Pallets: Moving Beyond Storage
Nothing is more frustrating than a disorganized storage area. From garages to sheds and storage units, piles of good stuff become unused items that are difficult to sort in any reasonable manner. Storage systems can help but are also expensive, so what if there was a simpler option?
Pallets are hugely popular as construction materials, but instead of building a new sofa, you can use them to help you organize your home and storage areas.
A Word on Pallet Safety
Before beginning your pallet adventure, be aware that pallets can be dangerous. Beyond being splintery with nails possibly sticking out of them, some pallets harbor bacteria and chemical residues. The National Consumers League randomly tested 140 pallets in April 2010 and discovered that, “10 percent of the wood pallets tested positive for E. coli (though it was not the most dangerous strain), and 2.9 percent of the wood pallets tested positive for Listeria.”
Although this is scary news, there are ways to protect yourself. Check your pallets well, looking for stains, mold or anything unusual. Wear gloves when handling pallets, even if they carry the “HT” stamp, indicating a past heat treatment. “HT stamps only protect from any pest contamination that occurs before the heat treatment,” warns the Canadian Wood Pallet and Container Association. “Contamination from products stored on the pallet after manufacture is not protected against with heat-treatment.”
Unless you’re certain of the origin of your pallets, handle them with caution until they’ve been safely sealed with several coats of paint or polyurethane.
Basic Pallet Usage
Everyone has seen a pallet, but do you know how to properly use one? It’s not rocket science, but using a pallet the wrong way may negate any benefits you get from this simple organizational tool.
Pallets are designed to provide an air pocket between the ground (porous materials like concrete, gravel and soil found in sheds, garages and storage units) and whatever is being stored. “Keeping your items off the floor is almost essential,” explains the Apartment Therapy blog. “It might sound silly, but…there’s no way to promise that the melting snow won’t come under the door, or the adjacent unit won’t have a spill that soaks its way into your heirloom sofa.”
Make sure that your pallet is in good shape before using it to support items in storage. Do not use a cardboard barrier or cram it into a corner; the open design means that it needs to breathe to be beneficial. Leave about six inches between the pallet and walls or other large stored items. Plenty of air flow will help prevent mold and mildew from growing on your belongings.
Doing More With Pallets
Pallets are great for organization beyond the horizontal, too. With a little elbow grease, a basic pallet can become a storage rack, rustic shelving or storage furniture.
- Mount your pallets vertically in the garage or garden shed to create a handy place for long-handled tools like shovels and rakes. Adding hooks or pegs to the outside of the pallet will allow you to hang work gloves, hand tools and buckets. These vertical racks are also great storage for pool noodles and other long inflatables that are difficult to stash.
- Cut into fourths and stacked, a pallet quickly turns into a shoe rack. Make sure to paint your pallet shoe rack if it will be coming indoors to seal in any microorganisms that might be riding along, or use it in the garage for work shoes.
- A pallet laid horizontally with another attached vertically at one end will keep bikes upright if you push their back tires into the spaces between the slats of both pallets. These economical bike racks can hold three or four bikes, or be used for extra tire and wheel storage in garages or storage units.
- Small kitchen shelves are popular pallet creations. They’re typically made from small sections of pallets, turned on the vertical. To the bottom, nail a thin piece of board across the opening to create versatile display storage for cookbooks, spices, small plates and other decorative items. This is another opportunity to add hooks for hanging utensils you use frequently.
- Create a rolling pallet coffee table by adding a few wheels to the underside of a pallet. “For a variation on the pallet coffee table, use just a single pallet as a television stand,” Steph at WebEcoist suggests. “The slots in the pallet are just the right size for DVD players, game consoles and cable boxes.”
Pallets are a flexible and inexpensive solution for your organizational needs at home or for long-term storage. When you’re ready to move seasonal sports equipment or extra items into storage to make room for new pallet projects, you can place them in a storage unit near you.