How To Treat Pallet Wood For Outdoor Use

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Pallets have become popular for woodworking shop use for several reasons, not the least of which is you can often find them free of charge.  Free is a good thing when you are looking for stock to use in the shop, and pallet wood is no exception.

Whether you are going to use them for outdoor furniture or for fencing in the garden, pallet wood use is limited only by the limits of your imagination.  A little bit of work is necessary to prepare wooden pallets for some other use, but again, they are often free if you are resourceful and patient.  

Key Points:

  • There’s really no secret or mystery about using wooden pallets for outdoor projects.  The extra steps in their use is breaking them down, but once you’ve done that, you simply have wood, and we know how to treat wood that will be used outdoors.
  • Cleaning with a little soapy water, sanding them smooth, and using a wood conditioner, stain, and protective finish, and your pallet wood outdoor project is completed.
  • Search around and be patient – it’s not difficult to find free pallets.

They are not limited to outdoor use, either.  Breaking down wooden pallets will give you, perhaps, 36″ spans of 1 x 2 or 1×3 stock that can be used, for instance, to face a bathroom vanity.  Wooden pallets can also be used to make a coffee table, whether for indoor use or as outdoor furniture.

What do you need to do to prep wood pallets for any use, though?  Is there anything special about the wood that you need to know before you embark on a pallet project?

What Are Common Uses In The Woodworking Shop For Wood Pallets?

Wooden pallets are a great source of free or low-cost wood for woodworking projects. hey are often treated with a preservative to make them durable.

Here are some common woodworking shop uses for wooden pallets:

  • Furniture. Pallet wood can be used to make a variety of furniture, such as tables, chairs, beds, and benches. It is often used for rustic or industrial-style furniture.
  • Storage. Pallet wood can be used to make storage shelves, cabinets, and boxes. It is a sturdy and durable material that can withstand a lot of weight.
  • Decor. Pallet wood can be used to make a variety of decorative items, such as signs, mirrors, and wall art. It can also be used to create unique home accents, such as planters and coffee tables.
  • Tools and jigs. Pallet wood can be used to make a variety of tools and jigs for woodworking. It is a versatile material that can be used for a variety of purposes.

Here are some tips for using wooden pallets in your woodworking shop:

  • Inspect the pallets carefully. Pallets that have been used for shipping may be damaged or contaminated. Inspect them carefully for nails, screws, and other debris.
  • Clean the pallets. Pallets that have been used for shipping may be dirty or dusty. Clean them with a mild soap and water solution before using them.
  • Salvage the good wood. Not all of the wood on a pallet will be usable. Discard any pieces that are damaged or warped.
  • Repurpose the wood. Pallet wood can be used for a variety of purposes. Get creative and come up with your own ideas for using it.

Wooden pallets are a great way to save money on woodworking projects. They are a versatile material that can be used for a variety of purposes. With a little creativity, you can use pallet wood to create unique and beautiful woodworking projects.

Do Wood Pallets Contain Any Hazardous Chemicals?

Wooden Pallets

Toxic chemicals are always a concern with wood that comes to you already used, and wooden pallets are no exception.  

Some wooden pallets contain hazardous chemicals, while others do not. The type of chemical treatment a pallet has received will depend on its intended use.

  • Heat-treated pallets are not treated with chemicals. They are heated to a high temperature in a kiln, which kills insects and bacteria and makes the wood more durable.
  • Methyl bromide-treated pallets are treated with a toxic pesticide that kills insects and pests. Methyl bromide is a hazardous chemical that can cause health problems, including respiratory problems, skin irritation, and cancer.
  • Creosote-treated pallets are treated with a wood preservative that makes the wood resistant to rot and decay. Creosote is a hazardous chemical that can cause cancer and other health problems.

It is important to inspect wooden pallets carefully before using them to make sure that they have not been treated with hazardous chemicals. Look for the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) mark on the pallet.

Pallets with the IPPC mark have been treated with heat or another non-hazardous treatment. Pallets without the IPPC mark may have been treated with hazardous chemicals.

If you are unsure whether a pallet has been treated with hazardous chemicals, it is best to err on the side of caution and not use it. There are many other sources of wood that are safe to use, so there is no need to risk using a pallet that may be contaminated.

