Well this has got to be one of the longest projects I’ve taken on, but there were a few things that got in the way that just couldn’t be helped, and in this blog post you can find out what mistakes we made so you don’t make them too! Firstly I had the idea to do the bench exactly a year ago, however I badly injured my foot in a water park accident, causing severe tissue damage and 8 weeks of recovery, so had to put it on hold. Then once we’d eventually ordered the pallets last summer, my appendix decided to burst while away in Egypt on a family holiday, and I needed surgery and another several weeks of recovery afterwards (but that’s another story altogether!) so of course the pallet bench had to wait that little bit longer! But it’s finally done now, and I can tell it was all totally worth it!
Let me start by saying that if you think this is the easy option, you know trying to save money rather than just buying some garden furniture, well you’re wrong! There were many times I thought to myself “why on Earth didn’t I just go out and buy a bloody bench!” But now it’s finally completed I’m so glad I did it, so if you like making making things yourself, and love that feeling of accomplishment, then read on…
First of all we’d heard of a local place called Southampton Wood Recycling Project that gave away free pallets (some are better than others!) and you can also buy pallets too. Well we decided that we wanted to try and do this as cheap as possible so of course we went for the free ones, however this did call for a bit of manual labour and a good eye, as you basically need to go to the wood recycling place to sift through the many many pallets they have stacked up, some of which are broken and others with nails sticking out (so gloves are definitely advised!) to find the half decent pallets that are all the correct size, because yes, the sizes do vary (as we later found out!)
Anyway after a couple of hours we’d picked out 14 of the good ones which were then labelled, and we paid £10 for delivery (this depends on postcode) for them to be delivered in a few days time!
Tip #1 to you is if at all possible take a van, or hire a man with a van (probably for the same cost as delivery) so you are able to take the pallets with you there and then, because believe me when you’ve taken a couple of hours on a hot day to sort through them, only for them to be taken by someone else before the day they’re due to be delivered, this is more than a little frustrating!! Better still, just pay the £5 per pallet for the good ones so they are exactly the same shape and size as this will seriously make your life 10 times easier!
So yes, we ended up with only 10 pallets being delivered to our door, and none of which were the ones we chose, so we got Mrs complaint queen (Keri) on the case! One quick phone call and were were told the only option was to come and pick them out again, and in return they would be delivered free of charge, which we were happy with, because after all we wanted to make sure we picked out the best ones ourselves for the bench.
So off we went again to the wood recycling place, and after another couple of hours we finally stacked our chosen pallets together, and this time wrapped them completely in red and white tape and labelled them with our name, just to make sure they definitely weren’t going to get taken this time, but it turns out some people are just shameless…..
The day finally came for the new pallets to be delivered, and I’d already roped my Mum into helping me carry them through to the back garden and then crack on with making the bench as soon as they arrived! However the men in the van arrived and started to unload, and it was then we realised that these were not our chosen pallets, again!! Seriously you couldn’t make this up. It turned out that our ones that we’d specifically wrapped up and labelled were nicked by someone who obviously couldn’t be arsed to do the work themselves, and so the men were told by the manager to just go and pick 14 good pallets, some of which were broken, and none of which were exactly the same shape and size!
As you can imagine we were not happy, especially as this was the second time this had happened to us, so of course Keri was straight on that phone again arguing her case, only to be told that they will have to see what they could do later, and only if there was time. Well we were all still venting to each other for another 30mins when there came another knock at the door, and to our surprise it was the lovely man in the van who had gone straight back to the yard and picked out 14 of the best pallets (the ones you usually pay for) and had brought them to us as a gesture of goodwill for all the inconvenience. So we finally had the pallets we needed, and Southampton wood recycling project had definitely redeemed themselves, although to be fair it really wasn’t their fault and they are only a charity, but I just can’t believe the cheek of some people stealing pallets that are obviously put by for someone else! Anyway we wouldn’t hesitate to use their services again, and highly recommend them….although we cannot stress this enough….just take your own van!
