tl;dr This is how to build a pallet wall. You need pallets, 1"x2"s, a table saw, pin nailer, and a reciprocating saw.
This guide is on how to build a pallet wall. Usually used for accent walls, I wanted to bring some warmth to my bedroom and pallet walls have nice woody details, kind of a rustic look. You can find great guides here on Instructables to build pallet walls, like Pallet Headboard With Lights, or Colorful Wood Pallet Wall. The first one is good if you've got the space to build a frame. I also like the second one because it is (technically) noninvasive and removable.
My goals for building this wall were essentially to get some color, break up the white wall sanitarium look, and do as little work as possible. Thought I did pretty well in this regard.
Tools Needed (in order of importance):
Reciprocating Saw with metal blade
Pin Nail Gun(usually air powered, so you need a compressor too)
Tape Measure and Pencil
~30 pallets. seriously.
Lots of pin nails
1x2"s. You need ones that go to the ceiling, so depending on your ceiling, 8' or 10'. One for every stud on your wall.
Step 1: Hot Studs in Your Area!
tl;dr Find and mark studs.
First things first, you need to find the studs in the wall. So clear everything off the wall and get a stud finder out. (Interesting life hack : If the stud finder isn't working, find a corner, then measure 16" and 24" out, and check there. That's the usual distance between studs.) Put some pencil marks on the wall. Try to put two marks a good vertical distance apart. These are to put the nailers on the wall. ALSO, totally optional at this point, but kinda cool: find the vertical center of the wall on both ends, then attach a guide string. This will be AMAZINGLY helpful later on.
Step 2: Nailers!
tl;dr Attach 1"x2"s to studs, making sure to go above baseboard.
Why do I put nailers up? Two main reasons.
1) When I get tired of this setup, which I eventually will, I don't want to have to fill about 1000 nail holes with spackle then paint the entire wall. I'd really rather just paint, oh, 30 or so. Therefore, nailers.
2) I didn't want to remove the baseboard trim. That meant work. SO, in the name of laziness and DIY, I just got nailer strips in 1"x2" from your local hardware store. Because 1"x2" actually means 3/4"x1 1/2", they fit right over my 3/4" baseboard. All I had to do was cut to size.
To install, cut the boards to the right height, running from baseboard to ceiling. Put them right over the studs. This gets you the most support for your buck. Then, just install with a nail gun, a hammer, a screw gun, glue, duct tape, or chewing gum. I used 1 3/4" wood screws. Make sure they're level and properly spaced.
Step 3: The Really Fun Part for Like, 20 Minutes, Then the REALLY Boring Part for Like, 3 1/2 Hours
tl;dr Break up pallets with reciprocating saw.
To build a pallet wall, you would assume you'd need some pallets, right? Yes! Correct!
You need a lot of pallets. A LOT. If you look at the pictures, there's six pallets there. In the end, I probably disassembled 25-30. Grab a reciprocating saw, a metal blade and some impact absorbing gloves and get to work. EDIT: Watch this video by JackmanWorks to see an equally good(if not better) method.
Don't use a crowbar. You'll crack and splinter 85% of the boards. Unless you have a pallet breaker, or you're really good with a crowbar, don't do it.
Use the saw to cut the nails between the boards. If you're good at this, should take you 5 minutes a pallet. I started with the outside nails. If your saw is too big to cut the center nails, get a hammer and try to knock them apart. Or just be careful and try it with the saw anyways. It goes faster.
You only get about 4 linear board feet out of a pallet, more if they've got wider planks, so to make my wall, 8' x 15'ish, I needed a lot. Just do it.
You'll be tired, you'll be hungry, you'll be thirsty, but you'll be done.
Or will you?
Step 4: Aaah. a Break.
tl;dr Organize planks according to width.
In disassembling the pallets, you probably found that planks are not standardized. You have different widths, different lengths and different thicknesses. We don't care so much about thickness, or even length, but width is important. You don't want to be playing Tetris on your wall, trying to make it fit. I'm not saying that it can't be done. I actually had multiple widths on my wall, but I made sure that each row was the same width. If you want to try the varied width approach, go for it. But be careful. It won't work without a lot of planning.
