How To Disassemble a Pallet, The Easy Way! (And Other Tips & Tricks)

The pallet craze is pretty awesome in my opinion… I mean it’s free & pre-aged wood! My husband and I probably had about  20 of them in our garage over the past few months. I kid not.
I’m not an expert on all things building, but I wanted to share a few tips and pointers that we’ve learned from our many pallet projects.

1. Where to Find Free Pallets.

Almost every store uses them, so drive around & snoop out dumpster areas especially. We got most of ours from a pool supply company. You can find them on the sides of the road too. Sometimes people even put listings up on Craigslist because they have a bunch they need to get rid of.
BUT always ask before taking. Business, after all, use them for work; so don’t just assume they are free for the taking. Most the time they will say yes if you ask nicely. 🙂

2. How to tell if you are using SAFE Pallets.
Most pallets are stamped to show if they have been Heat Treated (HT), or Treated Chemically with Methyl Bromide (MB) 
The board pictured above was treated with heat, which makes it safe to use. Avoid pallets treated with MB.
When in Doubt: if a pallet is unmarked, looks really old, grimy, dark, or oily, then I would suggest staying away from it. Even if it was treated safely, you don’t know what may have spilled on it, or if it was used for something chemical. 
I was so desperate for pallets at first, that we took home a super grimy one from a mechanic’s shop. And then we found some beautiful, clean ones. Needless to say, we got rid of the “questionably black-ish” pallet from the mechanics soon after. Not worth it.
Also, consider WHAT you are using the pallets for. I would suggest staying away from using them for food surfaces. 🙂
Lastly, some pallets are really roughly milled. And to me, that’s what gives them their rustic beauty. But if you are using them for something that will have cloth or skin contact, like a table or dresser, it’s a really good idea to sand them down to avoid splinters.
3. How we “quickly” disassemble our pallets.
While there is no “right” way to disassemble a pallet, we’ve taken apart several for our DIY projects, and have thus come up with a fairly quick method for turning our pallets into boards. 
First, using our skil saw, we (or should I say Silas) cut the outer boards off of the baseboard. This makes your boards a few inches shorter, but in the long run, when you do this on both outer edges of the pallet, you are saving yourself 50 extra nails to yank out with your hammer. It’s worth the lost inches folks! 😛
Next, to get the nails out of the middles of the pallet boards, we reverse hammer the boards, making the nails and top board pop off the base. You can use a piece of wood in-between the board and hammer to avoid extra dents in the wood. 
Once the board is off the pallet base, hammer the back of the nails out. If they don’t pop out automatically, use the back of the hammer to yank out the nail.
It’s quite a workout, and I’m not as good at this as Silas, so doing two pallets is enough to make me really tired and super sweaty. But it is so worth it in the end!
I think pallet companies should start using screws to make my life easier!!! Haha!
4. How to Use:
Right now I am in the middle of 3-4 pallet projects, because I love them that much!
The possibilities are pretty much endless! We’ve used them to re-surface several dressers in our home, frame artwork, build crates, build nightstands, and make pallet artwork.
Here’s a full link list of my personal pallet projects, as shown in the collage above:
My all time favorite pallet project is my DIY Barn Door, which only cost under $20 to make (hardware included)

Just look at that rustic wood goodness!

Coming Soon: I can’t wait to show you my latest Pallet Project, this adorable Letter J Marquee Light!

To stay updated on both my pallet projects, and all the pallet tutorials I think are really awesome, follow my Pinterest board EVERYTHING PALLETS.
Feel free to leave any questions you have in the comments & I will do my best to answer them!
What are you waiting for? Get building! 🙂

thank you for stopping by!

  1. Eva Marie Pearl

    February 18th, 2015 at 11:39 am

    Thanks so much for sharing all your knowledge from years of pallet hoarding! I've been dying to do some projects with pallets lately, and I always love how yours turn out. I guess I'm going to be running around town hunting for them this weekend!

  2. Emilia Capson

    February 18th, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    Thank you for this post! I would really like to start using pallets but didn't know where to start! Thanks!

  3. bonnie rettinger

    July 8th, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    Thank you for the ideas! I would like to rebuild our privacy fence using pallets. I have seen projects for 4' fences but not 6'. Do you have any suggestions?

  4. Andre Beluchi

    October 14th, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    Hannah, what excellent ideas that you came up with disassembling pallets. It seems like I'll have to find some new pallets to create a table. Ever since a friend of mine showed me how he built a table made out of pallets it gave me an idea about doing the same thing.

  5. Unknown

    February 27th, 2016 at 2:50 am

    One method I have seen used to disasemble a wood pallet used a heavy-duty(HAS to be heavy duty or extra thick)tractor or truck tire inner tube that had been cut and then sealed at both endsby folding and using metal straps with bolts. The valve was left intact.

    They just shoved the tube between the top and bottom slats and positioned it close to one of the side 2x4s with the valve poking up between the cross slats. They then proceeeded to full the tube until it had managed to mostly extract the boards(and nails) from the 2×4. this generally only works for either the top or bottom side, but after wards one can pound on the wood next to the 2×4 to complete the job.

    The only down side was that sometimes the boards would not pull the nails out and instead just rip past the nail heads. But – this did leave the nail head exposed for pulling with a small crowbar(which is easier than using a claw hammer.

  6. Unknown

    April 15th, 2016 at 11:42 am

    Tout simplement bravo !

  7. mkrebek

    July 12th, 2016 at 7:52 am

    Even easier to just use a skill saw and cut through the nails with the proper blade…

  8. Anonymous

    July 18th, 2016 at 5:30 pm

    I like to take apart my pallets with a saws-all. I cut the nails into and leave the heads in the wood for the effects.

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