Introduction: Upcycled Nature Board Walk
Backstory on how this project developed:
We live near a lovely pond in the middle of a residential area in Milton MA. The pond has a nice walking trail that unfortunately is a bit neglected. I started by putting down a board bridge to cross the little ditch and then was inspired to address the larger issue of long stretches of mud along the side of the pond.
I had the idea of using scrap 2x4s at first to build walkways, but then discovered a ready source for wood from recycled pallets I got from my lumberyard and flooring vendor. I ended up building my own 2 by 4 frames and then re-configuring the pallet wood on the new frames. You could also use the frames of the pallet for this project, but that lumber is hard to work with. If you go with pallet wood for your boardwalk, I would suggest getting a hold of a Deck Wrecker tool which really speeds up the job of breaking up the old pallets.
I should also note that I used ordinary framing lumber to save money, but if you do this for your own property you should definitely go with treated framing lumber.
Drill with pilot bit
2 1/2 inch screws
2 inch screws
work table with jig.
Step 1: Breaking Up the Pallets
I would definitely suggest getting a Deck Wrecker for breaking up the pallets. Much less effort than using a prybar, but that will also work. After "harvesting" the boards, drive the nails out with a hammer. Tedious work, but you can get a rhythm going and soon you will have a pile of free lumber.
Step 2: Assembling the Frames
I cut my frames to 48 inches long and 22 inches wide to allow a little overhang for the boards at 24 inches. I made a jig first from 2x2 screwed onto plywood to keep my frame square. Then I made another jig of two 2x4s formed into a T. This allowed me the spacing I wanted to give a 1 inch overhang to the pallets, making them more "decky" and less "pallety"....I just made up those words, but I wanted to keep the rough rustic look of the pallets while avoiding the look of simply dropping real pallets in the middle of the woods, which would look horrible.
I set up a jig on my chop saw to automate the process a little. As I said, you probably should go with treated lumber, but this project is on the cheap, so I am taking my chances with framing lumber. I used 2 1/2 inch screws to assemble them
Step 3: Attaching the Boards
I cut my boards to 24 inches long. In retrospect, a wider board is probably the way to go, but I just wanted to keep the feel of it being a nature walk rather than something that would allow all manner of strollers, wheelchairs etc.
Step 4: Getting the Pallets to the Trail
I have an electric cargo bike and a trailer that I made from an old toddler trailer. It really is not big enough for the weight of the pallets, so I hope to have another instructable soon on a much bigger trailer that can handle this kind of load. But in the meantime....
Step 5: Making the Boardwalk
This is the fun part. I lay down my prefab pallets and adjust them to the terrain. I used little scraps of wood to attach them so the edges line up, and occasionally drove some stakes into the ground to stabilize the board walk. The advantage of using deck screws is that you can take up the edge boards and turn them slightly to accomodate a curving direction.
Step 6: Reaction From the Community
I have been a contractor for almost 20 years and never got the compliments for my professional work that I have in the few months since I put down this boardwalk. From a code perspective, from a durability perspective, this is pretty rough workmanship, which makes all the positive feedback that much more ironic. But I can honestly say that I'm okay with it. This task is simple: give people something to walk on that keeps them out of the mud. Since I started the project, the COVID 19 disaster grew and people have been forced to stay home. But as they are not going shopping, not going to sports events nor restaurants, there is been an increase of families just getting out of the house and into nature. My boardwalk makes the little walk around the pond a little easier.