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Posts Tagged ‘pallet building’

One version of a post and beam pallet wall using girts for added strength to support earth berming. (click to enlarge)

One version of a post and beam pallet wall using girts for added strength to support earth berming. (click to enlarge)


One of the best benefits of doing this blog is having the opportunity to network with other natural builders. Loads (thousands of people) send us info on their projects, ask questions and share their ideas. Some of the best ideas you see on our blog have come about through this brainstorming process. We share them here for the world to see.

A while back I got an email from Rex, a reader who’s planning an ultra-low cost home in Texas. We exchanged a few emails and each time he would ask if it’s possible to further reduce the cost. He said “Owen, I have pallets, cedar poles from my land and dirt.” His persistence in lowering costs had me racking my brain for cost cutting ideas. Rex’s original plan was to build an earth lodge. Now he’s planning a rectangular design that he thinks will be simpler and easier to build. The latest cost estimate for his 800 sq. ft. earth-bermed house design is around $1,600. That’s only $2/sq. ft.! Time will tell if he can actually build at that cost. Lots of small costs quickly add up and you almost always end up spending more than planned. Rex is certainly determined though and off to a good start. He’s already gathered most of his materials and hopes to start soon.

The drawing above shows one possible pallet wall building system, although it differs somewhat from Rex’s design. He has extra strong pallets and doesn’t need girts. He might add a horizontal plate between courses of pallets just to be on the safe side. Most people, however, don’t have access to these unusually strong pallets, and so girts are recommended to help withhold the pressure of an earth berm. (See Pallet Houses and Interior Pallet Walls if you don’t have bermed walls.) The girts also create extra space for insulation, facilitate installation of plumbing and electrical, and serve as nailers for barnwood wall cladding or other materials. And note the horizontal cedar poles at the bottom that the pallets are nailed to. This is a good application of rot resistant cedar wood (juniper), and it demonstrates another way to gain a lot of strength inexpensively.

More from Rex:
“At the moment I’m looking at a 24’x30′ (720 sq ft) post and beam (juniper) earth bermed pallet wall house with clerestory windows and 80 sq ft loft for a total of 800 sq ft. Connected to the loft, access via sliding glass door, will be a deck (100 sq ft.). I may screen it in and turn it into a sleeping ‘porch’. There will be a porch below.

Total cost projections are still up in the air due to the different possibilities for exterior cladding, etc. If one were to take the concept we have discussed, use reclaimed materials for the exterior (pallet planking for cladding or reclaimed sheet metal), earthen plasters or wood cladding for the interior, then one could build at around 2 bucks a sq ft and that includes new sheet metal for the exterior roof. Depending upon which elements we decide to reclaim or buy new the house will cost us between $2-$4 sq ft to build. New items don’t have to break the bank. We got our clerestory windows from Lowes on clearance for $25 per.” [Note: This is common. People order products that they never pick up. Check your building supply stores often for discounts like this! Sometimes there’s just a tiny ding or scratch and the product is drastically reduced in price.]

Related:
Juniper and Cedar Poles for Construction

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Post and beam pallet wall for a dirt cheap earth lodge (click to enlarge)

Post and beam pallet wall for a dirt cheap earth lodge (click to enlarge)


From time to time we answer reader’s questions. Here, numerous emails have been combined and edited for brevity.

Rex:
My goal is to learn to build houses with local materials in order to help people in my area build sustainable debt free homes. I’m in love with your Earthbag Lodge plan as I had previously designed one very close to that concept before seeing it. My other main goal is optimal climate control with earth and the freedom that brings.

For the lay person, such as myself, deciding whether a living roof vs. a more conventional metal roof system is best in terms of interior climate control, insulation, etc. Are the benefits of an earthen roof worth the process? A living roof seems more difficult to waterproof without the costly membrane. I have lots of dirt, juniper poles and pallets. Straw bales are out of the question as they are $10-12 a bale around here. I LOVE the earthbag concept. I’m just brainstorming a bit more as I reconsider what is available in bulk and free. Thanks for all the time. The part of Texas I live can get very cold in the winter and is very hot in the summer. I’ve been talking to several friends and really turning them on to the idea of self preservation and taking back our housing needs from the commodity black hole. Keep of the fine work!

Owen: Utilizing low cost and free materials where you live is the way to go. Even though I’m a huge fan of earthbags, you always want to consider different options and decide what makes the most sense for you. Since you have lots of free pallets and rot resistant juniper poles then consider building a double pallet wall on an earthbag foundation as shown in the drawing above. This method may be a little faster than building entirely with earthbags and use fewer bags. (I’m assuming you have access to a chainsaw and posthole auger to speed the work.)

