Materials pallet

Published on February 19th, 2009 | by ziggy

1,311

Build Your Own Free Tiny House with Shipping Pallets

Last week I talked about how to live simply and decrease your carbon footprint living in a tiny house. Even better than buying a tiny house is making your own, and Michael Janzen is blazing a trail with his free tiny pallet house. Not only is his house made out of recycled shipping pallets, it isn’t costing him anything to build. And lucky for us, he’s sharing his plans so you too can build your own tiny free house.

Tiny-Free-House-Header

You can save money, sharpen your DIY skills, and further decrease your environmental impact by following Janzen’s example of building a free pallet house.
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Keep pallets out of landfills

Here are some disturbing statistics about shipping pallets:

  • Approximately 40% of all hardwood harvested in the U.S. is for making shipping pallets
  • About two-thirds of pallets are used only once before being thrown out
  • 1/4 of all wood in landfills is from used pallets

You can help prevent deforestation and keep pallets out of landfills by finding creative alternative uses for them, like building a house. Pallets can be found everywhere. Once you start looking for them, you’ll see them scattered all over your town or city.

Contact a local warehouse, supermarket, or any business that receives large shipments, and get permission to pick up their used pallets. Most companies are happy to give their pallets away.

Plans for a free pallet house

Janzen has made plans for building a free pallet house available on his website. These plans are a guide for building what he calls a disaster preparedness and emergency shelter. Janzen says:

As hurricane Gustav plowed across Cuba headed for the gulf coast of the United States memories of Katrina and the potential displacement of thousands got me thinking. I wanted to do something to help. It occurred to me that someone else might find what I now about building with shipping pallets useful in the coming weeks and months.

With some creativity, you may find that shipping pallets can be reappropriated in other ways to build your own free tiny house. For example, I have a friend that has disassembled shipping pallets and used the wood to build roof trusses for his straw bale building.

Ultimately, you can help prevent deforestation and keep pallets out of landfills by using them to build creative housing.

Think tiny and free!

(Image credits: flickr via KGBKitchen); Tiny free pallet house




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About the Author

I'm a 26-year-old currently living at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in northeast Missouri, an intentional community devoted to sustainable living and culture change. Things you might find me doing here (other than blogging) are building with natural materials, gardening, beekeeping, making cheese, candlemaking, and above all else, living simply. You can read about my on-going natural building projects at: http://www.small-scale.net/yearofmud



1,311 Responses to Build Your Own Free Tiny House with Shipping Pallets

  1. alycia says:

    wow, this is quite impressive, esp. coming from a young man. it is nice to know the world is not completely corrupt yet. Thank God for that …

  2. alycia says:

    wow, this is quite impressive, esp. coming from a young man. it is nice to know the world is not completely corrupt yet. Thank God for that …

  3. zang says:

    yea i really do think he cares about the money hes just saying he doesnt to sound better e.e <_<

  4. zang says:

    yea i really do think he cares about the money hes just saying he doesnt to sound better e.e <_<

  5. Alan says:

    this is awesome,everyone should have on!!!!!!In case of disaster.This is really useful and it’s cheap.

  6. Alan says:

    this is awesome,everyone should have on!!!!!!In case of disaster.This is really useful and it’s cheap.

  7. Jan says:

    Why can’t the pallets be reused by companies??? I don’t understand why this can’t happen. I have seen them around different business in my town but I just thought they were waiting to be picked up. This is rediculous. It make no sense to me. We recycle so many other things but yet no one wants to reuse t he pallets. Surely with all the fantastics minds out there surely someone can figure out a way to reuse the pallets for what they were made for>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    • Suzyu says:

      Some companies do recycle pallets. There are even pallet recycling businesses that collect unwanted pallets and resell them to other companies. That said, there are so many pallets in use everywhere that many large companies like Walmart cannot afford to mess with recycling, they have too many coming and going. We just picked up a bunch of pallets and made a boardwalk over a muddy area and a 50′ square fence for our dogs. May build a carport next.

  8. Jan says:

    Why can’t the pallets be reused by companies??? I don’t understand why this can’t happen. I have seen them around different business in my town but I just thought they were waiting to be picked up. This is rediculous. It make no sense to me. We recycle so many other things but yet no one wants to reuse t he pallets. Surely with all the fantastics minds out there surely someone can figure out a way to reuse the pallets for what they were made for>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

  9. Joe says:

    Yeah, like a homeless person who have a workshop to fabricate the framework from the plastic hut…and has anyone ever tried to live in this hut in the open?…with it being made of plastic, can anyone picture some homeless guy running down the street chasing after his plastic hut on a windy day?

  10. Joe says:

    Yeah, like a homeless person who have a workshop to fabricate the framework from the plastic hut…and has anyone ever tried to live in this hut in the open?…with it being made of plastic, can anyone picture some homeless guy running down the street chasing after his plastic hut on a windy day?

