If you’re looking for wood pallets for your DIY home improvement and decor projects, you can certainly buy them new, but why not upcycle them instead? There are many places in your community to get wood pallets for free or cheap.

Reusing and re-purposing pallets is good for the environment and good for your pocketbook, too. But, a word to the wise: There are some types of businesses you should avoid. Not all pallets are safe or appropriate for all types of DIY projects.

In This Article:

  • Where to Get Pallets for Free or Cheap

  • Tips For Requesting Pallets from Businesses

  • Stores You Should Avoid (Costco, Target, Walmart, Etc.)

Where to Get Pallets for Free or Cheap

If you are looking for pallets at local retailers, stick to dry goods stores — businesses that get regular deliveries of dry items: clothes, appliances, wood, or anything that won’t seep onto a pallet and stain it or cause it to mold.

Your focus should also be on small, local stores. This is because larger businesses, especially the big box retailers, have strict rules about not only what they do with their pallets (They could be rented or required to go back to the shipper.) but also rules about who can and can’t handle their inventory (think OSHA).

But beyond the big box retailer, there are many places where you can find cheap or free wood pallets:

Construction Sites

  • Why it works: Volume. Building is booming in cities all across the country, and that means local construction companies are going to have an abundance of pallets on hand.
  • What to keep in mind: Proceed with caution here. You might see a stack of pallets outside of a construction site, but that doesn’t mean they’re free for the taking. The contractor could be storing those pallets outside, ready for pickup by a recycler or their distributor. They could also be renting the pallets. Therefore, find the construction site manager and get approval before loading them up.

Craigslist

  • Why it works: It’s fast and easy. People advertise free and cheap pallets on Craigslist, so it could be a simple matter of sending an email and then driving across town to pick up your pallet. You can also post an ad yourself seeking free wood pallets.
  • What to keep in mind: Ask what was delivered on the pallet, how old it is, and whether it has any visible stains. As always, use caution when dealing with strangers on the Internet. It’s always a good idea to take a friend with you when picking up pallets from a stranger.

Local Dry Goods Stores

  • Why it works: We’re talking about appliance, furniture, clothes, and pet food and supply retail stores. These types of goods are shipped from one location to another every day using pallets which are, for the most part, clean and dry. Focusing on local, mom-and-pop stores ups your chances of scoring free pallets. That’s because they aren’t likely to have complex arrangements in place for returning the pallets to distributors.
  • What to keep in mind: Always get approval from the store manager or owner.

Local Hardware Stores

  • Why it works: Neighborhood hardware stores, even those affiliated with a large chain like Hardware Hank, are locally owned. Typically they don’t get deliveries on pallets every day, so they don’t have a high enough volume to reuse or recycle them internally.
  • What to keep in mind: If you see pallets outside the store or in the dumpster, get approval from the manager.

Michaels

  • Why it works: Unlike most large national chains, Michaels does offer pallets to the public. They get very few pallets each week but tend to put them outside or in their dumpsters.
  • What to keep in mind: Michaels has more than 1,200 stores nationwide, and pallet policy can vary. Check with your local Michael’s about how they handle their pallets, but if you see them outside the store, they’re likely fair game.

Recycling Centers

  • Why it works: Many recycling centers sell or give away pallets. Some might be odd-sized or even partially broken, but just right for your project.
  • What to keep in mind: Call first to find out their policies. Some may not be open to letting the pallets go at all, while others might charge a nominal fee.

Store Openings

  • Why it works: Volume of inventory. Keep an eye out in your neighborhood for any stores that might be getting ready to open. They’ll be knee-deep in pallets from their initial inventory deliveries and will likely welcome a new customer even before they open.
  • What to keep in mind: Express support for the business and welcome them to the neighborhood. You may have found a great new pallet supplier!

Tips for Requesting Pallets from Businesses

Sometimes the difference between scoring free pallets and either paying for them or not getting them at all is a little know-how. Here’s what to remember when you’re on the hunt for free pallets:

  • Come early. Contact the store early in the day. Deliveries are usually taken overnight or in the morning. Tell them you’ll get the pallets out of their way early.
  • Make your initial contact when you’re buying something. When you’re making a purchase, ask the cashier about pallets. He or she may then, in turn, summon the manager or owner. The point is, you’re a customer, not just a random person walking into the store to ask for a freebie.
  • Politeness is key. This may go without saying, but be courteous and friendly, as the business is doing you a favor by giving you a pallet for free.
  • Don’t assume. There might be a slight charge for the pallets. Just ask — don’t assume they’re free.

Stores You Should Avoid

There are a number of places where pallets may be stained, soiled, or difficult to obtain. Here’s a list of places you may want to put at the end of your list:

Big Box Retailers

Frequent pallet users do not recommend approaching big box retailers. Most stores have specific policies on pallet use, and none include offering them to the public. Typically, they’ll have internal recycling and reuse programs for their pallets and therefore don’t offer them to local DIYers. Some even sell or send the pallets back to the distributor.

Big box retailers may also have strict rules about who can and can’t handle their inventory, per OSHA. They don’t want to risk the little guy cutting himself on a pallet and suing.

A few specific examples of policies:

Bass Pro Shops

  • Offers pallets to the public: No
  • Policy: Recycles internally for future use

Costco

  • Offers pallets to the public: No
  • Policy: Sends them back to their distribution center for reuse

Hobby Lobby

  • Offers pallets to the public: No
  • Policy: A pallet recycling service picks them up from the stores

Menards

  • Offers pallets to the public: No
  • Policy: Recycles and reuses them until they’re unusable

Target

  • Offers pallets to the public: No
  • Policy: Sends them back to their distributor

Walmart

  • Offers pallets to the public: No
  • Policy: Recycles and reuses pallets

Chemical and Pesticide Supply Stores

Pallets from chemical and pesticide supply stores could be stained or even saturated with chemicals. You’ll want to stay away from these to avoid coming in contact with potentially dangerous chemicals.

Grocery Store Chains

Similar to big box retailers, large national grocery store chains do not offer pallets to the public. Like their big box cousins, grocery store chains reuse and recycle their pallets internally. It’s a cost issue. Because of the high volume of pallets they are using on any given day, it’s cost prohibitive to give that resource away.

Some specific policies:

Cub Foods

  • Offers pallets to the public: No
  • Policy: Returns them immediately to the warehouse when they’re unloaded

 Hy-Vee

  • Offers pallets to the public: No
  • Policy: Recycles immediately after unloading

Target Grocery

  • Offers pallets to the public: No
  • Policy: Sends them back to their distributor

Walmart Grocery

  • Offers pallets to the public: No
  • Policy: Recycles and reuses pallets

Local Grocery Stores

This is one of the first places people turn to for pallets because of the constant deliveries. But food deliveries can spill and stain pallets because grocery stores, like other retailers, tend to use pallets over and over again until they become unusable. But unlike dry goods stores, grocery deliveries can leak, especially when dealing with meat and fresh fruits. Some stains can simply be painted over, but others can cause the wood to smell or become moldy. It is possible to find clean and dry pallets, but it may take more searching.

In Summary

You now know where to buy pallets or even where to get them for free. With a little legwork and digging, you can find pallets in your community for your DIY home improvement or decor projects. But remember, keeping your focus on small, local stores that specialize in dry goods will give you the best chance of finding clean, dry pallets to enjoy.