Making a cheap deck out of pallets...a few questions


Old 02-15-14, 04:41 PM
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Making a cheap deck out of pallets...a few questions

We are attempting to cover up an area of our back yard that is just dirt because 1) the kids play in it and then track in dirt from there every day
2) the local cats think it's their litter box so 1) becomes a problem

We dont have much $ to spend on it, so we are just making a makeshift deck out of pallets that I got from a house two doors down that was being remodeled. We have an area that's about 12ft x 25 ft with a tree right in the middle of it. The dirt has tons of rocks in it because about 10 years ago it was covered in decorative rocks which have over the years washed away, been raked up or dug themselves down into the dirt further. So I would describe the dirt composition as soft dirt with lots of medium sized (size of a prune) rocks in it.
Since this 'deck' is only meant to last a few years, I wasnt really thinking about doing anything major like laying a foundation or anything. But I did think it might at least be wise to do a basic frame so that we could get a general level surface to start with.
After setting out some of the pallets today to just get an idea of how it's going to look, my husband says that we dont even need to make a frame, we should just lay the pallets on the dirt and keep adjusting them till they are level.
AND he also says we dont necessarily need to attach them to one another, that it would just create more work and as long as they are all level they will stay put without much problem.
I dont have too much of an issue with just laying the pallets directly on the dirt and leveling them as best as possible, but I DO think that not attaching them together is just asking for problems when it rains or when we start using it regularly. I just imagine that they will start shifting and the edges will not stay flush and we will be tripping over corners, etc.
My husband says I just never trust his judgement, but he is not "Handy" in any way and has never done anything like this before, so I asked him if he would accept suggestions from actual DIYers who have attempted this type of stuff before. He agreed.
So what is the best, easiest and most cost effective way to create a decent deck out of pallets when you have to cover up a dirt yard?? And do the pallets need to be attached to each other??

thanks for your help
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Old 02-15-14, 06:33 PM
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Imo sounds like a bad ideal all together.I would think you would be stepping thru the planks within weeks or months.
Old 02-15-14, 06:57 PM
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I agree with guyold. Neither the wood used for pallets nor the nails are designed for outdoor use.
Old 02-15-14, 07:08 PM
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Bad idea, let me count the ways.
There not pressure treated so there going to rot and attract termites.
Wet on one side dry on the other there going to curl, cup and twist.
Look like the town dump site.
Not going to stay in place.
Full of splinters.
Best way is to rake out the stones and get the soil tested to see what it needs to grow some grass.
Old 02-16-14, 05:11 AM
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I agree with the others. Deck boards are typically 1" thick. I think the boards on a pallet are half of that, maybe a little less. Any exposed deck needs to made of PT lumber or a naturally resistant wood like cedar or redwood, if not [even with paint] they can rot in a year, sometimes less. The thin boards would likely break thru in a few months. ...... and even if it was a viable idea - they'd need to be screwed together.

btw - welcome to the forums!
Old 02-16-14, 05:57 AM
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I can't tell you how many people I've had take pallets from my work for special project. Not a single person has ever finished their great idea project with them. Like the others I have to agree that there is no way to make a "decent deck" out of pallets. They can be OK or passable to bridge a muddy area on a construction site where workers are aware and wearing boots but for a patio I have to say not good.

Most pallets have spaces between the boards which would need to be filled in to create a walking surface. Masonry pallets generally have thicker boards with a smaller gap which you might walk on with flat shoes but as others have pointed out, pallets are not treated wood. They will decompose rather quickly in contact with the ground and I can say from experience that when rotted they can fail without warning.
Old 02-16-14, 07:22 AM
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Pallet Patio

I too agree that this is a bad idea. Do not do it.
Old 02-16-14, 11:22 AM
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Overkill but one more vote not to do this.
Old 02-16-14, 08:54 PM
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I suspect you and Hubby will be going ahead with the pallet project, despite all of us telling you not to. Me included, btw. That being the case, then you should at least first apply a heavy coat of wood preservative over all surfaces of all the pallets. And yes, once set to a reasonably smooth grade, they should all be screwed together, using some beefy deck screws. I wouldn't trust Mr. Unhandyman to do that, as he'd be inclined to intentionally sabotage the job in order to prove that attaching them to each other wasn't necessary. If you could find some inexpensive wide boards on Craigslist or at a building salvage place, installing them on top of the pallets (at right angles to the top pallet members), using more deck screws, would help things stay together for the 2 or 3 years of life you hope to get out of this project.
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