Sustainable pallet ideas for backyards – and get creative on a budget

Create everything from bespoke planters and bird houses to outdoor furniture with these inspiring pallet ideas

Pallet garden furniture in front of a summerhouse
(Image credit: Future)

One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, and that’s certainly true of pallet ideas for backyards. Leftover at the end of building projects, piled up in construction yards, or stacked in garden centers, they’re a great source of sturdy, useful planks of wood, which can be used to make myriad practical and decorative things for your backyard, whatever its size. 

With a little bit of ingenuity, anything from outdoor furniture to vegetable planters and storage solutions can be crafted from humble pallets, with the bare materials costing you next to nothing. 

If you're looking for backyard ideas on a budget, they're one of the best options. You can add color and personality with a lick of paint, and as well as making something totally unique, you will have had fun in the process. 

Pallet coffee table with wheels

(Image credit: Getty Images/vfhnb12)

8 pallet ideas for backyards to brighten up your outdoor space

If you're searching for ways to save money in the garden or simply want to scratch your creative itch, you'll find plenty to inspire in these creative pallet ideas for backyards. You will need some basic tools as well as the knowledge of how to use them.

1. Build homes for birds

Bird houses made from wooden pallets

This project by Hester van Overbeek is taken from the book Pallet Wood Projects for Outdoor Spaces (Cico), available at Amazon

(Image credit: James Gardiner © CICO Books))

A great project for kids to get involved with, pallet wood is the ideal material for creating some simple bird house ideas, which can be attached to trees or walls. 

'I deliberately use very rough pallet planks for mine as I want lots of wonky areas to add character to these little makes,' explains expert crafter Hester van Overbeek

One pallet should be enough to make several houses – experiment with different shapes and sizes, which will attract different kinds of birds. Essentially little boxes with lids and an entry hole, you can get your paint brushes out and decorate the outsides using exterior wood paint to create bright colors, stripes or spots, keeping the insides bird friendly and paint-free.

Hester Van Overbeek headshot
Hester van Overbeek

Hester is a craft and DIY author, her philosophy is that you don’t need much money or carpeting skills to create wonderful unique masterpieces for your home and garden.

2. Make extra seating at no extra cost

A homemade pallet chair painted in red outdoor wood paint

DIY pallet chair by @therealsalvagesister

(Image credit: Charis Williams)

Wooden outdoor furniture can be expensive but building a chair from pallets is free – and you can customize it to your space and garden décor,' says upcycler and DIY expert Charis Williams, who runs workshops teaching pallet ideas for gardens and homes. 

'You can change the length and height, add cup holders, footrests and even include a planter behind the headrest. Then of course, you can get creative with paint.'

Charis explains that pallets are made up of ‘bearers’ (the thick framework of the pallet) and ‘slats’ (the thinner material that sits across them). 

Start by sawing a pallet in two, down the middle, and removing one slat from the end of each half, so that the bearers are exposed. Cut a 20-degree angle on the bearers of one of the halves, so that it sits at this angle when you attach it to the other half with screws and wood glue, like this Gorilla Ultimate Waterproof Wood Glue at Amazon, making the reclining seat back. 

Use more bearers to make the four legs, then finish by adding armrests and extra slats to the seat and back before painting it in your chosen color. 

Charis Williams headshot
Charis Williams

Charis Williams is an artist, maker and mentor specializing in metalwork and the reuse of salvaged materials

3. Create a pretty vase display

Vase display unit made from pallets

(Image credit: James Gardiner © CICO Books)

'This vase holder will look great as a centerpiece for your outdoor table,' says Hester van Overbeek. 'Created from just one plank and three recycled glass bottles, it is a very quick project to make.'

All you need is four pieces of sanded pallet wood, glued or screwed together, with holes drilled with a paddle drill bit for the bottle openings. 

'You can use old soda bottles or three small vases. If you have a long table, why not use more bottles and stretch it out over the entire length,' says Hester.

Then simply fill with fresh cut flowers for a pretty, rustic table centerpiece

4. Give your pooch their own outdoor seat

painted dog bed made from pallets

(Image credit: James Gardiner © CICO Books)

'A pallet cut in half makes the perfect base for a dog bed,' explains Hester, and this outdoor one can live permanently on the patio during the summer. 

