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How-Tuesday: Upcycled Pallet Shelf

Apr 16, 2013

by Mary Andrews handmade and vintage goods

For this week’s How-Tuesday post,  Mary Andrews and Tim Vidra from 17 Apart teach us how to transform a discarded shipping pallet into a beautiful storage system suitable for indoor or outdoor use. Roll up your sleeves and kick off a season of spring cleaning and gardening with this perfectly repurposed project!

Springtime always gets us excited to return to the garden, get organized, and integrate fresh, seasonal updates around our home. We recently recycled a shipping pallet we’ve had in storage into a versatile indoor/outdoor storage system, and we can’t wait to share how easy it to make one of your own.

You Will Need:
A shipping pallet
Spray primer
Indoor/outdoor spray paint
Sandpaper or grinder
Wood filler and finishing nails (optional)
Hanging hardware
Face mask & protective gloves

1. Source a pallet. Wooden shipping pallets seem to be everywhere these days. (Many businesses will actually pay people to come get them and haul them away.) If you see a company that has pallets, they may just allow you to take as many as you can carry.

A word on pallet wood and safety: Be picky when selecting pallets. Some pallets left outside may carry harmful chemicals, bacteria or are made with pressure-treated wood. Recent regulations require some pallet manufacturers to treat the wood before shipments — either with chemicals or heat treatment. The safer of the two is heat treatment, so look for a stamp on the wood with the letters HT. It’s always a good practice to use protective gear when working with your pallet to avoid wood splintering, nails, or breathing in any harmful chemicals.

2. Prepare your pallet. All pallets are shaped differently and many come missing a few boards here and there. First decide the best configuration for your wall shelves, then begin by removing the select boards on one side of the pallet to expose the horizontal boards on the inside (these will end up being your shelves). Leave at least one board on the face of either end to create the look and feel of a framed shadow box.

Once the desired boards have been removed, continue prepping your pallet by removing or hammering down any exposed nails. If you come across any boards with large cracks or jagged edges, hammer a few finishing nails in through the side to seal and repair the wood.

Using a sheet of sandpaper or a grinder, sand all the rough surfaces and edges around the pallet, removing the remaining dirt and debris from the outer layer. If you plan to paint the pallet and are going for a more finished look, at this stage you can fill open nail holes and cracks with wood filler.

3. Prime and paint the pallet. If you like the more exposed or rustic look of the pallet wood, you can either move onto the next step for hanging the storage shelves, or seal the entire pallet with a clear protective coating. If you choose to paint, coat the entire pallet with a thick base of primer. Pallet wood can be very porous, so the primer will make your finished paint color pop (and help to conserve paint).

Once the coat of primer has completely dried, apply the finishing paint coat. We opted for an indoor/outdoor spray paint in a bright buttercream. If using spray paint, be sure to wear a protective face mask and spray using very thin and even coats in a well ventilated area. Allow a full 24 hours for the paint to dry before moving to the next step.

4. Hang the pallet. Attach your desired hanging hardware and hang your new pallet storage system securely in place on the wall. We went for a wire and hook system since we have picture molding in our home. Any hardware system you prefer is fine, so long as it is strong enough to secure your pallet safely. If you attach wire hardware to the top of the frame like we did, make sure to screw in hooks closer to the back of the frame top — this will help the pallet rest flat along the wall.

5. Use your new storage. For an indoor look: Bring your new pallet storage system inside and hang it on your wall. Layer the shelves with meaningful decorative items like framed photos, little keepsakes and even indoor potted plants or vases with fresh flowers.

For an outdoor look: Hang your new wall pallet in an outdoor space for an instant functional storage system. Fill it with useful items for the garden, or use it for organizing shop tools or studio storage.

And there you have it — a functional organization system upcycled from something originally headed for the landfill!

If you make your own pallet storage system, share a photo with us tagged with #howtuesday or post in the Etsy Labs Flickr group. Have another idea for reusing pallets? Let us know in the comments below!

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1 Featured Comment

  • NinaRaizel

    Nina from NinaRaizel said 7 years ago Featured

    This is gorgeous! Up-cycling is the best thing we can do for arts and crafts. Why create art from brand new materials when there are perfectly good slightly-used materials out there? Not only does it cut down on cost and the hassle of buying new materials, but it cuts down on waste, which is essential for sustainability. There's already enough stuff in the world - all it takes is a bit of creativity and open-mindedness to make something incredible!