Now I decided to stack the bench 3 pallets high as didn’t feel like 2 was high enough, and my Tip #2 to you is measure exactly how long you want the bench to be, and then size up how much foam is online (because it’s really not cheap) as these are the things that will end up costing , and I really should have measured, however I already had it in my head exactly how long and how high I wanted it, regardless of how much the foam would cost us, so I don’t really have anyone to blame but myself!
I used half pallets for the backs of my bench, and also for the arm rests at the end of the bench. I then thought it would be a good idea to put the back on at an angle….Tip #3 Don’t!! Keep the backs straight, it will make your job a whole lot easier!
Now this is the point I started to get picky! I didn’t particularly like that the pallets had gaps in between the slats, so I was able to see through the whole bench! I know, I know I’m a complete fusspot, but as I was doing it I wanted it to be right! You can obviously leave it like that if you wish, as you won’t even see the gaps once the foam is on, but I wasn’t happy so I spent a whole day taking apart another 2 pallets without breaking them (extremely hard) and putting the slats in between some of the gaps, as you can see below.
However on some of the other pallets I ran into difficulties, as the gaps were too small to fit a whole slat in, so this is where my Dads jigsaw came in handy. But my Tip #4 to you would be if you don’t want gaps, make sure to choose some pallets with the slats closer together, so you don’t have to mess about with filling them in.
I decided that I wanted the front to be boxed in, and although this took quite a bit of work I’m so pleased I did it as I think it looks great. Once it was all finally in place I sanded down the whole bench as much as I could, and I used filler in any screw holes or cracks (but you don’t have to bother, again this was just my preference) and I was now able to start painting with my chosen Brewers masonry white paint. As you can see from the photos I also had one pallet that I had saved to make a table to match. I used wooden blocks from the other unused pallets to make the table higher, painted it white and ordered castors online.
Now Tip #5 is probably a bit obvious, but make sure you start your project in the summer or at least in warmer months. Due to our setbacks I ended up painting the bench when it wasn’t very warm, so I got very cold out in the garden at times, and the bench took a lot longer to dry. The trusty jigsaw also came out a few more times as I wanted to box the bench in even more, then I sanded down a bit more just to make sure and gave it another coat of paint. This was the bench itself finally finished and I was very pleased with the result.
I then turned the project over to to Keri who I put in charge of finding fabric, foam and scatter cushions, which we thought would make it feel very cosy.
Tip #6 use google and Pinterest for some excellent ideas and inspiration.
It turns out that foam was going to cost a hell of a lot of money for the amount we needed for the size of our bench, however luck was on our side this time, as we came up with the genius idea of using a kingsize memory foam mattress, which we cut in half, and with only the tiniest bit of foam wastage (which we cut off for the shortest part of the bench) it actually fit perfectly! We found this as well as cushions on eBay, the grey fabric was from fabric land, and because Keri wanted an American theme we searched the internet high and low for American fabric, which was working out very costly for how much we needed, but as luck would have it (again) we managed find an American themed quilt cover from the range, that was also reduced, and then my mum, who is an absolute whizz on the sewing machine very kindly made us all of our cushion and foam covers, all of which are also Velcro’d so they can easily be cleaned, and they all look absolutely fantastic.
I am so pleased with the end result, and although it was finished just before the winter, we are fully enjoying it now that the warmer weather is finally here. We’ve finished off the area with some metal signs on the wall, although Keri still wants more, and we all enjoy spending many a sunny day or evening sat on the bench together, appreciating all the hard work that went into it!
I would definitely recommend this project to anyone that is a dab hand at diy. I’m a complete amateur and made lots of rookie mistakes, but I’m sure I wouldn’t be the only one, and I hope this post and my tips help someone to make their own dream pallet bench! Good luck!
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time” ~ Thomas Edison
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