Pallet building is a hot topic and so the next few blog posts will explore various aspects of building with pallets — from entire houses, to interior pallet walls, to pallet wall cladding. Over 4 billion pallets are currently in use, so this is an abundant, easily obtained and usually free resource. Excerpts below about pallet building by David Reed of Texas Natural Building, a pallet house expert.
“I have been building residential homes for 24 years, I know structural stability inside and out, the strength of a pallet home is comparable to that of a conventionally framed home. In the smaller homes we design we have found that a staggered brick like installation is not needed and we try our best to find pallets exact or as close as possible in size, the installation process is as follows:
Once we decide on the foundation type, typically we always try to keep concrete forms out of our choices, we secure scrap 2×4 cleat blocks to the foundation, set back about 1/2″-5/8″, then slip the pallets over the blocks and secure them with screws horizontally into the cleats, toe screw the 2×4 frame of the pallet into the foundation as we level each one. We clamp each pallet together with C -clamps and fasten together with screws and sometimes carriage bolts, we butt corners with lapping pallets ends, and repeat this process as a soldier course along the perimeter of the foundation.
The top of the first course of pallets gets a continual 2×4 plate that is screwed down into the tops of the 2×4 frame of the pallets, this allows the pallets to be force straightened and gives it some pretty powerful rigidity!! We then install the second course of pallet just like the first, windows and doors are framed either as bucks or conventional trimmers and headers. A 2×4 top plate is installed on top of the second course and marks for joists and rafters which are installed conventionally.
In larger homes, we have found that we do have to stagger the pallets in long runs or insert a vertical 2×4 every 8′ for lateral strength. We cut pallets to fit re-using all of the materials as much as possible. We have other plate installation methods of installed on a earthbag stem wall or a cob or strawbale stem wall as well as rock using box beams as base plate and top plate with a 2×8 as the center horizontal plate. Once the pallet walls are up to the 8′ height then I come back measure and mark for the windows and then cut the opening out, frame it and pop them in!!
There are two types of wooden pallets made, HT (heat treated) and MB (Methyl-Bromide), we only use heat treated pallets in our designs and builds.
We use all natural materials as insulation, in this case being light straw clay which has an insulation value of about 1.5 per inch. We then add an adobe plaster (earth plaster) on the interior and exterior of the structure, this is typically local materials sources right from the build site! This provides both insulation and thermal mass!”
Image source 1 Pine Ridge Post-Reservation
Image source 2 Global Giving
Image source 3 I Love Cob.com
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Pine Ridge Pallet House