How to Disassemble a Pallet Efficiently





Introduction: How to Disassemble a Pallet Efficiently


Below you will find a detailed guide on how to disassemble a pallet, quickly and efficiently, and salvage all of the timber as well as nails!

Step 1: Where to Get Free Pallets?

The number of things you can make with pallets is endless. The question is, however – where can you find free pallets?

In the UK at least, there are several options. You can try your local supermarket or food market (just ask a member of staff to keep it on the side for you), Gumtree or construction sites. I personally was rather lucky with my local storage unit. They keep all the good pallets for me and I occasionally drop them a couple of beers to say thank you. Everybody wins! Storage units are great for this purpose as they quite often serve as a base for companies importing goods from abroad - and these companies use the good quality EPAL (EUR) pallets.

Step 2: Why and What Pallets to Use?

Firstly and most importantly to most of us - it`s free! I personally think like I am doing my wee bit for our planet by recycling and upcycling, rather than buying new timber. Also, it's quite simply good timber for lots of different projects!

If you can, stick to the EPAL or EUR pallets. Firstly these are safe to use (not treated with methyl bromide) and most importantly by regulations, they have to be made out of premium timber - Pine or Poplar. The planks you can salvage are just over 2cm thick, 120cm long and 14.5cm or 10cm wide - perfect for tons of different projects!

Step 3: What Will You Need?


Alternatively, you can use the


Alternatively, you can use the

Demolition Bar


Starting from the outside, place your pallet upsidedown on the floor. Put the wrecking bar underneath the square connectors and force it in using the hammer - say 0.5cm in. Lift it gently, and insert the bar further in, so the end of it is right in the middle of the square block. You want to make sure that the end of the bar is in the middle as otherwise, you will bend the nails making the next step much harder. Once you lifted the outside block move to the middle one and repeat the process.


Now that you removed the bottom part of the pallet its time to get rid of the square blocks.

Place your planks on the floor upsidedown. Using the wrecking bar, lift one side of the block, then move it to the middle and lift off the block completely.

These connecting blocks are actually quite useful. You could use them as fuel for your fireplace but they also make for a good insulation. I placed them in between the walls in my shed. That not only made the shed warmer but also reduced the amount of noise coming out.


Place 5 square block on your workbench in the way shown in picture one. Now put one of the planks on the blocks, making sure it`s supported in at least 3 places. Using pliers, straighten all the nails so they are at 90 degrees to the plank. Take your hammer and tap each nail until it comes out on the other side. Flip your plank upside down and using the wrecking bar pull out all the nails.


Place the top of the pallet on the blocks and repeat the process from step 3. You will find that there are extra short nails connecting the 2 planks together. Using the wrecking bar as a leaver lift off the planks from the base. Start from the outside plank and use the one right next to it as a support for your wrecking bar. Repeat the process for all the planks.

In the end, you should end up with 11 perfectly usable planks and around 70 nails.


Step 8:



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    24 Discussions

    Great instructable. I've always had trouble taking pallets apart. That crow bar looks like a good solution.

    I made myself one of these with scraps that I had laying around. It works good! Almost too good though. Some planks end up broken.

    3 replies

    Can i please have some details on how it works?

    So, I have no vid, but the forks go under the pallet board (that your saving) and the back of the fork rests in the structural part that's sandwiched between the pallet boards. Then you just pry the board up. Kinda like pulling a nail with a cat's paw.

    I just found this you tube video:

    Quick tip on the nails. Take a grinder with cut off wheel and cut them off about quarter inch from the face of the board. Beating them back through is easier, they don't need to be straightened usually, and won't bend again when struck being shorter. Leave enough to get the pry bar under the head after driving them through. Reduces all the hammering. Also, some of the nails are specific to pallets. They have a twist in the body making them like screws. Some are even coated to glue in. If the nail breaks off, use another as a punch to drive it out. The hole is the same size. Be careful, when cutting they get glove melting hot. Simple magnet can find them sometimes. The basics of nail removal and dissassembly help to make a better woodworker.

    1 reply

    If you're not bothered about damaging the blocks, a good firm clout or three with the hammer on the side of said blocks will cause them to rise up off the planks, so that you may insert a pry-bar or wedge to ease removal of the nails. to prevent damage to the planks when levering, slip something thin and made of steel into the gap before inserting the bar. I use an old brickies' trowel to spread the load, but anything about that thickness will do. You may also use the hammer to aid removal of the block by whacking the opposite side of the block from the side you are levering. The block comes off straight up, and the nails don't bend.

