Into The Pallet Wood

This morning I spent working with pallet wood and nailed a few details down on how best to use the material. I found a slightly easier way to break down the pallets with relatively little waste and fewer damaged boards and I think I’ve found a way to help prevent a future problem with water leaking into the walls.

Dismantling Pallets

Pallets are really hard to pull apart. The are built to stay together forever. The wood tends to be brittle and the nails have grooves that really grab so when you try to pull nails out or pry the boards off you waste a lot of time and damage a lot of the wood.

Professional pallet dismantlers just cut the nails. The problem with this is that nails stay in all the boards. If you can make use of nail ridden 2x4s and nail free slat boards that are about 16 inches long my way of breaking pallets down should work fine. Just cut the slats near the 2×4 rails; see photo below; the yellow lines would be where you’d cut.

Once the slates are cut off the 2×4 rails are easy to clean up with a hack saw or reciprocating saw. Just cut though the nails and you have usable 2x4s, albeit filled with old nails, so be careful when you cut these to length later.

Reworking The Wood

Then take your slats and clean them up. I used a chop saw, circular saw and belt sander. I cut my slat boards to even 16 1/2″ lengths. The thickness and height of each board is different but for my purpose this is fine. If I had a table saw I’d use that instead of my circular saw to get the top and bottom of the boards parallel. Cleaning up small boards with a circular saw is a bit tough.

Then I used a router to put a 1/4″ by 1/2″ groove around two sides, a long side and short side. Then flipped the slat over and did it on the other two sides. You might wonder why? Take a look below and it should make sense.

Now they fit together overlapping at each edge. Water should pretty much run off and away from the wall similar to how a shingle works. The 1/2″ overlap is very small though so I’ll use building adhesive too to keep everything together and as tight as I can. As I get better at it the boards should look a little more consistent.

Now this is approach will not make a solid seal like a plywood surface. It also takes a whole lot more effort, so if you plan to build a tiny house yourself I’d pretty much recommend using plywood or reclaimed plywood. I’m going to continue down the crazy path of using pallets though. There is just something poetic about pallets, but I digress…

Assembling Wall Panels

The 2×4′s are screwed together into panels 40″ by 32″ and are made out of 3 32″ 2x4s and 2 36″ 2x4s. This is a new size. I had planned to make them 36″ wide but need to change that to match the wood slat width.

I’m pretty sure the right way to build the bouse is to build the panel frames first, attach them all together, wrap the house in house wrap, and then screw on the slat boards. I think if I put the slat boards on the panel frames first there will be noticeable gaps between panels. Screwing and gluing the boards on after the house framing is complete should result in a better looking and tighter shell.

The Floor Plan Is Coming Together

Last night I stayed up late and worked out some of the more important details of how the tiny free house will be framed and laid out. Thanks to a lot of noodling and inspiration from another tiny pallet house concept I landed on a floor plan and roof line that should work well.

This is still a work in progress but far enough along for me to start putting panels together today. I also think I have a way of dealing with the verticle seams between the pallet boards that will cover the exterior. Using a router I’m going to create a half inch lap joint all the way around the boards. It’s hard to visualize so I’ll just take pictures today as I work on it and show you all tonight how it all came together.

I would love your feedback, especially if you know something about framing. The floor framing plan is a bit overkill but I’m trying to stick to short 36″ 2x4s and it needs to be strong enough to hold up with just the 4 RV corner jacks holding the house up. Normally 12′ 2x8s or 2x10s would seem like the right way to frame this… but would something like what I’ve drawn above work? The jury is still out in my head so I’m throwing it out to you. Thanks!