The first step is to organize your planks. Put the 2 1/2" in one pile, the 3 1/2" in another, the 4" in yet another. Essentially, just separate them. If it's 2 3/4", put it in the 2 1/2" pile. Round down. We're gonna rip these suckers anyways.
Step 5: Being Different Is Bad
tl;dr Rip boards to similar widths, ie. a stack of 3" boards, a stack of 4" boards. Be exact.
We gotta make sure that the different piles of widths are exactly the same width. If they're not, its gonna slowly mess up our level, make gaps in the wall, and look skewed and just bad.
To fix this, a table saw is required. Or just pair every board with exact matches in lengths that can span the wall. Technically, it works. Just don't get them mixed up.
Take your table saw, set the fence, and go rip boards until the cows come home. If you're making three or four widths, just reset the fence to the new measurement. That's what I did.
Remember to check for nail heads in the path of the blade. It will go through, but it will sound awful and dull your blade over time.
If you want, you can also sand the boards in this step. I didn't as I wanted the rough sawn look of the boards. I did give them a thorough brushing to get dirt and splinters out though.
Step 6: Even More!
tl;dr Cut to length. However far apart your spacers are x 2 ie (16" x 2 = 32" lengths)
Because our nailers are exactly 16" apart, or whatever, we need to make sure that each board length can span at least two. This is accomplished by cutting lengths at multiples of 16 (16, 32, 48). Just use a saw. Measure and cut. Measure and cut. Measure and cut. Very good, Daniel-san.
We'll need quite a few of each length. I used mostly 32" lengths. 48" lengths are hard to deal with in the next step, but they add a lot of character and visual impact, so it's a tossup.
IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE : Having boards of different lengths is difficult in the next step, but it makes the wall totally random. If you're fine with a pattern, just cut all the boards to 32". It makes it waaaaaaaay easier.
Step 7: Now, for Some Actual Progress
tl;dr Attach to wall with pin nails. Stagger boards.
Lets start this ball rolling. With all the prep work out of the way, we can finally start on the wall. The first row needs to be level. Make sure you use the same width boards and to stagger the seams. The badly drawn photo shop sketch shows why. You COULD cut all the boards to 32" and then stagger them, but where's the fun in that? We do things impulsively and live life on the edge! Who cares if eventually we're gonna have seams match? Eh, whatever.
In all seriousness, if you're going for speed and efficiency, I would cut them all to 32". It looks just as good and makes the layout go much smoother. The way I did it is entirely random, yes, but it took a lot of thought to make the seams stagger most of the time.
In the pictures, you can see that sometimes they matched twice in a row, but I never had three in a row. That looks really bad.
Attach the boards with a pin nail gun. Make sure they're tight and level. You could also use glue to make it more permanent.
Step 8: Finishing Up!
tl;dr Cut last rows to fit, and add extender boxes to outlets.
Just keep going until you hit the ceiling and the floor. You might need to rip a custom row, but that's easy peasy, especially because you had all that practice.
If you have an outlet in the wall(which you probably do), just buy an outlet extender. They cost like 50 cents. Cut the boards around the outlet, then just follow the extenders instructions. Should work just fine.
Get cleaned up, and put some stuff on that wall! Go take a nap! You earned it!
Step 9: Final Thoughts
tl;dr Done. Next.
If I was to do this again, I'd probably change some stuff. First up, the whole different length thing is great, but lots of work. Next time, I'll just use 32" or something like that. I like the color difference in the wood, so in choosing pallets, try to get different colors of wood. You'd be surprised at the amount of hardwood in pallets. Beautiful mahogany, rosewood, ironwood, great stuff. The thickness of the boards makes a huge difference. It adds texture and shadows, which just deepens the whole effect.
Now, for a complete disclaimer. Pallets are notorious for pesticides. Because they travel the world and are obviously made of wood, they are usually sprayed multiple times through their lives. This sticks with it. I'm no health nut or anything, but I probably should have cleaned the boards more thoroughly. And sealed them. Seriously.
All in all, I like the way it looks. Nicely done, me.