  11. Christi says:

    no matter what ppl think many of the homeless are there because that is their choice. They prefer this to the restrictions placed on them when they move into housing. Many of the homeless suffer from some form of mental illness and are not suitable for many community housing projects…get some info abt the homeless before you make judgements as to how you want them to live

  12. James Powell III says:

    I am impressed, I would like to see how this could be taken further by, having all necessities taken care of like, insulation and ventilation for hot and cold weather conditions, Some kind of window for natural light source, You also, need a spot to sleep and a small table and chair where you can eat. Unless you eat somewhere else or study somewhere else. Solar and wind power to generate battery power. What about some place for a water filter. Bathroom and bathing would be an issue for a small place, unless it is provided nearby at a public place. Also, what about a place for clothes. I assume there could be a way to lock up and secure your place?
    That would be cool to see a tiny house made like that.

  13. James Powell III says:

    I am impressed, I would like to see how this could be taken further by, having all necessities taken care of like, insulation and ventilation for hot and cold weather conditions, Some kind of window for natural light source, You also, need a spot to sleep and a small table and chair where you can eat. Unless you eat somewhere else or study somewhere else. Solar and wind power to generate battery power. What about some place for a water filter. Bathroom and bathing would be an issue for a small place, unless it is provided nearby at a public place. Also, what about a place for clothes. I assume there could be a way to lock up and secure your place?
    That would be cool to see a tiny house made like that.

  14. Dan says:

    I hope you know that the boy purchased the materials from a local store. He did not pull the materials out of the trash. If he did, his parents would not have let him have it in side of there pristine expensive house.

  15. Dan says:

    I hope you know that the boy purchased the materials from a local store. He did not pull the materials out of the trash. If he did, his parents would not have let him have it in side of there pristine expensive house.

  16. Dan says:

    There is “Green” renewable product that has many uses. It has incredible weight to strength ratio. It uses very little natural resources to manufacture. In fact, it requires carbon dioxide to manufacture and the byproduct of manufacturing is oxygen… It is called a Tree. So get off of your “Green” podiums and go plan a tree.

  17. Dan says:

    There is “Green” renewable product that has many uses. It has incredible weight to strength ratio. It uses very little natural resources to manufacture. In fact, it requires carbon dioxide to manufacture and the byproduct of manufacturing is oxygen… It is called a Tree. So get off of your “Green” podiums and go plan a tree.

  18. Dan says:

    I forgot to mention that trees are solar powered.

  19. Dan says:

    I forgot to mention that trees are solar powered.

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  21. Kyanisunrise says:

    Very imaginative but Can’t be built in the US, Will not pass building coded for a livable structure.

  22. Kyanisunrise says:

    Very imaginative but Can’t be built in the US, Will not pass building coded for a livable structure.

  23. mike m. says:

    great idea for camping,the coleman company might be interested in this.

  24. jesse says:

    why not just live in a tent

  25. jesse says:

    why not just live in a tent

  26. Joel Linn says:

    Reclaimed wood? If the shoe fits… Wooden Palettes reused for this tiny little eye catch. Why not?

    From Page: “I spent the last two days working in the Tiny Free House and got the other window lowered about 8 inches to clear the eaves and finished adding pallet boards to the roof. It was very slow going screwing all those boards to the trusses. I used an extension ladder from the outside for the lower boards and did the peak from the inside by coming up through the framing.

    My next step is to cover the roof with roofing felt to protect the house from the rain and start on the siding on my next trip… unless my father-in-law scores form scrap sheet metal for me. He mentioned he knew a couple guys with sheet metal shops that often have shingle size scrap pieces of metal. Seems to me some galvanized scrap sheet metal would make some very nice shingles… nicer than #10 cans and still very free.”

  27. Joel Linn says:

    Reclaimed wood? If the shoe fits… Wooden Palettes reused for this tiny little eye catch. Why not?

    From Page: “I spent the last two days working in the Tiny Free House and got the other window lowered about 8 inches to clear the eaves and finished adding pallet boards to the roof. It was very slow going screwing all those boards to the trusses. I used an extension ladder from the outside for the lower boards and did the peak from the inside by coming up through the framing.

    My next step is to cover the roof with roofing felt to protect the house from the rain and start on the siding on my next trip… unless my father-in-law scores form scrap sheet metal for me. He mentioned he knew a couple guys with sheet metal shops that often have shingle size scrap pieces of metal. Seems to me some galvanized scrap sheet metal would make some very nice shingles… nicer than #10 cans and still very free.”

  28. Ben C says:

    This is a pretty good idea, but an even better use is to find a company that ships a lot of stuff…get the pallets from someone who receives a bunch of stuff, pickup their pallets and then recycle them by giving or selling them back to a company that needs them….every pallet that you recycle like this, may be directly responsible for preventing a new pallet from being made….