    A word of warning... A co-worker and friend of mine was a 'wood-mole' at the factory we worked in. (Wood mole being a scrounger of re-usable timber). He took home some pallets that originated in Brazil, which were made from mahogany or a near-equivalent Brazilian timber. He made a beautiful job of his loft, lining the rafters with this wood, which he sanded and varnished to perfection. Some time later he noticed holes had appeared in the planks, and dreading the worst, he treated the whole loft with woodworm killer, to no avail. When the exterminator was called in, he revealed that the rafters had been eaten to dust by this exotic South American wood-boring beetle, that was immune from normal insect-killing chemicals. The episode cost him dearly, and the mahogany had to be burned, along with parts of his roof timbers.

    I may be wrong, but I had always understood that EPAL pallets operate as a pool ... ie they are supposed to be collected/returned, refurbished and reissued. Whilst I'm sure that many EPAL pallets do go astray, I think they are not intended to be disposable in the same way that many other pallets are. If that's right, it would be better to focus on disassembling other pallets - the recycling and re-use that's partly our objective in using pallet-wood for projects would potentially be better served if these pallets continued in life as pallets

    Or have I got this totally wrong?

    1 reply

    You're dead right, Richard. Busting up returnable pallets is totally non-ecological. Some of them even have a monetary value to the receiver of the pallets, redeemable through a voucher scheme. I used to be in charge of a hardware warehouse, so I know what goes on. However, there are many pallets that are non-returnable and often the wood is new and good quality. So, if saving the world is your prime directive, dismantling 'branded' pallets is not the way to go.

    I've worked in a number of warehouses/depots and we always had a pile of broken pallets, which I'm sure they'd let you pick from if you asked nicely. Also if you can get to talk to the forklift driver, they might accidently run over a couple of pallets for you! I would've done that for a fellow woodworker when I drove an FLT.

    I also volunteered at a recycled wood/wood reclamation yard for a few months and we had claw hammers; nail bars of different lengths, and a couple of things like ClintC15 mentioned for prying them apart. Although some are more determined at hanging on to their nails than others and I even bent a claw hammer, because I was hanging off it trying to get out a particularly tricky one!

    Again, nice to hear from fellow members in the US and Australia bragging about their fancy hardwood pallets, while us poor Brits have to beg, borrow and steal just to get a sniff at some half decent timber. It's just not fair, I tell ya!

    For flimsy easy to break wood, using a nail or pin punch to hammer the nail all the way through the board, should help


    2 months ago

    A tool such as that posted by ClintC15 works great but lazy me likes to use an air chisel with a wide blade to seperate things then I work along with two flat wrecking bars. Very little work by me and very fast.

    Great to see the the emphasis put on removing the nails. Tip: use two hammers instead of pliers for straightening.

    I'm very lucky living on the edge of an industrial area and a lot of clean pallets get put out. After a few years of saving I've invested in a thicknesser so every now and then I will run a hundred or so boards through, so nice to be able to just grab some wood when you need it. A biscuit joiner on sale last year has made more projects possible.

    I am just wondering if you had any further suggestions on the different styles of pallets that are available?

    I have had some right problems with some of the thinner wooden pallets.

    2 more answers


    I`ve experimented with different types of pallets in the past and for me at least, the EURO pallets are the best for DIY projects. They are relatively easy to disassemble and the timber is of decent quality. The planks from thinner pallets tend to be curved or bent hence there is very little use for them. Also, it cracks when taking the pallet apart.

    I have to agree with others about American oak pallets. I've had to use a sawz-all or hack saw (the hack saw was actually easier) and just cut the nails between the boards , trying to minimize cutting into either piece of wood.

    I've got some experience with EPAL and non-EPAL pallets, and I didn't find wrecking-bar method good enough, as I usually bent and/or shattered about half of the wood.

    I tried last week the reciprocating saw, and I found it much better. Google for "pallet reciprocating saw". I found only one thing against it: some nails don't go through the planks, and I couldn't pull out or hit through them when they were cut. Fortunately it is a rare case. Most of the nails go through to the blocks.

    Nice instructable though.

    Aussie hardwood pallets are great for reuse, BUT the timber and twist nails, often a bit rusted as well are a real pain to pull apart, I'd like a pulsed magnet strong enough to rip them out!

    Freegle/freecycle are also good sources of pallets