  • TheresasGourmet

    Theresa Ryales from TheresasGourmet said 7 years ago

    Absolutely Fantastic. I think that this is wonderful that you show what can be done with throw away things! Great feature, thank you!

  • MegansMenagerie

    Megan from MegansMenagerie said 7 years ago

    I just made two of these for my porch! They came out beautiful! Its such a great way to reuse a pallet and I love how the slits in the back show the bricks. Love it!

  • TheresasGourmet

    Theresa Ryales from TheresasGourmet said 7 years ago

    Absolutely fantastic that you show us how to use throw away things! Great feature.

  • ArtDecoDame

    Desiree from ArtDecoDame said 7 years ago

    I love this!I'm always concerned about doing projects with pallets because of the chemicals on them but now that I know what to look for that helps a lot.

  • LivingVintage

    LivingVintage from LivingVintage said 7 years ago

    Great ideas! Beauty from waste.

  • NinaRaizel

    Nina from NinaRaizel said 7 years ago Featured

    This is gorgeous! Up-cycling is the best thing we can do for arts and crafts. Why create art from brand new materials when there are perfectly good slightly-used materials out there? Not only does it cut down on cost and the hassle of buying new materials, but it cuts down on waste, which is essential for sustainability. There's already enough stuff in the world - all it takes is a bit of creativity and open-mindedness to make something incredible!

  • DecadesOfVintage

    DecadesOfVintage from DecadesOfVintage said 7 years ago

    I have been using reclaimed pallets for a while. Love this shelf idea.....maybe an afternoon project for today.....hmmm

  • Cufflinked

    Cufflinked from Cufflinked said 7 years ago

    These are great ideas! Love the coffee table.

  • CuriousLemon

    Karine Fournier from CuriousLemon said 7 years ago

    Original !

  • auntjanecan

    Jane Priser from JanePriserArts said 7 years ago

    I want to make this shelf!!!!! Thank you so much for the instructions!

  • toomejaana

    MT from SevenSeasPage said 7 years ago

    upcycling rocks! :)

  • thelandlockedsailor

    The Bosun and Sarita Li Johnson from TheLandlockedSailor said 7 years ago

    OK, I guess I'll be hunting around behind grocery stores for pallets today. I gotta make a few of these!

  • mazedasastoat

    mazedasastoat from mazedasastoat said 7 years ago

    I'm pleased to say that here in the UK pallets are considered a valuable resource. They get reused over & over, & won't be given away until they're completely past any useful life, although they're not expensive to buy. But upcycling them one at a time is useful if you live in a throw-away society.

  • MyEverAfter

    Liz B. from GossamerandQuill said 7 years ago

    Awesome tutorial! Thank you! I'm definitely planning on making a few of these to add some much needed shelf space to my workroom! Cannot wait to get started... :D

  • ShoeClipsOnly

    kathy johnson from ShoeClipsOnly said 7 years ago

    What a neat idea! Looks great against the bricks too!

  • WhisperingOak

    Quality Handmade Items from WhisperingOak said 7 years ago

    Great project especially for the planters. Great way to reuse our wood

  • CharmedByWine

    Mary from CharmedByWine said 7 years ago

    how creative! I love this idea. It gives a great springtime garden vibe =)


    Jude Mott from WOLFEANDRABBIT said 7 years ago

    I wish people could be more creative and at least up cycle out of the pallets original context and form. Come on this is the equivalent of using a word in its own definition to define itself.

  • CoralHome

    Elizabeth Veres from CoralHome said 7 years ago

    Cool idea! I've been seeing pallets at a shop nearby, maybe I'll stop by and ask if I can have them!

  • caitlinborck

    Caitlin Borck from TheSprightlyHound said 7 years ago

    I'm so excited to try this! My sister-in-law just got a whole pallet of mulch and loves to re-use old things! She will appreciate this idea!

  • DoucesLaines

    Emma from DoucesLaines said 7 years ago

    Amazing project !! Love the pallets old wood aspect :-)

  • GisieArt

    Giselle from MyArtAndFashion said 7 years ago

    Wonderful project. Thank you for sharing!!!

  • starprincess2012

    Carrie from CBsHandmadeCrafts said 7 years ago

    Great idea! Thank you for the plans. I enjoy recycling and upcycling what I can especially if it has to do with being able to you if for gardening.

