Pets, whether two-legged or four-legged, can be expensive. As responsible pet owners, we want to provide our furry friends with the best life possible while keeping our bank accounts in good shape. Pets need to be fed, kept comfortable, and entertained, and with the added expenses of toys, food, and vet bills, providing for our pets can often be a challenge.
One way to cut costs while still keeping your pets happy and healthy is to build your own pet furniture using pallet wood. As a co-administrator at 1001pallets.com, recyclart.org, and 1001gardens.org, I have built 37 pallet projects and counting, using pallet wood to create durable, customized, and comfortable pet beds, cat patios, cat trees, and even a kitty-sized moon cradle. Not only does DIY pallet pet furniture save you money, but it’s also a sustainable way to help the planet.
I began using pallets because I couldn’t afford the ridiculous prices for poorly-built, imported wooden loungers. I had no woodworking experience, but I found inspiration in the many ideas I saw. My husband suggested that I use pallet wood so that if my experiment didn’t work, there was no hit to our bank account. That got me started, and I have been building ever since.
Pallet wood is often overlooked, but it is made of oak, pine, ash, poplar, maple, and other functional types of wood. While it may have more “defects” than would be acceptable for furniture, those defects add character, such as knotholes, strong grain lines, and “wrinkles and crow’s feet,” which allow you to build rustic projects without adding an artificial look. Simply sand the wood fine, and it looks like any other beautiful wood. Leave it with a little character, and it looks lived in. Pallet wood is a win-win for anyone on a budget because you can make it look like an heirloom piece of furniture or make it ultra-modern for the hippest apartments.
Before you start building with pallet wood, there are some safety considerations to be aware of. The most important thing to avoid is using pallets treated with chemicals. DO NOT use any pallet marked “MB,” as this stands for Methyl Bromide. Pallets marked “HT,” Heat-Treated, have only been baked to kill off bugs, such as the Pine Beetle. Another issue to consider is the condition of the pallets. Splits, splinters, staples, and nails can all harm your pet’s paws, so be sure to address these issues when upcycling any wood, and especially pallet wood.
To find pallets, don’t just take a pallet that you see sitting behind a store, as many larger companies reuse and recycle them. Simply ask before you take a pallet from a business. You can find them for free on Craigslist and other yard sale apps, or sometimes you’ll find them at the curb with a “FREE” sign on them. Don’t load them up if you see the MB stamp. Look them over for damage, nails, or other physical issues, and wear leather work gloves to protect your hands from splinters, nails, and road grime. If you are not sure if a pallet is safe to use, always default to “when in doubt, THROW IT OUT!”
Once you have your pallets, the next step is to dismantle them. There are many ways to do this, but the most basic is with a hammer and a crowbar. The boards covering the top and bottom are called deck boards, and the hefty supporting boards that the deck boards are installed upon are the pallet stringer boards. Both types can be used, but the stringer boards end up having more nails embedded, so be extra careful using a power planer. Always thoroughly check each board for nails or staples and remove them all. Sand the boards, and then let your imagination run wild.
There are many projects you can make with pallet wood, whether it’s a cat tree, pet bed, double-feeder, end table with a built-in kitty bed, sliding, barn-door style screen, feline patio, or a feral cat shed. Building your own pet furniture allows you to customize it to the size of your home, the specific location you want the piece of furniture to be, and to be as creative – or outrageous – as you want it.
Making DIY pallet pet furniture is not only a fun project, but it’s also a budget-friendly one. You can skip the $300 (or more) for a large cat tree and make it yourself for around $50. Not only do you save money, but you also get the satisfaction of showing off your unique creation to your friends and family.
If you want to change the look of your pallet pet furniture, you can safely stain, paint, or simply seal a project. Try using a water-based stain, and make sure to wear protective gloves and eyewear and apply the stain in a well-ventilated area.
In conclusion, pallet wood is an overlooked, yet functional and sustainable way to build custom pet furniture while saving money. With a little imagination, some elbow grease, and a few basic tools, you can create beautiful and functional pet furniture that is tailored to your specific needs. So whether you have a dog, cat, bird, or other furry friend, why not try building your own pallet pet furniture? Your pet – and your wallet – will thank you.