Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Pallets...The Building Blocks of Life?

In this past month I have gotten a lot done. I wanted to be further along but there is always something that is unforeseen. I got the trailer moved to its new building location(in my friend Keith's yard), the second layer of OSB on the floor, and the pallet walls up. The moving and the second layer of sub-floor was the easy part. Unfortunately, the pallets(unless all are the same size and thickness) are not the 'building blocks of life' I was hoping for.

Trailer in its new location!

Just so you know: I upload my photos in order of appearance. These sliding glass doors came into my life (for free) via craigslist!! Now I have a front door! Just need to build a frame for it and it needs a new lock.
 Roughly most pallets are about the same length and height. What I didn't factor in was the thickness of each pallet. Which is probably the most important factor to consider. I would say the width is the second most important and the length the third. If all of the pallets are not the same thickness then at least one side of the wall will not be flush, so that when you apply the sheathing, the wall would be very curvy and lumpy. So when you are out treasure hunting for pallets it is important to find a place that has a lump sum at there disposal. If you go to the same source for your pallets they are most likely going to get the same type of pallet for their shipments. I'm not saying this is always the case, but it is what happened in mine. My main sources for pallets are a furniture warehouse and local microbrewery. The furniture warehouse just has a big sign by the pallets saying 'free' so that was an easy pickup. The microbrewery has many stacks for their  pallets. So I went in to talk to their shipping guy and he explained that each stack of pallets has a different function. One stack has pallets that were no longer used and were scheduled for pickup. Apparently, some guy goes around and picks up pallets, fixes them and resells them. The other stacks were for different shipping items (some for kegs and others for cases and bottles). This is a perfect example of why you should go in and ask about the pallets before you take them assuming they are free. Because even when it seems like they are free I assure you they are not. And if you get caught taking some pallets you thought were free. Then you could go to jail just like you would if you shoplifted in a supermarket. So use some common sense if you embark on pallet treasure hunting!

The first wall is made from pallets from the furniture warehouse. All of these are made from pine and are all the same thickness (5"). Pine is very easy to drill a screw through. So if you see pallets that are lighter in color it is likely that these will be easier to work with. I didn't know this before I started but I definitely know now. Most of the darker pallets are made from hardwoods and being that they are very durable also means that they are very difficult to drill through especially if your drill is not the best one you could buy!
First three pallets up!



And away!
 Now we are getting somewhere!

As you can see from the pictures I decided to put 2x4x10s in between each vertical row of pallets. I found some cool brackets at Lowes to help attach the studs to the bottom wall plate. This really helped because I am doing this one pallet at a time, not an entire wall section and then lifting them into place like traditional construction. If you have ever researched pallet sheds or houses then you are familiar with the I-Beam Pallet House design. Designed for refugees in Haiti (which never really took off), it is a cheap way to build that is actually quite durable. When the exterior wall is applied and the cavity of the pallet is filled with some sort of insulation it is considered to be just as good if not better than normal construction practices. They say that all the pallets that are thrown away in the United States every year could house the refugees of the world!! And they are free for the taking and are everywhere! You don't notice them until you are looking for them!
2x4 bracket
Each stud and each outer 2x4 of every pallet got one of these to attach to the bottom wall plate.

I extended the bottom wall plate out past the end of the trailer to allow for future aesthetic features and the power closet cavity.

 The first wall is not complete but I wanted to go ahead and start on the second wall to secure both sides so they wouldn't fall over. The second wall comes from the microbrewery. These pallets are all made from hardwoods but all are 4.5" thick and the same height and length. Now the other wall was 5" thick and this one is 4.5" thick...does this matter? you must be thinking! No, not unless you are OCD and can't get past that it's not perfect! As long as each section of wall is the same thickness then the sheathing will lay flush with the outer wall. So to the naked eye you can't even tell.

Galvanized strapping on bottom plate and each stud for added stability.

Pallet castle!

 On the back of the trailer were the two sections of each wall where the pallets had to be modified. Basically I measured what was left to complete each side of the wall and cut the pallet. I didn't cut it exactly. I cut it to leave an overhang so I could go back and cut the overlap so it would be perfectly flush with the stud. Cause pallets are not perfect- meaning they are hardly ever square! So if you measured what was needed to complete the wall and cut that precise measurement then when you put the pallet up there it could be short of where you measured it. Then you would have just wasted a pallet! Needless to say I got lucky in this instance!
End modified pallet section (left).

Right.  Notice pallet planks overhanging.  They will be cut off later.

