How to Break Down Pallets

How to Break Down Pallets

How to Break Down Pallets! You can do this in less than 3 minutes. As with any project, use safety precautions any time you’re using power tools, and stay safe out there!

How to Break Down PalletsHow to Break Down Pallets

We have some awesome pallet projects on the blog, like these Massive DIY planter boxes for your pretty plants, this Christmas Tree Craft, and this front porch mantle with hanging gutter planter. and I wanted to show you the easiest way, we found, to break down a pallet. The whole thing can be ripped apart in 3 minutes! No prying or pulling nails out! 
I’ve had some readers comment that the nail holes and some of the nail heads will still be visible after you do it this way, there are some great suggestions in the comments for how to remedy these problems.
I personally liked the look of the nail heads in the projects I was doing, since I typically use pallets for projects that look better with the distressed look. 

Start by having someone secure the pallet for you. Then use a 9-inch all-purpose blade on a Sawzall to slide in between the planks and saw down those nails! 


Here are links for everything you need for this project. I may receive a small commission if you use this link to purchase. Thanks in advance!



Like I said to be cautious, and make sure someone is securing the pallets for you! Safety goggles and work gloves are a must! 

Now that you know how to break down pallets quickly and easily …

Have you found any better ways to rip apart pallets? Let us know in the comments!



77 thoughts on “How to Break Down Pallets”

  1. So useful! Thank you for sharing your these wonderful tips for breaking down pallets quickly and easily at the Healthy, Happy, Green and Natural Party Blog Hop. I'm Pinning and sharing!

  2. I totally have a stack of pallets I need to break down. This is wonderful! Now, maybe I'll actually get around to it. Thanks for sharing at Merry Monday this week!

    1. I make a lot of pallet projects. I use a large screwdriver to wedge between the boards then cut the nails with a sawzall with a metal blade. Then I remove the nails by tapping them out from each side with a hammer and punch. Some projects need planning to flatten and straighten boards. Some are more rustic and just need a little sanding.

    1. That's true, Kevin. It was fine for the project I was doing, plus I like the look of the distressed wood and that only added. If you don't want the nails, you'll have to find a different way. 🙂

      1. I’ve done this for years..I use a punch to tap the nails out or you can use a 16 nail they come right out. Some projects I leave them in for a rustic look. I save some for other projects just tap them in for a different rustic look

        1. Oh good! I hadn’t thought of using anything to get them out, but it’s good to know what options are out there! Thanks Chris!

        2. I found an inexpensive air tool that is a nail remover. One pull of the trigger and the nail is gone. Even when the nail points are visible, just one pull and they’re gone. It also can straighten a bent nail to remove it. A very successful tool for about $40.00 from Amazon and Harbor Freight.

          1. What is the tool called? My problem is I need to remove about 15 heavy duty staples.

      2. The nails do add a rustic touch, but if they don’t want the nails turn it over and bang them out…..leaves a hole then, lolol.

    2. Uhh geez can’t u do any work! Those would pop right out!! I do it all the time my husband takes apart pallets the hard way (until now 🙂 ) and I get the nails out. I’m 4ft 8in tall weighing 92lbs so if I can do it u can! Great tut, thanks!!!!

    3. Nails should be easier to remove once they are cut. Or you can leave them in the pallet wood for character depending on what project you are looking to make.

    4. Agreed. I take the time to carefully remove the nails and not crack the wood as most projects would not look right if the rusty nail heads remain in the pallet pieces. 🙁

  3. If the nails are long enough to get a drill chuck clamped on, you can reverse the nails out that way.

  4. I love the idea. I made a couple of goat pens out of some old pallets for my grand daughter .
    Thanks for sharing

  5. Crowbar/Utility bar with integrated nail lifter… I use one and fast to dismantle with very very little effort and no nails left neither. It only cost a fiver too

  6. I have been using different methods to break apart pallets. This is a good method but if you want good results you need to pry the boards away from each other or you wasting time cutting wood.. And then the nails..

    1. I think it just depends on what look you’re going for. I’ve done a few projects after cutting the boards this way, and I personally love the way they look with the nails in them. 🙂 A few of the comments above have offered other suggestions too, and I think they’re all great ideas!

  7. To retain more timber without cutting nails I’ve used an old scissor jack to push parts apart….much less splitting wood, takes longer but when you recognise some of the hardwood used in some pallets. Screwfix and other tool shops sell a recking bar with two angled pieces at the business end which are effective and cost about £17.50 when I last looked!

  8. I take a circular saw and cut the boards down the right side and then down the left side. Then I pry the boards from the middle section. However, on some I saw both sides of the center board because I needed short pieces anyway. There’s more scrap but it isn’t as hard on your arms and shoulders.

  9. We actually use a 12 in. Demolition Reciprocating Saw Blade in our sawzall. Both my husband and or I break the pallets down. If I can, you can. It is by far the easiest & fastest way.

    I leave the nail head in I often paint the nails metallic silver or black, I love the rustic look. But if I am going to rip the wood for strips for wood lanterns or whatever and have to remove nail heads, I will use a punch and hammer.

