How to Disassemble A Pallet With Ease For DIY Projects

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Are you having trouble disassembling pallets for different projects? If you don’t know how you can take pallets apart without ruining the pieces, here’s a simple idea that will come in handy. First, get a reciprocating saw, but not necessarily an expensive one because pallets won’t stress a lot of its powers. Bear in mind that this is a long term investment. Then acquire two 12″ construction blades as the little ones that usually come with this type of saw (sawzall) won’t work that well. Now for the actual disassembling, here’s what you have to do: with the pallet placed on the side and use the saw at each end to cut through the nails. Repeat the procedure at the middle row of nails. Done! Now that you know this little trick, you can try out all the DIY pallet projects that you’ve been saving for later. Good luck!

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Milwaukee 12 Amp Sawzall Reciprocating Saw Kit

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46 Responses to “How to Disassemble A Pallet With Ease For DIY Projects”

  1. mike says:

    Why would you do that?! You end up with a lot of replacement parts for a saw, and it takes a lot more time than just getting a blunt hammer and/or pliers and a crowbar and just knock all the planks loose. Use leverage by means of the crowbar or the actual planks if you have to. Use the pliers/crowbar to straighten the nails, hit it down out with a hammer, if the nail breaks in deep, use the head of another nail as extension. Most of the nails will be easy to take out and you will never have problems with rust coming through paint, or broken saw/drillbits etc because there was still a nail in place.
    hammer/crowbar/pliers, better results.

    • Edith says:

      Mike, It would be a better option, but… did you ever try disassemble a pallet? It proves to be extremly difficult. If you want the planks in one piece a crowbar is useless. The nails are so tight and it is so hard to get them out! I tried disassemble several pallets in different ways, i have not found a easy way yet.
      What you say about rust coming through the paint, that is indeed something to keep in mind when making furniture.

    • justin says:

      its faster…those planks crack easily….& I’ve had the same corded dewalt reciprocating saw for over a decade without replacing anything but the blades soooo….huh?

    • Matthew Name says:

      On some of the pallets we get around here taking them apart with a blunt hammer and crowbar results in split and broken boards. The sawsall is a great alternative, it’s called a sawsall for a reason.

    • Alex Smali says:

      Totally agree!

    • Steve c says:

      I always use a sawzall to tear down pallets, less than 5 min. apiece, hammer and crowbar about 15 min. and always a few ruined boards.

    • Joe says:

      I have to agree with you Mike. Depending on what you want to do with the wood and whether you are willing to plane the board to remove the inevitable blemish left from the saw blade should determine the best method of disassembly. Obviously if you’re going to plane them, the integrity of the planer blades could be in jeopardy even if the nails are removed from other embedded debris in the wood.

    • Rahim says:

      Sometimes the more liked pallet woods use annular threaded nails (and rusted), that even after the planks break, you can’t get them out.

    • Julie says:

      Exactly!!! 🙂

    • JP says:

      I have to agree with everyone on here. The saw is the way to go. Try and disassemble pallets with a hammer and you will change your mind. Not every pallet is made with the same wood or nails and majority of the time the boards break. I have done it and it takes a lot of time and struggle to actually pull out the nails which are either super long or rusted or just some sort of formed metal to look like a nail. Pliers are out because you will only end up trying to pull a nail out and chances are hit yourself in the face and as for a crow bar, it won’t work if the nail is super long because you only end up destroying the wood that you are trying to save or even breaking it. My husband and I both had to take a large amount of pallets apart and tried many methods and majority of the time the pallet won because of the battle wounds we sustained from trying to get pallets apart.

    • Beckylee says:

      using a sawsall you will not be replacing saw parts , they are designed to be able to saw right through nails or screws ; much faster than pulling nails or using pry bars .

    • Mark says:

      Pallets today are built with “screw” nails which are driven with an air nailer. The nails don’t come out clean like a smooth shaft construction nail. The planks WILL split and splinter. Notice the final disassemble photo doesn’t show the pallet rails. they’re trash as you can’t get the nails out of them. Those make awesome firewood!

