Do-It-Yourself

DIY: How to Build a Pallet Wall

Pallet walls have been trending big time in the Project Nursery Gallery, which had me dreaming of endless design possibilities the moment my eye caught this eclectic wood-paneled inspired nursery.

So when it came time to create a big boy room for my little man Chase, I showed my husband Josh a few samples of pallet walls created by adventurous parents. Part of me thought there was no way Josh was going to agree to this. To my surprise, he took it as a challenge and jumped at the chance to make his own pallet wall. After two weekends of some serious elbow grease, we made it happen.

How to Make a Pallet Wall

It starts with the hunt for pallets. I’ve gotta admit that it was kind of a thrill driving around town and throwing abandoned pallets from the back of stores into the car. Some places charged five bucks per pallet while others said, please take them away!

Building a pallet wall

The beauty of this cabin-inspired look is that the more distressed and wrecked the boards, the better. My father was in town one weekend and helped with sanding down each board after Josh used a crowbar to disassemble each pallet slat and remove its many nails. I am not going to kid you—this part was crazy time consuming. We filled an 11 x 8 foot wall and required approximately seventeen (17) pallets to make it happen. You must remember to account for waste because some slats will inevitably get damaged in the process.

Once the slats are stripped and sanded, it’s time to prep the wall for installation. Adhere thin pieces of plywood to the wall by attaching them with wood screws directly into the studs.

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Place the first pallet slat at the top, in the center of the wall. Using a drill, screw each end of the slats to the wall with two to three screws. Repeat, working from the center out, staggering each piece of wood.

Due to the unevenness of the pallet wood, not all pieces will perfectly match one another. To avoid seeing random gaps in trouble areas, simply stain the plywood behind the seams before securing a wood slat over it to disguise the gaps. The results are seamless, promise.

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I think it’s important to note that we did not lay out the boards and plan in advance. I’ve seen other DIYers lay the boards out perfectly and number each one prior to assembly. Quite frankly, we didn’t have the patience for something like that.

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And in the end, my pallet wall dream became a reality in the form of an industrial-chic growing boy’s room.

Boys Pallet Wall Room

Check out our roundup to see how wood accent walls look in a variety styles.

66 Comments

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    Cute…but not very safe. Used pallets are dangerous to use. Those that have been heat treated are generally used for food. They may contain food based diseases. I worked in a grocery store and saw everything from meat juice to rotten produce leaked on the pallets. Then there are pallets that are treated with chemicals. I know a woman who got arsenic poisoning from using these. Cutting and sanding bring all the bad that might be in used pallets into the air. I love the idea of reusing pallets but would never do it…especially in a child’s room. Not safe!

  3. 4

    sorry to burst your bubble….
    pallet wood is NOT free….it belongs to various companies that pay to have it made, use it to move their products….and someone steals it and
    then makes a profit by selling it as their own. The result is that ALL consumers pay more for products because of the thief.

  4. 5

    If you go on craigslist there are lots of people giving palettes away– they actually want people to come haul them away. Look under ‘free stuff’!

  5. 7

    I would highly recommend pressure washing the pallet boards before installing them. Yes, chemical residue may be on them. I would think that a person would be smart enough to check what material was being stored on them before just throwing them on a wall. Use common sense people. Pallet ideas are great, and very cost friendly and universal. You just need to be aware….. Happy building!!!

  6. 8

    And as far as stealing pallets, no one really does that. I have maybe 200 pallets lying around from shipping seed and grain. If someone wants any, I just charge what the seed company charges me for them. Its definitely not free, but I would rather someone put them to good use than burn them because the company wouldn’t buy them back…. Repurposing them is awesome.

  7. 10

    Hi! I LOVE your wall! I am currently in the process of putting up my own pallet wall. I just finished the sheet rock and realized that I did not bring out my outlets far enough so that they would be flush with the finished wall. I noticed you have an outlet on your wall. Did you have to use some sort of spacers to nudge it out a bit? Thanks, and love your wall again!

  8. 11

    Hi Andrea,

    Truthfully, we got lucky and didn’t have to use a spacer to bring out the outlet. Outlet extenders found at your local hardware store are however really inexpensive and easy to use. Good luck with the wall and I hope you show us how it turns out!