  • PrayerNotes

    Prayer Notes by Cynthia from PrayerNotes said 7 years ago

    I like this project. I need more cabinets in my studio. I may try to create them, using recycled pallets and crates. Thanks, for the inspiration.

  • EclecticForest

    Steven Brincat from EclecticForest said 7 years ago

    Considering the high cost of new wood, this is extra fantastic since the pallets are often free for the taking! Thanks for this great idea!

  • Bessiescreations

    Bessie from BessiesCreations said 7 years ago

    I have so many ideas for wood pallets! This is another wonderful idea! Upcycling is a wonderful idea rather than just throwing everything away :) Love it!

  • MrsGingerandWasabi

    Marta DQ from tribomo said 7 years ago

    I love this idea! I think pallets are very versatile! Although I have to confess that I have 2 at home and haven't done anything with them yet !! :)

  • emadefreitas

    Ema de Freitas from EmasCorner said 7 years ago

    Very cool idea! Thanks for sharing.

  • sukran

    Sukran Kirtis from SukranKirtisJewelry said 7 years ago

    what a great project, love it

  • MaryFosterCreative

    Mary Foster from MaryFosterCreative said 7 years ago

    Thanks for the wonderful idea! I just happen to have a pallet that needs a new purpose.

  • NellywithWings

    Nelly V from NellywithWings said 7 years ago

    Awesome idea! Now I know what to do with those pallets I see on my way to work...

  • MaggieWinter

    Sussi from MaggieWinter said 7 years ago

    This reminds me of a pallet hanger I made once for kitchen linnen. All you need is a small pallet like the ones they use for bricks, sand it, paint it ,and decorate it, and then add hooks. Looks great in the kitchen :-D

  • catherinemaria

    Catherine Maria Charalambous from BouncyTree said 7 years ago

    I have an old pallet in my backyard. What a fantastic idea. And I just started growing my own herbs recently. Thank you for the detailed instructions. Great project!

  • mattyhandmadecrafts

    Matejka Max from NattyMatty said 7 years ago

    Very pretty!

  • carley465

    CAT Tillinghast from CATTATTING said 7 years ago

    I use my old pallet as a garden. I love the use of pallets, however I can only hope the places that give them away for free don't wisen up and start charging for people to take them.

  • CapyArt

    Catherine Steinhilb from CapyArt said 7 years ago

    What a terrific idea. It looks great and functional too! Up-cycling at its best. thanks for sharing

  • fbstudiovt

    Laura Hale from FoundBeautyStudioArt said 7 years ago

    In an old apartment I created a wall of pallet shelving and it was fantastic - not only for its cheap materials, but also because I could nail pictures into the pallet wood instead of the wood. The only things I'd suggest are to use a deep nap paint roller and canned paint since it's so much less expensive than spray paint and a lot more environmentally friendly, and I used a french cleat system to attach them to the walls. The cleats allow for a lot more weight on the shelves.

  • seasidecloth

    seasidecloth from seasidecloth said 7 years ago

    The pallet website is a favorite place of mine to get new ideas.

  • amysfunkyfibers

    Amy Gunderson from amysfunkyfibers said 7 years ago

    I just love this idea!

  • Motleycouture

    Motleycouture from Motleycouture said 7 years ago

    Ingenious! Love Up-cycling!

  • glitterandstones

    glitterandstones from glitterandstones said 7 years ago

    Awesome ideas Love the projects

  • poplovedesigns

    Andrea Hughes from PopLoveHers said 7 years ago

    We have tons of these hanging around our neighborhood, I've always wanted to do something with them, had so many ideas mulling around in my head. My first thought was "Coffee Table" - just add a glass tabletop and you've got a great display for your magazines, coffee table books etc. I really like this idea too, the only thing I think I'd do differently is give it a coat of laquer rather than standard paint - I love the look of old wood!

  • rachelfjewett

    rachelfjewett said 7 years ago

    I just picked up some pallets to make a garden but now i think I'll have to use one for shelving! This is great! thank you!

  • jaci1ed

    Ed and Jackie Burkey from NewLifeTreasures said 7 years ago

    This is great! I love recycling , as you can tell on our shop, and this would be a terrific project. Thanks for sharing.

  • 118jan

    Janette from AmericanDollClothes said 7 years ago

    I have two palettes I have been holding on to for 5 yrs. saying one day I'm going to use these. Thank you so much for all the information and instructions, I'm off to make some shelving.