Here are some tips for identifying pallets that have been treated with hazardous chemicals:

  • Look for the IPPC mark. Pallets with the IPPC mark have been treated with heat or another non-hazardous treatment.
  • Check for the letters MB. Pallets that have been treated with methyl bromide will have the letters MB stamped on them.
  • Check for the color of the wood. Creosote-treated pallets will often be a dark brown or black color.
  • Smell the wood. If the wood has a strong chemical odor, it may have been treated with a hazardous chemical.

If you are still unsure whether a pallet has been treated with hazardous chemicals, you can contact the pallet manufacturer or the shipping company that used the pallet. They should be able to tell you how the pallet was treated.

Breaking Down Wood Pallets

In most instances, you will want to break down wood pallets into usable wood.  Yes, there are times when you will leave wood pallets whole, perhaps upright and used as a fence around your garden to keep the rabbits from eating your lettuce, or, perhaps, stacked into an outdoor coffee table between Adirondack chairs you’ve made with other pallets.

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But, probably more often than not, you will break them down.  Here are a few thoughts about that.

There are a few different ways to break down wood pallets. The best method for you will depend on the tools you have available and the amount of time you have.

Here are some methods for breaking down wood pallets:

  • Using a reciprocating saw. A reciprocating saw is a power tool that can be used to cut through wood quickly and easily. To use a reciprocating saw to break down a pallet, simply place the blade between the boards and the stringers and cut through the nails.
  • Using a hammer and pry bar. A hammer and pry bar can also be used to break down wood pallets. To use this method, place the pry bar under one of the boards and pry it up. Then, use the hammer to knock the nails out of the board. Repeat this process for all of the boards on the pallet.
  • Using a pallet buster. A pallet buster is a tool that is specifically designed for breaking down wood pallets. To use a pallet buster, simply place the tool under one of the boards and push down. The tool will force the nails out of the board, and the board will come loose.  This is one of our favorite ways to break them down – a single tool that does most of the work for you.
  • Without any tools. If you don’t have any tools, you can still break down a wood pallet by hand. To do this, you will need to use a lot of force, and you may damage the wood. However, it is possible to break down a pallet without any tools if you are persistent.

Here are some safety tips for breaking down wood pallets:

  • Wear safety glasses. When breaking down wood pallets, there is a risk of flying wood chips and nails. To protect your eyes, always wear safety glasses when breaking down pallets.
  • Be careful not to cut yourself. The nails in wood pallets can be sharp. Be careful not to cut yourself when prying up the boards or cutting through the nails.
  • Dispose of the nails properly. Once you have broken down the pallet, dispose of the nails properly. Do not throw them in the trash, as they could injure someone.

Should Pallet Wood Be Treated When Used For Outdoor Projects?

Pallet wood is not typically treated with weatherproofing chemicals, so it will not last long if it is exposed to the elements.

Here are some of the benefits of treating pallet wood for outdoor use:

  • Increased durability. Treated pallet wood will be more resistant to rot, decay, and insect damage.
  • Enhanced appearance. Treating pallet wood can help to improve its appearance and make it more weather-resistant.
  • Extended lifespan. Treated pallet wood will last longer than untreated pallet wood when it is exposed to the elements.

There are a few different ways to treat pallet wood for outdoor use. You can use a wood preservative, a stain, or a sealant.

  • Wood preservatives, chemicals used to protect wood from rot, decay, and insect damage, are an important consideration if you will be using pallet wood outdoors. They can be applied with a brush, a roller, or a sprayer.
  • Stains are used to change the color of wood. They can also help to protect wood from the elements. Stains can be applied with a brush, a roller, or a sprayer.
  • Sealants are used to protect wood from moisture and UV rays. They can also help to enhance the appearance of wood. Sealants can be applied with a brush, a roller, or a sprayer.
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No matter which method you choose, it is important to follow the instructions on the product label carefully. This will help to ensure that you apply the treatment correctly and that the wood is properly protected.

