How To Treat Pallet Wood For Outdoor Use — A Step By Step Guide

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You can use a wooden pallet to transform your outdoor facade, but have you considered treating it before using it? Untreated wood pallets decay quickly, so how would you extend their lifespan?

To end your dilemma, I will share with you how to treat pallet wood for outdoor use, including the ideal finishes for your pallet.

Reasons To Treat Pallet Wood for Outdoor Use

Untreated pallets are not waterproof and can swell, bend, soften, and damage. It is also susceptible to fungus, pests, and bacteria. Also, if your pallet wood remains untreated, the wood tends to crack and split because of harsh weather conditions.

So, wooden pallets should be treated regardless if you acquired recycled, remanufactured, or new pallets; otherwise, they won’t last long.

I’ve used treated pallet wood for various outdoor projects, from garden furnishings to heavy-duty storage, and I’ve found it to be incredibly versatile.

treating pallet wood

These woods are used by many shipping lines to carry heavy containers, so wooden pallets are durable enough if you are looking for heavy-duty timber for your garden and outdoor accessories.

Indeed, treating pallet wood like any other wood can prevent and delay the decaying stage. It can also prevent discolorations and insect attacks and has protective layers from water and extreme heat.

Ultimately, giving your pallet a proper wood finish results in a longer lifespan and makes your wood project more appealing.

Products You Can Use To Treat Pallet Wood for Outdoor Use

1. Epoxy Finish

The epoxy finish offers a solid finish to your pallet and good resistance to water and moisture. Although it provides minimum protective layers from ultraviolet radiation, you can still apply multiple coats of varnish over the epoxy finish.

2. Oil Finish

Tung Oil

Commonly known as China wood oil, tung oil finish provides better water resistance from within and beyond your pallet wood. However, you must wait long before the tung oil dries completely. 

Before using this finish, I suggest familiarizing yourself with the advantages and disadvantages of tung oil. So, read next!

pallet wood oil finish

Linseed Oil

From the seeds of flax plants, linseed oil is considered a natural oil that offers a protective coat once dried completely. But, a pallet of wood with a linseed oil finish, similar to tung oil, cannot be exposed directly to heat or UV radiation.

Danish Oil

Most woodworkers prefer danish oil to linseed oil finishes because the former offers excellent resistance to water, moisture, chemicals, and damages that may occur once the pallets are used.

Unlike other finishes, danish oil dries quickly and provides a better sheen on your pallet wood. The key to achieving better results is to ensure that your pallets are bare, or you must remove any old finish, if any. 

For more info, here’s a guide on using Danish oil

Hemp Oil

Another oil finish is hemp oil, a natural sealer that protects your wooden pallets from damage due to water and weather.

Also, hemp oil is a good preservative and toxic-free, making it one of my top choices among oil finishes. You can use it for your indoor and outdoor wooden surfaces.

Using hemp oil

3. Paint

Paint is one of the most convenient finishes for pallets. With a smooth and vibrant look, this finish gives protection from outdoor elements such as rain, sunlight, snow, and moisture. I recommend using paint with two layers of a top coat like lacquer for better results.

4. Varnish

Varnish on your pallet wood should be a marine spar varnish that can hold off moisture, water, chemicals, and UV radiation. Marine spar varnish combines resins, solvents, and chemicals for more durability.

This type of varnish is ideal for exterior use, such as on your wooden pallet, because marine spar varnish is used for boats and other structures exposed directly to water. But it also provides resistance against the sun.

5. Stain

Pallets come in different colors and wood grain patterns, so you can opt for a stain finish. Stain offers protection for your wooden pallets resulting in an attractive appearance.

However, before applying stain, you must pre-stain your wooden pallet. To treat pallet wood, conditioning is necessary if you want your wood stains not to produce blotches or streaks. This is for excellent protection as well.

Staining pallet wood

Steps To Treat Pallet Wood for Outdoor Use

After learning about the finishes you can use, I have here the basic steps on how to treat pallet wood for outdoor use. You can also apply these procedures for your interior wooden pallet.

Step #1: Choose a pallet

The first thing you must do is look for the ideal size and color of your pallet wood. After carefully choosing your pallet, you must check the labels, stamps, or markings on the sides of the pallet.

The labels give you information about the pallet manufacturers and if it is treated or not. It should have the logo, country of origin, and registration number.

Including the warehouse’s International Plant Protection Convention or IPPC logo, the origin is mandatory. Also, it should indicate the treatment code with at least two letters or four-letter code, as it will be the basis for whether the pallet is treated or not.

choosing a pallet wood

Here are the stamped pallet codes I have listed for choosing a safe pallet wood:

Therefore, you should look for DB, HT, and EPAL labels and avoid the MB, EUR, and colored pallets for better results and a pallet project.

