Author Topic: 5 things to know before using pallets  (Read 7956 times)

Offline chickchoc

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5 things to know before using pallets
« on: July 22, 2013, 08:48:31 AM »
This comes courtesy  of Little House in the Suburbs.  https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?shva=1#inbox/14005664ecb6d469


5 Things to Know Before You Build With Pallets
Posted: 21 Jul 2013 11:23 PM PDT


I have more than a couple of friends who working warehousing and retail and shipping and all that and I’ve been quizzing them over using wood pallets.

Here’s what you need to know:

1)  They aren’t always discards.  Many companies store the pallets outside before they are returned, recycled, etc.  If you take them, it costs the company money.  If a pallet is truly discarded, it’s usually because it’s broken and won’t hold the weight anymore.  Any pallet that doesn’t NEED repair is less likely to be a discard.  Also, for retail stores, it’s common to store the pallets next to the trash bin to await the pallet truck, so just because it’s near the trash, doesn’t mean anything.

2) Old wood isn’t bad wood.  It’s where the wood has been that makes it bad.  I have Adirondack chairs made out of a 100 year old hotel.  But it wasn’t made out of the wood from the bathroom floor just around the toilet, or the kitchen cabinet floor just below the pipes.  People use reclaimed wood from old building all the time.  The fact that it’s been outside and gotten rained on isn’t reason to not use it if it’s still in good enough shape for your purpose.  However, pallets are handled differently by different companies. 

For a food grade cereal warehouse, they are kept REALLY REALLY clean and only discarded when they break.  You might have the OCCASIONAL pest run across it, but they are really intense in those places about vermin.
For a retail store, they’ve been travelling on a shipping truck (which my retail friend says are ick).  They’re generally unloaded immediately and tossed next to the trash bin (where ALL the rats and roaches hang out) to await the pallet truck (which she says is one of the most disgusting conveyances you’ve ever seen.)  Any “patina” on those pallets is vermin and mold patina and the surface should be BLASTED WITH A POWER-WASHER until the patine is GONE.
For a construction site, we can tell you from personal traumatic the-dog-got-in-there-and-tracked-stranger-doo-doo-all-over-the-house experience that construction workers do sometimes use those as bathrooms. 
3) Outdoor, non-furniture use is generally fine, regardless of where you get it.  Just wear gloves. I’ve heard some people warn against chemicals in the wood or insecticide residue killing your compost pile or infecting your potato bin.  If insecticide were that effective long-term, they wouldn’t have to be reapplied so often.  So, for non-furniture outside use, there’s not much you need to do to them.

4) For indoor use, know the source and whether they use new or previously-used pallets.  Unless you are using brand-spanking new pallets, they’ve likely been reused all over the country.  That means sometime in their lives, unless you got them from a food grade warehouse, that patina is *more* than weathering.  They’ve sat next to the trash bin at Target growing mold and had rats and roaches pooping on them.  Then they took a trip on a pallet truck with everyone else’s moldy, pooped-on pallets.  So, would YOU sleep on/eat on the back of that truck?  What would you need to DO before you would be comfortable with it?  There you go.  And even my friend that manages a super-clean food-grade cereal warehouse says that before he would make a coffee table out of a pallet from his own warehouse, he’d wash it, sand it, and paint it.

5)  What about E. Coli and friends?  Pallets were blamed for some of the well-known food contamination in recent years.   I bet a nickel this is just more vermin poop contamination.  I can’t imagine someone rubbing raw chicken all over the pallet or smearing their personal stash of salmonella culture all over it.  Regardless, if you feel confident that you have power-washed it until the mold and vermin residue is gone, you probably got these too.

So, where does this put us?

Well, I am NOT anti-pallet for furniture, but I am totally anti-RAW pallet.  I don’t care how well you cleaned it, unless it came directly from a food grade warehouse, I want it POWER-WASHED WITH A DISINFECTANT CLEANING SOLUTION, sanded, and sealed before I have it in my living room and set my cup on it.  But for your compost bin, go right ahead.  Lash it together and walk away.

Before you bring it in your house, know where it’s been (in it’s whole life) and whether or not it just needs a scrub/sand/paint or a total power-washing makeover.