  29. Ben C says:

    This is a pretty good idea, but an even better use is to find a company that ships a lot of stuff…get the pallets from someone who receives a bunch of stuff, pickup their pallets and then recycle them by giving or selling them back to a company that needs them….every pallet that you recycle like this, may be directly responsible for preventing a new pallet from being made….

    • Josiah says:

      I work with pallets and I can tell you that you really can’t use the things more than once safely, maybe twice. They take quite a beating and you don’t want one breaking at an inopportune time. What you should really back is replacing as many as possible with synthetic pallets.

    • alot of electrical supply house and warehouses wouldnt mind to hand out some pallets. just ask if you take some off there hands and i bet they would be cool with it.

  30. I’m not sure if this is where I am suppose to contact you but I have a story or a plead to share with you. My mother is in desperate need of home repairs. The house she is living in, is the house that she raised nine children in. Three of the children belonged to my fathers first marriage, and thiere mother was killed in an accident, leaving them to my dad. Only one of those children claim my mom now that they are grown, not thanking her for being there for them when they needed someone. My father was an alcoholic and abusive not only to my mother but to the oldest of the children. To make a long story short, My mom has given her whole life to raising children and being abused. I being the youngest of the children would like to help my mom at least have a nice place to live the remaining yrs of her life. My moms house is falling down as we speake. There are hole is the floors, cielings and walls. Wasps come in and I think they have built nests in the attic, because we have killed over 60 just this summer alone. If there is some way that you could help me, help my mom, pls contact me asap. This would be great addertisement for your buisness and for the world to go green also. Pls help my mom to rebuild her home, we don’t have the money to repair it and it is unsafe and unhealthy. God Bless you and your family. Thank you so much. Kim Dockery My address is : Kim Dockery, Blanchard Oklahoma Po. Box 1315 Pls respond and let me know if you can help me.

  31. I just finished a goat shed. I was lucky enough to find four 8ft pallets. I used 3 for 3 walls and a normal size pallet on the 4th wall to leave a space for the door. I am using the 4th 8ft pallet as part of the goat’s climbing gym.

    I attached the pallets to treated landscape timbers to keep the pallets up off the ground. On the outside I put tin and the roof is clear plastic roofing so it’s not too dark inside.

    This is a great house for my goats but it would work well for a chicken coop, Dog house etc. Pallets are a great way to build. Not only did I save money, it took about an hour to do all the framing needed.

    I’ll be using pallets again!

    • emad says:

      i am also trying ..to make a roof of 12 X 54 Foot. from pallettes.But they are plastic pallettess..what should i do..

  32. I don’t want to be a party-pooper & I want to do the right thing by recycling etc., but…I’ve heard that many pallets are contaminated by toxic materials originally stored/shipped on them. This is also a very good reason not to burn pallets. ~ jack at rainbarrel.ca

  33. I don’t want to be a party-pooper & I want to do the right thing by recycling etc., but…I’ve heard that many pallets are contaminated by toxic materials originally stored/shipped on them. This is also a very good reason not to burn pallets. ~ jack at rainbarrel.ca

    • I can see where that could be a concern. The 8ft pallets that I used were brand new very white untreated wood that something very light was shipped on because they were not double sided as normal pallets are. However, the idea to make a goat shed out of pallets came from a huge Goat farmer in Montana. He raises meat goats. He uses pallets that are really weathered. As you know grocery stores, the Walmart and CVS receive goods shipped on pallets. On the other hand, I would not be searching for pallets at a chemical company to use to build with. In addition, as with any wood after laying out in the sun for months, most anything that could have seeped into the wood would be gone. If it didn’t we wouldn’t have keep treating our decks. I feel safe with the choice I made. Depending on where you live in the U.S. air polution is probably as big of a danger. :)

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  35. dan norton says:

    I love it, I plan on making my own hand made green house myself, and have been stocking up for a couple of years now. I currently have a nice 10X5 underground room with 15 feet of underground tunnels accessing the room. The walk throughtunnels are a full 6′X 3′ and the room has 10′ceilings. I have covered the wallsw chicken wire type material, nailed into the dirt walls then a light coat of stucco. the ceiling is supported with 8″X 8″X 8′ bridge timbers. The rest is still pretty primative up the insides are there to stay. The hardest part of the job was not so much the digging, but what to and How to get rid of the dirt. It took 2-years to dig, at around an hour and half per day.I will share my pict of construction and the semi finished product at the following e-mail. The pallet house is great and wonderful idea, regrettfully in my recycling carrer I have run into a few problems with taking pallets without permission from the property owner, so I try and icaask for permission MOST of the time. What we as Americcans throw awayway too much stuff we are just now as we are almost washed out are realizinf that, so I feel that We as recyclers, trash pickers, dumpster divers, you name it we should be incouraged and not down turned in our quest to reuse anything we can get our hands on. Have a ball! Daniel Norton

  36. I am all for it, but failed to find Janzens web site address in the article. Please help?
    Thanks,
    Raymond

  37. Pingback: Frugal Bastards » Blog Archive » Build Your Own House Out Of Shipping Pallets

  38. kemmer says:

    I have built a lot of stuff out of shipping pallets, from a dog house to shelves to planter boxes for my garden. These tiny houses are really cool and simple, what a neat concept!

