It is easier than you would imagine to create a dramatic new look for your fireplace by using inexpensive (or free) wood pallets. Many businesses will give them away if you contact them. We found ours on a neighborhood clutter cleanout site for $4. To show you how easy it is, my husband and I created a step-by-step instruction and material sheet for you, should you want to try it yourself.
- Find pallets with higher quality of wood such as oak that are not split or deformed.
- Use a Sawzall (reciprocating saw) to cut between the main boards and the runner boards and cut the nail. Why not just use a pry bar you ask: the nails typically found in pallets are spiral shank nails which are almost impossible to pull out. It is much easier to use a reciprocating saw and cut the nails.
- Now that the boards are detached it is time to clean them up and give them a light sanding. I used 80 grit paper and lightly sanded the face and hit the edges to round them off a bit and remove any nasty splinters. Depending on the cleanliness of the boards you may have to use water and a rag. For me, all I had to do was sand and wipe them down.
- Next, determine what backing you want to use to attach the pallet boards to. Some people just locate the studs behind the drywall and screw to the studs. To me this isn’t a very good idea for several reasons. First, doing so will mess your drywall up if you want to go back to the original look and second, you are limited to where you can screw.
- I elected to use a 5/8” OSB board (Oriented Strand Board) between the drywall and the pallet boards. The OSB board is like plywood and the cost is less than $20. Locate the studs on the wall by using a stud finder, cut the OSB board to size, and screw the OSB to wall in 6 to 8 locations where the studs are. You can use 2 ½” drywall or general purpose screws to attach the OSB.
- Now that the OSB is in place, paint the OSB with a dark color (such as brown). Save money and look in your garage for any darker paint. The darker paint helps hide the gaps between the pallet boards, as there is always a bit of that going on.
- Before you start attaching pallet boards to the OSB, do a layout of pallet boards on the ground to see how the pieces fit. Also consider the different widths of the pallet boards (my widths ranged from 3 ½” to 5 ½”) and come up with a consistent pattern. I used two 5 ½” boards and then a 3 ½” board. As part of the pattern consider the color variation between the boards, i.e. darks, lights, etc.
- Once you are satisfied with the general pattern and wood color variation it is time to start attaching the pallet boards to the OSB board. I like using screws just in case I screw up (pun) and I can back it out and start over. There are many good products out there but I used a finish trim nail by GRK that is 8 x 1 ¼”. The screws are self-tapping and the heads are small for better concealment.
- You are going to work from the top down, and if you are working on a wall start in the corner. Since I was wrapping my fireplace on three sides I had to figure out if I wanted the main face to cover the side board end cuts or to show them. I settled on the cleaner look where I extended the main face boards past the side boards (the width of the side boards 5/8” to ¾’).
- Finish the first row with varying lengths, 4’, 3’, 2’ 1’, and try not to repeat the same lengths, for instance don’t use two 2’ pieces next to each other. It is supposed to look a bit random, but not to the point that it doesn’t make sense.
- Now on to the second row, with the same varying lengths place the boards so the butt joints (where the two boards meet in the same row) don’t line up but are staggered from the first row (see photo).
- Remember to use the same pattern that you established on the ground and go for it. As you are going along I would use a level to make sure the row isn’t going totally crazy. You have to watch the varying board widths so it doesn’t make the row totally unlevel. I had to notch out a foot or two strip so the board fit up better to keep the row somewhat level.
- Since the pallet boards are not structural, you don’t have to use too many screws. I typically used 3 maybe 4 screws per board. The great thing with using the OSB backer board is that you can screw the pallet board anywhere you want. I used my screw gun which makes the job easy, and with the variable speed I could sink the screws so the heads were flush.
- When doing a somewhat of a creative project I find my state of mind is important and feeling rushed is not a good feeling. I would allot plenty of time and have fun with it, and if it goes slower than you think you should keep reminding yourself to have fun with it.
- Now that you are done, sit back and enjoy it.
· 2 to 3 hours for pallet deconstruction
· 1 hour to sand and prep boards
· Layout and setup ½ hour
· OSB installation 1 hour
· Pallet board installation 3 to 4 hours depending on the job
· Total time: 7 ½ to 10 hours (doesn’t include time finding pallets or going to Home Depot)
· Pallet boards
· 4 x 8 OSB
· 2 ½” screws
· GRK finish/trim 8 x 1 ¼” screws
· 80 grit sand paper
· Dark paint
· Reciprocating saw
· Screw gun
· Circular saw
· Paint brush