As a basic wooden frame to transport and load goods through ships, forklifts, and trucks, you can transform simple pallets into lots of things. Here’s a wood pallet bar you can buy on Etsy. From armoires to coffee tables or even picture frames, there’s a lot you could easily make. By reusing and turning old pallets into furniture, you can keep them out of the waste stream.
The best part is that pallets are almost always free. However, before you begin collecting them and making furniture from pallets, you might need to know that some can be dangerous. Here are a few important points to know.
1. An Overview of Chemically Preserved Pallet
Traditionally, a lot of pallets contained Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA) that used to serve as a preservative in the wood. Though research shows that the arsenic in the chemical compound can leak from the wood, resulting in issues. Recently, chemical preserved pallets are treated with Methyl Bromide (MB) regulated as insecticides in the US.
Internationally, most countries have already outlawed the utilization of MB in their pallets. For instance, most European countries have included MB in a list of chemicals to completely phase-out. If inhaled, MB can result in loss of coordination, abdominal pain, and dizziness. If the chemical is exposed to your skin, blistering and redness might occur. Always ensure you check for the markings to evaluate the process used.
Bacteria is also another issue that might exist in your pallets. As a precaution, avoid using the woods for anything food-related, such as kitchen island or picnic table. Always make sure you scrub every piece using a bleaching agent and warm soapy water, then let them dry for 24 hours or more.
2. Treatment of Chemicals
Now that you understand what your pallets might contain, plan to correct those issues. While MB gradually dissipates once it comes into contact with air, other treatments will take longer. Plan 15-30 days for your chemical treatment to be safe for you and your family.
Maybe you want to stain or seal your pallet furniture for a more polished look. Oftentimes these products will seal in any harmful chemicals and protect you from what might be inside the pallet’s wood. It’s always smart to read to labels and follow the instructions for the best results.
3. Picking the Best Pieces
Given that a thrown-away pallet has likely used up its life, it’s going to be in rough shape. When you’re evaluating how much wood you’ll need for your home improvement project always plan for extra materials.
Certain boards will be cracked and not useful in certain application. Others might still have nails or staples that need to be removed. Taking those out will leave the wood very rustic. If that’s part of your style, keep that piece! If you want a more “finished” look, find a more solid board.
Also remember that these pallet boards could be useful in other ways, such as a raised garden or support for a storage system in your garage or basement. It’s always handy to have extra on stand-by.
If you’ve heard about a source of free (or super cheap) pallets, go for it. There are 100s of ideas for things you can make with pallets. When you’re making furniture from pallets, just understand the dangers that exist. Then properly correct those as you go. Happy DIYing!