How to get Rustic Kitchen Cabinets for Free

Wooden pallet for Rustic Kitchen Cabients
The beauty of living in an industrialized world is that nearly every community has an abundance of resources that can be reclaimed by some to use in making their own lives better. Whether it’s using buckets from the local bakery to plant a container garden, picking up free boxes from the grocery store to use for moving, or collecting pallets to reuse the wood for numerous projects, it all helps too keep extra waste out of our landfills.

In this post, I will be talking about how to use the wood from pallets to build yourself some great rustic kitchen cabinets that will totally change the feel of your space, all for the price of a little elbow grease. I thought about making this a DIY post, where I took you step by step through building some cabinets, but unfortunately not only do I not have enough pallets for a build like that, but the pallets I do have are frozen together in a pile in the back yard, so even if I had enough, they would be impossible to get apart.

Instead I have decided to give you the advice I have come across through my experiences working with pallets, and then at the end, link you to some great DIY sites that can help you build the kind of cabinets you need in the style that you want. I feel that this is the best way to go as it not only gives you a great start if you have never worked with pallets before, but also makes it so that you can cut down on a lot of time scouring the internet for some good how-to’s.

The first thing you will need to do if you’re planning a project with pallets, especially a large project as this one will surely be, is to find a source of pallets. For the most part, you’re going to want to stick to the untreated, unpainted pallets, especially around the kitchen but if you have smaller plans for something that isn’t too close to your food, the painted ones will work fine.

How to Find Free Pallets

Here are some examples of great places to get the pallets you will need. This is by no means a 100% complete list, so if you feel I have missed some, mention them in the comments below.

  • Small Businesses – Many larger businesses have plans in place for pallet removal, but many smaller businesses are more than willing to give them away.
  • Keep an Eye Out – If you see some pallets laying around, find out who owns the place they sit at and ask them if you can have some, most times they will happily give them away.
  • Online – Craigslist is a great place to find pallets, though many times people are trying to charge for them. I have found that joining Facebook “free stuff” groups for my area has led to many opportunities to get free pallets.
  • Some Larger Businesses – Though you will strike out more often, it still won’t hurt to inquire about getting some of their pallets. Garden Centers, Hardware Stores, Equipment Stores, Grocery Stores, etc all generally have many pallets, though may not part with them, as some actually get charged by their shipping company for lost pallets.
  • Newspapers – Your local newspaper company will get a lot of their materials on pallets but it seems that they generally don’t have a system in place for having their pallets hauled away (at least not in my area). This can be an amazing source of free pallets.
  • Construction Sites – Before you go running into a busy construction site to talk to someone about pallets, try calling first. Many builders will gladly give you their waste, as it won’t cost them to have it hauled away. If you’re on-site uninvited, without proper safety equipment, or are disrupting their laborers however, your chances of getting anything goes way down. Find their number off of their company trucks, or sometimes they will just put a sign up at the site with it on.

How to Salvage Wood from Pallets

Taking apart a pallet can be done in a number of ways, you can use anything from crowbars, hammers, nail pullers, to reciprocating saws to get useable planks off of a pallet. I have tried most techniques that I have read about on the internet with varying success:

  • Crowbars/Prybars – I found that these split the wood more often than not. The area of force was just too slim, and the nails held firm enough to do nothing but split the wood around themselves.
  • Nail Pullers –Most of the pallets I have picked up have the nail heads sunk into the wood, making nail pullers useless for taking them apart. If the nail heads were accessible, this would be a preferred method, the reality however, is that this is rarely the case.
    Reciprocating Saw Blade

    As you can see, the fire also did a number to the saw blade.

