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Published on February 19th, 2009 | by ziggy


Build Your Own Free Tiny House with Shipping Pallets

Recently, we’ve 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.

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 … the one below, in fact, and the plans are HERE.




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.


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:

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  • Doug

    I built my tiny house doing a good deal of dumpster diving for more traditional building materials and have the following workshop planned to help another build a tiny house:

    Dale’s TINY HOUSE

    August 9, Near Iowa
    City, Iowa

    Join us in Iowa for a
    one day workshop, kicking off the construction of a 12-foot tiny house on
    wheels. During this day-long intensive you will frame the floor,
    anchoring them to a utility trailer. We’ll focus on tool safety and
    use, and will walk through the key considerations for building a house on
    wheels – a structure that must endure a thousand miles of road ruts, potholes,
    wind shears and driving rain.

    PAD is partnering with a
    local volunteer group, TINY HOUSE IOWA CITY, and Dee will teach the workshop
    along side her brother, Doug, a long time builder and teacher. The
    workshop will be held at Coralville United Methodist Church 806 13th Ave,
    Coralville, IA 52241, and will include a meet-up on Saturday night in
    Iowa City complete with small bon fire, smores and a tour of Doug’s beautiful
    little house. With only 10 spots we expect it to fill fast—so don’t
    delay! It is going to be epic TOOLS-ON fun!!!

    Cost: $125


    § Orientation – Tiny House Engineering

    § Tool Safety

    § Floor Framing, Decking and Undercarriage

    § Insulation Options

    § Bolts and Tension Ties

    § Advanced Wall Framing (Introduction)

    Noon break will be lunch
    on your own, and in the evening we’ll break for showers and then gather from 6
    to 8pm for a pot luck dinner in Doug’s nearby backyard, complete with a tiny
    house (photo) and an opportunity to hob knob with local tiny house enthusiasts.

    To register visit our

    A Bit of History:

    In April
    of 2006 we had a men’s retreat at my cedar log house on 18 acres near Kent
    Park. Three of our 12 hours together was
    spent sweating away at a work project as men are often want to do. We had a bit of an old fashioned barn raising
    as five groups framed up a little 14×8 foot hermitage. It was modeled after a tiny house my sister
    had built and was designed as a place for people to get away from the concerns
    of the world for a bit of prayer and reflection.

    I’m still appreciative to that initial group of
    men and later to Bill Ferrel who gave me one of his staff work shirts as I
    dumpster dove for building materials hoping the police in the upscale
    neighborhoods would give me less attention.
    It took a year to complete and over the following seven years an average
    of a few people a month spent the night in the place. Like me, they got a taste of simplicity often
    reserved for camping weekends.

    person who stayed in the place was a homeless man I befriended for a number of
    years. We got to know one another when I
    asked Crissy Canganelli at the Shelter House who I might talk to if I wanted to
    experience the plight of homelessness first hand. She introduced me to Mike who was living
    behind a fraternity house by the river and he allowed me to pitch a tent during
    a two week emersion experience I had planned.
    Like him I road a bike to get around and still remember one 6:30 am Area
    Leaders meeting to which I showed up late after a flat tire left me jogging
    along side my mountain bike for a mile.
    Mike showed me a radically alternative perspective on life working just
    enough to live, to allow time to wax eloquent about Dante and marvel at the
    rain. In return I introduced him to my
    church friends who helped him with a few jobs enabling him to rent an apartment
    and purchase a truck. Looking back I
    think I got the better end of the deal.

    2013 I traded the Davidic cedar palace in the woods for a hundred year old
    yellow brick house in Iowa City and moved that hermitage to the back yard. Occasional stays in the tiny space grew to
    daily waking up there to encounter the cacophony of early morning traffic
    noise, barking dogs, and neighbors. Living in a tiny house is possible and a
    growing delight. In December, I decided
    to once again approach the Shelter House about an idea that had been
    brewing. “Are there any homeless veterans
    interested in building and living in a tiny house? If so, I have rooms to rent in my house as we
    plan the event.”

    This time I was introduced to Dale who has made an excellent housemate
    and is in the process of designing and acquiring the materials to build an 8 x
    12 foot tiny house on a repurposed trailer.
    August 9 Portland Alternative Designs, my sister’s tiny house company
    and a group here, will lead a workshop with Dale and I to launch the project
    forward. Our hope is to engage the
    homeless and minimalists wanting to live more simply in tiny house design and
    building in a manner that can be reproduced exponentially. I don’t yet know if it’s a God sized dream or
    just something a few friends and I will experiment with, but prayer and time will
    determine this.

    you are interested in learning more about simplified living or want to help
    with the build event give me a call at 319-530-7806.


    Doug Williams


    Do they need hot water quicker? Do they want to stop their pipes from freezing?

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