  • TheSunshineGrove

    Natalie and Jeremy from TheSunshineGrove said 7 years ago

    If you are in the Orange County area we are partnering with Habitat for Humanity's Earth Day celebration for a how to build a garden planter from a pallet. Hope to see some Etsians there!!/events/619878021360342/

  • Ludwigsshop

    Jackie Ludwig from TheLudwigShop said 7 years ago

    nicely done!!

  • burcuyurtolu

    Burcu Yurtoglu from HAMMAM34 said 7 years ago

    Upcycling is a great thing for sure! Thanks for inspiration!

  • lmouer

    Lynsey from lmouer said 7 years ago

    great idea! love it!

  • Kam2012

    Kam from RiverGoddessBoutique said 7 years ago

    I must get my partner to help me create something wonderful like this. I love that you use something that would normally be discarded without a second thought and created into something beautiful and practical. : )

  • sandrostumpo

    Sandro Stumpo from GalleryDiModa said 7 years ago

    I like the idea of reusing. Sometimes I have a hard time throwing things away. "What else could I use this for?" is what I think about before I throw something away. I bet if we had a garage sale of stuff we were going to throw away, most of it would sell or at least we could give the stuff away.

  • H88255

    H88255 from HillarysSuperfoods said 7 years ago

    How neat. It never ceases to amaze me how creative people are!

  • CheekyVintageCloset

    cheeky vintage closet from CheekyVintageCloset said 7 years ago

    So fun, love the look!

  • sdbick24

    Sarah Bickett Mills from bluescarlettky said 7 years ago

    I'm doing this! I've seen this idea before and its good to know how to now!

  • FlockContemporary

    Sarah and Stacey from FlockCurioAssembly said 7 years ago

    This is such a fantastic idea and will absolutely be trying this out!!! for outside storage!!

  • ishopsuey

    Suey Thomas from iShopSuey said 7 years ago

    My view from the living room is my neighbor's fence - 3 feet away. I've been looking for something to camoflauge it and this would be perfect!

  • MoxyMilliner

    Heather from MoxieMilliner said 7 years ago

    Very cool idea. Thanks!

  • RaisingGreenKids

    Dorinda from RaisingGreenKids said 7 years ago

    I Love upcycled projects. Great idea.

  • bferreira1

    Brandie Ferreira from InducedDreams said 7 years ago

    wow, very beautiful! Thanks for sharing those great listings and ideas!

  • BonnetsBagsTreasures

    Lisa Marie Renee Jane from BonnetsBagsTreasures said 7 years ago

    Great projects... love the ideas... so creative.

  • betsybensen

    betsy bensen from betsybensen said 7 years ago

    pretty cool

  • newtribetextiles

    newtribetextiles from newtribetextiles said 7 years ago

    Palates are amazing wood! I am so happy people are finally getting the clue that they need to be utilized. Your simple shelf is a perfect DIY for anyone. Well done!

  • tonillion

    Toni from Colorantics said 7 years ago

    What a great idea!

  • rarebeasts

    Brian McNamara from rarebeasts said 7 years ago

    Cool, I want to make one.

  • VintageNChic

    VintageNChic from VintageNChic said 7 years ago

    I love the popularity of reusing pallets in so many ways! It is creative, it is eco-friendly and I hope it continues.

  • prettylovelypainting
  • Villedefleurs

    Tatiana from VilleDeFleurs said 7 years ago

    So fab ! I am into pallets right now, but i did not know where to start, so it was very, very useful. Thanks !

  • StudioDR

    Ducky Rubin from StudioDjewelry said 7 years ago

    Wonderful!!! So easy to make, and so useful. Thanks :)

  • Princesssparkl73

    Debbie Dilly from LoveLettersMe said 7 years ago

    wow this is fabulous! love it! xx

  • borianamihailovska

    B. Mihailovska from BMARTprints said 7 years ago

    I will take advantage of the idea! It's great!

  • Savvon

    Irina SAVVON from SalonVirtuelSavvon said 7 years ago

    Все гениальное просто

  • Savvon

    Irina SAVVON from SalonVirtuelSavvon said 7 years ago

    Le concept est simple, merci

  • heroux

    Caroline from ArtbyHeroux said 7 years ago

    Love this...thanks. There's actually 3 pallets down my street by the side of the road, I think I'll go grab one now that I have the inspiration to use it :)

  • janicewd

    janicewd from janicewd said 7 years ago

    Very helpful ideas. Thank you!