  • Reciprocating Saw – These work great most of the time, I have taken apart many pallets this way. I decided to stop one day after I started a small fire however. My blade was getting a little dull, and I had not realized it, so instead of cutting through the nails quickly, it was mostly just heating up, barely cutting through them. The next thing I knew, my pallet was on fire! I quickly doused the small flame, but just as quickly I decided to find a new way to take them apart. Overall, it works great, but you have to really pay close attention to how much the blade is heating up or you could be in big trouble.
  • Hammer and Blocks of Wood – This is my preferred method for taking apart pallets after my reciprocating saw fire incident. I put a block up under one of the cross braces beside the piece of wood I am removing, then I place another block of wood on top the piece I want to remove, and lastly I hit that second block of wood with a hammer until the nails loosen, I then move the blocks to remove the next section (it takes two or three tries per piece) and repeat until it falls off. I have had great success removing pieces this way, with very little in the way of breakage, and it is really quick to do.When I need to remove a piece that is directly under another piece where I cannot get the hammer in, I do the same thing, but I use a spare piece of 2×4 that is long enough to cover the entire width of the board I am removing as well as having space for me to hold it in place with my free hand, and space to hammer it. The piece I use is about two feet long, and it works like a charm. I think I will add a video of this to show it better the next time I do it, unfortunately the pallets that I have right now are all frozen together under a foot of snow, so it might have to wait until the spring.

Good Plans to Follow for the Build

Since I have no experience making cabinets from pallets, I can’t just give you the plans that I used, as I normally would. I do know enough about using pallets, and how cabinets are built normally to lead you to some great sites, with some plans that will get you going, and hopefully guide you through the entire job.

I will rate each set of plans on the letter scale. A being the best, then B, C is average, D is below average, F would be no good. The only reason a D or F would be included was if the plans show an interesting twist that could be added to another set of plans to improve on them.

This site is in Greek, but can be translated using Google translate, that’s how I read it. I also found a link to it in English. The great thing about these plans is that you could easily repeat the pattern to run the entire length of your wall and make your bottom cabinets one big unit if you wanted.

There are a few measurements given, but not enough for my liking, so it loses points on that, but not too many since it shows very detailed pictures of each step, and also has a video.
Overall Score: B+

Simeon Hendrix
This is the third of a three part series (at the end it says there is a fourth part, but I couldn’t find it) showing the construction of a nice cabinet that would work for your bottom cabinets. There are measurements, but they are almost entirely written on one piece of paper in one of the pictures. If you are going to put a counter top on this cabinet, you likely wouldn’t need to put on the top slats.
Overall Score: B

Shabby Love Blog
A cabinet that will work for many different kitchens, it also looks suspiciously like the one showcased at the top of the next entry. There are no measurements, so you’re on your own there, but it shows a nice way to finish it, so it gains some points there.
Overall Score: C

Though only for a small cabinet that fits in a small area, this is a solid looking cabinet. However, it loses marks for not having any measurements (though yours would need a custom width anyhow), but it gains marks for adding in a nice rustic looking finish that can be used with any of these plans.
Overall Score: C

Survive France
This is more of an industrial looking pallet cupboard system, and it doesn’t have much for measurements, but it could easily be converted by someone with a good amount of DIY skill.

I really liked that there were a lot of pictures showing each step, and how he made the drawer faces with the wood cut into strips, but having almost no measurements hurts these plans.
Overall Score: D

It would seem that plans for rustic kitchen cabinets made from pallet wood are not as easy to come by on the internet as I had hoped when I started this post. However, there are ways that we can overcome this problem. We can convert other plans that use regular building materials such as plywood and make them work for us, which will be the subject of my next post.

June 25, 2015 Update: It was brought to my attention that some of the links on the page were not working, they have been fixed and should work perfectly now.

Don’t forget to check out our brand new Pinterest account!

2 responses to “How to get Rustic Kitchen Cabinets for Free”

  1. Suzette says:

    Need plans for building kitchen cuboars wit pallets

    • Conrad Cardinal says:

      I have been looking for some good plans to post on the site, but they are very hard to find. Hopefully, though I will have something you can use soon Suzette.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *