If you choose, like I have, to build with pallets; there are a few things you should know. First of all, pallets are very sturdy, and usually hard to break. That's why they are used for shipping. Many times they're build out of a hardwood like oak. When you are selecting pallets for building, please consider the following:
- Always ask for permission to take pallets from the place you are taking them from. Many times, companyies contract with other companies to come take their pallets and pay them a fee. The store basically sells their pallets back to recoup some of their costs.
- Never use pallets from a grocery store. Remember the e coli outbreaks? That stuff can seep into the pallets that all the tainted lettuce is on!
- Get all of you pallets the same size. Standard pallets are 40" x 48". If you have all the same sized pallets, the chances of your project turning out square is better. If you're not building a structure, but just using them for the slats, this is still important to make sure all your slats are a uniform length.
- I once read that, in order to use the pallet slats, you had to cut along the side stringers and rock the piece from the center stringer to get a usable board. This works great except, now you're left with a shorter piece of re-usable lumber. I break down my pallets with my trust pry bar and big-ol-hammer. I'll do a video blog on how to break these down. It's not that hard and you get more usable lumber from the pallets.
- All pallets are treated for pests. Bet you didn't know that. The international export standard, ISPM 15, requires that all wood packaging material be heat-treated at a core temperature of 56 degrees Celsius for a minimum of 30 minutes or that it is fumigated to a prescribed specification with methyl bromide. This regulation eliminates the presence of pests found in wood thereby protecting crops and forests in other parts of the world. NEVER use the chemically treated pallets. Most pallets have a stamp on one of the runners (thicker pieces usually a 2x4). If the stamp reads "HT", that means "heat treated", you're cool. If it reads "MB", stay away. That stands for "methyl bromide".
Methyl Bromide is some serious @#$%. If you uses the MB pallets, and you have other animals around that may chew on wood (my dog does, the goats...), they can be seriously harmed. For more info on MB read here. In my opinion, it's best just to stay away from MB treated pallets.
Here is a stamp showing that the pallet was heat treated:
Well, there you have it; everything you didn't think you wanted to know about using pallets as a building material. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below.