    • Scouch says:

      The pallets are nailed with a nailer the glue on the nails heats up when the nails are shot into the wood and that helps hold the nails in. I have tried to take a pallet apart using your method. Not a pretty sight and takes much longer than the sawzall.

    • Mike says:

      A lot of pallets split when you try to pry the boards off.

    • George says:

      I have been ripping pallets down for a couple of years and using a ‘cat’s paw’ prybar and hammer leaves me with about half a pallet’s worth of good wood and a pile of useless bits. I’ve been using a skill-saw with a metal blade to do the trick. Think I’ll swap to the sawzall. Be a lot less smoke in the air when I’m done. 😉

    • Forest Gump says:

      Because Milwaukee has payed you to promote their 12 Amp Sawzall Reciprocating Saw Kit, perhaps?

    • John says:

      One thing is for certain. Mike has never dissembled a pallet. LOL.
      I hate whenever people reply without having the knowledge of the subject. Mike go and try to use that hammer and pry-bar. Let us know how it goes. And how many planks u crack or break.

    • Mark says:

      Obviously, Mike has NEVER disassembled a pallet using a hammer and crowbar and knows nothing about screw nails.

    • thatbillguy says:

      The pallets are assembled with twisted nails that act like screws… it keeps the pallet from falling apart during shipping. So when you try to beat/lever them apart, you end up breaking the boards. This might be different on new pallets, but by the time they have made the rounds in the shipping industry, you don’t always find ones in the best condition.

      I assembled a deck with these kinds of nails… a mistake, btw, it makes it really hard to do simple repairs if you need to replace a board.

      Also, I bought a reciprocating saw from Harbor Freight for 30 bucks and it has cut MANY pallets and still plows on.

  2. Mike says:

    It’s not that easy, at least not with the pallets we get here which have far more nails in them.

    The Sawzall approach works, but it takes a lot of time, makes a lot of noise, and leaves nail shanks in the stretchers which makes them pretty much useless. As the stretchers are pretty chunky, you really want to reclaim these if you can.

    The hammer and crowbar method gets the nails out of the stretchers, but puts so much stress on the plank ends that nine times out of ten either the planks split or the nail heads get pulled through the plank. A lot of waste. if you proceed carefully to reclaim as much wood as possible, this method also takes a lot of time and makes a lot of noise.

    There’s a third method, which is to run a skillsaw through the planks alongside the stretchers. This part is quick, but you only get very short planks. You can then split the plank ends off the stretchers and pull the nails out to get usable stretchers. This takes a bit of time.

    Having tried all of these methods, I’d say pallets are best used on projects with minimum disassembly.

  3. Jen Hayes says:

    Have you ever tried ripping apart a pallet with a crow bar? Hammer? Or pliers? It’s REALLY difficult! If your really into up cycling pallets, then dedicate a saw to it. You’ll get twice as many projects finished.

    • Jen Hayes says:

      If *you’re

    • RoBear says:

      It is. Most people think it’s just nailed together but they don’t know the nails are special. Apart from the heat (friction) activated glue on the nails, the shanks (the main part of the nail) are either twisted or ringed. This alone gives the nail more gripping power. Combine this with the glue and you have a very strong product. After all, these are designed to hold heavy loads, be handled with forklifts or pallet jacks and even be re-used.

  4. Sam says:

    Just go buy a pallet buster…..about $100.00.

    • Chris says:

      I bought something called a Wrecking Claw from Home Depot ( homedepot.com/p/Wrecking-Claw-45-in-Double-Cats-Paw-Wrecking-Bar-AGP6004-201THD/204464152 ) and had a welding shop weld a piece of square stock onto the back to change the angle of attack and level it out so it doesn’t dig into the wood. The only problem is the pry bars could be a little longer. It does a good job generally, though. it is also nice to have the nail slots to remove nails with ease since the leverage is so long (45″).

  5. John says:

    if ring shank nails were used you will not be able to pull them.

