Pallet House Construction Illustrations

pallet-house-pallet-detailI was recently contacted by a fellow named Roy who was looking for something to do with 200 pallets. He couldn’t find any buyers or even someone to haul them off free, so he’s decided to build something out of them. To help him visualize how I’d build a house from pallets I drew these 3D drawings with Google SketchUp, the free 3D drafting software from Google.

I’ve been getting better at drawing with SketchUp and it only took about 30 minutes to draw this up. I’ll eventually replace the 2D plans on this website with a better 3D plans. In the mean time I thought I’d share with you what I shared with Roy. The tiny house pictured here would use about 50 to 70 pallets. I left the roof off the design because I’m thinking more and more that the roof should be conventionally framed. Pallets over head just seems a little too risky, although I think Roy is going to find a way to do it safely.

For those of you playing with Google SketchUp here is my SketchUp file. Also note that the pallets in the drawing are an odd size, 45″ by 40″. That may explain why Roy had such a hard time getting rid of them. Standard 48″ by 40″ pallets tend to be easy to sell and give away, odd sized pallets are a different story.





36 thoughts on “Pallet House Construction Illustrations

  1. It seems to me to that you could turn the pallet into a pseudo-Structural Insulated Panel (S.I.P.)by applying a sheet of OSB to both sides of the pallet. This would obviously add some expense (about $5 per sheet) but should be cheaper than conventional framing. Another idea would be a nice timber frame truss with pallet pieces as the purlins.

    • Jeremy those are great ideas. By adding OSB or plywood sheathing the strength of the pallet would be greatly improved and could even be used in a roof. Thanks!

      • or you can collect old but in good order corogated iron sheets for the outside, and fill the middle of the crates with old bails of sheep wool or what ever you can get ya hands on cheaply, skys the limit.

  2. Ok. I built a small cabin, and my roof seemed like it was going to be week. I started putting the purlins on, and the tin. It was like a tank when I got finished. Have faith. Once you either put purlins, or tin, or both, or normal roofing, it will be ok.

  3. I am working on setting up Redemption Village in/near King COunty,WA and was one of the organizors of a homeless encampment called Nickelsville that started in Seattle in Sept of 2008. I built a pallet house and painted it pink to match the 150 bright pink tents we set up at 4am… my design was not as sturdy or as astetic, but I weigh 195lbs and am a Marine Corps Veteran and I was doing pull ups, swinging from and walking on the top of the pallet house we built. I am planning on doing this on a massive scale on Thanksgiving Day…wanna help or give any advice on where to get about 2100 pallets for fairly cheap, maybe even for free?

    • Sounds like an exciting project. I bet this little act of civil disobedience will garner some good press for the plight of the homeless. Nice.

      For pallets watch craigslist for sure; they turn up regularly down here in Sacramento. You should also check with roofing companies, heating and air companies, motorcycle dealers, and auto body shops since they often have many spare pallets.

      As far as putting them together you’ll find it harder to assemble a pallet building with odd sided pallets. I’d use the odd sizes ones for floors and even exterior walkways/sidewalks. On these kind of surfaces use pallet boards that have been extracted from pallets (via reciprocating saw) or plywood so feet don’t fall through the gaps between pallet boards.

      Sort out the standard pallets since they will make better building blocks. I found that by capping the open ends with an extracted 2×4 made screwing them together easier. Nails work too, as I’m sure you found, but screws (square head and hex head exterior screws) hold better. The only trouble is that you’d need a bunch of drills and ideally some AC power… so I can see that nails would probably work best for your project (hammers and nails are cheaper than nails and you will have many hands).

      The odd pallets may be useful dismantled into their parts with a reciprocating saw. Just be very careful cutting up pallets since those saws are as dangerous as they are useful. Lost fingers would definitely work against you. Another health related issue to avoid is the smoke from pallets. There is no way to tell if a pallet (or any reclaimed building material) has been fumigated, spilled on, or painted (coated) with anything nasty so choose not to burn any of this wood. When cutting wear a respirator.

      Roofs are best built with something other than pallets but you could use the lumber from dismantled long pallets.

      I’d love to see some photos of your last pink house. Sounds like a great story to post on Tiny House Design too.

      • “There’s no way to tell if a pallet has been fumigated”. That’s not quite true. Many pallets are stamped with their treatment. “HT” means they have been Heat Treated, rather than fumigated.

    • wow i had no idea of how accessible alternative housing is, thank you for sharing this.
      i would be interested in using yr idea of a pallet house, at least as a temporary home until i can manage something more permanent.
      how can i find some pallets?

    • check with the local newspaper I know the one here always has pallets that they will give anyone who will take them.

  4. As a carpenter I think this is a really neat idea.
    Although, your exterior sheeting should be installed horizontally and staggered for a stronger structure.


  5. If you sheathed the outside with stran board and used something as simple as cheap 1/4 in plywood or cardboard on the inside, you could get some of the tanks of spray insulation to fill the interior of the pallets and create a very reasonable facsimile of a SIP.

    • I agree Gray… ironically I scored some used plywood for my tiny pallet house. Hopefully in a week or two I’ll get back up to the farm to install. Plywood will add a lot of strength to the building.

    • Try salvaging refrigerated tractor trailer insulation panels – there has to be millions out there – they fit PERFECTLY inside the wooden pallets – just cut to size,ezpz.

      We build outbuildings using these units and cover the outside with tar paper to keep them dry – though any tarp or suitable waterproof material will work too!