Then the back wall was added with two 2x4s put together to fill the gap in between the two wall sections.

Something I haven't mentioned yet was the extensive use of wood clamps! These things are a necessity when building with pallets. Remember how I said pallets are hardly ever square? Well you can get them there if you secure the pallet to the bottom plate and to the bottom of one stud. Then take the clamp and attach it to the top of the pallet and the stud. Squeeze them together then secure with 3" galvanized screws. Without those clamps it would be almost impossible to get it as square as possible.

Now I have to add more studs and get these walls more straight!

In most pallets there are three 2x4s holding together the planks on each side. Two on the outside and one in the middle. The two on the outside are screwed to the vertical studs which hold up each vertical wall section. The one in the middle will have a short 2x4 cut and screwed to it to prep for rafters, and more places for sheathing to be attached to. If you notice in the picture above there are only 7 visible studs popping out above the pallets. In the picture below there are now 12 studs on one side and 13 on the other. Huh? Yes, I will explain this later. But it is what it is!

So I added more studs to the center piece of each pallet now I have to get the walls straight and figure out the pitch for the roof.

Needless to say, I didn't think these two things would be related but it turns out they were. I was going to pop a chalk line, cut the studs, and add a top plate, but these walls had other plans. So I have to say that in regular construction they do all of the walls on the ground and then lift them into place. Well, they also have multiple people working on it so they can lift it into place with a group effort. Well, I am doing this all on my own so there has to be a change in how this is put together. I did try to pop a chalk line only to find out that the walls need to be perfectly straight before the chalk line could be straight. Then I figured if I could measure each stud the correct height and then cut it I would have the correct pitch for the roof on every stud on both sides of the house right!? Wrong!

This is were the 12 studs on one side and the 13 studs on the other side comes in. So here is another example of TRY TO FIND ALL THE SAME SIZE PALLETS! The pallets on the left side of the house are  slightly less wide than the pallets on the right side of the house. So when you think you are going to connect the rafters to the studs on both sides of the house only to find out that they are not directly across from one another, you have a predicament to say the least. So since staring over was not an option I sat on the front porch and thought and looked at the house for about an hour until I figured out what I could do! See the picture below? The 2x6 nearly at the top of the studs is what had to be done! I had to connect these 2x6s at the exact pitch of the roof which at the same time would straighten all of the studs! I think these 2x6s, which came in 16' lengths, were a gift from above! I just happened to find an old pile of wood in Keith's backyard that was just wasting away but not too bad to use. Keith said it was there before he moved there and that he didn't want it! The recycle angels were looking down on me! But how could one person put up a 2x6x16 up 10' in the air by himself without a tall enough ladder!?

See 2x6 up at the top?!
Extremely carefully that's how! The pallet had to become my ladder and again the wood clamps had to become my best friend! Basically one end was hoisted up a drilled in place on the lowest pitch angle for the roof and then the other end was lifted on top of a wood clamp to temporarily hold it in place. Then I had to cut another 2x6 and attach it to the highest end of the roof a screw that into place. So if I had the highest angle and the lowest angle in place then where the two 2x6s met in the middle would be the correct angle for the roof. The highest angle is 10' and the lowest angle is 9'1". I attached the 2x6s together with a flat galvanized connecting plate. You buy those the same place where the hangers are sold at Lowes. Then each stud had to be attached to the 2x6s. I had to drill pilot holes and then put screws in. Just imagine me climbing the pallets holding on for dear life, drilling a pilot hole, changing out to a philips head bit, screwing the screw in all while up 8 ' of of the ground. It was not easy! Imagine doing construction while climbing a rock wall. It was not fun and I am very sore not to mention I threw my arm out from drilling so much!

I was laying down resting and thought this was a cool view!

My pathetic step ladder!

The 2x6 for the other side is done!

Planks cut!

 I also started on the first piece of OSB for the siding and cut a 2x6 for the front wall which connects to the 2x6s on the side walls. I can already tell how much more sturdy it is getting! My dad comes to help this week and he will bring a taller ladder, a reciprocal saw, and an extra pair of hands which will come in handy for the OSB siding.

So next will be cutting the excess studs off of the top so you can see the roof pitch, installing the roof rafters and top plates, and the siding and roofing material. After that will be to wrap the walls and roof in house wrap and some sort of roofing felt. If we can get that far I will be truly excited! If we are really productive then we will probably install the front door and maybe a window!

 Until next time! Wish me luck!

1 comment:

  1. Good luck! This is so very exciting indeed! Awesome use of pallets!