    Best,
    Melisa

  9. 12

    Hi!! I love the wall! I am currently planning on doing this for one of the walls in our half bathroom. Did you stain the wood at all? What color would you recommend for the other walls for a 3.5 ft x 8 ft bathroom with no window. I was able to score 7 pallets today from Craigslist and can’t wait to get started! : ) Thanks!

  10. 13

    Hi Tara, We did not stain the pallets at all. One they were sanded down with an electric sander, the color was perfectly natural and rustic. For a small bathroom with no windows I would keep your paint color light and use a pale gray or beige.

    We have two great colors in our shop that could work nicely –
    Canyon Tan – http://shop.projectnursery.com/collections/baby-safe-paint/products/canyon-tan-wall-paint
    Touch of Gray – http://shop.projectnursery.com/collections/baby-safe-paint/products/canyon-tan-wall-paint

    Best of luck!
    Melisa

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    Lot of silly comments. There are a lot of FREE pallets because a lot of the time the damaged or very old ones are not worth sending back. Sometimes they wont even take them. Your best bet is to go to a pallet yard. They have mountains of old pallets that are junk. They will probably let you take them. I went to concrete companies and other places that have old broke pallets. I just picked up 19 of them in 30 mins. All legitimate. No stealing.

    As for health concerns. Get construction used pallets. Not ones used for food. Plus the construction ones will have a more rustic used and worn look to them. Buy a filter mask. $30 or so. Small price to pay for a fantastic product in the end. Sand outside. When you are done seal the wood with a clear matte finish. This will be safer and contains any potential “diseases” inside. Yes, if you build this wall you will turn into a zombie. Dun dun dun

  13. 18

    You mentioned using a pry bar to take the pallets apart and that it damaged several of the boards. An easier way to separate the boards would have been to use a saws-all (otherwise known as a reciprocating saw) to cut the boards away from the 2x4s. Saves a lot of time, headaches, frustration, and wasted wood. If you’re worried about the nail heads that are left in the boards, use a small punch to knock them out.

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    The comments here are crazy….but other then that the wall looks amazing! We did this as the focal point in our living room and using them to reface kitchen cabinets. Now some palettes are unsafe those that are unmarked use with caution and those with MB do not ever use! If they are marked HT they are completely safe to use but you must be cautious about where you are getting them from….washing palettes should always be done regargless.

  16. 22

    Do you need to aply the ply wood behind them or can you just nail them to the sheetrock?

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    How did you account for extending out the wall socket. I’m assuming the plywood plus the pallet added another 2.5 inches extension, so how did you compensate for getting the socket cover back on ?

  21. 33

    Love this idea! Some companies have broken skids they have to pay to have hauled off and will give them away for free so this would be inexpensive and cute. Also u can find ways to clean the wood before use. Always safety first tho! Use safety glasses and face masks when sanding, and treat wood with a nontoxic stain/sealant before putting in a kids room. Im sure you guys did this and didn’t put every little step into the article, but just in case some ppl don’t know.

  22. 36

    Melisa,
    I read that you did not stain them but did you wash the pallets prior to sanding or applying them to the wall? Just curious. We have a huge stack of pallets that we are planning to breakdown and use for a wall in my living room, but I am concerned about any residual chemicals that might be lingering still. Any tips?

    Thanks
    Amy

  23. 38

    How did you cover the old nail head holes or did you just put screw back in the same holes to attach to wall. Wood filler etc?

  24. 39

    Surprisingly Dave, we felt that the holes ultimately added character and left them open. However many actually went into the open spots since they were located at the ends.

  25. 40

    Thanks for the response Melisa . Both my wife and had said the same thing leaving them open will add character but not having the wall up yet it’s hard to picture what it will actually look like plus the dark stain we invision will certainly add to the aged look . The wall looks great!

  26. 42

    Do you happen to know how “thin” the plywood backing for your wall was? We are in the beginning stages of a similar project and were planning on white-washing the wood. After seeing the natural color, I’m torn…. Thanks A LOT!
    Great job!

  27. 43

    I’m curious as to what you used for screws, since I cannot spot them in any picture, in assuming that they blend in rather well. What size and perhaps color? Also, I have to second the question left by Darren, how thick was the plywood which you used?