Offline Shaunypoo

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Re: 5 things to know before using pallets
« Reply #1 on: July 22, 2013, 08:58:52 AM »
I am not going to lie to you, I don't know that I would ever use a pallet for anything.  I have a little retail experience, but most of mine is pharmaceutical production.  Guess what?  We use pallets, too.  And they look just like the pallets you see at the store.  Chemicals spill on them on occasion.  I think that there is no way to know what exactly that pallet has been exposed to and whether or not you ever got it cleaned off properly.  And many of them are exposed to chemicals simply to preserve them from mold and other exposure related problems.  Maybe the pesticides and crap they use wear off or break down, but if you burn them you have no idea what you are exposing to the atmosphere.

If you feel confident, then by all means use them, I won't tell you not to.  I will tell you I won't use them at all.

Offline ttubravesrock

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Re: 5 things to know before using pallets
« Reply #2 on: July 22, 2013, 09:53:22 AM »
I have boggy land and I don't like to take my shoes off when I come inside the house, so I use pallets as my walkways so that I don't track too much dirt into the house.

Offline floridaprepper

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Re: 5 things to know before using pallets
« Reply #3 on: August 28, 2013, 06:30:11 PM »
I want to try using pallets to build a compost bin.  It seems like a good economical option with little downside.  Anyone have any advice?

Offline Cedar

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Re: 5 things to know before using pallets
« Reply #4 on: August 28, 2013, 08:25:08 PM »
I have used pallets for compost before.. leave one side open or you will have a heck of a time getting that 4th side "door' open.

The I use pallets that had feed on them. I use them for hay, straw, keeping my feed cans on so the bottoms do not rust out, for strawberry planters.. and ONE of these days (and they really needed to be done last week) is ripping them apart for rebuilding into bins for our root cellar. These are pretty blonde looking pine/fir pallets which have seen little use.

I also have dark ones which are oak. I have not dealt with those yet.

Cedar

Offline Groundhogday

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Re: 5 things to know before using pallets
« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2013, 02:46:31 PM »
I work in a warehouse and we get many pallets, however we get pallets from around the world and country and I have been told that these pallets sometimes get sprayed with pesticides to reduce invasive species. I personally would not recommend pallets as a compost bin. If you can get pallets that you know for sure have not been sprayed then it would be a great idea, but if you don't know then I would not do it.

Offline Skunkeye

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Re: 5 things to know before using pallets
« Reply #6 on: September 12, 2013, 11:12:50 AM »
Generally, only pallets used for international shipping are treated for insects, to prevent the transfer of invasive species and such.  Pallets used for international shipping almost always have an IPPC stamp on them (sometimes ink, sometimes burned into the wood) that indicate how they've been treated.  They will have "HT" or "MB" stamped on them.  "HT" pallets have been heat-treated, so shouldn't have any pesticides or chemicals in the wood (other than what they may have been exposed to in use, per the OP's warnings).  The pallets marked "MB" are to be avoided - they've been treated with methyl bromide, a nasty insecticide.  Newer pallets with no markings are probably for domestic use only, and are generally heat-treated or not treated at all.  I would avoid any very old looking pallets, which could pre-date these conventions, as well as any pallets that are greenish in color, indicating potential pressure-treated wood (this is rare in pallets, but not unheard of).

All that said, if you find some HT pallets, they make very sturdy compost bins, and a square bin made to pallet dimensions is just about the perfect size for a compost pile to achieve "hot" composting. 

Offline Cedar

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Re: 5 things to know before using pallets
« Reply #7 on: September 12, 2013, 12:09:30 PM »
I will look at mine again, but they are very new, fir type pallets with no obvious markings or stains. I get mine at the feed store, so they have only seemed to have had hay and feed on them.

Although we did build one for the rot cellar for storing stuff in, Z kicked it out of there as he 'wanted all of them to match'... so this one we built from pallets will be a kindling box or for pumpkins/squash which have hard rinds which we do not eat anyway.

Cedar

Offline JLMissouri

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Re: 5 things to know before using pallets
« Reply #8 on: September 12, 2013, 09:22:19 PM »
I use 100's of pallets for keeping hay of the ground, they are very handy to have around. I never thought of putting feed buckets on top of one, but that is a good idea as well. I was going to build a Rabbit hutch using pallets for lumber, but have since found a much better source of free wood.

If you live in Missouri chances are good there is probably a cooperage or a stave mill around your area. They usually give away bits of wood they don't use for whatever reason. In my area they have this wood stacked on pallets and will load you. The local cooperage has 72 pallets of this wood to give away. It is white oak with no nail holes. It is 1 1/4" thick and various lengths and widths. The average length is around 3' and the average width is a couple inches. I have several boards that are 7" wide. Lots of pieces have the bark on one edge. I have ripped a pallet of 1 1/4" square boards for building cages as well as larger boards, the rest I will burn.

