Upcycling pallet wood and other wood scraps

Jeez, it is so hard to concentrate when my puppy boy feels he didn’t have enough action for today and pretends his long, silly nose is a flute and starts playing it – very soft whistles at first, then it all builds up to a crescendo worth of Beethoven. And then he comes to offer me his kisses, and more kisses, and more puppy love, and more whistles and then it all descends to a pure, unadulterated, unsophisticated barking. And then he steals my flip-flops in hopes I will bribe him with a treat to get them back. I usually do. All that after we just came back from a 2-mile walk. A third for the day. Seriously, people, it seems I live to walk my dogs. In any case, my ultimate remedy of locking him up in his wire cage which is right next to me in my home office worked pretty well, and he went for a nap.

Now I can finally switch to the topic of the day. Which is – upcycling pallet wood. I remember how I came up with the idea of putting up a pallet wood wall. I needed something as a backdrop for a modern, electric fireplace in the living room. At the outset, I wanted to use stone veneer, but it was expensive and required substantial preparations. So, I searched the Internet and came across a few projects where a pallet wood was used to reface a wall. I loved it. it seemed so natural and eco-friendly. Best of all, I already had a couple of wood pallets sitting in my carport and a plenty of other wood scraps.

And here comes the story of how did it. Sorry, it’s going to be long – there were quite a few steps. I will try to be as detailed as possible because I don’t wan’t you guessing if you decide to make one yourself.

First, I had to take apart the pallets. It wasn’t very hard but took some time to pry the boards apart and take all the nails out. I tried to save as much material as possible because the wall was large and I had only two pallets. So, I didn’t use a saw to cut the boards free from the frame but rather used a pry bar and then removed the nails. After a few hours, I had a pile of dirty, somewhat warped, but nail-free boards. Other wood scraps I had in my workshop such as pieces of bamboo plywood happily joined the pile of relatives. It was board cleaning time. I washed the board in soapy water using a good, stiff brush to remove as much dirt as possible.

Ones the boards were dry, it was the time for another preparation step. To make the installation as painless as possible, it is important to have the boards of the same width. So, I ran them through a table saw setting the width slightly smaller than the narrowest plank. Well, I actually ended up with planks of three different widths because, again, I didn’t want to waste a lot of material. I made sure, however, that there were enough boards of each width to finish several rows. If you do the same thing, please make sure there are absolutely no nails on the path of the saw! Check for nails again on both sides of the board and remove them, if any. They could be cut flush with the wood and not easily visible!

Now, with the boards ready, I needed to prepare the wall. In some pallet wall instructions I read that the planks are just nailed to the wall. I didn’t really like the idea. One reason was that, with the wood tending to warp, boards will easily get loose if they are nailed to a drywall. The thought of a piece of wood studded with brad nails falling from the height of 12 feet on a human or a dog passing by just did not appeal to me at all. The second reason was that I didn’t want to completely ruin the wall or a large part of it because putting up drywall is a pain! And that what I would have to do if I ever took the pallet wall down. So, here was my plan:

  • I had large pieces of wood siding left over from another project. First thing I did was to paint one side of it dark brown, just like I did with the closet doors when I was refacing them with wooden blinds (http://modernupcycling.com/upcycling-doors-doors-doors/).
  • Then I started prepping the wall – finding the center, measuring and marking where I wanted the wood wall to end. I didn’t plan to cover the entire wall, just a portion in the middle. I made the marks at the bottom of the wall and then used a level and a straight edge to draw vertical lines marking the ends of the wood-wall all the way up to the ceiling.
  • With that done, I then had to find the studs between the marks. The plan was to  fasten the wood siding pieces to the studs and then nail the planks to the wood siding.

With the wood siding securely screwed to the studs, the hard part was done, and the fun finally began!

Pallet wood wall

I started nailing the boards from the bottom making sure the bottom row is level to the floor. You can see on the picture that the wall starts about a foot and a half from the floor – that was just because I wanted to put a bench along the entire wall so I needed the pallet wall to start above it. If you plan to do your pallet wall floor to ceiling, you would want to start at the floor level. To finish each row, I cut the last plank to required length before nailing it in place. I know it is done differently when, lets say, you do decking – nail all the boards first, then use a saw to cut a straight end on each side of the deck. I , myself recommended this for refacing doors. In this case, however, it would be difficult since you have to work with a vertical surface. You could also cut into the drywall which would not be pretty.

What I really recommend for fastening the pallet planks to the plywood (in my case, wood siding) is a good brad nailer. This will make your life so much easier. Remember, many planks are still warped and you need to put a lot of brad nails into them to fasten them securely. I happened to have a Ryobi AirStrike cordless brad nailer. I just love the son of a gun! It was bought for a different project but has so many uses around the house – I can’t imagine life without it. It’s kind of expensive so it is up to you to decide if you want to spend this kind of money especially if you don’t plan to use it again. Here is the link if you want to see how it looks (https://www.ryobitools.com/power-tools/products/details/552)

After you are finish the wall, I would suggest to seal it with polyurethane. This will lend it deeper wood tones and seal in remaining dirt and stuff.

Good luck! If you have any questions, please feel free to ask!

Upcycled pallet wood wall

Upcycled pallet wood wall