Without fail, every time we post a new pallet project on our site – we are bombarded with two questions:

Where do you find your free pallets?  and…
How do you know they are safe to work with?

So we thought for this week’s DIY post – we would share some of our secrets when it comes to where we find our pallets – and how we select ones we know are safe to work with.

Step 1 – Before You Do Anything – ASK!

free pallets
A wine table we made from pallets and recycled lumber

More than anything else, wherever you come across pallets  – realize that it doesn’t mean that they are “free pallets” for the taking.

In fact, in a lot of cases – businesses that take deliveries on pallets pay a deposit on them – and are charged if not returned.  In the case of items left at the curb – asking again is always the safe and courteous thing to do.

When you do ask – be sure to share your plans.  When people find out you are building a rustic wine rack, a mailbox, a chicken coop or even a playhouse for your kids – they usually love to help!

More importantly – they take an interest and might even save back great pallets and building materials for you!  Over time, we have built relationships with a few local stores that always keep an eye out and save back great pallets for us to use.

So Where Are The Best Places To Find Free Pallets?

First – forget about looking at the big commercial and manufacturing businesses. Nearly all of them have recurring contracts with pallet pick ups and deliveries. Instead – we concentrate on small local stores that get a small but steady supply of pallets.

Clean, heat-treated pallets are the best to use for home projects
Clean, heat-treated pallets are the best to use for home projects

Small garden and hardware Stores, motorcycle, lawnmower and power equipment shops, along with small construction sites are excellent places to pick up great pallets!

Most of these small garden and power equipment stores receive their equipment and parts on untreated, single-use pallets and small shipping crates – which are great for re-purposing.

How To Know Which Pallets Are Safe:

We start by NEVER selecting any stained or painted pallets for re-use. The fumes and dust from these pallets can be dangerous to work with when sawing and cutting, not to mention you never know what type of paint or stain was used to treat them.

free pallets
Lawn and Garden, ATV and Motorcycle shops usually have a large supply of clean pallets from unpacking parts and equipment

We also avoid using any pallets stamped with a large MB. Pallet manufacturers are now required to mark their pallets with a two letter code, and if you see an MB stamped on the side, avoid using it for your projects. The MB stands for Methyl Bromide fumigation, and it sprayed on these pallets to help avoid rot and insects.  Although more and more companies are starting to make pallets free of chemical sprays for a one time use, you definitely want to avoid those using Methyl Bromide.

Instead, look for an HT symbol, which stands for Heat Treating. Heat Treating is a safe method that involves taking the wood to a high temperature prior to use in order to destroy bacteria and insects in the wood.

Of course it goes without saying that whenever working with any type of wood, it’s important to always protect yourself and wear a dust mask and safety glasses.  So get out there and find some great free pallets for your next project!  If you need a little inspiration – here are some links to some of our favorites:

Rustic Wine Rack

The Canning Pantry Cabinet

The Pallet Mailbox Project

Jim and Mary – OWG

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