The Easy Way to Dismantle a Pallet

Tutorial time… I’m about to blow your mind!

Let’s talk about pallets.  Like many I know, I have a love-hate relationship with them.

PROS: Easily accessible, super useful, FREE

CONS: Pain in my you-know-what to dismantle

Hunting for pallets is a favorite past time of mine.  The “Free Stuff” section of Craigslist is the place to be.  A lot of businesses will post “first come, first served” ads for pallets that they are trying to get rid of.  You just have to be quick about it.  Admittedly, I’ve also been known to back my SUV straight up to a discarded pile on the side of the road and load them up.  Free lumber is the best!

I have some in the corner of my garage right now.  I like to have 3 or 4 at all times.  One time I had about a dozen.  It was absurd!  The hubby was not pleased.  We can’t fit any cars in our two-car garage as it is.  Luckily I went through a pallet project phase so the pile dwindled significantly.

The other day I was working on a pallet wine rack in the driveway when the plumber pulled up.  We struck up a conversation about staining wood, and he mentioned the plethora of pallets at his office location that his company is always trying to get rid of.  Cha-ching!  New source.  No more Craigslist for this lady.

Despite my love of pallets and their versatility, dismantling them has always been a nightmare.  In the beginning, I was really only getting a few good pieces of wood from each pallet.  Even after months of practice, a lot of the planks would still split.  I was using a combination of hammer and crow bar.  The older the pallet, the harder it was to take apart.  It was a long, tiresome, dirty process that usually involved some scrapes and/or splinters.

Then, one day, it just clicked.  I realized what I was doing wrong and how to fix it.  So let me drop some knowledge on you…

The Easy Way to Dismantle a Pallet

Step 1:  Lay the pallet flat on the ground.

The one I used for the tutorial was in particularly bad shape.  It was really old and already missing a lot of planks.  The remaining planks were warped, cracked, and really, really stuck.  Back in the day, I probably would have given it up as a lost cause.


Step 2:  Get out your jig saw.

That’s right.  No more hammers, mallets, crow bars, etc.  Just a saw.


Step 3:  Line up your jig saw on the inside of the pallet edges and cut through each plank.  Do this for each side.

The photo is a better explanation than the description.  Instead of trying to pull out nails, I just cut the edges of the pallet straight through.  Most of the edges around the nails just end up falling off on their own.


Step 4:  Depending on the size of the wood planks you want, either repeat Step 3 for the middle of the pallet or seesaw the planks back and forth over the center piece of wood to loosen the nails.  Then either remove the nails, or just pull the planks out.

I my case, I wanted shorter planks.  So I just cut the planks through the center the same way I did on the edges.  That left me with several small pieces of wood that were intact with no nail holes.


Step 5:  Now use a hammer to remove the edges of the planks from the other wood pieces and pull the nails out.

Almost the entire pallet can be used.  In fact, the only wasted parts are the scraps leftover from the edges of the planks.  Which were the parts you didn’t want in the first place because they were riddled with nail holes.  Now you have perfectly good pieces of wood that don’t even need to be filled and sanded.  They are project ready!


I used my miter saw to give the edges of the planks a nice, clean cut.  Good as new.

How easy is that!?  I don’t know about you, but I will certainly never try to dismantle a pallet with anything other than my jig saw ever again.

Check out some of my recent pallet projects and a few from the past:


Autumn Pallet Sign


Herringbone Pallet Buffet Table


Pallet Bookshelf Makeover


Scrap Wood Candy Corn


Pallet Cat Lover Sign


Side Table Pallet Makeover


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