Step #2: Prep The Surface

Once you’re confident you’ve got a good, safe pallet, it’s time to roll up those sleeves and get cleaning. I find that a pressure washer does wonders here. This method is ideal for pallet wood cleaning to remove the impurities thoroughly on the surface, such as grease, dust, wood stain marks, and dirt.

It is crucial to keep in mind that a thoroughly cleaned wood surface facilitates optimal absorption of the desired finish. Once cleaned, ensure that the pallet wood is fully dry.

preparing pallet wood

Step #3: Sand The Whole Surface

Next is sanding the pallet surface to make a consistent and even absorption of your finish. Use 220 grit sandpaper and work with the direction of the wood grain pattern. If your wooden pallets have screw heads of protruding nails, remove them before sanding. You can check this guide if you need to remove screws with no head

After removing your wooden pallet’s random roughness, wipe off the sand dust using a tack cloth. You can also use a rag to remove the dust particles on the surface completely.

Step #4: Treat The Pallet

Once you are done sanding the surface, you can apply your preferred finish. As mentioned earlier, you can have oil, varnish, stain, paint, or epoxy finish for your pallet.

 I’ve been through my fair share of finishes and what I’ve found is multiple coats usually do the trick. A little tip from me—using wood conditioner before applying the finish can do wonders for absorption.

Just make sure you’re in a well-ventilated space, alright? No one likes to get lightheaded from paint fumes.

Check for special instructions on the container of the finishing product you will use. Then you can customize the number of coats depending on your desired finished project.

Sanding pallet wood

Step #5: Wait Until The Finish Dries Up And Cure

You must wait two or three days to see the final results. The curing time varies on the number of coats you applied and also the products you used.

Remember that proper curing time is vital in treating wood to gain the desired results for your pallet wood.

Suggested Reading: How Do You Dry Wood in an Oven?

Is Pallet Wood Suitable For Making Outdoor Furniture? Is It A Good Material?

Aside from industrial use, pallet wood is suitable for making exterior furniture, such as the following.

Patio Furniture

For patio furniture, you will need three wooden pallets to cater to two people and six pieces of a four-seater wooden sofa. The pallet patio furniture is a unique piece of furniture requiring a proper procedure to join the pallets.

I suggest using galvanized metal, joining plates, and screws for solid fixing. You must screw into the chunkier wood in the mid-section and avoid the pallet slats.

patio furniture

Flower boxes

You can also make flower boxes using wooden pallets. Most homeowners use pallets to create fashionable ornamental boxes, and this is a practical choice to free some space in your garden.

You can place small pots or build compartments where the flowers or herbs grow through the slats using pallet wood.

Planters

Aside from hanging pallets, you can make and paint square plant pots with vibrant colors. You can style and design it with a classic look or more country-style plant boxes.

In making plant and ornamental boxes, you must break your wooden pallets and reconfigure them.

Wooden fences

Wooden fences made of wooden pallets look simpler, but it ensures a sturdy barrier to prevent animals from entering your yard. You can also use pallet fences for your livestock to prevent animals from escaping.

wood pallet fence

Outdoor tables

When winter is over, most homeowners prepare for al fresco gatherings, so prepare your outdoor dining or coffee tables using wooden pallets. Get a piece of pallet and create your desired outdoor table appearance.

Outdoor chairs

This outdoor furniture offers relaxation because of the pallet wood structure and styles. You just need some outdoor pillows to enjoy this one.

Of the outdoor chairs, you can enjoy the swing chairs or wooden sun loungers. Swing chairs can be made using stringers as a frame and deck boards as seats. Attach the seat to the frame using chains [1]

For loungers, you can use 2×4 timber to supplement your pallets. The stringer timber sections should be fixed close to form a firm base on your 2x4s timber.

Garden beds

You must choose the safe pallets for the garden, preferably the non-toxic pallet wood. 

Using garden beds in your garden, protecting your plants from animals, and elevating it adds more appealing landscaping.

garden beds using pallet

Porches

You will need a few pallets and lay them flat for a more relaxing space. Then you can paint or stain them depending on your desired style and finish.

I recommend using waterproofing paint products to give them a longer lifespan. If treated properly, your wooden pallets can last for multiple years.

What is The Outdoor Lifespan of Pallet Wood?

The pallet wood’s lifespan depends on whether treated or untreated because bare pallet wood won’t last long.

Also, the pallets are commonly used for cargo or shipping purposes, so using them as outdoor furniture needs several methods to extend their lifespan as required.

After you treat your pallet, you can expect it to last between three to five years. But the treated pallet wood needs regular checks and maintenance, such as using sturdier wood like cedar, redwood, and juniper.

wood pallet lifespan

The maintenance depends on the style of the pallet wood, such as two-way entry, four-way entry, and the sizes.

