the hammer as a lever to pull it apart (with the metal part of the hammer being the fulcrum) but the wood wasn't so strong and started breaking apart when I did that.
Hammering a screw driver, and then a larger wedge of wood between two pieces of wood also worked somewhat well.
Once they were wedged apart, I used a hammer to bang the wooden boards apart.
It worked, but it was a very slow process.

Mike saw what I was doing, and came up with an alternative solution.

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He took a saw that is able to cut metal, and wedged it between the two pieces of wood, and sawed through the nails! It was easier than it sounds, and definitely easier than what I was doing with wedges.

You have to start with the ends, because you can't reach a saw to the middle boards unless you first remove outer boards. So start with a corner attachment, cut through the nails, then do the same on another corner, and then the nails attaching the plank in the middle may need to be cut as well, but we found usually that once two out of three points were cut, we were able to rotate the peice of wood back and forth a few times, until it came off on its own.

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If nails are sticking out of your boards once you've cut them, use a hammer to remove them- often banging them from the back will make them stick out enough in the front that you can grab the head of the nail with a hammer and them pull it out. If it doesn't stick out, then great.

I splintered a few boards from my two pallets making them unusable, but Mike and I ended up with over 20 boards of wood, each a few feet long, that we'll be using for making projects.

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Now all we need to do is decide what project.

I know I'll be heading to Pinterest for ideas!

Have you ever built with wooden pallets? What did you make? How did you break apart the pallets? What would you make if you had this wood from these pallets?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. I love it! Penny you'll never guess where we got the hardwood for our bookcases in our living room! I put them together with my kids. We also made a floor to ceiling 4 door (well, curtain actually) closet together. One great aspect of these pieces is they can be made to fit exactly your needs. The bookcases we made are for our smaller books, so they are only 20 cm deep.
    Enjoy your find!

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  3. I was thinking of using something like this, if I find such a thing, to build a laundry pre-sorting system. I envision making a frame to hold 3 baskets one above the other, in a space about the size of one tall hamper, and 3 more next to them, making 6 altogether, and a surface on top. I would want to place some kind of plastic baskets in the frame and be able to use them a bit like drawers and have everyone put their laundry in the right basket, so that it's all presorted for washing. (I have 6 different types of laundry and space for two hampers.)

  4. I'd have kept one intact to use as a shelving system for a vertical garden on our balcony. I'm really curious to see what you're going to do!

  5. A Reader From BeitarJune 20, 2014 at 11:27 AM

    Is the wood of good enough quality to be worth working with?

  6. We do/did this to make shelves! :-)

  7. My father built a dock from pallets!

  8. Kids are still in school, is it year round?

  9. AWESOME idea about the metal saw! Thank you. I have destroyed more pallets than I have made things with.

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