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Posts Tagged ‘pallet house’


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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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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Free shipping pallets can be used to make durable, comfortable and beautiful wooden floors. (click to enlarge)

Free shipping pallets can be used to make durable, comfortable and beautiful wooden floors. (click to enlarge)


We recently discussed Eleven Earth Floor Methods. Here’s another low cost floor method to consider. The drawing above is pretty much self explanatory, but here are the basic steps and a few options. First, create a level, stable base with tamped road base, subsoil or crusher fines. You could use scoria or pumice in cold climates or sand/gravel in rainy climates. Add 6 mil plastic sheeting on top as a moisture barrier and 1” or so of sand that is carefully leveled. Set one pallet at a time, screwing or nail gunning each pallet to previous pallets. Use pallets that are all the same size. This will naturally take extra time and care when you select the pallets. Also, don’t use pallets that are badly broken since they will be supporting your floor.

Flooring options include rough sawn wood from a local saw mill, recycled wood or ‘barn wood’ from old buildings or gymnasium floors (excellent source of hard maple flooring), manufactured bamboo flooring or even split bamboo if you want a really rustic look, or tongue and groove flooring (T&G). You could mill your own wood with a bandsaw sawmill. Milling your own wood enables you to use unusual woods that are not commercially available and/or cut to special dimensions – wide planks, for instance. If money is really tight, you could use pieces of pallets for the floor itself. This would definitely require a floor sander to smooth and level the floor, and a nail set to pound the nails below the surface. The drawing shows trim screws that have small, inconspicuous heads, which would work well in most instances. T&G flooring can be toe-nailed with a toe-nail gun so the nail is not visible. (This is what most pros use.) Another beautiful flooring method – although much more time consuming – is achieved by using screws and dowel plugs.

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