Instructables

Pallet Playhouse

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Picture of Pallet Playhouse

Want a fun project that won't cost much?  Got kids and a decent amount of time on your hands?

Try using shipping pallets and reclaimed wood to build your kids a funky playhouse.  Or use it as a shed.

Not only was this project fun, I also traveled a lot and met a great many very nice people who were giving perfectly good materials for little or no money.

I spent $200 dollars on this project in 2008-2009.  Over a hundred dollars went to paint, the rest to any building materials I couldn't get for free.

Take a look at the pictures.  Spend a lot of time on your ideas and then start collecting those pallets!
 
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Step 1: Break down the pallets

Picture of Break down the pallets

I got about 80 pallets, five at a time, from my work.
 
I got a chance to know the facilities people and they were very happy to let me take them.  It saved them a trip to the dumpster and saved them from having to pay to have the dumpster emptied.

That's right.  Almost all of these pallets go directly to a landfill.  The rest are picked up by pallet salvage guys (they get $1 or so a pallet) and people like me.  Many people burn pallets for heat.

I got a great deal of exercise carting the pallets out to my Jeep.  I could fit about eight at a time, but I rarely found more than five good ones on any given trip. 

A few words about pallets:

There are all sorts of them.  Some are oak, some are pine or spruce.  Some of them are even mahogany or cherry or cedar.

Stay away from the hardwood pallets.  They"re almost impossible to deal with in large numbers.  They are just too darn tough.  Unless you're doing something small or you want them for fire wood (They are awesome for that), stick with the pine or other softwood pallets.

About one in ten of the ones I found were high enough quality. Most were garbage. I tried to find ones that were brand-new, roughly 48" x 34", and were constructed of  (3) notched 2'x4's connected by 3/4" inch nominal boards (commonly called "one by" lumber.)  All of them were heat treated (marked "HT") and held together by nearly indestructible spiral nails.

Many people assume that pallets are pressure-treated.  In my experience, very few, if any, have had any sort of treatment besides kiln-drying.  I'm told that years ago they were also treated with pesticides, but this is no longer the case.

tjmel2 months ago

very nice and inexpensive project

dfayejuengel4 months ago
I love this! How much did this cost in total for you, if I may ask? I would love to do this for my kids.
wflynn16 months ago
Nice playhouse and love the colours. I built a playhouse for my boys back in April 2012 and 95% of it is made from pallets. You're welcome to check it out here: https://www.facebook.com/waynepatrickflynn/media_set?set=a.201304566649590.43086.100003101445543&type=3
pringlepups10 months ago
Many years ago a friend of mine worked at a garage door company. This is when everyone was changing their garage doors to roll up doors he made an entire barn out of garage doors and a fence surrounding his 5 acre property out of pallets. How is that for re-purposing!
knektek4 years ago
you could make the house eco friendlier by putting solar panels on it. KOOL
Tenz knektek4 years ago
most kids are spoiled enough now and days (im not talking about the person who wrote the instructable. just in general) what child needs electricity going to there club house. the last thing we need are eco friendly bums lol
sarakenobi Tenz2 years ago
what if you wanted to copy it for yourself?! i certainly want power in my playhouse!
knektek Tenz4 years ago
that would be a great idea! LOL!
hspeer3 years ago
Busting up pallets is time consuming, but I keep it to a minimum for my project. I build decks in my wooded side yard by attaching 2x lumber as hangers and just lay out full pallets. I can design the layout since the pallets are all the same size (I sometimes get 4x8 pallets) and just use pallet lumber to fill the spacing of the pallets. I use broken concrete for support on longer spans, or pound 2x lumber into the ground as support. Elevated trails through the trees works well with pallets also. To turn corners I just fill in the corners with pallet lumber (1 pallet corner meets another pallet corner at a turn). These trails work well as bicycle trails, especially since they don't have to be flat.
nickhelton3 years ago
I like what you have done here. I plan on building a shed using your ideas. Out of curiosity, what are the dimensions of your playhouse and how many pallets did you end up using?
jkratman (author)  nickhelton3 years ago
Hey, thanks. The playhouse is 8x8, not counting the front deck (overall is 8 x10 or so).

I'd guess at least 80 pallets, plus a lot of salvaged lumber,
Best of luck with your project. Drop me a line if I can help.

--John
Wow, 1 was close when thinking 100 would work. I would like to do an 8 x 10 and my local WalMart said I could have their black Friday pallets which are pretty much new looking. I may have to take them up on that. Thanks!
paulke993 years ago
Quality work bro. The framing and construction you detail here has given me some good ideas on my upcoming doghouse project. Time I sought some pallets.
MEANDMYDOG3 years ago
fabulous! what more can i say
adsandy4 years ago
And this has what to do with the holidays? 
HOLIDAYS????  Why would it have to have anything to do with the holidays?  It was NOT in a holiday category when I discovered it!   Where did your comment come from, anyway?
I believe it was a winner in the homemade holidays contest. Please research before posting comments.
Lighten up. who cares where the instructable ended up anyway-things sometimes get mixed up. The point is that the author shared his fabulous project with us
seamsbysami3 years ago
nice work if i had the time i would try ur idea.great job.:]
trailleadr4 years ago
Very nice build.  I love the chair at the end.
jkratman (author)  trailleadr4 years ago
Thanks!  I just published my second instructable on how to build a chair just like that from pallet wood.

Check it out here: 

http://www.instructables.com/id/Pallet-Adirondack-Chair/

  The house is nicel but the chair is neat.


