How to Turn a Pallet into a Planter

August 9, 2012 | by Ethan (email) |

Today we’re featuring a guest contribution by Jeff Williams, one of our regular readers. If you’d ever like to submit an article for review, shoot me an email!

Over the last couple of years my wife and I took on a huge exterior transformation to turn our ugly house into a lovely home. You can see the 2 years compressed down into 20 minutes on DIY Network’s show Sweat Equity.

We added insulation, windows, and siding. That made for a lot of materials on site and most of it was shipped on pallets with one of them being a 4×10 foot monster. Instead of just tossing it on a bonfire I decided to make it into a planter box.

Tools and Supplies

  • Pencil
  • Tape measure
  • Combo square
  • Speed square (used as short saw guide)
  • Level (long saw guide)
  • Quick clamps
  • Pry bar
  • Circular saw
  • Hand saw
  • Drill/driver
  • Hammer and nails or framing nailer
  • Pocket hole jig and 2 1/2″ screws

Step 1: Decide how to cut up the pallet

My goal was to maximize the planter. The white lines on the photo below is how I decided to cut it up. The 3 plank sections are the sides, and the 2 plank piece is the bottom. The remaining cutoffs will be used to close in the ends. One thing to note, the bottom is cut 1-1/2″ shorter than the sides to allow for the ends to overlap the bottom.

Step 2: Cut up the pallet

I used both my circular saw and hand saw to cut the pallet up into the major pieces. The circular isn’t able to cut the full thickness of the pallet so I finished up the cuts with the handsaw. I could have cut halfway through the beams and then flipped it over, but it was almost as fast to use the hand saw. Wear your safety glasses during this step, and use a carbide tipped blade in your saw. There may be a nail or two that has gone in crooked. Your saw will cut through it but it will spark. Go slow and be careful. You can pull visible nails that may be in your way.

Step 3: Mark and Cut off 3/4″ from side beams

I wanted the bottom of the pallet to be mostly hidden from view. By cutting off 3/4″ off the beams on the side pieces the sides would overlap the bottom.

Step 4: Join sides to bottom with pocket holes

The more I’ve gotten into woodworking the more often I find myself using pocket holes. They were the ideal method for this project given the size of the beams. I had epoxy coated screws leftover from building the pergola, and they are great for exterior uses.

Step 5: Cut and attach the end planks

The prybar is used in this step to first remove the plank cutoffs from the last piece of beam. Spiral shank nails are used in pallet construction and can be tough to remove. Take your time or risk splitting the planks. Then stack the planks and gang cut them on the miter saw (or one at a time with the circular saw). Finally I powered up the pancake compressor and secured the sides with #8s in the framing nailer.

Step 6: Plant (or if it happens to be winter Stand back and admire your handy work)

I built this thing in the middle of winter. It was 10° out! I didn’t admire it for long. I dragged it to its future spot and flipped it over to keep out the snow. Before planting I’m going to seal the exterior with a spar polyurethane and then line the inside with a rubber membrane (a cut off of EPDM roofing would work well). One thing to note, this planter is pretty big. If I filled it completely with dirt I wouldn’t be able to move it. The plan is to put either packing peanuts or sections of drain tile in the bottom before filling with dirt.


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