The whole process of building a roof that can withstand the heavy load of a living roof, and the time and effort for waterproofing, insulating, making the living roof AND maintaining the plants over time, which is a huge amount of work in itself, would tip the scale for me to pole roofs or framed roofs with lots of insulation, and metal roofing to collect roofwater (super important in dry areas). I suggest a double pole roof that is supported by a post and beam frame. This would be way faster to build than a living roof. It would be low cost, owner built and provide lots of space for insulation. You can achieve zero energy housing with both systems, so my vote is for a more conventional insulated roof with metal roofing.

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In this video, David Reed of Texas Natural Builders kindly shows us his work with developing the right plaster mix for the pallet house near Pine Ridge. This is his first full-house pallet build and his first in a severe hot-and-cold-weather climate like ours. Critics of natural building often say that natural building is not a good fit for our climate, and natural builders are in some ways blazing new territory with each building project. Plaster has been used elsewhere in the area before, by previous generations, of course, but these old ways are being improved upon by the new generation of natural builders with some trial-and-error learning a given. Reed has over twenty years experience as a conventional builder, before moving to more sustainable methods.

Texas Natural Builders
Pallet Houses

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Salvaged pallet wall

Salvaged pallet wall


Rustic wall made of salvaged wood pallets

Rustic wall made of salvaged wood pallets


DIY pallet wall

DIY pallet wall


Yesterday’s blog post explained how to install wall cladding made of recycled wood. Here are some sample projects so you can see the final look.

Image source: Shades of Light.com
Image source: Apartment Therapy.com
Image source: Ucreate Before & After

Directions for installing pallet wood accent wall: Bower Power
Directions for installing pallet wood accent walls at JustaGirlBlog.com Part 1 and Part 2

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Pallet wood shelving unit with built-in desk

Pallet wood shelving unit with built-in desk


Outdoor deck made with pallet wood planks and pallets set on gravel

Outdoor deck made with pallet wood planks and pallets set on gravel


Coffee table made from discarded pallets

Coffee table made from discarded pallets


$2 farmhouse coffee table from pallets

$2 farmhouse coffee table from pallets


Definition: Pallet-craft is reusing wood from shipping crates or pallets to make furniture, shelving, toys, decks, planters, sheds, animal pens, compost bins, ceilings, accent walls (wall cladding), benches and other useful items. Pallet craft can be as simple as making a bird house or an entire custom home out of (typically) free salvaged pallets. The field is booming, which is evident from the proliferation of content on the Internet and from traffic to our site (‘pallet’ and ‘pallet furniture’ are top search terms).

Our focus here is on functional, quality, popular items for DIY builders – how to turn discarded pallets into useful items around your home, and incorporate pallets into construction of the home itself. Previous blog posts include:
Pallet Houses
Interior Pallet Walls
Straw Bale/Pallet Walls
Pallet Floors
Pallet Wood Flooring
Pallet Wood Ceilings
Pallet Trusses

Here are some basic pallet wood building guidelines:
– Search for free pallets from shipping companies, factories, malls, grocery stores, beverage distributors, building supply centers and industrial parks. With over 4 billion pallets in current use, you shouldn’t have to pay for them.
– Pallet quality varies considerably. Find sources who will let you choose good pallets of uniform size.
– Only use pallets marked HT (heat treated). MB (Methyl-Bromide) pallets are treated with pesticides and fungicides to deter insects and mold, and are not recommended for projects in your home (although they will likely be more durable for decks, fences and other outdoor uses). Personally, I can’t stand chemicals and do not use chemically treated wood at all.
– Work with whole or partial pallets (ex: half pallets) whenever practical to minimize disassembling/breaking down pallets.
– Watch videos on YouTube for practical advice on disassembling/breaking down pallets if you need individual boards/planks.
– Prepare pallets in advance, preferably working outside while wearing a good quality dust mask. This includes sanding the wood with an orbital sander and using a blow gun to remove dust.
– Alternate the widths, colors and light/dark wood to create a pleasing, more natural appearance.
– Put unsightly boards (ex: heavily grayed, badly cracked or stained boards) in inconspicuous locations.
– Consider investing in good quality tools. A chop saw, sander, nail gun and compressor will greatly speed the work.

