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Pallet House to Save the World... or a garden shed.

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My middle school class designed and built a basic prototype for a house made of pallets.  The pallets are for the basic wall structure, and other materials can be used as sheathing, the floor, roof, etc.  With a little imagination the builder can fill in the gaps.

One inspiration was Alexander Saunder's op-ed piece in the New York Times about helping victims of a 2005 earthquake in Pakistan.  His piece "Give Them Shelter" suggested buying garden sheds from Sam's Club en mass and dropping them into isolated regions.  It is an interesting idea.

We also used several sites dedicated to a "Tiny House" movement, which we first saw in a local piece "Stuck in Vermont".  Tiny houses are houses about ten-feet by ten-feet and intended to be lived in (windows, loft beds, water and the like).  There are many other sites dedicated to the movement.  This movement, in turn, was inspired by Thoreau and Walden, which we read excerpts from.  Many of these sources stressed simplicity and self-reliance.  They also dovetailed with groups looking to solve the problems of homelessness and the environment.

There are several Instructables that will support this project, but "Pallet Playhouse" is mentioned several times in the article as it has excellent information on deconstructing pallets and using their cannibalized parts in interesting and creative ways.  I suggest you read it during the design phase and revisit it periodically.

Because we embraced the ideas of civic involvement and recycling we put down two simple rules:

First, everything had to be found.  Because of this, we used pallets.  You will see that we used a refrigerator door for the door.  Even our nails were a rusted mass that we found, and much of it was bound with twine.  We speculated the builders could use anything from scrap wood to crushed soda can shingles for siding or the roof.  The user of this design can use their own ideas and the resources available, as more appropriate nails and ties will make your own results much more sturdy.  The aesthetic, though, was renewable and found so that materials could be found at the site for free.

Second, it was designed to be moved.  We hoped that the basic structure could be manufactured at a central site, sent to its permanent site as a shell and finished with local materials.  Therefore, it had to come apart and reassemble easily.  The main conceit is that the pallets are nailed two each into a panel.  Then, all other connections come apart easily.  In this way, the entire frame can be stacked and moved on the back of a truck or pushed (bound) out of a cargo plane.  On site it can then be assembled.

Mainly, though, we wanted to create a simple shed that anyone could build from materials anyone could find.  Adapt to suit your needs and change your own little piece of the world.

 
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bobbypin4 years ago
I can see a lot of potential in these pallets, however, I am very concerned about what chemicals are used on them to treat for weather resistancy and insecticides. I wonder how someone could find out for sure.
dsantil71 bobbypin11 months ago
Here is an 'ible about that
http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-determine-if-a-wood-pallet-is-safe-for-use/
I believe that most pallets are just scrap oak from milling oak boards. They are not terribly weather-proof and tend to rot. But they make great building materiel.
darlingtom (author)  bobbypin4 years ago
People need to be careful. Wikipedia has a nice, informative and slightly scary entry on pallets. The National Wood Pallet and Container Association is less fearful (go figure).

Pallets used for international trade need to be treated so that bugs do not go from one country to another. There are two methods used: Heat and Chemical.  Heat treatment is marked HT and, from what I can gather, is considered safe.  I also use local pallets not designed to leave the area (there is a pallet factory five miles away).

