The Wonderful World of Pallets: Building a Pallet Studio – Getting Started

By Bonnie Grant | August 9, 2015
Image by Bonnie L. Grant
by Bonnie Grant
August 9, 2015

Wooden pallets are an incredible and versatile raw material.  When combined with a little ingenuity and perseverance, they can be used to create some amazing things.  Just ask Bonnie L. Grant, who recently built a studio – all from recycled wooden pallets!  In part one of a five part Sunday series entitled “The Wonderful World of Pallets – Building a Pallet Studio’ Bonnie covers the overall project and material necessary to get started.

The long gray days and cold temperatures of winter send the mind plotting and dreaming about spring and summer projects. Sometimes, the antics the old brain gets up to are simply pipe dreams, but other times these thoughts can flourish into something bountiful. This is how my pallet studio got started.

It has been a long process of acquisition, designing and corralling friends for the larger portions of the building, but I finally have my own space made from mostly used or repurposed items. The project all started when I got obsessed with tiny houses – and from there pallet projects. Once I saw a few pallet sheds, I was hooked.

Having no previous experience building anything, I scoffed at all our friend’s cautions regarding the project. In fact, they were downright negative about the whole thing. There was some validity to their concern, as we shall see, but in the end, the whole mess came together beautifully.

Getting Started

The first steps to starting a pallet building project are site preparation and materials (which took me 6-8 months to amass). Some of the best places to look for the pallets are at granite and tile outlets, construction supply stores, industrial business parks, marinas, and businesses which supply heavy items.

Pallets are shipping bases that are often reused, but once they have a broken slat or have outlived their usefulness, they are usually discarded. Be vigilant once you find a location that tends to throw them away. Check frequently and early to get the best selection.

The heavy duty, hard wood pallets are the best but can be difficult to work with, so pick up some of the medium weight pallets as well. As you are hunting for pallets, keep your eyes open for any other useful materials. In my case, we found cement pavers for the foundation, heavy duty marine plastic for the moisture/weed barrier, wood of various sizes, posts, and many other free and useful items.

Here is a list of the original found materials that started the project:

  • 14 standard size heavy duty pallets
  • 2 (10 x 4) pallets
  • 1 roll black heavy duty plastic
  • 40 cement pavers
  • 1 (6 x 8) foot packing crate
  • Assorted 2 x 4, 2 x 8’s
  • 20 roofing tiles
  • Numerous widths of plywood
  • Paint, primer and other painting supplies
  • Caulk

In addition to found materials, we relied upon donated items from friends. These included some of the fixtures, the use of pneumatic tools (these will prove a life saver if you can find someone who has a compressor) and other specialty items, as well as time spent going over the plans and refining them with input from some of our experts.

Additionally, a project like this should be considered a barn-raising unless you are strong enough to lift the walls yourself and do all the other tasks necessary. Our pallet studio became a community project with plenty of assistance and guidance from those much smarter than us.

We also had to resort to purchased materials in some instances. This is because some of the wood we found was not true and some of it was not sturdy enough for the roof and other steps of the studio. If you have or find any of these items that are straight and clean, by all means use them.

Additional purchased items:

  • 8 foot (2 x 6) boards
  • 8 foot (2 x 4) boards
  • Screws, roofing nails, and other fixtures including a seismic roofing anchor and joist anchor
  • Insulation (this is optional)
  • 2 x 4 – 96-inch studs
  • Roofing felt
  • 3/8 inch plywood (for siding)
  • Shims
  • Flashing
  • More roofing tiles
  • Additional painting supplies

Depending on the size of your project and the number of found items that will fit the construction, you may need more or less purchased materials. Be advised that straight, true wood will be better than warped, found wood and the building will be sturdier. A skilled carpenter can make do with many of the found items, but we found it necessary as novices to purchase clean, true wood for some of the portions of the studio.

Part 2: Location Prep and Flooring
Part 3: Putting Up Walls
Part 4: Adding Your Roof
Part 5: Final Touches

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