Moreover, you need to watch for termite infestation, which is the primary problem of outdoor furniture. You can prevent this by following the proper steps to treat pallet wood for outdoor use.

What Are The Methods to Protect Pallet Wood From Termite Infestation?

To safely apply the anti-termite solution before your finishing product, here are the basic steps:

Step 1: Prepare your work area and the necessary supplies for this procedure.

Step 2: Ensure your pallet wood is clean and sanded to remove impurities on the surface.

Step 3: Mix the borate solution with water in a bucket. Wear protective gear like gloves and a mask while preparing and applying the borate preservative solution.

Step 4: Apply the solution on your pallet and ensure it covers the entire surface.

Step 5: Let the pallet dry for at least 4 hours before applying the next coat. I suggest doing two coats of the solution to your wood for a better result.

Step 6: After applying the preservative solution, apply your preferred stain with a paintbrush or bristle brush. Add two to three coats of your finish, but let each coat dry before applying the next coat.

Step 7: Once you have achieved your finish, let the pallet wood dry before fixing it to your desired outdoor use.

wood protection

How To Weatherproof Pallets

Step #1: Clean the wood thoroughly.

To weatherproof pallets, ensure the wood surface is clean and free from dirt, grease, stain marks, and other impurities.

Step #2: Sand the wood for a smooth finish.

Then sand the wood using 220 grit sandpaper and check the surface for cracks and damages. Ensure to sand along with the wood grain and pattern to prevent sand marks after applying the finish.

Also, sanding gives even and consistent absorption of your preferred finish.

Step #3: Choose the appropriate finish for the wood.

Apply the finish on your wood using a paintbrush. Ensure the entire pallet wood is covered so molds and insect infestation will not accumulate. After two to three coats, let the wood dry completely.

Step #4: Apply a complete seal to the wood.

Next, apply the appropriate sealant to your pallet. Choose a waterproof sealant to extend the lifespan of your pallet. Then let it dry completely. This is crucial, especially, if you want to protect outdoor wood furniture

Step #5: Reapply the coat regularly to maintain the weather-resistant finish.

To maintain the weather-resistant finish, you must recoat the pallet wood once a year. You can determine if you must repaint the pallet if it becomes dull.

waterproof table top

What Makes Pallet Wood a Sought-After Material?

If you’re wondering why most woodworkers and homeowners prefer pallet wood for outdoor use, here is why these are the top choice.

Affordable and accessible.

Unlike other wood materials, you can acquire pallet wood easily because there are approximately two billion pieces in the market. These woods are also versatile and have endless possibilities, as mentioned earlier.

Easy to cut.

In cutting pallet wood, you do not need special or power tools to disassemble and fix it for outdoor use. You just need a saw or hand tools appropriate for your woodworking.

Sustainable due to its reuse.

In terms of sustainability, pallet wood can be recycled depending on the purpose of your woodworking. Rather than disposing of it, you can use it for your garden ideas.

Made from renewable resources.

Wooden pallets are known as environmentally friendly construction materials because no chemicals are used in making pallets.

pallet woods sought out after material

Customizable according to personal preferences.

As mentioned earlier, you can customize your treating pallet wood using paint, stains, and desired finish.

Is it Advisable To Use Pallet Wood For Outdoor Projects?

Yes, it’s advisable to use pallet wood for outdoor projects. However, treating pallet wood is important before using it outdoors to prevent decay or rot. Otherwise, these things might happen:

Not ideal for outdoor projects due to sunlight exposure.

If the pallet wood is untreated, the wood will start to fade and degrade because wood cannot withstand direct sunlight and UV rays. Also, it will begin to warp as the moisture content evaporates.

Water can compromise durability.

Moreover, water and moisture can damage the wood and cause molds and fungi to thrive on the wood surface if the pallet wood remains untreated and exposed for longer.

Environmental concerns with outdoor use.

Although you manage to use less harmful chemicals for your finish, there are still conditions that need to be toxic, particularly if you are going to prevent termites and insects from penetrating your wood.

Can be used in outdoor gardens but with proper treatment.

If you apply some chemicals that can cause soil pollution, ensure to do it in a well-ventilated area but not in the soil area, especially in the vegetation field.

pallet proper protection

FAQ

Can I Use Pallet Wood For Decking?

Yes, you can use pallet wood for decking because the pallets are sturdier hardwood, making them ideal for industrial use. Also, wood pallet decks offer beautification to your yard and a unique appearance to other traditional decks.

Conclusion

After learning about wooden pallets and the wood finish you can use on them, you can now transform your facade into a beautiful spot.

By following the tips and tricks I shared to treat pallet wood for outdoor use, there is no doubt that you will end up with a more sturdy and polished DIY project.

robert headshot

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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