Be careful.  Do some research.  Check the markings for HT.
Very nice! You could use it to storing and drying firewood if you'd leave the walls unshielded. Sort of a natural drying while keeping the wood safe from rain...
fzumrk2 years ago
One of my company's clients built their garage from pallets. He did this as a proof of concept. He is trying to come up with ways to construct buildings at disaster sites using the pallets that relief supplies are shipped in with.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/onesmallproject/sets/72157631017041846/
The cross members on the pallets almost look like lathe. A vapor barrier could be stapled over the cross members. Then a fine hardware cloth could be stapled on top of the vapor barrier. To finish, a plaster or stucco like material could be slathered atop the screen. Just and idea.
KittyF3 years ago
Ooooh, I can see having one for a garden shed, and one for a compost heap, and one for the kids toys, and one for a fort, and one for a Creche, and one for a studio, and, and Then when the yard is full, where will anyone play. LOL
I built a composter out of 4 pallets for my mother as a mother's day gift. Pallets being of oak construction last magnificently.
gbailey12 years ago
Thanks for the walk through. Helped me with my own DIY shed.
U could try unrolling a oil drum.
letstrythat3 years ago
I really like your project.,
What a great way to recycle pallets.
It would be very easy to make a wood shingle roof
out of more pallets if you have a band saw.
Great post!
Broberg4 years ago
One idea for siding is to use old newspaper printing plates. They may cost a little bit but the recycling is worth it! With the plates being a bit larger than a flattened can, the build would go much faster. I have always looked at ways to build with pallets and this just gave me a couple ideas. Keep up the good work!
My Father and I build a shop on our farm when I was a child. We used salvaged lumber and sheathed it with salvaged roles of tar paper and later newspaper printing plates. It has lasted for almost a half century.
LePyro4 years ago
Why not keep the Palettes as they are in order to stuff insulation in between them??
widesheds4 years ago
Hay Nice... Person may take an advantage to prepare a nice plan regarding them shed. So, please keep updates in it. & yes Thanks for sharing this great information with us.
JamesTB134 years ago
I've always wanted a little club-house/fort type thing. This is perfect! I'll just look behind Rona, use their pallets. I agree with patmac, it's VERY well written. Thank you for putting this up, and great Instructable. Also, to InvaderDig, lol. That's all I can say. P.S., I take it, from you always referring to 'my students', that you're a teacher, KEEP TEACHING THIS KIND OF STUFF, IT'S AWESOME.
MCASOTTANA24 years ago
Great idea! It can lead to many more creative structures!
seamsbysami4 years ago
wow! this is cool ive always wanted an easy way to make a garden shed good job.
shooby4 years ago
Great idea. I'd love to see a formal application of this, perhaps combined with another re-purposed material for finish and insulation.
Speedmite4 years ago
Nice job but, if you cling wrapped the entire thing, wouldnt there be a risk of suffacation?
darlingtom (author)  Speedmite4 years ago
We left the roof open. It was just for demonstration purposes as it sat in the lab. When I bring it home, I'll sheath it in plywood.
Thank you so much for this idea! I'm lucky enough to have a roof over my head but I have been searching for weeks for a way to build a cheap, not over the top cubby house for my daughter and I'm stoked that it's easy enough for me to give it a go - I won't have to rely on hubby to walk me through every step, although no doubt once I start it will suddenly be his project! :) Anyway, as I'm new to this site just thought I'd say it's great and I can't wait to have a go. Cheers.
darlingtom (author)  inspiredjules4 years ago
Two things to note. First, some pallets are smoother than others. If you put a skin of plywood on the inside and outside, great. Otherwise, be aware of splinters and choose your pallets with care. Second, note how hard pallet wood is. It lasts, but driving a nail was an issue for my kids. We pre-drilled, which I was unsure if I mentioned. Doable and easy, but perhaps unexpected. My friend created a playhouse with just the walls, cut windows and put window boxes on them, and grew vines. The "idea" of a house was enough, and it looked natural in her garden. Good luck.
katerlyn4 years ago
CHUCKLE about MIL coming to stay. I love these instructables, thanks for the great thought inducing instructable.
blopez4 years ago
For the first three years of my life (1949 to 1952) I lived in a two room house that my father and uncle built over two weekends using wooden orange crates and tar paper. Housing was in short supply just after the war as were building materials. It was heated with a wood stove, water had to be hauled in and an outhouse sat a short walk away. The second room was downright cold in the winter when the fire went out during the night. I'm told I woke in the morning with frost on my diaper.
 As a variation, one of the local motorcycle dealers had shipping crates to give away.  About 4X10.  I used them for the walls and the frame for an outside shed/shop on my property.  Used salvage metal roofing I picked up from the junkyard for the roof and landscape timbers where the crates would not suffice.

