How to build a great looking fence with pallet materials!
Building a great looking Fence is straight forward but I am going to cut to the chase. I used pallet materials to build a fence as I wanted to see what the cheapest method of constructing a decent fence was.
Please note that I am using advertising on this post.
What are you building the fence for?
This may sound like a silly question but if you are going for privacy you’d want a 6 foot fence. To contain pigs or sheep, a sturdy 4 foot would do.
I wanted to build a 6 foot fence as I wanted some privacy around our small river side garden. Your desired fence height also determines required pallet sizes. The most commonly used pallets in my experience measure at 4×4 foot thus a fence with the height of 4 foot will be easy to source materials for.
Plan…no really you should plan.
When searching for materials on the cheap you should know what you want from the start or you will be wasting your efforts. Plan the look, height, length, shape and location. Let the inner architect in you draw it on a piece of paper. I got plenty of ideas from Pinterest, sometimes to many ideas which can impact the time on design but I settled on a Simple Horizontal Fence. I wanted the posts to be 6 foot apart to future proof the overall design, if the slats I installed failed I could easily put panels in.
Now this step can be really easy for some and perhaps slightly more challenging for others, as I am already in the building industry and having friends whom work for building merchants getting pallets was not too difficult. If you are having issues finding pallets call into your local building or landscaping merchants and ask if they have any. Quite often they have too many and I have seen signs on their gates stating that they have Free Pallets.
The not so easy bit was getting a decent crop from each pallet as some of the pallets had marks, scratches and other damage on them as they were used. You do also get a varieties in pallet design which can impact the look of your fence if they all look different. I was picky and wanted all of my materials to look the same and measure the same in length, width and depth. This is important if you want it to look classy and professional.
Now you could attempt to make up posts from pallets however I did actually opt to purchase these as I could not find 12 posts that look exactly the same. If you are patient you may be able to get some of Gumtree, eBay or Freecycle.
So how many pallets do I need.
Quite a few to be frank. I will give you an idea of based on the measurement of around 72′ (22m) which I needed.
I ended up using the following:
28, 8×4 foot pallets (4 number 4′ slats and 4 number 5′ slats). FREE
6, 4×4 foot pallets (8 number 4′ slats each side). FREE
Nails to pin slats to posts. FREE ( I was able to re use the nails from the pallets)
12x bags of post crete, £50-00 (Discounted, these can cost the general public a little more)
10x 3×3 inch 8 Foot posts. £45-00 (Discounted, these can cost the general public a little more)
2x 4×4 inch 8 Foot posts. £12-00 (Discounted, these can cost the general public a little more)
1x box of 30mm screws. £3.50 (Used on the gate to screw slats to vertical stiles)
1x Bottle of PVA. (I glued all of the gate slat panels to the vertical styles as well)
2x Ronseal One Coat Dark Oak
Hinges Like these from Amazon
400mm Stainless Handle. Free (Skip Find)
3″ Nightlatch Chrome. Free (Taken off an old door to be skipped)
Getting on with it
Pallets are not always that easy to get apart, there are several videos showing techniques however I went for the simple crowbar technique. It can cause damage to the slats and you do have more wastage but for me it was the quickest way of doing it. Once you have enough material stripped off you need to get all of the nails out so that you have clean bare pieces of timber to work with. Don’t worry too much about the holes from the nails or the splinters and marks here and there as once its been nailed in a uniform manor it looks tidy. If you don’t like the holes you can fill them with wood glue and sawdust but be aware the fence paint does not like PVA woodglue that much.
Setting the Posts:
Starting with the highest point I set the post locations and dug the holes approx 2ft deep and set the posts in the post crete using two string lines to line the tops and sides of the posts to get the gradient and posts lined up. Take more time on the gate posts as it makes it easier fitting the gate to a perfectly plumb post.
Creating the Panels:
Once the posts had set I nailed a “carry” timber (2×1) ,which was cut from the pallet materials, vertically onto the posts. These were to take the edges of the Horizontal slats. I set these back the depth of the slat so that the front edge finishes in line with the posts.
Measure each fence bay and cut the slats for each relevant bay leaving the gate section to last.
Just before I nailed the slats I covered the sawn ends with fence paint to seal them off.
**I did prepaint the slats before fixing as it gives them a better overall coating especially on the edges, be aware that fixing the slats after painting may require touchups.
I then used a string line to line the bottom slats. Once these were done I used a gauging piece of timber (10mm off cut of timber) to set the distance between each slat before I nailed them moving the string line up to check that the slats line up. I also used a spirit level on every couple to check if its all going to plan. The most important slat is the most bottom one as its the guide of the rest. Don’t forget to stand back and to cast on eye on the slat line as often lines can droop if not fixed tight enough which will give sag lines on your horizontals which looks awful.
Take your time with it, as with most things the difficulty is in the prep work
I wanted a trellis section for climbing plants at the top of my fence so all I did was cut the 4×1 material in half.
Don’t forget to put a centre carry timber in. I positioned this in the dead centre of the fence bay with each slat fixed to it all the way to the top. This is to stop the slats from drooping individually over time giving the fence a more solid long term look.
Measure up opening size, like a door a gate needs spacing between the stiles and the posts. With Gates there is a little more spacing required as the fence would expand and contract more over the years due to weathering.
I used two 4×1 inch Stiles to act as Slat carriers. I then screwed a piece of 1×1 inch on the left and right face edge of each stiles that when the slats were fixed you could not see the sawn edge. I then cut the slates between the 1×1 inch verticals. I prepainted the backs and sawn edges before it was fixed. Waited for the paint to dry. I then glued and screwed the slates to the stiles
Flip the gate over to work on the back. For rigidity I fixed 1 piece of 4×1 inch timber halfway over the bottom and second to bottom slat to in effect create a rail. Repeat to the top of the gate. You have also created the hinge carrying points on the gate by fixing the two rails. With the rear of the gate still facing you fix a diagonal timber between the two rails to stop the gate from twisting, ensure that you have used enough glue and screws as this will ensue the lifespan of the gate is extended considerably. Paint the gate before fixing the hinges and lock.
Paint fence if you have not already done so.
This is by no means the easiest or best way to construct a pallet fence. It did work for me though and I have had many comments from passers by saying how nice it looks and that using pallet materials can look just as professional as purchasing factory made panels. Using recycled or reclaimed timber though is very time consuming however also very rewarding as you are doing your bit for the environment.