Short Answer: You can find free wooden crates and pallets at many local grocery stores, hardware stores, garden centers, and other small businesses if you simply ask. Some businesses may charge a small fee for used crates and pallets; for example, one Ace Hardware store we spoke with charged $1 per pallet. With the exception of one Home Depot store, none of the big-box chains we contacted were willing to part with any used shipping crates or pallets. However, the stores in your neighborhood may offer a different answer, so it’s always best to call and ask for details.
Below, we outline where you can find free (or cheap) wooden crates and pallets, along with safety guidelines, legalities, project inspiration, and more.
Things to Consider With Wooden Crates and Pallets
It’s important to remember that not all wooden shipping containers are created equal. The crates and pallets you purchase from a craft store like JOANN or Michaels will be a different quality than the ones you find for free from a local business.
Be careful to look for nails and screws, and be aware that many used pallets or crates will need to be sanded if you are looking to use them for furniture or home decor. You may wish to wear gloves when transporting these items to avoid splinters and cuts.
If the crates or pallets were used to transport food and liquid, look for any spillage that could potentially rot or lead to mold.
Another detail to pay attention to is the IPPC treatment code stamped on the pallet or crate. In particular, pallets stamped with MB have been treated with methyl bromide, a broad-spectrum pesticide used to kill any insects, rodents, and nematodes that may have been inhabiting the wood. Methyl bromide is not considered safe for human inhalation or skin contact, so it’s highly advised you do not take any wooden items marked with this code. Pallets marked HT (heat-treated), KD (kiln-dried), or DB (debarked) are safe to use.
If a crate or pallet does not show any IPPC stamp, you won’t know what chemical processing it may have undergone. Take this into consideration before using these items for your home crafts and decor.
Never assume that crates or pallets stacked out in front of a business are free to take. Some companies, especially large retail chains, do reuse these items and consider them company property. Other companies charge for used shipping containers, even if it’s a dollar or two each. If you are caught removing crates or pallets from a business without permission, you may be charged with theft. Always ask a manager first and make sure you have the go-ahead to take them.
Where to Find Wooden Crates and Pallets for Free
Craigslist is a good resource for finding wooden crates and pallets. Look under the free section for people who have items they want to get rid of or check the for sale section for steals on larger quantities of crates or pallets.
Construction sites frequently have wooden shipping containers on hand as materials are delivered. They may not always be willing to part with crates or pallets for free, but it may be worth asking. Like most things, being polite and helpful will get you a long way when you’re asking for free things. Do a quick Google search for “construction companies [your town here]” and make a few phone calls to see what you can find.
Grocery and Liquor Stores
Most grocery stores have stock delivered on pallets and in crates. Free wine crates, for example, can frequently be found at many local liquor stores if you simply ask a store associate.
Instead of going straight to a large grocery chain, we advise first trying your luck with smaller “mom and pop” grocery stores in your area. Most stores pay a fee to haul away old crates and pallets, so they may be inclined to give them away instead. Simply call the store and ask a manager if they dispose of pallets and crates and if you can take some.
We asked several large grocery store chains about free crates and pallets and received negative responses across the board. Note that stores in your neighborhood may offer different answers. For example, we called Walmart locations in New York, Virginia, and Connecticut to ask about their policy on disposing of wooden shipping containers. None of the locations we spoke with gave crates or pallets away. We were informed that Walmart typically reuses these items in warehousing and shipping.
We also contacted Wegmans, Publix, and Kroger stores across New York, Florida, Michigan, and Virginia. We received similar answers at each of these stores. Customer service associates explained that pallets and crates are not disposed of or given away; they are sent back to corporate shipping centers for reuse.
Hardware, appliances, and furniture are almost always shipped on pallets, so stores that sell these products may be willing to part with pallets and crates. Like grocery stores, we recommend starting your search at smaller, locally-owned hardware stores before contacting the big-box chains.
We contacted several The Home Depot and Ace Hardware stores in New York, North Carolina, and Michigan for information. We received varied answers, so note again that stores in your neighborhood may have different policies. We were informed by one Home Depot store in New York that management would be willing to set aside one or two pallets for us free of charge at the customer service desk. However, The Home Depot locations we spoke with in Michigan and North Carolina both explained that they reused pallets (and were credited by corporate for doing so), and they would not be willing to give any away. None of the stores we spoke with had crates.