 This is not meant to be oneupmanship.  Just to say that the stuff is durable (same pallet material as here).  It has been up over 10 years without any maint. Probably cost me less than $500 to make about a 20X20 shed.


While I was reading this, I thought of what I would do if I didn't have a place to live. Pallets converted into a living space seems like a way to go. Build it in a thicket for protection and to hide it from view. Use found, recyclable materials to weatherproof it.

A friend once took an uninsulated outbuilding and lined the inside with first plastic, then cardboard to make a cozy home for himself.
lucek4 years ago
again this is a really good project but as the state round here hands out compost bins for practical nothing there's not much reason for me to go to the trouble for an inferior bin.
http://www.mass.gov/dep/recycle/reduce/images/bothbins.jpg
except that the site is called "instructables" and not "readymadeproductsgivenawayforfree" (which would be a good site)
I don't argue the point, I was just commenting that it's moot for me. for people who don't have their taxes go to subsidize compost this is fine (air flow and turning may be a problem).
Skullbot4 years ago
 Why not just pull the nails and use the individual boards as raw lumber?
 Heh, It is obvious that you have never tried to remove the nails from a pallet! There are TONS of nails and they are usually clinched over, rusted and deeply embedded. The fastest way is to properly leverage the boards and then jump on the cross joint which, as I found out, is DANGEROUS!
The quickest way to liberate the boards is a reciprocating saw with a metal cut blade.  You can also cut it along the inside edge of the support beam if you don't want to be bothered with removing the last bit of nail and shroten the total length.

You are right.  Not only is it very difficult to pull, you risk cracking the board as they tend to be hardwoods.
darlingtom (author)  johnpombrio4 years ago
Check out "Pallet Playhouse" for information on deconstructing pallets.

Pallets are made for a heavy load, to be knocked around, scraped, poked with a forklift, dropped and then shipped around the world.  In short, they are tough.  Johnpombrio is correct: The wood is rough and hard, all held together with nails that will not quit.  The author of "Pallet Playhouse" finds some ways around it, but even his methods produce a lot of sweat and waste.

Still, those same attributes make for a heck of a strong frame.  Put some plywood of this frame and it is not going anywhere.
Lucy13654 years ago
Some years back, I tried to make a compost bin out of pallets.  But it was one of those projects that didn't get finished. 
Where I live, pallets are accessable since many carpet plants are in the area.    They can be used for so many different projects, such as chicken coops, vegetable gardens, dog houses, etc.  Why not put them to good use?





www.basicdogtraining.info
I took 3 pallets and nailed them at the top and put long stakes through the top to keep them upright.  After that they really don't move at all.  You can add a 4th wall to keep it all closed in if you like.
patmac4 years ago
I enjoyed reading your instructable not only for the subject matter, which is amazingly creative, but because it is written so well.  Your use of the language is correct as is your spelling and I can't tell you how satisfing it is to read such a well written article.   Thank you.
BobS4 years ago
Great idea! 3 remarks:

If it is built outdoors it should rest on and be connected to 4+ foundation blocks (buckets filled with concrete) with thread sticking out, so it can widthstand storms.

Be careful for splinters!

Building regulations...vs. hiding in sight
darlingtom (author)  BobS4 years ago
All true.  We had many discussions on safety and long term viability (and not being crushed by the first rainstorm).

As we built my students had a hundred ways to improve it, shore it up, and make it something more than a scrappy eyesore ready to fall over.  What I liked about their design--and our project--is that it serves as a base from which people can adapt it to their resources and needs.  This is why we stopped at this point; we hoped those who found use for it would make it their own.

Half of my students wanted to take it home, and each had a different idea of what to do with it (it will become a shed for my wife's motorcycle and some garden tools).
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