    At first I wood chip into the wood a little but with experience I know have straight cuts so full length pallet wood for coffee tables and large wall art and those reversible snowman scarecrows.

  10. Using a specially shaped screwdriver a pry bar and a hammer i can pull apart a pallet in under 3 mmn and keeping almost 99 percent of wood available and no nails

  11. I think it is better to use screw driver and hammer to pop out the nails. The procedure you explained to break down pallets quickly and easily takes some hard work.

  12. A tool called a cats paw will get under the nail heads. Pry them up a bit and then cut the nail heads off with bolt cutters. The boards will then pop right off. Glue the nail heads back in for the rustic look.

  13. I’m not sure if I get your method right.
    Don’t you still have to take the pallet a little bit apart before you can cut with the saw?
    In the video it looks like there already is a gap between, so the saw can fit in.

    1. Nope, the blade is very thin, so it slides right in between the boards. We didn’t prep the pallet at all. I’m sure there are different types of pallets, but the ones we used didn’t need anything other than what was shown in the video. 🙂

  14. I found it easier to use a circular saw and cut an 1 1/4 inch off each side ( be sure to miss all nails ). Then you only have to deal with the centre. Less split ends as well.

  15. Check out Izzy Swan’s Pallet Pal jig used to lift the boards out.Just slip under board and step on the back end. Lifts the board right out. I build me 1 out of wood and working perfect.Still have to deal with the nails though…or just cut them off .

  16. I just love all the ideas you share it makes things so much easier for those who worry about the nails in the wood first me myself I love the look of the nails in the wood of many of my projects the ones I done I just punch them out with a 16 penny nail. Look at it this way me here were I live I get all my pallets for free people are glad to give them to you so next time you worry about them nails just think of how much you would be paying for lumber if you bought I myself can live with the nail Look for free wood an I have mad things from a simple sign up to a 8×12 foot saw table for my table saw an a work bench so it’s an win win thanks again Lee from Maryland

  17. Look up Pallet Buster. Get one with a pivoting head. I got one and can take a pallet apart in less than a minute. Then you can just remove the nails.

  18. I’ve used this Sawzall method numerous times and it is a good way to disassemble a pallet quickly. And yes, most of the nail heads will be left in the nail hole and visible but you can just tap them out using a tiny screwdriver or a hole punch or even using a bigger nail to tap it out.

  19. I am so glad you posted this!!! I have over 25 FREE pallets just given to me for projects I want to do and after trying to pry then apart for the past 4 days, I gave up! I told a neighbor to come take them for firewood. Busted knuckles and bruised up, cussing and kicking, you name it I did! After seeing this I could just kick my self..DUH, is what I said, why didn’t I find this sooner! THANK YOU! Now to get back at it The Easy Way!!

      1. oh i forgot if you can’t burn em out try a ten pounds sledge hammer then glue the bits you wanna keep back together keep the kids occupied for hrs????

      2. Thank you Roy for info on location to purchase seawall. And to everyone else, I appreciate all the great ideas. ????

  20. Perhaps the guy cutting in the video should have been wearing eye protection as per instructions in the write up.p

  21. My daughter and I just took apart six or seven pallets the old fashion hard way. Lol
    All the nails we hammered out we reused. We made my granddaughter a toy box.

  22. When you leave the nails in the runners you loose the runners.i use the runners for other projects use a deck board remover tool runners make good projects

  23. Hello, I have different project for the wooden pallets. I will build a wooden frame koi pond, a chair for me, wife and daughter to sit for us to enjoy our koi fish, a chicken coop and a dog house

  24. I take apart a couple hundred pallets a year for my woodworking business and here is my take on this video. First and foremost, WEAR SAFETY GLASSES. It’s a little hard to see, but I don’t think he is. He’s certainly wearing gloves because pallets have lots of nasty splinters, but he’s not taking the time to protect his eyes. Rookie mistake. A splinter in your hand is one thing but a splinter or metal sliver in your eye is quite another. Second, most pallets never come apart that easily. In most cases, you need to use a pry bar to slightly separate the thin pallet lumber from the 2×4 support beneath. Just a tap or two should do it. Otherwise, you can actually overheat the blade causing it to overheat which dulls it much faster than normal. Third, use only bi-metal blades. They are more expensive and last much, much longer. Trust me. You are going to hit lots and lots and lots of nails and a good blade makes the task much easier. Fourth, once the lumber is cut apart, you need to remove the remaining nail heads. Rather than trying to gouge them out with a pliers or screw driver, invest in an inexpensive nail set. These look like little skinny punches and you can probably buy a set of three for under $10. Turn the boards over, and tap them out with the nail set and you will be left with a nice little divot from the nail head, but if you’re working with pallet lumber you will probably be OK with that. Lastly, although not mandatory, consider giving all your new pallet lumber a good scrubbing before you use it. I use a detergent-bleach water solution and scrub each board then let it dry in the sun after giving it a good rinsing. You might think this is overkill, but pallet lumber is loaded with bacteria and after you’ve dug a few infected splinters out of your fingers, you will thank me for this. Happy Woodworking!

  25. I use a detergent-bleach water solution and scrub each board then vnpdfs let it dry in the sun after giving it a good rinsing.

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