  As a Pallet user most pallets are from Asia be careful,
onChina Products Contain Toxic Chemicals (News/Latest) ... white lauan, almon,
bagtikan, and mayapis of the Philippine mahogany group, apitong and the yakae asian tree called apitong is mahogony density

Apitong has a nice look and  building a computer desk  but be carefull
with the dust protect yourself .

 Long Live Palleteer's !!!

Nifty!   I really dig the chair.

If you're looking for longer framing stock, you could try a window manufacturer, as they get glass on big long pallets.  Motor sports places usually have long crates from things like snowmobiles and ATVs.  The woodshed at my house is made from (I believe) ski-doo crates.  It came with the house and is kinda ugly, so I won't  show anyone a picture of it.

You could try a household hazardous waste depot, for free paint.  At the one in my municipality, one often sees almost unused cans of paint, often dropped off by rich people that are overly picky about colour choices...
jkratman (author)  incorrigible packrat4 years ago
Thanks for the kind words and suggestions!
wingbatwu4 years ago
I would be careful around pallets that might have been used to carry loads of food/beverages.

I know a guy who worked in a grocery warehouse who pricked a finger on a pallet shard, and the bacterial infection cost him that finger (and the doctors even considered amputating his arm at the elbow).
That's nasty!
jkratman (author)  wingbatwu4 years ago
Thanks for the head's up.  No, the one's I used were from paper shipments.
pfred24 years ago
"Free" pallets are hardly free by the time you get done breaking them apart. The right time of the year OSB can be picked up for around $5.50 a sheet at big box stores. Even at its highest price it is difficult to compete with OSB. Though if you need to show grain pallet wood can be surprisingly beautiful.

Here's one box I made out of salvaged pallet wood. I picked this one because you can see some good nail damage on it:
SB1-001.jpg
As with MOST of the Instructables here...This shows how something Great can be made from something that most people would just throw away. I think this was a Great project and a wonderful way to recycle!
I'm curious, do you have anything to base your opinions on other than thoughts?

Because I feel I've demonstrated my personal experience regarding pallet salvage in this thread to some extent.
I base MY opinion on the facts that I've learned after working in a pallet recycling plant for a little over 4 years, here in Canada, and seeing some of the most wonderful things that have been made from recycled wood products. Everything, from the deck boards to the stringers and blocks, can be used in one way or another for something OTHER than for firewood. It's great to be able to do your part for the enviroment and make something that'll be used all at the same time.

You'll forgive me if I didn't readd ALL the comments that have been posted on this project(waiting for my 50 lashes with a wet noodle) yet I thought to post what I had, and will continue to, as a show of respect for hard work.
So what do you do at the recycling plant, break apart pallets and sell the wood? The only commercial pallet recycling I have ever seen has been to make more pallets. You commercial pallet guys have some nice equipment for pallet busting. Though I've seen lots of pallets get chipped for mulch too.

BTW recycled (clipped nail) pallets are worthless to me. I cannot machine them.

I'm still not seeing this whole recycling angle. No one recycles trees that fall in forests do they? Sometimes I'll use a fallen tree from my woods, but for the most part I just let them all rot.

Hard work may be its own reward but call me crazy I like to get a little more out of it sometimes.
jkratman (author)  your_dragon1134 years ago
Thanks!
jkratman (author)  your_dragon1134 years ago
Thanks!
OSB is a good strong building sheet...but...get it wet and it's toast. It still needs to be protected from splitting apart. OSB, as well ad MDF, is great and easy to work with but needs a lot more work to finish and they still won't look nearly as good as solid lumber.
jkratman (author)  pfred24 years ago
Nice job on that box.  Great finger joints.

Yeah, there's no such thing as a free lunch.  Any money you save salvaging wood you pay for in time and bruised knuckles.  But I still like it.
pfred2 jkratman4 years ago
People always seem impressed with box joints. Once you've made the jig there's not much to doing them really. Just back and forth, back and forth. I make all of my box joint jigs out of pallet wood too.

I really wanted to post a picture of a shed wall I made out of pallet boards but I couldn't find it.  2 days cutting and nailing the stuff up to save $6 hardly seemed worth it to me by the end! I used wood that I couldn't use on other projects, I figured you know, just use up the junk. I should have just burned it.

Hindsight is 20/20.

I've busted up a lot of pallets. I just don't want anyone reading this Instructable to think pallet wood is free is all. It may be free to pick up, but that is just the beginning of trying to use the stuff.

Anyhow if anyone really feels the need to use pallets I suggest you only pick up one or two to start out with. On a good day going to town I may rip apart 5 myself.  Hopefully after working on two most will come to their senses!
neffk pfred24 years ago
Thrifty projects usually replace money with time.  Includes clipping coupons, shopping around instead of just buying, re-using materials, making something from the raw materials, etc.  It's usually educational, and most people can just watch TV less, so it actually IS cheaper.  The standard argument against this is that you should spend your time earning money and buy what you want, but many people can't get any more hours and don't have the savvy to start their own business.  Point is, standard economic arguments often aren't applicable.
pfred2 neffk4 years ago
I did some area calculations here which lead to some operations numbers and determined that pallet wood vs. sheet goods is viable if you value your time at less than 50 cents an hour.

This isn't one of those places where standard economic arguments aren't applicable. This is a simple T&M job.

Savvy?
neffk pfred24 years ago
I guess it depends on how much you value your TV time.  Or how much you value the time spent replying to comments on the interweb. 

I don't think we should get hung up on economics; he's not trying to sell this project.

Anyway, it was educational and it sounds like he enjoyed the process.  That's good enough for me.
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