Preparing Wooden Pallets for Upcycling Projects

Do you have old pallets just lying around? Want to recycle them for home project? This is a great idea! After vigorous use within businesses, industries, and warehouses, pallets can easily be transformed into furniture or other works of art by the creative at heart, although, before you jump in and start making your pallet creation, it’s important to remember that some pallets may be dangerous. This is due to possible chemical spills and treatment methods that may have been used to make them. The following is a guide to preparing wooden pallets for upcycling projects without causing harm to yourself.
Pallet Styles
You may think all pallets are the same. This isn’t true. There are many different styles of wooden pallets that you may not be aware of. These styles include:

  • Two-Way Entry – Reversible
  • Two-Way Entry – No base board, close boarded
  • Two Way Entry – Wing type
  • Four Way Entry – Close boarded, 3 base
  • 1200 x 800 Euro Pallet
  • Four-Way Entry – Perimeter base
  • Four-Way Entry – Wing Type
  • Four-Way Entry – Close boarded, perimeter base
  • Four-Way Entry – Open board, 3 way

Choosing a Safe Pallet for Your Needs
Stain-Free Pallet
Because pallets are used for a variety of transportation needs, they can become susceptible to contact with spills, chemical liquids, and other hazardous products. The first step to choosing the right pallet is checking the pallet thoroughly to make sure there aren’t any spills on it. If there are any sorts of strange discolorations, stains, or spills, it is best to discard them. Make sure you always use stain-free clean pallets.
Check Stamp Markings
The next thing to check is the stamp marking on the sides of the pallet. This marking can be seen as words, numbers, or symbols painted, etched, branded, or stamped into the pallet sides. This marking means that the wooden pallet has been treated especially for safety. Most domestic transportation pallets are non-treated and don’t have any visible markings.
Apart from a company logo, some markings may also mean that your pallet is from an international source. There are two things you need to look out for when checking for markings. These include:
IPPC Logo – This means that the pallet comes from an international source and doesn’t have a seal of approval. You won’t know what it has been used for.
Treatment Code – The treatment code can be found at the lower center of the pallet marking. This code generally features a two to four letter code, which tells the user what the pallet treatment was. The general treatment code includes:

  • DB: Debarked – This rating means that the bark was removed using a specialized cutting tool leaving the wood untreated. DB rated pallets are chemical free and safe to use.
  • HT: Heat-Treated – This rating means that the pallet has been heat treated in a kiln for up to 30 minutes to ensure all chemicals and bugs are removed. Pallets which have this rating are safe to use and are untreated.
  • MB: Methyl Bromide – Pallets which are treated with methyl bromide aren’t safe to use. This is a poisonous fungicide that kills fungus. These types of pallets are banned within Canada and should be avoided.
  • EPAL: European Pallet Association Logo – This means that the pallet has been heat treated and debarked.
  • EUR: EPAL Older Version – Pallets such as this are now rare and should be avoided unless they have been EPAL approved.
  • Colored Pallets: Colored pallets are generally used to ship chemicals and tend to be more exposed to spills. It is best to avoid using colored pallets for recycled woodworking projects.

Preparing Your Pallet
When it comes to preparing and disassembling your pallet, you need to take care to protect yourself and your pallet. The following are a few good methods to prepare your pallets. These include:
Pry Bar, Hammer, and Cat’s Paw – To help break your pallet apart you can use a cat’s paw, hammer, and pry bar. These items provide easy manipulation of the boards for fast and easy disassembling.
Nail Punch – Nail punches are great for driving those stubborn nails into the wood that you can’t get out. This method can be used for spiral-shanked nails and stubborn screws and ring nails.
Oscillating Tool – To make quick work of rusty nails, simply pull the boards as far apart as you can and use an oscillating tool to try to loosen the nails from the boards.
Cutting, Shaping, Sanding, and Finishing Touches
Once your pallet has been broken down, you still have to cut, shape, and sand your pallet boards before adding the finishing touches.
Cutting and Shaping
When cutting your pallets into shapes, it is advised to use sharp cutting tools, such as a saw. If you have to do circular cutting for a more decorative touch, it is best to use a jigsaw or something similar.
Exposed pallet wood tends to be rough and may give you splinters. It’s best to sand your wood back before assembly of your project. This allows you to make your wood smooth to the touch.
Finishing Touches
To put your project together and add the finishing touches, it’s best to use new nails or screws, along with wood glue, to help secure your piece together. If painting, try to use appropriate paints that can be used on wooden surfaces. Lastly, it’s important to give your new wooden pallet project a final lacquer-type coating which helps to protect the surface area from scratches and other issues.
As you can see, you can easily recycle old pallets to make amazing furniture pieces. So, what will you be making out of your pallets?