Pallets beg to be repurposed. With a pile of pallets and a little creativity we built a pallet deck. It cost under $100 and only took a day to construct (allow an additional half-day for painting). Here is how i did it.
The first thing you will need are free pallets. We keep an eye out for them behind small businesses, along the roadside, or at construction sites. (Always ask permission to take them, since some are owned by shipping companies- if they are painted, they probably owned by someone.)
Pallets often have a stamped or stenciled label. U.S. means it comes from America. H.T. means it means Heat Treated. M.T. means it is chemically treated. Avoid the latter because cutting into it releases harmful sawdust into the environment and your precious lungs. The absence of a stamp means it is generic wood (from the Republic of Generia, ha, ha!) and with that you take your chances!
Pallets are often built of cheap, soft wood, but on a lucky day, you can find oak and other hardwoods. For this project, we collected both. Bear in mind: the harder the wood, the longer the deck will last.
A standard pallet is 40″x 48″ or 48” x 40”, but you can find pallets in which the runners go opposite directions. For this project, extra long pallets are ideal. We found five measuring 48″ x 120″ with oak deck boards at a construction site. They were heavy duty, consisting of five runner boards per pallet. However, you can use six standard pallets if that is what you find.
Let’s talk design. Check out the pallet’s many deck boards- if they are softwood less than ⅜” thick with three runner boards, they are not suitable for decks unless you add more runner boards, which is a hassle, but doable. Some deck boards are hardwood and can be ¾” thick. Identify whether your runner boards are 40” or 48” long. Due to spacing, few pallets are ready to be decks with solid tops. This makes it necessary to cut deck boards off of additional pallets or nail new boards on top. We decided to cut the deck boards from additional pallets and nail them between existing boards alternating pressure treated fence pickets. Because we are in Florida where sun, rain, and termites are hell on decks, we created a design to combat these threats. First, we raised the deck 11 1⁄2 inches off the ground. Next, all of the wood we added is pressure treated. Finally, we used enamel porch paint to seal it from the elements.
Once you have the pallets, gather a few simple tools and materials:
- Sawzall ® for cutting nails; if you cannot rent or borrow one, they sell at Harbor Freight Tools for around $20. Also buy 2-3 additional metal cutting blades.
- Deck screws ($20-$50)
- Drill, or better yet, an impact driver; or you can use a nail gun with 2 1/2″ framing nails for speed.
- Stack of thirteen 8 foot picket fence replacement boards ($2.60 per board at Lowes)
- Deck Paint ($16 for one gallon)
- Bricks or concrete blocks for support (If your deck is in contact with the ground it is susceptible to wood destroying organisms.)
If you already have blocks/bricks, nails (We had some left over from another job) and deck paint, so much the better. Cost will fall well below 100 bucks. If you were doing a DIY with all new materials it would cost approximately $150-$200. “Ka-ching! Ka-ching!”
- Determine deck placement site and measure the area where brick supports will go. we used 12 concrete blocks.
- Using the Sawzall®, saw through pallet board nails, 3 boards at a time to keep the frame stable.
- Nail boards on to pallet frame. Alternate pallet deck boards and fence pickets (if you have a mixture) for strength and pattern design.
- Continue with Sawzall® to trim boards to size if necessary.
- Paint deck
- Deck will last longer if painted on top and bottom of deck boards- or, use pressure treated pickets.
- Deck will last longer if you use peel & stick flashing tape on 2 x 4’s
This Deck has lasted over 2 years without maintenance. Not bad for a low cost build!