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How I built a DIY wood shed made from recycled pallets
Last Sunday in New Albany the mercury stayed in the low 20s, so the faucets were set to drip all day and will be dripping all through the night to keep the water pipes in the crawlspace from freezing. We don’t want to have to get down there and unfreeze them again. As Sarah remarked, civilization is just one frozen water pipe away from failing.
Despite the cold, I managed to finish loading wood into the new woodshed I made from recycled pallets. For the woodshed project, just finished the other day in the middle of a soaking rainstorm, I learned how to take pallets apart using a prybar, mallet, and a hacksaw to cut through the nails. I actually had tried recycling and preserving the nails, which are threaded like screws, but I split too many boards, and also learned that the twice-used nails don’t hold as tight as they did the first time. Experiment and learn, that’s the motto of homesteading!
Other than some roofing nails, tin roofing left over from one of Sarah’s chicken coop projects, a few finishing nails, and the paving stones I bought from Home Depot to rest the shed on, I didn’t need to use any materials but the pallets. Best of all, all I had to buy were the paving stones at about $1.65 each. Okay, I also took the opportunity to buy a replacement prybar for one that had cracked, and a mallet. You could use a hammer, but a 4.5 pound mallet really helps. It’s hard to resist buying new tools for the growing collection. But that’s the cost of tool-fever, not the actual cost of the project.
Sarah got me thinking about the idea of using pallets. Practically as soon as we moved to our cottage on 2 acres my partner started pinning into her Pinterest account dozens of DIY ideas from around the Internet. Since I was planning on making a woodshed anyway, had even found plans that I liked, but the materials cost about $200, I thought maybe I’d give this recycled pallet project a try.
The results are not bad considering I had no plans to work from (didn’t use the Internet plans) except the evolving plans in my head which I had to change constantly because some things were just coming out wrong. The hardest part for me was figuring out how to attach the pallets together without investing in more lumber or in carriage bolts. Once I figured out how to remove the bottoms, leaving the tops together, it was easy to construct an approximately 42″x42″x42″ three-sided cube by simply nailing the bottoms together. Then I used the remaining square blocks of wood to reinforce the corners and the middles.
Constructing the slant for the roof was proof of the idea that reality destroys any theory. The angles I so carefully calculated of a standard roof pitch with a 4″ rise per 12″ of run and hand cut into the boards to rest the roof on did not work when fastened. But with the little fudging and re-cutting, it eventually worked well enough for an outside project. Not pretty, not made to fine woodworking tolerances, but serviceable for an amateur.
The clerk in the paint department at Home Depot was nice enough to tint about three quarters of a gallon of white barn paint I had left over from another project into a good outdoor brown. I got some of the shed painted on the outside before the winter weather made finishing that last bit of the project impossible, since I don’t have a workshop and I have to do all my crafting outdoors. So the project isn’t quite done until I can get all the paint on to protect the outside of the shed. Perhaps there will be a reprieve and I can make the project look consistent and nice, hiding most of the flaws. I understand that much of the art of woodworking is hiding flaws, so I’ll feel quite accomplished.
But I have to admit, I’m pretty proud of my recycled pallet DIY wood shed, and as you can see it’s practical. This one lives up the hill behind the house by the fire pit I built out of firebricks and refractory cement, the kind specially made to withstand the outdoor elements. The area where Sarah and I and the kid sit on some evenings with a nice fire, watch the sunset and make s’mores is much prettier and more organized than before, without a giant, decaying pile of wood in the open. And, with plenty of air circulation in the shed thanks to the spacing of the boards, the wood should not only dry out, but also season nicely.
You can find pallets for sale cheap or for free just about anywhere. One way is to check Craigslist. Make sure the pallets you use are marked HT or KD, for heat-treated or kiln dried, and not any other type, as those others are treated with harmful chemicals.
A bonus is that any wood that splits, or any leftover scrap, becomes part of the woodpile for burning, further saving the environment.
My next pallet project will be a similar design to cover the trash receptacle and recycle bins.
If you enjoyed this homesteading article, you also might enjoy How to Replant (Dead) Willows: Lazarus Trees