Here are some tips for treating pallet wood for outdoor use:

  • Choose a treatment that is appropriate for the type of wood you are using. Not all wood preservatives, stains, and sealants are created equal. Some are better suited for certain types of wood than others.
  • Apply the treatment evenly. This will help to ensure that the wood is properly protected.
  • Allow the treatment to dry completely. This will help to prevent the treatment from peeling or cracking.
  • Reapply the treatment as needed. The frequency with which you need to reapply the treatment will depend on the type of treatment you use and the conditions the wood is exposed to.

By following these tips, you can help to ensure that your pallet wood will last for many years to come.

What Preservatives Should Be Used On Pallet Wood?

If you are going to use a preservative on pallet wood, rather than a more standard finish, there are several to choose from that will do a good job for you.

There are a few different wood preservatives that can be used on pallet wood. The best preservative for you will depend on the type of wood you are using, the purpose of the project, and the conditions the wood will be exposed to.

Here are some of the most common wood preservatives used on pallet wood:

  • Alkaline copper quaternary (ACQ). ACQ is a water-based preservative that is effective against rot, decay, and insects. It is a good choice for projects that will be exposed to moisture.
  • Boric acid. Boric acid is a natural preservative that is effective against insects. It is a good choice for projects that will be used around children or pets.
  • Copper naphthenate. Copper naphthenate is a petroleum-based preservative that is effective against rot, decay, and insects. It is a good choice for projects that will be exposed to moisture and insects.
  • Creosote. Creosote is a petroleum-based preservative that is very effective against rot, decay, and insects. However, it is also a hazardous material that can be harmful to human health. Creosote should only be used on projects that will not be exposed to human contact.

When choosing a wood preservative, it is important to read the product label carefully. This will help you to understand the properties of the preservative and how to apply it safely.

It is also important to follow the instructions on the product label carefully. This will help to ensure that you apply the preservative correctly and that the wood is properly protected.

Here are some tips for using wood preservatives on pallet wood:

  • Wear safety gear. When working with wood preservatives, it is important to wear safety gear, such as gloves, goggles, and a respirator. This will help to protect you from the harmful chemicals in the preservative.
  • Apply the preservative in a well-ventilated area. Wood preservatives can be harmful if inhaled. It is important to apply the preservative in a well-ventilated area to avoid inhaling the fumes.
  • Allow the preservative to dry completely. This will help to prevent the preservative from peeling or cracking.
  • Reapply the preservative as needed. The frequency with which you need to reapply the preservative will depend on the type of preservative you use and the conditions the wood is exposed to.

By following these tips, you can help to ensure that your pallet wood is properly protected from rot, decay, and insects.

How About Staining Pallet Wood?

Sure, staining pallet wood is a great way to enhance its natural beauty and protect it from the elements. Here are some tips on how to stain pallet wood:

  1. Prepare the wood. Before you stain pallet wood, it is important to prepare the wood properly. This involves cleaning the wood, sanding it, and removing any nails or screws.  When sanding, always sand in the direction of the wood grain.  You don’t want to damage the wood or leave an ugly patch that you will just need to sand again, so sand with the wood grain.  Sand it to a smooth finish.
  2. Choose the right stain. There are many different types of stains available, so it is important to choose the right stain for your project. You will need to consider the type of wood you are using, the desired finish, and the conditions the wood will be exposed to.
  3. Apply the stain. You can apply wood stain with a brush, a roller, or a sprayer. Be sure to apply the stain evenly and allow it to dry completely.
  4. Seal the stain. Once the wood stain has dried, you can seal it with a clear sealant. A protective coat of some sealant will help to keep the stain from fading and peeling.  While staining the wood will offer some protection, extra protection will help the wood to last for a long time outdoors.  

Here are some additional tips for staining pallet wood:

  • Test the stain in an inconspicuous area first. This will help you to see how the stain will look on the wood and make sure that you like the color.
  • Work in a well-ventilated area. Stain fumes can be harmful, so it is important to work in a well-ventilated area.  It’s also important to work out of direct sunlight.
  • Apply the stain in thin coats. A thin, light coat will help to prevent the stain from pooling or bleeding.
  • Allow the stain to dry completely between coats. This will help to ensure that the stain is evenly applied and that it will not peel or crack.

By following these tips, you can stain pallet wood and create beautiful and durable projects.