  28. 44

    Hey Morgan and Darren, Happy to answer your questions –

    We used black 2 ½ inch, flat phillips head screws that went into the very thin plywood. The plywood was attached to the studs so everything was solid. We also put the screws in the old nail holes that were part of the original construction of the pallet. Also to note, we stained the plywood along each of the seams so that if there was variation in the slat you didn’t see the natural color of the plywood backing.

    Good luck with your own Pallet project! – Melisa

  29. 45

    One other thing: pallet wood can be a carrier of wood-bourne insects and their larvae. Really not something you want to bring into your house. This wood should be heat-treated before use.

  30. 46

    Your project is the ONLY one I could find where you put this up with existing crown molding. How did the boards fit under crown molding?? I want to use 1inch thick boards but that would make them stick out slightly from molding. Yours look perfectly flush to molding.

  31. 47

    Hi Tracie, It was pure luck and they aren’t all totally flush. The variability is what makes it look authentic to me. We did have to cut some of the boards lengthwise to make the puzzle actually meet the baseboard. We also had varied widths of the boards so you can start to plan when you get close to the bottom (and they should start at the top especially if something is in front of it like chase’s bed b/c it covers some of the bottom where it might get a little dicey – it didn’t for us but I suppose it could) by playing with the different sizes to see what would end up fitting. Overall, it looks great in person!

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    So many naysayers. I think it’s a great project and want to do it in my home. Yes, you need to be careful with pallet. Wear gloves when handling them. Before starting your project, use an inexpensive pump sprayer to spray them down with diluted bleach and then hose them off with a the jet spray or a pressure washer if you have one. After they dry, disassemble, create your project and then seal them with some polyurethane. Do your sanding and cutting outdoors, and wear a mask. Essentially, you need to handle them much the same way you would any other treated lumber, especially old lumber that was treated when they used arsenic. New wood is not treated with arsenic.

  34. 52

    We are planning to do this in our nursery as well! I love the look of yours very rustic! Did you stain the wood after sanding it before placing it on the wall? Is the ply wood simply to hide the gaps in spaced areas?
    Thanks!

  35. 53

    Hi Angela, We did not stain the wood but instead power washed and sanded each piece. We used the plywood to hide the gaps and we also stained the plywood inside those gap spaces so it didn’t look entirely white. Excited to see the end results!

  36. 55

    You can easily create a wall like this with Stikwood, which are different colors of wood that you literally stick on the wall. They are super cool. You can gt them at Stikwood.com or West Elm has some of them. We talked to them about creating a wall and since we live in a loft they recommended that we get plywood put it on the wall with the stikwood on top, so when we move into a house we could take it with us.

  37. 59

    Hey. I am hoping you may still reply to this. I have sanded and have all my pallets ready. I was getting ready to hang when someone asked if I sealed them. I was not going to. Did you if so what did you use. Did it change the wood. The more real and rustic the better for us.

  38. 60

    Hi Mandy, I actually choose not to seal the wood. I too went for a more rustic look and felt that the wood looked great after a really good sanding. Good luck with your project and hope you’ll share the results with us!

  39. 62

    As far as I can tell Stikwood is extremely expensive. To do a wall like this it would be around $1000.00. I don’t know that seems very expensive to me. I am worried about how permanent a wall like this would be. As fast as things come in and out of style. This will be tacky in a few years. Is that why you put the plywood underneath?

  40. 63

    Hi Jyneal, The plywood was used to help secure the screws into the dry wall. Removing the pallet wall will indeed be tricky and we will need to fix the wall when we are ready for a change. But our labor of love for this design is worth it.

  41. 64

    I would like to do this in my rental, but wonder if the damage to the wall would be extensive, or if it would only need to be repaired where the plywood was secured to wall? Also, what color did you use to stain in between the seams? It looks black, but I’d like to know for sure. Thank you.

  42. 65

    Hi Bonnie, the stain was a dark brown, just what we had handy. I have to say I would not recommend this type of wall for a rental. It will definitely do damage to the wall so you would have to be comfortable with repairs when you are ready to move out. Best of luck!

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