For quite awhile, Crystal has been bugging requesting for me to make a couch for our back deck– A love seat that we can put under cover in the winter (this would be awesome on a covered front porch), and in the sunshine in the summer. A place where she can take her laptop to write, where she can curl up to read a good book while sipping a cup of tea, a “home date night” destination where we can retire to once the kids have gone to bed with a pint of beer and a glass of wine.
HomeRight recently asked me to create two, DIY Dads projects and to paint them using the HomeRight Finish Max Fine Finish HVLP Sprayer.. Last month I made a DIY Potting Bench using upcycled wood, and this time around I decided to upcycle again by using pallets to make a backyard pallet sofa. I wanted something super simple that could be made in one afternoon to give instant gratification. I also wanted it to be sturdy and have a very low price tag to recreate. Reusing and repurposing materials like pallets not only makes things less expensive but adds character and uniqueness.
Pallet projects are very popular and many designs exist: from ones that still look like pallets for that industrial look to ones that just reuse the wood to completely create new amazing furniture. Pallets are very versatile and make very interesting projects.
One of the problems of working with pallets is that because of the multiple levels, nooks and crannies, they are quite difficult to paint. With the HomeRight Finish Max Fine Finish HVLP Sprayer, my problem was solved… no spending hours awkwardly craning your wrist to get every last nook and cranny. The Finish Max did the work for me.
Read on to learn how to make this awesome weekend project!
DIY Outdoor Pallet Couch Design
With paint sprayer in hand, I started thinking about a design for a new outdoor sofa. The design I came up couldn’t be simpler. It consists of six pallets: three stacked on top of each other for the base, two smaller ones for the arms, and one for the back. I also used some old fence board for the arm surface.
I wanted the sofa to have an industrial pallet look but I wanted it to be extremely comfortable to sit on. To maintain the industrial look, my cuts were intentionally rougher and not as precise as with the potting bench.
Tools & Materials
6 Wooden pallets (look for the HT stamp which means they have been heat treated)
#8 1 1/2 in. Decking screws (I suggest buying a 50 pack)
Various L-shaped and corner brackets and mending plates
Things To Keep In Mind When Sourcing Pallets For DIY Projects
Pallets are great for DIY projects but when working with them, you have to keep some things in mind.
Pallets are used to transport all sorts of goods from food to toys to computers to chemicals to industrial waste. Depending on what industry they are used for and where in the world they are used, pallets are either chemically or heated treated to prevent the inter-border spread of invasive species like plants, mould, and insects.
Pallets, while very sturdy, are most of the time made cheaply and are generally treated as a cheap resource. This means:
– they are used for many years,
– they are not generally never cleaned,
– they are not always stored in clean dry conditions (often left out in the rain).
For home projects, always use clean pallets that have been heat treated. You’ll know they have been heat treated because they are stamped with a “HT”. Don’t use ones that are old and grey with age, ones with unknown stains, ones that look like they have been sitting in the rain and muck for years, or ones that were used for industrial equipment or chemicals.
My pallets come from an industry that transports retail goods so I generally know that they haven’t been used to transport dangerous good. I always try and look for pallets that appear to have just been made yesterday. Look for bright orange and yellow and beige ones with fresh visible grain (the pallets hasn’t been used so much that the grain has been worn down).
Pallets generally have standard sizes but standards sometimes differ on where you are in the world. The pallets I used are half size North American pallets and are 48″x 20″. Depending on your location, yours may differ in size. This is not a big deal, use what you have and adjust your dimensions or you can cut them down to size.
Pallets are held together by nails. Nails that really don’t want to let go. When taking apart pallets and salvaging the wood, you have a few options: pull them apart using a pry bar, cut through the wood, or cut through the nails. For my project I used pallets that I had already started prying apart using a pry bar. Because of the type of nails used, most of the boards I pulled off ended up splitting or wrecking. I also cut a couple pallets by cutting through the wood.
To build a pallet sofa, you don’t really need to cut anything. The simplest sofa would be to just stack them on each other. Cutting them is all down to the space you have for your sofa and the final dimension of sofa you want.
All my cuts were roughly done with just general measurements so that the sofa had that DYI and industrial look.
For my build, I just cut two of the pallets which became the arms. These were cut so that my sofa didn’t end up being too deep.
Arm of couch. Pallet cut down from 8 deckboards to 5 deckboards.
Working with pallets is very off the cuff. You don’t really know how things will look until you start playing around and make up things as you go. Should the pallet boards run horizontal or vertical? Should the top or bottom face out? All you need to do is just start laying pallets out in different ways until you come to a design you like. Play around with different combinations before fastening things together.
First base pallet
Second pallet laid on top. Notice that pallet one and two have had the top deck boards removed.
Finished base. 3rd pallet has deck boards still attached so cushions can lay nicely on top.