  39. m d jarrett says:

    Where are the plans? Guess we have to pay for them?

  40. maurice says:

    As a truck driver I can say the statement about pallets being used once is completely false. Any area with even moderate shipping activity will have pallet recycling companies rebuilding and selling for reuse.

  41. anna says:

    i want to make a tiny house but i am only 9 my dad said it is a lot of money so i haft to wait for a while but that means a long time in parent language please help!

  42. ice says:

    i love my chicken coop i made

    • Deserto says:

      i love this idea! i’m always seeing these things thrown out behind stores. I have a 5 year old son who’d rather play video games then be outside… Having been homeless myself, this project was very simular to the shelter i created with slabs of dejected landfill cement parts. I’m going build him this little play house but take it a step farther. because we live in the desert it becomes to hot to go out, so i’m going to dig a slab about two to three feet build the structure as seen above, and cover the reat with plywood, for reinforcement, cover with plastic for rain protection and leaving some tarp to roll and unroll for shade and a door flap. then to top it all off cover it with sand and plant some nice flowers on it…. and why stop thier, hindge up a slab a ply and make a fold down bunk, he can camp out if he wants. one thing though, i have to figure out away to keep rattle snakes out of there when summer comes. maybe a fold down for would work? anyways thanks for the idea! This is going to be fun!.

  43. Joan says:

    I am going to take this idea and run with it, starting with a utility shed in a backyard. I can also see this working as the framing for a large traditional sized home, possibly sturdier if you are simply nailing pallets together for the framework. A big cost reduction for home builders, and very green!

  44. Dakota says:

    This is and or could be a way to solve the homeless problem in the world, and the poverty, by teaching this to different people to keep them from the elements at night

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  46. Hannah says:

    There are lots and lots of ideas out there for pallet furniture too…daybeds, coffee tables on casters, etc.  Love the idea of re-purposing them…!  I think I may use this idea for a play-house for my son (obviously on a much smaller scale).  Next thing you know though, places will be charging an arm and a leg for them because they’ll realize they’re in high demand.  :-/

  47. little pallet girl says:

    I applaud your effort to save our planet, but you are very misinformed about pallets.  My family has run a pallet manufacturing plant for my whole life, and I happen to know a few things about it… 1st and foremost, trees are never cut down for the sole purpose of building a pallet.  Pallet manufacturers use the center of a tree, i.e. the part that furniture manufacturers or lumber mills can not use for any other purpose.  The lumber we use is too low grade for any other use.   That alone makes it impossible that 40% of all lumber is cut to produce pallets.  We don’t even use 40% of a tree.  Think of a pallet company like a bottom feeder in the ocean, or a buzzard on land, we take what no one else wants and make a usable product from it.  Some pallets are indeed single use, however they are usually made from very thin wood that is broken at the end of that use.  However, some are built thick and in a standard size, so that once a product is shipped that pallet can be sent on down the production line and reused many times…  We also recycle pallets here, ourselves.  We bring them in from companies who find themselves at the end of a use cycle.  We remove and replace the boards that have been broken, and add support systems to any that can be salvaged.  Even the sawdust that is produced by our saws is reused in several ways.  Local farms use it for animal bedding, local brick manufacturers use it in their manufacturing process.  Some of our waste is sold at a very low cost to people in our area who feel it is better to heat their homes with wood as opposed to gas, or electric.  

    So, while I think it is great to reuse a pallet bound for the landfill, in fact we have a few in our house ourselves, serving various purposes, I can assure you that most pallets are not as villainous as you would like to portray them.

  48. Anonymous says:

    Building a home in this economic times is quite a difficult feat to achieve but it isn’t not entirely impossible. Indeed, this is one way to build a home that doesn’t come in too heavy on the pockets, nor cause the destruction of the planet. You can consider this tip or also approach home builders http://www.zcustomhomes.com to provide you assistance in coming up with a custom home that is suitable for your needs.

  49. Walter Hynson says:

    Nice ,I built a simular structure 20 years ago using 10ft sq pallets it worked great ,now what we as people have to do is get rid of the building inspectors that prevent people from building their own homes then we will be truly free….WCH

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