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. Continue reading

Tent Cities on Oprah

oprah-tent-cityYesterday there was a great story on Oprah that included a segment on tent cities right here in Sacramento. I first came up with the tiny pallet house plans one weekend in the fall of 2008 as a hurricane blasted into the Gulf Coast. Today I’m thinking that tiny pallet houses might be a valuable temporary solution for those Americans stuck out in this current economic hurricane.
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How to Build a Pallet House – Step 1: Build the Shipping Pallet Floor


First choose a flat stable surface to build on like a concrete slab or flatbed trailer. Count on the house weighing between 4000 and 5000 pounds when complete and choose your trailer carefully.

I’m suggesting this arrangement for the shipping pallets because it would most likely fit on many common double axle trailers you’ll find. It also is less than 8′ wide which is the legal limit for trailers in many states. In the drawings you’ll see the steps for bringing the pallets together.

In the first drawing I’m simply showing that it’s best to prepare the pallets by attaching 2x4s to the open ends of the pallets. This makes the pallets stronger and gives you four sides to nail, screw, and bolt to. You can free the necessary 2x4s from other pallets by cutting through the nails with a reciprocating saw. This is the fastest way to dismantle a shipping pallet and will leave you with the most usable wood.

Here are the prepared pallets ready to connect. In my tiny free house project I’m finding it useful to screw the pallets together first and then bolt them once the pallets are connected. It feels quicker although a bit redundant but seems to work well. You may also find it useful to have a couple clamps around to clamp the pallets together as you make the first attachments. Many shipping pallets are made from hardwood and getting screws to bite into the wood, saws to cut, and drills to drill can be tough. Better to use quality tools that plug into the wall or generator. Leave the little battery operated tools to small home repairs.

Next: Lay the Floor…

Step 2: Lay the Floor

Now attach 4×8 sheets of plywood or another sturdy sheet material to the pallet subfloor. You might also want to take the extra step to sheet both sides of the pallet floor structure and insulate it. This will give you a very strong and sealed base for your house. The thicker the plywood in the floor the better, especially the surface you walk on.

You’ll notice that the plywood overhangs the pallets a little. Just cut off the extra plywood. Be sure to save these small pieces though, you’ll most likely find a use for every piece of extra wood. I’ve been using screws to connect all the wood in the tiny free house simply because I think it’s stronger and the house is mounted on a trailer.

Next: Raise the Walls…