Did you know that over 300 000 tons of wooden pallets are discarded into landfills in North Carolina alone each year? Considering that the pallet industry consumes around 4.5 billion feet of hardwood annually (which is often made from expensive wood such as teak, hickory, etc.), this is a lot of potentially valuable planks going to waste. In this article, we will discuss how you can go about using pallet wood for flooring in an easy, actionable way. Let’s get started by learning how locating pallets for your floors.
Great Places To Find Pallets For Your DIY Flooring Needs
When you start collecting pallets from businesses, individuals and even landfills for your floors, make sure that you get permission. Some stores will not be able to give out their pallets for free for a variety of reasons. Collecting all the pallets that you need for flooring a room or home might take awhile so it’s best to consider your pallet collection as a hobby as you slowly build up your stock. Here are a few good places to start looking:
- You can find pallets in most grocery stores, department stores and warehouses. Any place that receives large shipments of products on a regular basis will likely have a lot of pallets at their disposal. You can call up a couple in your local area and ask them if they have any wooden pallets that they are getting rid of. In most cases, they will tell you that they often throw them away and you can pick them up for no charge.
- Small hardware stores, new businesses that just opened and small garden stores generally not have a systematic way to get rid of their pallets and will generally have no problem if you want to take them off their hands.
- Landfill sites often contain large numbers of pallets that are discarded on a regular basis. While this is definitely an option, just keep in mind that it’s often difficult to know where they were used before. This can pose a safety issue which I will elaborate on this a little later in this article.
- You can also purchase pallets from most hardware stores. The downside of this is that this will cost you money and this might not really be worth your while, especially if you are considering doing DIY pallet flooring to save yourself some money in the first place.
How Much Will Pallet Flooring Cost Me?
It should cost you less than around $200 for a large area, provided you were able to collect the pallets for free. Your only real costs will be your time (which is valuable and cannot be ignored), any tools that you may need to buy or hire, the underlayment (to help with moisture control) and any hardwood floor finishing that you might want to apply over the wood (highly recommended in most cases).
Considering that a decent hardwood floor (with installation) will often cost thousands, this is a very good price, even though it does require a lot of time and effort on your part. I have read countless articles on the web that profess that “time is free” but I completely disagree with that statement. An easy way to understand how much your time is worth is to figure out how much you would earn per hour if you got a second job (even if it was just temporary and was only to pay for a new floor). On the other hand, if you are excited to build a floor using pallets and it’s more of a family project, then that’s a different story.
How long will it take to collect all the recycled pallets? Well, that figure is definitely up for debate. If you find a large supply of fairly decent quality pallets, it could take you a weekend. If you have to search high and low for them, it could take you a couple weekends. On the other hand, if you were just looking for some spare wood to repair your broken hardwood floor, then that might just take one trip.
The Average Lifespan Of Recycled Pallet Flooring
The longevity of your floor really depends on how much foot traffic it will receive on a daily basis. However, this is nothing to be overly concerned about. Even with regular activity, provided you maintain your floors, you will only experience a very slight deterioration over time. However, wooden pallet flooring does have a unique advantage. If a section gets damaged, its super easy to replace that area with leftovers from when you built the floor! Even if you didn’t have any leftovers, you could easily find more and do a DIY replacement in an hour or two. I personally feel that this is a major advantage that people often overlook when discussing this subject.
If you want to keep your floors looking great, you can also instruct family members to take off their shoes before walking on your floors and stop the dogs from running over it each day. Additionally, I highly recommend that you finish your pallet wood planks with a decent quality product (more on this a little later).
Making Sure Your Pallets Are Suitable
Firstly,only use wood pallets that contain an IPPC logo and avoid ones that have reference to “MB” (Methyl-bromide) or “CT” (Chemically Treated). I also recommend skipping colored pallets as they often contain formaldehyde. If you want to add color to your floors, you can always paint your wood floors afterward. Chemicals might do a great job at keeping insects and some bacteria at bay, but it’s definitely not something you want in your flooring at home. Ideally, you want the pallet to contain the “HT” stamp, meaning that it was “Heat Treated”, which is perfect for indoor use.Secondly,find out what the pallets were being used for in the past. I would stay away from pallets that have been loaded with food products (especially meat) as this sometimes leaves dangerous bacteria (such as E. Coli, Salmonella and Listeria) on the wood itself. Remember that bacteria can even stay on the wood for weeks once the food as been removed. Thirdly,try and find pallets that have not been exposed to wet conditions for very long. If they have been sitting outside in the rain for weeks on end, they often start to develop fungus and you don’t want that in your home either. Also try and collect pallets that contain un-warped boards of similar thickness. While it’s possible to use a planer to even things out, this is an extra step that can be avoided.
I know it is possible to sand (don’t forget to always use a respirator) and seal the pallet planks to make them safer for indoor use but rather take my advice and stick to pallets that are heat treated (no chemicals), sourced locally, uncolored and are not involved in the transportation of food. As a rule of thumb, if you cannot confirm that the pallet is safe, rather don’t use it. I highly recommend this pallet safety article from 1001pallets, check it out when you get a chance.
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How Many Pallets Should Be Collected?
A single pallet usually can be stripped (more on in the next section) to provide about two square yards (1.1 square meters) of wood planks. This is presuming that the entire pallet is in a fairly good condition as outlined in the previous section above. Once you have measured the size of the room, that will help you get an idea as to how many pallets you will need to complete your flooring project.
Methods To Break Up Pallets And Remove The Nails
Breaking up the pallets is easily one of the hardest parts of the project (besides actually finding them). You have a couple options available:
- Use a claw hammer – A regular claw hammer works but may break it as it’s not ideally suited for this task.
- Use a crowbar (ply bar) – This is a good option (if you have one), just be careful that you don’t break the planks when using it.
- Use a pallet breaker – Although I haven’t personally use it, Instructables has a DIY pallet breaking tool guide that looks effective for breaking pallets up.
- Use a circular saw to simply cut the pallet into smaller planks, thus eliminating the need to break it up using tools. This method is super fast, but you won’t get very long pieces of wood.
Removing the nails is also a very important step in stripping the wood pallets. Make sure that you pull, yank, unscrew, hack out, etc. any metal bits that may be embedded in the wood before moving on.
How To Make A Floor Out Of Pallets (Preparation)
How To Install Pallet Flooring Correctly (DIY)
Finishing Your Pallet Wood Floor (With Style)
In conclusion, although pallet hardwood flooring may not be suitable for all rooms and homes, it is certainly worth considering as a flooring option. It provides a way to give your floor a unique and memorable look and can potentially save you a lot of money when compared to other flooring options. Provided you follow safe collection practices and are willing to spend quite a bit of time and effort (and follow the guidelines in this article), you should be very pleased with the final outcome. If you have any pallet flooring ideas, please feel free to share them with us in the comment section below.
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