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Offline JLMissouri

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Re: 5 things to know before using pallets
« Reply #9 on: September 12, 2013, 09:23:31 PM »

Offline TexasGirl

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Re: 5 things to know before using pallets
« Reply #10 on: September 12, 2013, 11:29:01 PM »
I worked a deal with a local company to haul off all their pallets.  These are mostly non-standard ones that premium hardwood lumber comes in.  So the pallets are made with 5/4" thick seconds of ash, maple, or oak. Most boards are 5' long and assembled with torx-drive decking screws.  Last month I gleaned 7 lbs of 2.5" screws, a bonus $40 value!

So far, I've built a gardening work bench out of two by adding legs. Others are being used to store building materials on.

~TG

Offline JLMissouri

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Re: 5 things to know before using pallets
« Reply #11 on: September 15, 2013, 07:17:34 PM »
I worked a deal with a local company to haul off all their pallets.  These are mostly non-standard ones that premium hardwood lumber comes in.  So the pallets are made with 5/4" thick seconds of ash, maple, or oak. Most boards are 5' long and assembled with torx-drive decking screws.  Last month I gleaned 7 lbs of 2.5" screws, a bonus $40 value!

So far, I've built a gardening work bench out of two by adding legs. Others are being used to store building materials on.

~TG

Wish I could find pallets like that in my area, I would take them just for the screws, not to mention how much easier they would be to take apart. Those torx head screws work way better than phillips, and cost more too.

Offline OutWestTX

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Re: 5 things to know before using pallets
« Reply #12 on: September 15, 2013, 08:15:25 PM »
JLMissouri, check with your local newspaper publisher.  They usually have pallets.  I get mine the newspaper and from the local lumber yard.   

Offline Famine

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Re: 5 things to know before using pallets
« Reply #13 on: September 17, 2013, 05:42:21 PM »
I've done a few projects with pallets. Cowboy cooler (keep those cold beers up high and easier to reach), an improvised table top for my ottoman, a quick camp chair, a table for doing some painting on, keeping rusty or dirty parts off my shop floor and easier to pick up, so on and so on.

If you're bent on picking them up for a bonfire or camp fire, make sure you check for the burned stamp on the size. The ones that say HT (Heat treated, that means the wood was dried/cured in a kiln), are good to burn (unless they've been sprayed down with pesticide or paints), but the ones that say CT (Chemical treated, methyl bromide, deck sealer, etc) are no good because well, chemicals and fire together...you're gonna have a bad time. I also wouldn't use them for anything like a composting bin, raised garden bed, a set of ikea styled wood dinner plates, etc.  :D

I see that somebody here mentioned ones marked MB (methyl bromide). I've not seen any of those here in my area (Upstate NY), so I'm beginning to wonder if they're outlawed in the area, or some places have opted just to mark them with CT???

Hopefully this is helpful. Pallets can be really handy.

Offline OutWestTX

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Re: 5 things to know before using pallets
« Reply #14 on: September 17, 2013, 08:36:41 PM »
If you're bent on picking them up for a bonfire or camp fire, make sure you check for the burned stamp on the size. The ones that say HT (Heat treated, that means the wood was dried/cured in a kiln), are good to burn (unless they've been sprayed down with pesticide or paints), but the ones that say CT (Chemical treated, methyl bromide, deck sealer, etc) are no good because well, chemicals and fire together...you're gonna have a bad time. I also wouldn't use them for anything like a composting bin, raised garden bed, a set of ikea styled wood dinner plates, etc.  :D

I see that somebody here mentioned ones marked MB (methyl bromide). I've not seen any of those here in my area (Upstate NY), so I'm beginning to wonder if they're outlawed in the area, or some places have opted just to mark them with CT???


Famine, you are obviously a pallet expert!   ;)

Offline Famine

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Re: 5 things to know before using pallets
« Reply #15 on: September 18, 2013, 02:13:50 PM »
I don't know about all that. They're just so damn useful to have around though!

Offline JLMissouri

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Re: 5 things to know before using pallets
« Reply #16 on: September 19, 2013, 08:54:58 AM »
JLMissouri, check with your local newspaper publisher.  They usually have pallets.  I get mine the newspaper and from the local lumber yard.   

Thanks, I have no problem finding pallets free, just not the kind TexasGirl was talking about. They are much better than the run of the mill regular pallet.