Take an existing dog bed or mattress to use as a size guide, then saw your pallet in half, using one half for the base and the other to form the back panel, screwing in metal corner brackets for support. You can then paint your bed a bright, cheerful color, adding patterns or even your dog’s name. 

'My little dog Kermit loves his throne, which I painted a striking bright blue,' says Hester. 

5. Create a sofa seat

A simple pallet sofa with cushioned seat pad

(Image credit: Future)

Building a pallet bench needn't be as difficult as you might think. Start by sanding down any rough areas, then use a mini roller to paint your pallets on both sides with outdoor paint. 

When they’re dry, create the base of your bench by stacking one or more pallets to the right height, securing them with screws and an electric drill. Add another pallet propped in a vertical position to create the back of the bench, again securing with a drill and screws. 

Finish by adding comfortable seat cushions to your new outdoor seating – DIY stores sell cushions specifically made for using with pallets – then add color with scatter cushions, pot plants and fairy lights. 

6. Add a vertical planter

A pallet painted gray and mounted on a gray fence with potted herbs

A great beginner project to try your hand at pallet ideas for gardens

(Image credit: Future)

This is one of the easiest pallet ideas for backyards, making it a great option for DIY beginners. 

Simply flip a pallet round and add planks from another pallet to the undersides of the legs, creating little pockets which you can line with trash bags. Fill these with compost, and add a selection of small plants. 

It's ideal for introducing some herb garden ideas to a small space, as you can either lean your finished design against a fence or fill it with trailing plants and mount it on a wall. 

7. Make a handy garden trug

A garden trug made from a wooden pallet

(Image credit: James Gardiner © CICO Books)

'A traditional wooden trug is the perfect vessel to carry around the backyard when you pick your home-grown flowers, fruits and vegetables,' says Hester van Overbeek. 

You'll need just three pallet wood planks in total; first cutting one side to shape, then using this as a template to cut the other, so that both are equal. Then, using strong wood glue, and some nails, add planks along the base and sides, making a handle from two more planks and a piece of wooden dowel. 

You can then paint your trug or stain it for a more natural look. It would even work as a mini planter box, for shallow-rooted plants such as succulents.

8. Get organized with a handy tool station 

Wooden pallet. mounted on a wall with plant pots and garden tools

(Image credit: Future)

This makes a fantastic storage idea for sheds. As always, begin by sanding down your pallet. Stand on its end and attach an extra plank to each of the top of the legs, to create shelves for extra hidden storage. Then add extra planks to fill in all the gaps in the surface.

Screw all the extra planks onto the pallet and saw off the overhang. Paint your pallet and then drill in a variety of hooks to suit the tools you wish you hang. This design uses U-shaped hooks, S-shaped hooks and coat hooks. Attach to your wall, hang your tools and enjoy gardening in a neat and orderly fashion.  


Where can I get pallets from?

Timber yards, garden centers and construction sites will all have regular deliveries of pallets – if you enquire they may put some aside for you. 

Alternatively, if some of your neighbors are currently doing work on their home or garden they may have some leftover pallets, so it's worth asking around your neighborhood. 

What can I paint pallet wood with?

Wooden pallets aren’t treated for outdoor use. Typically made of fir planks, they’ll often warp when exposed to moisture and warm sunshine outdoors over time. 

To protect your pallet ideas for backyards, use the same exterior paint you’d use on garden fences or garden furniture. Alternatively, brush on any interior water-based or chalk paint and finish with a coat of outdoor varnish on top to keep it weather-tight. For a more natural look, try linseed oil varnish on its own. 

When choosing materials for your pallet ideas, avoid those with woodworm (look for tiny holes in the wood) or any that have gone rotten or moldy. 

For more money-saving ideas in the backyard take a look at our guide on how to get free seeds.

Contributing Editor

Jenny has been a features and lifestyle journalist for over 20 years and writes about homes and gardens for a range of national newspapers and magazines. Jenny writes about organization, decluttering and storage for Homes & Gardens.