  • dbabcock

    Deb Babcock from BlueSkyPotteryCO said 7 years ago

    Oh, I LOVE this idea. There are so many pallets around that end up in the landfill. Great way to recycle something.

  • eshannon12

    Eric Shannon from BigBarkerDogBeds said 7 years ago

    Beautiful. I didn't realize that you could spruce up that nasty pallet wood to make it look gorgeous.

  • peonyandthistle

    Peony and Thistle from PeonyandThistle said 7 years ago

    Nice project! We are huge fans of upcycling at Peony and Thistle!

  • ThreeBarDGifts

    Monica from ThreeBarDGifts said 7 years ago

    Cute idea! Storage is always welcomed around here! If you can find the materials for free...even better! Thanks for the tutorial!

  • felisadora

    Felisa Dora from FelisaDora said 7 years ago

    "People love chopping wood. In this activity one immediately sees results. " - Albert Einstein I think my touch wood associated with somewhere childhood. Nature, longing for something old, healthy, pure.

  • JonShawPaintings

    Jon Shaw from JonShawPaintings said 7 years ago

    This is so cool - my girlfriend and I were just discussing gathering some pallettes, taking them to the studio, and refurbishing them and making things out of them - such as a bed frame (just the bottom part - made out of a 2x3 grid of 6 pallettes). This is great inspiration to roll forward on the idea!

  • halliefranco

    Hallie Franco from HallieJohanna said 7 years ago

    Pallets are so versatile, I love it! I need to get my hands on a couple and refurbish them to the same glorious state as these!

  • CharmingShopLove

    Marissa Howes from CharmingShopLove said 7 years ago

    Wow great idea! This would be great outside as a cute installment for your garden or even inside if you prefer more of a shabby-chic look. I'm very inspired by this! Thanks!

  • BlendedSplendid

    Sarah Keim from BlendedSplendid said 7 years ago

    The timing of this article is so weird!! I recently made a big pinterest list on pallet furniture and projects and my BF is all over it!

  • kerriari

    Kerri from ResparkableVintage said 7 years ago

    that is brilliant! it looks like a fun project and the end result is so cute. I'm needing to spuce up my backyard, so i'm so glad you shared this!

  • NirvanaRoad

    Lisa from NirvanaRoad said 7 years ago

    I love pallets... there are so many things out there that can be upcycled!

  • byvala

    Barbara Pater from byvala said 7 years ago

    Love it!

  • FreakyPeas

    FreakyPeas from FreakyPeas said 7 years ago

    I love all the featured items too..

  • amylcherry

    Amy Cherry from RootToVine said 7 years ago

    I love this!!

  • aressa

    aressa from OriginalBridalHanger said 7 years ago

    What a neat project...Kudos...and thanks for sharing!

  • leahleaf

    Leah Moses from Yumyo said 7 years ago

    very cool idea!

  • Xenotees

    Xenotees from Xenotees said 7 years ago

    A wonderful tutorial, and I'm so glad you have a warning about pressure treated wood! Upcycling safely is important. Look forward to more posts from you guys!

  • BlaqKat

    Blaq Kat from BlaqKat said 7 years ago

    Excellent tutorial, I am already on the look out for pallets to make some raised beds in my garden... now I feel I will have to add additional ones to my search so I can do this. (my garden needs a little tidying)

  • beheriyah

    Marie Davis from Riashatsandscarves said 7 years ago

    Great Tutorial!

  • ArchaicArt

    ArchaicArt from ArchaicArt said 7 years ago

    Great Idea and tutorial! Thinking of making one..... now to find some pallets.

  • Alenwise

    Alvin Jones said 7 years ago

    Great concepts and design ideas, its amazing what people now do with pallets, a lick of paint a little creativity and some reconstruction can mean hanging baskets for plants, to shelves in your kitchen, great post! Alvin from Allstore

  • odessalogue

    odessa logue from SoulSisterPalletShop said 6 years ago

    Rescuing something from the bonfire or garbage pile and making beautiful art out of it is just a wonderful metaphor for life! I love building with pallets! Taking a homeless used up peace of wood and making it lovely again, giving it a place of honor in someone's home. Scratches dents and all. I love it. Life is not perfection! Scratches and dents are badges of honor in the world of a pallet. Don't burn them! LoL ok. I'm a little obsessed! :)

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