  6. Brian says:

    Mike, I have to respectfully disagree with you. I used your way of disassembling pallets many times, but found it is much quicker and cleaner using a sawzall. If you are worried about the nail rust just knock the head out with a punch.

  7. Dave says:

    If you get the right blade, the saws-all works great. My issue is that the guy is wearing a ring while working. Get a ring caught on one pallet nail and you will wish you had left it on the night stand that morning.

  8. Jeff says:

    Go ahead and try it that way and end up with a bunch of scrap wood u have to cut it apart like the add shows then if u want punch out the nails after

  9. Brian says:

    The saw can be very dangerous but is the only way to safe the boards

  10. Alex says:

    If you have ever managed to pull out a pallet nail you will notice they are often fluted and almost always have a little bent metal lock close to the head and a yellowish tinge. The flutes and yellow tinge are an indicator of concrete nails that set when they hit the moisture of the wood. The only way to get them out successfully is to cut around them break away the top layer of wood giving access to the nail head. Next all that’s left is a vice, hammer, and a little even pressure in the correct direction and they will come out.

    Mind you there will be shorter boards but you won’t have nail holes and this can be done with a jig, circular, or even reciprocating saw.

    Also note that pallets are usually made from scrap wood and end cuts. They are not surfaced on any side and therefore can be difficult to get a true straight edge on unless you have the proper tools. The knots alone will leave chips in a planars blades causing subsequent passes to leave chatter.

    Avoid the nails unless you want to replace your blades often. This will prove to be a safer method as well.

    You will never knock out one of the good nails because they are designed that way so save yourself the trouble and strength.

    My jawhorse, circular saw, and claw hammer do wonders at this and it’s a great workout.

  11. megna says:

    I tried the good old hammer on hammer method to pry pallets apart & a chunk of broken hammer flew up & stuck in my boob. Had to dig it out with tweezers!!! Pick your poison.

  12. Bill says:

    Mike has obviously never done anything like this before. Sawzall is fast and clean

  13. Kurt says:

    Search for “Izzy Swan Pallet Pal” on Youtube.

  14. Pablo says:

    Whatever method you use is fine. But if it’s taking you five minutes to break one down you should hire someone.

  15. Kim says:

    HA! Tried everything in the book. Pallets are nailed tightly. most wood is cracked.
    New wood is cheaper than a new saw and blades you go thru.
    It makes the best firewood though!

  16. Roy says:

    How about using a doweling bit in a drill? Just cut around the nails and there you go.

  17. Chad says:

    The reason u use a saw to to keep from busting the boards cause 90%of the nails used are spiral which are impossible to remove without busting boards.

  18. Barry says:

    Use DEMOLITION blades and NOT wood or metal blades. Demo blades work much better as they are designed for both wood and metal. I burned up many blades before I discovered the demos.

  19. Wass says:

    Hello, the fastest and best way i found is to use a drill with a metal drill bits and just drill the Nails! About 3 mins by pallet!

  20. SoCoMom says:

    2 minutes? Maybe if you are a brute. It took me an hour with a sawzall and I had someone holding it. It was the first and last one I did.

  21. Jeremy says:

    You shouldn’t ever need more than a couple of blocks of wood and a hammer. Balance the pallet upside down with the block under two of the corners. Stand on the slats. If the nails stick, jump up and down. Use the hammer to knock out the nails. Done

  22. RoBear says:

    Most pallets are made using nail guns with special nails. These nails can be either twisted along the shank or ringed. This gives them better “bite” making them far harder to remov

  23. Lana says:

    I will have to try the seawall but for my current project I need both sides of pallet board to be usable and seen. I am a woman with health issues and it typically takes 45 min to disassemble a pallet. Soaking with water helps boards bend and no so many splits.

  24. Celeste says:

    Now, that is an ingenious idea!

  25. JoAnn says:

    They are put together with flooring nails which make it nearly impossible to get apart by using a hammer or pry bar without totally mangling the boards. Been there done that! I also would still like to remove the old nail heads after and like to know how to do that.

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