In the age of reducing, reusing and reinventing, we’ve all heard of “recycling.” In fact, it’s so engrained in our brains that we rarely lend it a second thought. Yet, what on earth is “upcycling”?

Upcycling is a modern term for an act that dates back to the depression era. Upcycling involves taking waste and transforming it into something of equal use or greater value. In an effort to put a modern day twist on my grandparents’ everyday practice, I set out with an artist’s mindset to liven up my living quarters with trash! The type of excessive trash most often tossed to the curb…shipping trash.

Check out the receiving department of any big-box retailer and note the amount of wood pallets stacked in their truck bays. For instance, Ikea, which uses 10 million pallets to ship goods from suppliers to its 287 stores, seems a good place to start. You could also hit up Home Depot, Lowes, Target or even your local grocer. Wooden pallets, a throwaway nuisance to retail stores, are hot commodities in the world of upcycling. For more ideas on how to get your hands on some, check out Frugal Families’ resource.

Now that you have your pallets in hand, you can use them to construct furniture, create home décor and build storage solutions. The rustic wood adds a country feel to your home and frees you from your plastic dependency. So, if you’re feeling creative and want to jump on the upcycling bandwagon, here are a few of my favorite wood pallet construction ideas:

Pallet Shoe Rack

Sick of the state of your mudroom?  Customizing a wood pallet as a shoe rack takes very little effort and neatens up your space nicely. Add stain or paint to give it an individualized feel. Better yet, color code small racks for each family member. The kids will love having their own personalized shore storage device. For shoe rack building instructions and other unique home improvement ideas using old pallets visit Web Ecoist.

Coffee Table

Pallet coffee tables are a great “catch all” for the family room. For a rustic look, source pallets that have been through the ringer. Construction is simple since the pallet can be used “as is.” For an easy design that mimics tables found in expensive home catalogs, follow these tips:

  • Purchase 4 coaster wheels at the hardware store.
  • Mount one wheel onto each corner of the pallet.
  • Flip it over and top the upside with a recycled (or new) piece of glass resting on nonslip clear rubber pads.

Visit Shabby goes modern: CONSEPT CONSTANCE and take a look at the distinguished end product.


If you have a carpenter in the family, constructing a pallet dresser is a no-brainer. Pallets sawed in half and attached with brackets serve as a crafty piece of furniture. With three pallets you can make a nice home entertainment stand. Want to go higher? Add one or two more levels for a full-size dresser. Doctor it up with inexpensive wire, wicker or cloth baskets to tuck away clothing and knick-knacks. Plus, the expenditure is virtually nonexistent. For play-by-play instructions, check out Too Much Time on My Hands.

Additionally, you can hit up Bargain Saturday: 10 Ways to Use Wooden Pallets as Furniture, Decor, Storage & More for ideas that look like they dropped right out of Pottery Barn’s catalog.

This has been a guest post by Christina from Tetonia, ID
Find out more about the KCL Contributor Network!

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10 thoughts on “Transforming Trash: Upcycling Ideas for Wood Pallets”

  1. Patricia says:

    These are great if you can find this stuff.  There’s a store in the mall that charges a fortune for this kind of furniture!

  2. Anonymous says:

    I have used pallets for creating compost pile barrier walls. If you can find them with close fitting slats all the better. Just tie them together with baling wire. Of course they will deteriorate after a few years, but then they can become the compost or be burned for ash in your garden.

  3. Julia Hunter says:

    Great article! My husband is a landscaper and we often get these from garden centers and nurseries. For whatever reason they tend not to reuse them and often have them on the side the road in front of there stores when they want people to take them!   The pallets are great if you have animals (storing hay on pallets reduces waste, spoilage and the risk of hay fire) and the beat up ones are handy for summer campfires. Now I am going to start saving the nicest ones for furniture!  

  4. Anonymous says:

    LOVE the coffee table idea. we need one and this would be a great project idea thanks.

  5. Janel says:

    You can also use them for gardening. If you Google pallet vertical garden, you’ll find some ideas.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Most companies reuse these or sell them when they are done. I would be careful before I went behind a company building and took some, it is likely stealing unless you see some already in the dumpster. Target I know reuses theirs.

  7. I can get these at my work lol  cant wait

  8. Anonymous says:

    My husband actually built my kitchen cabinets out of pallets and we did a wainscoting along one long wall in the family room. They also make good firewood if you have a woodburning stove.


    Love this post THANKS.