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Understanding a Wooden Pallet’s life before Repurposing

Understanding a Wooden Pallet’s life before Repurposing

If you are thinking of doing any DIY pallet repurposing, be aware that second hand pallets have probably seen more of the world than you have and may hold a lot more history than you might think. 

They are not your typical second hand goods and in their travels have probably picked up all kinds of pathogens and fellow passengers they have been exposed to in their life’s journey. Alternatively they may have been fumigated and treated with pesticides or may be made of low grade engineered wood (pressed wood) which contains formaldehyde – a chemical that continues to release long after the pallet is made. And that is just the start of the possibilities.

If you want a local traveler, Australian pallets are easy to identify because of their unique size. They are 1.165m square and are generally manufactured in hardwood, but are now also many treated and untreated pine pallets about.

If you haven’t been put off yet, despite a potentially dubious past, good pallets are plentiful and can make excellent repurposed outdoor furniture, fencing or garden pots. Just be very careful of making indoor furniture, particularly beds, eating surfaces or cots out of repurposed pallets. 
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Science Notes

Pallets come in many different shapes, sizes and are made of various materials. Internationally shipped pallets are regulated in terms of how they are treated for pests to international conventions. The markings you will typically see are shown here. 

Some are heat treated - where the wood is heated to 56 degrees for 30 minutes. Others are treated with Methyl Bromide - a chemical fumigation which has been banned in EU member states since 2010. 

Related Tip

Make sure you inspect your chosen pallets carefully and choose the pallets you use according to where you are going to use them. You obviously don't want treated pallets inside your house or touching food.


Related Tip