    • Just as a note on insulation, you can get nearly the same benefit as spray foam insulation but using that bane of landfills – packing peanuts. Most dumps will gladly offer you all you can carry if they have any and when stuffed into the palettes they have a fantastic insulating effect.

      Just a thought on staying Green and Keen. :)

  6. I am going to be building a pallet shed this spring I am planning on connecting the pallets by staggering them horizontaly and instead of capping the ends and then connecting them I am planning to run either 2×3 or 2×4 within the pallets themselves and then pre drill holes for screws connecting the 2x3s to the runners on the pallets otherwise I’m going to use as much of your plan as possible it seems to work I will repost with a pic when completed Thanks for the great Idea

  7. Hi just found this web site and wow, its really cool!..I cant seem to find any examples of how the pallets are actually joined together to form the wall and roof aspects of the build. Are they bolted?, nailed together? lapped in some way? It seems to me that whatever you decide to do you need more substantial wood to hold it all together…could you give me an idea of how you joined yours…did you drill holes then bolt? Its just the pallets are really hefty you’d need long bolts and a long series drill bit…(if that is indeed the way)

    • Would anyone know if this structure would be strong enough to stack 2 together so a 2nd floor could be made to house bedrooms?

      • a pallet wall is not strong enough on its own to do a full second floor, but! if you add support every 8 foot in the form of either a doubled 2×4 or a single 4×4 then yes it will do fine for a second full floor!!

  8. Salvaged refrigerated tractor trailer panels fit perfectly inside wood pallets! We built an entire goat barn with two winds using these solid, insulated units.

    What a perfect way to keep these panels out of landfills and insulate at the same time.We covered the outside with tar paper to keep them dry.

    One should check for

  9. I’m missing a key element on every one of these pallet house / pallet barn sites!

    I’ve been a framing carpenter and a form carpenter. I’m a decent mechanic and I spent over 20 years doing computer controlled industrial equipment and power generation and I & C work. I’m not ignorant of, nor about tools or how to do things.

    But simply saying, “…using screws or nails, attach the pallets together…”, is just a little lacking. Seriously, with a two long enough screws, I could screw six of them in a row. I just haven’t found bulk a supplier of 5′ long deck screws!

    So, here’s the question, are you using a ‘2 x 4′ block to span across the two pallets, on the inside of the pallets> As you would for scabbing; two 4′ long 2 x 4’s together to make an 8′ length or a temporary brace? Are you dismantling some of the pallets and using some of the constituent parts to that same thing?

    Because I have two things right now.

    One, a need for a bigger goat barn with a chicken coop in one end.

    Two, an almost unlimited supply of pallets.

    But until I know ‘HOW’ to hook them together, it’s all BS. I’m looking for some help on attaching pallet A to pallet B, in the quickest, least material consuming and strongest manner. After that, I’m golden.

  10. A friend of mine has built a garden shed out of pallets and has put on a turf roof. This way you can grow food or flowers for the bees on the roof. I just sent the link for this site to another friend who laughs at my passion for pallets!

  11. I’m about to get started on my shed/workshop built from pallets. I have the same concern/query as Schteveo above there. How am I to securely bolt/nail/screw these pallets together? It very literally is keeping me up at night.

    Wonderful site and resource. Thanks to the owner.

  12. I am working on compiling this into a PowerPoint presentation for a project for school, encompassing as many of the tips offered in the posts as I can, along with the master plans. This is fabulous work and I may even talk to my husband about building one for us eventually. Thank you all of you for sharing your knowledge and tips in order to make it an option to house our homeless and needy. You are wonderful people who I truly believe are angels here on Earth!

  13. For people like myself, looking for ideas to build a strong house cheaply, I have a suggestion. If you are wanting to build on a solid surface, you might want to try using pallets for the ancient “mud and stud” method of building….The pallets should be secured to a strong frame, and your roof needs a good-sized overhang (the cob wall must be protected from too much moisture). If you google “mud and stud,” you can see examples of how these structures are built. Google “cob house construction” to see how to mix the clay, sand, and straw mixture used for the walls, and the different stucco finishings to apply to waterproof and finish the walls. Different styles of architecture can be built this way, including Mediterranean, Mexican Hacienda, English Cottage Post and Beam, Modern, etc.etc.etc. In some cases, the clay can be dug from the property…if not, clay and sand is not that expensive if bought from a stone and soil company. Straw can be purchased from a farmer or feed store (I have used it for years in our outdoor dog’s house and it is reasonably priced even in the city). If I use this method, I plan to further insulate the wall by putting waterproof insulation, such as foam panels, in the space between the top and bottom of the pallets (additional slats will need to be added to the bottom of each pallet so the cob mixture will adhere). Hope I encouraged you to just do it….happy building!

  14. What about making thicker walls by sandwiching two pallets together, back to back? Then, sheath the outer and inner surfaces with OSB, and fill with a loose-fill insulation of your choice. It could be light-clay with straw, or even recycled plastic shopping bags. Another great insulator, with regulatory approval is rice-hulls (2.5-3.0 R per inch!). Just need to be careful to allow the rice hulls to settle, and then top off the chambers.
    These walls would be thicker, but with good fastening between them, they would really create a strong SIP-like panel.

  15. If your looking for free materials try Everything is free. I’ve gotten wood, manure, fencing, shelves, and few other things just for the asking.

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