Ace Hardware yielded more positive answers. Stores in New York and North Carolina said they did frequently have pallets that they’d be willing to give away for free. One Ace Hardware in Grand Rapids, Mich. said that they do part with old shipping pallets, but for a cost of $1 a pallet. None of these stores had crates, however, either.
Small Garden Centers
Another option for finding free (or cheap) crates and pallets is to check your local garden center or plant nursery. Garden centers receive products on pallets on a regular basis, and they may be willing to let you take them for free rather than pay for their disposal. Most nurseries aren’t nationwide chains and only have a few locations. Use this Nurseries and Garden Centers Directory to find a nursery near you.
If you have a local, regional, state, or even national newspaper headquartered near your town, they may offer free crates and pallets. Publishing companies deal with very large quantities of paper and printing supplies, so the odds are good that they send and receive shipments on wooden pallets on a regular basis.
If you live in a major metropolitan area or near a distribution center, you may be able to find a recycling center nearby. The crates and pallets you find at recycling centers may not be completely intact or even in good shape. However, if you’re going for a vintage or reclaimed look, or you’re planning on disassembling the item to use component pieces, a recycled wooden crate or pallet could be ideal.
To find out if you do have a recycling company near you, do a Google search for “wooden pallet recycling in [your town name].”
Other Local Businesses
As our research has shown, smaller, locally-owned businesses are much more likely to have free crates and pallets available than big-box chains. Apart from the types of businesses mentioned above, feel free to check out your local farming supply stores, pet stores, lumber yards, factories, produce markets, and any other place you suspect may receive shipments on pallets or in crates. Just ask for the manager or the owner and tell them what you are trying to locate. It may help your case to offer something favorable, like picking up the items during non-business hours or paying a small fee. Pallets and crates are typically not hard to find, so if one place turns you down, just keep looking.
For more inspiration on where to find free or cheap pallets, see our article.
Where to Buy Wooden Crates and Pallets
If you have exhausted your options when it comes to trying to find free wooden crates, there is always the option of buying them. There are plenty of places that sell crates and pallets at various costs.
Craft stores like Michaels, Hobby Lobby, and JOANN Fabric and Craft Stores usually carry crates. Local craft stores near you probably do, too. These usually come unfinished but lack the worn, weathered look you might find with reclaimed shipping crates.
To give you an idea of what you can expect to find and pay, we’ve listed some wooden crate options sold af craft stores:
- Rectangular wood crate – $7.99
- Wood crate set with cut-out handles – $16.45
- Wood crate storage set – $37.49
- Square pallet weathered wood wall decor – $24.99
- See the full selection of crates and pallets offered at Hobby Lobby
JOANN Fabric and Craft Stores
- Wooden crate with handles – $7.49
- Small crate with handles – $5.59
- Half crate – $4.89
- See the full selection of unfinished wood items offered at JOANN
- Cedar crate – $7.49
- Half crate – $6.99
- Medium corner post crate – $10.99
- Oversized crate – $12.99
- See the full selection of crates offered at Michaels
Home Improvement Stores
Hardware stores frequently offer pallets and crates for sale. These are brand new and sturdy, so they’re a good choice for projects where you want a very solid base or something with a neat, clean style. For example, The Home Depot offers pallets and crates starting at $10.
You can use eBay to find wooden crates and pallets — new and used — for local pick-up or home delivery. Unlike shopping at a physical store, you can’t look at the item to be sure of the quality, but it’s another viable option for your crafts.
One online retailer that consistently offers an array of crates for sale is Houzz. Starting at $25 for small crates, Houzz is a little more expensive than what you’ll typically find at a craft store, but it’s an option if you prefer doing all of your shopping online.
Inspiration for Wooden Crate and Pallet Projects
Pinterest showcases enough ideas for wooden crate and pallet projects to keep you occupied for a lifetime. Projects range from simple tasks that you can do with your kids to much longer projects requiring expert craftsmanship.
Be sure to use the correct tools, including gloves and goggles, while working with these wooden pieces. Don’t risk injury, no matter how simple the Pinterest project may sound.
Consider starting your search for one of these pallet projects:
- Coat or hat rack
- Coffee tables
- Coffee table trays
- Photo frame or display
- Recycling station or trashcan
Crates can be easily painted or stained and hung on the wall as decorative shelves or display pieces. Here are some alternative projects that you can build with crates:
- End tables
- Raised garden beds
- Shoe holders
Looking for more rustic craft supplies? See our articles on where to find free 55-gallon barrels.