Image source: Blue Velvet Chair
Image source: Esprit Cabane (good directions for building decks)
Image source: Esprit Cabane (good directions for building the coffee table shown above)
Image source: Pinterest pallet craft

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Interior pallet wall drawing (click to enlarge)

Interior pallet wall drawing (click to enlarge)


Pallets on long walls can be staggered and/or have vertical 2x4s every 8 feet for added strength (click to enlarge)

Pallets on long walls can be staggered and/or have vertical 2x4s every 8 feet for added strength (click to enlarge)

Yesterday’s blog post on Pallet Houses described the pallet wall building method recommended by David Reed of Texas Natural Builders. The drawings above are a close approximation of David Reed’s pallet building system. For this blog post, we’re going to focus on interior walls, because they work perfectly with earthbag walls. Earthbags are not usually used for interior walls because they take up a lot of space. Pallet walls are thin, fairly fast and easy to build, require no special tools, are practical for running plumbing and electric, and the materials are virtually free.

From the exploded view drawings you can see how they go together. Most often there is a concrete slab floor, wood floor or earth floor. Attach the bottom plate where you want the wall to go. Add cleats (small wood blocks) to align with the pallets. Pre-drill and screw the first row of pallets to the cleats. Add a horizontal plate to tie the tops of the pallets together. Repeat the process for the top row of pallets. Secure pallet walls to earthbags with large nails such as logging spikes or ¼” rebar pins driven at different angles. Frame doors in the usual method. Now you can run any plumbing and electrical. Insulation is not required in interior walls unless you want soundproofing. The pallets can be plastered, sheetrocked, covered with facing stone, paneled with plywood or, as explained in one of the next blog posts, covered with recycled wood cladding.

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Pallet wall (click to enlarge)

Pallet wall (click to enlarge)


Pallet wall home with solar space heater

Pallet wall home with solar space heater


Pallet home by Texas Natural Builders

Pallet home by Texas Natural Builders



Pallet building is a hot topic and so the next few blog posts will explore various aspects of building with pallets — from entire houses, to interior pallet walls, to pallet wall cladding. Over 4 billion pallets are currently in use, so this is an abundant, easily obtained and usually free resource. Excerpts below about pallet building by David Reed of Texas Natural Building, a pallet house expert.

“I have been building residential homes for 24 years, I know structural stability inside and out, the strength of a pallet home is comparable to that of a conventionally framed home. In the smaller homes we design we have found that a staggered brick like installation is not needed and we try our best to find pallets exact or as close as possible in size, the installation process is as follows:

Once we decide on the foundation type, typically we always try to keep concrete forms out of our choices, we secure scrap 2×4 cleat blocks to the foundation, set back about 1/2″-5/8″, then slip the pallets over the blocks and secure them with screws horizontally into the cleats, toe screw the 2×4 frame of the pallet into the foundation as we level each one. We clamp each pallet together with C -clamps and fasten together with screws and sometimes carriage bolts, we butt corners with lapping pallets ends, and repeat this process as a soldier course along the perimeter of the foundation.

The top of the first course of pallets gets a continual 2×4 plate that is screwed down into the tops of the 2×4 frame of the pallets, this allows the pallets to be force straightened and gives it some pretty powerful rigidity!! We then install the second course of pallet just like the first, windows and doors are framed either as bucks or conventional trimmers and headers. A 2×4 top plate is installed on top of the second course and marks for joists and rafters which are installed conventionally.

In larger homes, we have found that we do have to stagger the pallets in long runs or insert a vertical 2×4 every 8′ for lateral strength. We cut pallets to fit re-using all of the materials as much as possible. We have other plate installation methods of installed on a earthbag stem wall or a cob or strawbale stem wall as well as rock using box beams as base plate and top plate with a 2×8 as the center horizontal plate. Once the pallet walls are up to the 8′ height then I come back measure and mark for the windows and then cut the opening out, frame it and pop them in!!

There are two types of wooden pallets made, HT (heat treated) and MB (Methyl-Bromide), we only use heat treated pallets in our designs and builds.

We use all natural materials as insulation, in this case being light straw clay which has an insulation value of about 1.5 per inch. We then add an adobe plaster (earth plaster) on the interior and exterior of the structure, this is typically local materials sources right from the build site! This provides both insulation and thermal mass!”

Image source 1 Pine Ridge Post-Reservation
Image source 2 Global Giving
Image source 3 I Love Cob.com
Pallet Houses
Texas Natural Builders Facebook page
The Dude Abides YouTube channel
Pine Ridge Pallet House

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