For the base, I simply stacked three pallets on top of each other which turned out to be the most comfortable sitting height. For the two lower pallets, notice that the the top deck boards were removed. I had taken these off for other projects; you don’t have to take them off but if you do, the sofa ends up being lighter. Just make sure you leave the deck boards on for the top pallet.
As mentioned, pallets are generally made cheaply which means quickly. They are not always 100% square and not 100% exact dimensions. This means that the corners are not always exactly 90 degrees. When you start stacking things together and putting pieces together, you’ll find that they don’t always line up. I like this as again it adds character. You can use small pieces of wood (shims) to close small gaps or shave or cut things down to make things fit together better.
The arms of the sofa were made up of two pallets standing on end. I found they looked best with the top of the pallet facing outwards and the decks boards running vertical. (See picture above in cut list.)
The arms were a little too deep so after making a rough measurement, I took my circular saw about a quarter of the pallet off to shorten them.
When you cut up a pallet, it loses a lot of its structural integrity and becomes unstable. So I took the two pieces I cut off and fit them back into the pallets to support. I had to trim them a little to allow them to fit back in. Essentially rebuilt the pallet into a smaller little pallet.
To top off the arms I used some old fence boards cut down to size. I sized them a little longer than the arms so they hung over by about half an inch in the front and longer in the back.
The last pallet was for the back. We decided to paint it aqua blue to compliment the colors of our cushions. To get an idea of positioning and to play around the angle I initially put the pallet up and then propped it up using a scrap board.
I now had everything positioned how I wanted and essentially had a competed sofa. All that was left was to paint and fasten it all together.
As this project was an outdoor project like the DIY Potting Bench, I wanted to paint every inch of the sofa to protect it from rain, moisture, and the sun. I used the same outdoor stain that I used for the potting bench.
Painting a pallet completely on every surface inside and out, let alone six of them, is a very time intensive and very difficult task. Using a paint brush would literally take forever.
I decided not sand everything down as I wanted to maintain rough around the corners look. I used a stiff brush to scrub the wood and clean any dust, dirt, and cobwebs as well as to remove any large obvious splinters and loose wood. As I was cleaning the pallets, I was also checking for any loose boards; any I found found were fastened down using decking screws.
I prepped my paint work area the same as for the last project by I laying drop clothes on the ground as well as hanging some behind and to the side of my spray area. Then I set up two sawhorses to hold the pieces up off the ground.
For more specific information about how to use the HomeRight spray gun, check out my DIY Potting Bench Project or follow the manufacturers instructions.
Following the user guide I thinned the stain with water until the stain ran through the viscosity cup in about 40 seconds. (If you are using an oil-based product, thin as per the manufacturer’s instructions.)
With the stain at the right consistency, I filled up the reservoir, put on my safety gear (respirator, safety glasses, latex gloves, ear protection, and coveralls), and started to paint.
Keeping a stiff wrist, which is the best way to paint with a spray gun, is a little difficult when painting a pallet. Pallets have layers and covered corners so you will end up having to bend your wrist bend to reach every part. You will get more than usual overspray and some dripping. I found laying the pallet flat on the sawhorses and spraying the bottom layer first and all visible parts then standing it on end and spray all around the rest of it works best.
When done, I moved the pallet and leaned it up against a wall to dry. I grabbed the next one and continued till all six and the arms were painted.
The whole painting process took probably about an hour and a half. I did about three fill ups of stain to finish painting everything.
Once all the pallets were painted inside and out and dry, it was time to assemble all the pieces together.
Tip:Build your pallet sofa where it’s going to live or close to where it’s going to live. It will be heavy and unwieldy once it’s put together.
I began by laying the base pallets down on top of each other. I used mending plates to fasten each pallet together. (Don’t forget to drill pilot holes to prevent wood from splitting.)
I then used screws to fasten the fence boards to the top of the arms. Keep the arm tops flush to the inside to the arms and leave a little to overhang in the front.
The arms are attached to the base using L-shaped corner brackets. I got two types to take into account the imperfections in pallet dimensions. I attached the arms at the front and at the back.
To attach the back, I used T-hinges so that the reclining angle can be adjusted. The sofa sits on our back deck against a fence so right the back of the sofa leans up against that fence.
Finish off with the cushions.
The pallet sofa is now complete. Future modifications that I want to add are brackets or support pegs to hold the back up without leaning against something and small feet to raise the sofa up off the deck so that the bottom can breath and dry properly when it rains.
I hope you enjoyed this DIY Dads Project! Tell me… What would you like to see me create next?
Disclosure: Thank you to HomeRight for working with us on this project. As with all Hello Creative Family articles, all thoughts and opinions are 100% our own.
Looking for more upcycled wood projects? Check out these posts:
Rob is hoarder of odds and ends and everything in between. He believes that anything from shredded milk cartons to a single stroller wheel found in the park to broken umbrellas can be turned into something cool. The problem is getting ideas and starting projects and he has the cluttered garage to show for it. Hopefully, he’ll give you some ideas to use all those treasures filling up your garage.