Adventures in pallet shed building
We needed a shed, we had no money. What we did have was 2 hammers, a drill, a saw and a large tin brimming with odd screws and nails. All we needed now was wood – free wood. The most abundant source of free wood scavangable in an urban environment is the prolific pallet! Our goal – to build a shed, out of pallets using permaculture principles to guide us.
For years we had toyed with the idea of a reduced commute and a more sustainable way of life, but had been too
Let’s not be under any illusions here – neither of us are trained builders, we are two smallish women who are well aware of our limitations but
Calling out to all intrepid pallet builders… here’s how we did it.
Step 1: Foundations and damp proof course
I started by observing the concrete hard-standing (not massively exciting but certainly informative!). I noticed how the water pools in certain places and placing the pallets directly on the ground would see them rotting over time. Since our goal was resilience we decided to base the structure on a row of brick; this would also offer a level (ish) base to stack our walls on. In our old flat we used bricks as shelving support and rather fortuitously had decided to bring them with us, just in case! (observe and interact)
Step 2: Pallet prep
Pallet sourcing was no problem, first we identified our nearest industrial estate, knocked on a few doors and asked if we could help them deal with their rubbish problem (produce no waste)! (Note- it’s important to ask as some companies recollect pallets– so simply taking them could turn out to be theft!). A few simple calculations ensured we got enough to make our basic wall structure. Identical big pallets for the back wall and identical medium sized pallets to make the front wall, and a mix of both to see what happened at the sides! Once we’d sourced a decent range we decided to ‘thin them out’ by removing some of the lengths –enough to lighten, not too many to weaken the structural integrity.
Step 3: Walls
According to numerous DIY books and the great Web, corners are the place to start. Balancing 2 pallets precariously around the back corner,
The sides consisted of medium pallets to match the front line, with diagonally cut pallets to make the link between the back height and the front – while a good level of weather proofing is important air-tightness isn’t, in fact those mismatch gaps provide excellent ventilation!
Step 4: Making windows
We had a couple of old pieces of weirdly shaped clear plastic and a small rectangle of glass lying around – ideal for windows (as the story unfolds, the observant reader might notice just how much we will need this lovely shed – based on the number of items we have ‘lying around’ – the ultimate re-user needs some place to store all their valuable ‘stuff’! (produce no waste)). So we cut out corresponding holes in the pallet walls before erecting. We used the cladding (coming next) to hold the windows in place from the outside, and more of our trusty wood off-cuts to hold them in place on the inside.
Step 5: Cladding
We then simply jigsawed them up each wall to produce a rather pleasing rustic effect.
Step 6: The roof
We went through a few design ideas here, we wanted to make the roof out of plastic bottles – so we had a fun evening collecting bottles out of
Step 7: The door
When we took down the old shed we made sure we kept the door, with a lick of paint, and rejigging of the locking device, somehow we made it work!
All in all the venture cost us a week’s solid labour (i.e. 14 person days) and about £45 in roofing and a resupply of mortar for the brick base. It gained us a whole chest full of pride and satisfaction; a secure, watertight shed, and a super snugly crèche for our seedlings and salads – which are thriving!
One year on – there has been a small leak in the roof through one of the fixing points – which I have yet to fix and there is water ingress from the back – a much harder problem to solve. So we have raised everything in the shed off the ground to prevent it from rotting. The shed has stood up well to heavy winds. Over the course of the last 12 months it has been a seedling sanctuary, a full on greenhouse, a bike and junk store and now it has reached its (hopefully final) use as a wood store and workshop! The natural light through the roof is one of the best things we did! Ooh and it’s also being featured in our upcoming ‘Green Open Homes’ event in Kingston and I’m planning a trip to visit the shed for Kingston Permaculture Network folk!