Where do you get reclaimed pallets?
September 1, 2011 9:49 AM   Subscribe

Where do I get a couple hundred wooden shipping pallets in Los Angeles?

I need a couple hundred (~200) wooden shipping pallets for a commercial project I'm working on. Everyone always talks about getting them for free from factories etc that are just going to dump them, but how do I find out who's got them? By googling I've found a lot of companies that offer to pick them up and recycle, so someone's GOT them to give away, I just need to get in touch with them. How do I go about this? What are the best companies to contact for this kind of thing? If you've gotten pallets in the LA area, where did you get them from? Since this is for a commercial project, so we are willing to pay for them if necessary, but we do want the "reclaimed" thing, so we don't want to just buy new ones.

Added level of difficulty: we need pallets that are not treated with weird toxic chemicals and that aren't stinky. How can I find out which companies in Los Angeles might have pallets that meet those specs?

Final bonus round: anyone who's worked with pallets before - how did you finish them? We are thinking about using some of the wood for built in benches, so they need to be pretty well finished, but keep the look.
posted by annie o to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Don't know where to get a huge amount of pallets but you want to look for/ask for pallets that have been Heat Treated. These will be pallets from the US or the EU and labelled as heat treated or HT.
posted by rosebengal at 9:56 AM on September 1, 2011

Craigslist. In Columbus at least people post daily about X number of free shipping pallets available for pickup at Y address. You can create a custom RSS feed on Craiglist for any listing containing the word "pallets".
posted by dgeiser13 at 10:09 AM on September 1, 2011

LA has a port. Warehouses, receivers, freight forwarders, shipping agents are some of the types of companies who might have (should have) these pallets.
posted by infini at 10:24 AM on September 1, 2011

Here in Minnesota, there's the Minnesota Materials Exchange. It looks like the California Materials Exchange might be the same sort of thing.
posted by chazlarson at 10:27 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't know about 200, but I got 5 from Lowes by asking nicely. They told me to drive around back and help myself.

As noted above, pallets are recycled. When I called Lowes (and a few other places) about getting some, the initial response was borderline-hostile. They explained that people call all the time to "pick up" their old pallets by the truck-load and re-sell them etc. But most large stores already have a contracted company/person to do it. So there is some competition for pallets, and you may get a rude reception, but asking can't hurt.
posted by k5.user at 10:36 AM on September 1, 2011

Well, I'm not an expert on pallet construction, but I did build a 'rustic' tack shed AKA The Tack Shack for a girl friend who loves it. I've also done an outhouse style tool shed, a chicken coop, a bench, and a calendar frame. People have complemented me on all of them. I would think your best method of finishing would be either to sand and oil, or sand and put on some type of varathane. A gloss finish will detract from the rustic look, though.

Helpful hint: If you want to take the pallets apart, the easiest method I found was to use a SawZall or recipro saw to cut the nails. Pulling them is a booger, and you tend to split more boards than you get off. If you don't want the nail heads, turn the board over and whack it on the ground, then punch the ones that are left. I left mine in, and they look pretty cool.

Be aware that pallets come in varying sizes and conditions. The Tack Shack suffered a set back when we realized that out of 45 pallets, only 12 or so were the same size, and some were buggered up, necessitating further back-of-the-warehouse scrounging.
posted by BlueHorse at 5:57 PM on September 1, 2011

i don't know the name of the place, but they have lots of pallets at this place in the arts/industrial district of downtown los angeles.
posted by jimw at 8:08 PM on September 1, 2011

I used to work for a company that got all of its office supplies delivered from staples or office depot or whatever on pallets. The vendor wouldnt take the pallets back, and we couldnt get anyone to pick them up. This was a couple of years ago, when gas had really gone up. Wasnt worth it to the pallet guys to come get them. So for free pallets, start with any companies you or your friends work for.
If you can pay, there are a few companies in the wholesale food district that re-sell pallets. Somewhere near Olympic&Long Beach Ave., just north of the 10. Dont have the specific address with me, you might have to drive a block or two in circles (also, they are near a big Smart&Final store), you will know you have found the place when you see massive stacks of pallets. No idea what they might charge.
All that said, I would try Craigslist first.
posted by vignettist at 8:06 PM on September 2, 2011

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