Here are some of the most popular stains for pallet wood:

  • Water-based stains are easy to apply and clean up, and they are non-toxic. They are a good choice for projects that will be used around children or pets.
  • Oil-based stains are more durable than water-based stains, but they are also more difficult to apply and clean up. They are a good choice for projects that will be exposed to moisture or high traffic.
  • Epoxy stains are very durable and resistant to fading and peeling. They are a good choice for projects that will be exposed to harsh conditions.

No matter which type of stain you choose, be sure to follow the instructions on the product label carefully. This will help to ensure that you apply the stain correctly and that the wood is properly protected.

When staining wood, a pre-stain wood conditioner is always helpful, and this will be true for pallet wood, too.  Wood conditioners prepare the wood to accept stain more evenly than just staining alone, something that will help avoid blotches and help give the wood a more enhanced wood appearance.

Waterproofing Your Pallet Wood Outdoor Furniture

Pallets

Here are some tips on how to waterproof pallet wood for outdoor use:

  1. Prepare the wood. Before you waterproof pallet wood, it is important to prepare the wood properly. This involves cleaning the wood, sanding it, and removing any nails or screws.
  2. Choose the right waterproofer. There are many different types of waterproofers available, so it is important to choose the right one for your project. You will need to consider the type of wood you are using, the desired finish, and the conditions the wood will be exposed to.
  3. Apply the waterproofer. You can apply a waterproofer with a brush, a roller, or a sprayer. Be sure to apply the waterproofer evenly and allow it to dry completely.
  4. Reapply the waterproofer as needed. The frequency with which you need to reapply the waterproofer will depend on the type of waterproofer you use and the conditions the wood is exposed to.

Here are some of the most popular waterproofers for pallet wood:

  • Water-based polyurethane is a clear, water-based finish that is easy to apply and dries to a hard, durable finish. It is a good choice for projects that will be exposed to moisture.
  • Oil-based polyurethane is more durable than water-based polyurethane, but it is also more difficult to apply and clean up. It is a good choice for projects that will be exposed to harsh conditions.
  • Epoxy is a very durable and waterproof finish that is resistant to fading and peeling. It is a good choice for projects that will be exposed to extreme conditions.
  • Marine Spar Varnish is another waterproofer for pallet wood.  It is a type of varnish that is specifically designed for use on boats and other marine applications. It is a clear, hard finish that is resistant to water, salt, and UV rays. Marine spar varnish is typically made from a combination of tung oil, resin, and solvent.  It’s water resistant, salt resistant, UV resistant, durable, and refinishable (if that’s a word), and gives good protection against outdoor elements.

No matter which type of waterproofer you choose, be sure to follow the instructions on the product label carefully. This will help to ensure that you apply the waterproofer correctly and that the wood is properly protected.

Here are some additional tips for waterproofing pallet wood:

  • Test the waterproofer in an inconspicuous area first. This will help you to see how the waterproofer will look on the wood and make sure that you like the finish.
  • Work in a well-ventilated area. Waterproofer fumes can be harmful, so it is important to work in a well-ventilated area.
  • Apply the waterproofer in thin coats. This will help to prevent the waterproofer from pooling or bleeding.
  • Allow the waterproofer to dry completely between coats. This will help to ensure that the waterproofer is evenly applied and that it will not peel or crack.

By following these tips, you can waterproof pallet wood and create beautiful and durable projects that will last for years to come.

Video Info About Pallets

Did you know that more than 2 billion pallets are used every day to transport materials around the world?

That’s a lot of pallets and a lot of usable wood for after-use.  Since we always preach safety first, we found a video that will hammer this point home (pun intended) for you.

Free, usable, requiring only a little extra work to break them down.  Did we mention free?  What’s not to like about working with wood pallets?  You can start by checking on Craig’s List, where I see pallets being offered all the time.  

Last update on 2024-04-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

2 thoughts on “How To Treat Pallet Wood For Outdoor Use”

  1. Thank you for mentioning that pallets made from pine can be used to make outdoor furniture such as benches. I want to make a bench for my backyard out of repurposed wood this year, so I’m considering buying some pine wood pallets this week. I’m going to search for a good business in my area that can sell me some pine wood pallets.

    Reply

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