How to Make and Install Pallet Bookshelves

I just can’t help myself when it comes to updating my son’s room.  He’s not even two yet, but I just love adding special touches to his room and really bringing it to life….maybe it’s because I never had a cool room growing up, so I’m living vicariously through him.

Just a few weeks ago I completed this bright and bold accent wall.  I’ve also created several pieces of artwork to display, including his newborn stats canvas, first birthday art piece, and no-hammer faux wood string art with his name.  And let’s not forget his initial in faux aged copper as well as his wreath.  Like I said….I can’t help myself. {shy grin}

Earlier this year, my husband, being the wonderful man that he is, brought home several free pallets from work….I know, I’m a lucky lady!  The following weekend, we started our very first DIY pallet project (this!), but didn’t actually get finish it up until last week….talk about life getting in the way.

Here I’ll give you all the details on not only how we made these pallet bookshelves, but also how we installed them (the installation part seems to be missing from most of the tutorials I read up on in advance, so I made sure to include that process here, too).

And don’t worry if you’re a pallet newb too….this is a really simple project!

How to Make and Install Pallet Bookshelves | Where The Smiles Have Been

[Full Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.]

 

How to Make and Install Pallet Bookshelves

Once I knew I was going to have a stockpile of free pallets (thank you, honey!), I then hit up Pinterest looking for ideas.  I loved the idea of adding hanging bookshelves to my son’s room since he has a severe overflow of books and has outgrown his original basket that was housing them.  I found this tutorial by Jenna Burger to be very helpful, and knew this would be our first project!

So, one chilly weekend back in February, my husband and I started our very first pallet project….and it was quite the DIY adventure!  The making of these bookshelves occurred then, and we finally got them installed last week….this is why you’ll see us go from long sleeves to t-shirts in the pictures below. ;)

 

Supplies

How to Make and Install Pallet Bookshelves | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

Safety First!

Also, safety first, ladies and gents!  Make sure you wear work gloves when working with pallets.  It is Splinter City, for real.  We have matching His & Hers gloves….I know, so cute.  Plus, a family that deconstructs pallets together, stays together….or something like that.

It also probably wouldn’t hurt to make sure you have on safety goggles or glasses just in case.  An ounce of prevention and all that….

How to Make and Install Pallet Bookshelves | Where The Smiles Have Been

Also, make sure the pallet you’re using is safe.  Here’s a handy run-down on how to tell if pallets are safe to use.  Our’s didn’t have any odors, spills, or insects, and this stamp with the ‘IPPC’ and ‘HT’ told us it was heat-treated and therefore safe to use.  If you see one marked with ‘MB’ do NOT use it….that’s some bad chemical nastiness.

How to Make and Install Pallet Bookshelves | Where The Smiles Have Been.

 

Deconstructing the Pallet

Here’s how we deconstructed our pallet to make these bookshelves.  It’s actually pretty simple….promise!  We used our reciprocating saw with the 12-inch blade and cut along the green lines below, so three small cuts on both ends.  Once removed, these two pieces would become the “meat and potatoes” of our bookshelves.

They needed bottoms though to give the books something to rest on, so we then removed two of the boards from the center of the pallet.  The boards will end up getting screwed to the bottom of each of the other pieces that were just cut off….and wham-o!  There are your bookshelves.

How to Make and Install Pallet Bookshelves | Where The Smiles Have Been

This view is the top of the pallet but it will actually end up being the back side of the bookshelves and be flush against the wall.

 

While you probably don’t need a reciprocating saw to do this project, I can tell you that it made things exponentially easier!  Like I mentioned, we used a saw with a 12-inch blade designed for nail-embedded wood (i.e. pallets!) instead of the standard blade that it came with, and it was a breeze cutting the two ends off….seriously, it cut through the wood like a hot knife through butter.

We (or I should say The Hubs…sorry, I’m a weakling) then tried removing the boards with a hammer, crowbar, and rubber mallet….but that, uhhhh, didn’t work so well.  Lots of energy, frustration, and especially curse words were used during this time, and it resulted in some cracked boards as well.  Boo.

So my husband ended up just using the saw for this part too, cutting right through the nails to release the boards.  It was way easier and faster than all that manual nonsense.  Hooray for power tools!

How to Make and Install Pallet Bookshelves | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

Sanding the Wood

The Hubs went ahead and removed all the other boards too while he was at it, and now that the entire pallet was deconstructed, it was time to sand everything.  I used an orbital hand sander for all the areas that it would fit, then went back and sanded the edges and inside by hand.

Pallet Wood Roman Numeral Anniversary Sign | Where The Smiles Have Been

Do not skip this step!  It not only removes all the splinters and frayed edges, but it cleans away all the gunk and dirtiness.  Just look at the difference!

How to Make and Install Pallet Bookshelves | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

Staining & Sealing the Wood

Next up came staining.  I used a really dark color stain so it would match the rest of the furniture in my son’s room.  After putting on some disposable gloves, I started applying the stain with a foam brush, then several minutes later, wiping it away with a rag.

The pallet wood is very dry and it soaked up the stain like it had just ran a marathon in the desert!  I ended up doing two coats on these shelves (everything except the backs that would be against the wall), and along with my Roman numeral anniversary sign, all of this can was used up.

How to Make and Install Pallet Bookshelves | Where The Smiles Have Been

After drying for a couple days, I applied a coat of polycrylic to all the pieces, just to help seal them and to give them a subtle shine.  You could probably skip this step if you wanted, though.

How to Make and Install Pallet Bookshelves | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

Staining and Sealing the Knobs

Just because I think you can never have too much storage, I decided that it would be nice to add some knobs to the front of each shelf.  This way, we’d be able to hang things off of it, like hats, a backpack, coat, or even little baskets with small toys or other items, and utilize even more space.

We picked up ten cheap wooden knobs from Home Depot for under a dollar each, then I stained them in the matching shade.  I also applied some polycrylic to these as well.

How to Make and Install Pallet Bookshelves | Where The Smiles Have Been

{Note: We ended up only using eight of these knobs (four on each shelf).  We had to skip the middle one on each thanks to the thick center pallet board that wouldn’t allow us to screw a knob in.  My husband was with me when I bought all ten, so I was all “Helloooo….why didn’t you tell me this before I wasted $2 on knobs I don’t need?!” and then he was all “Uhhh, sorry but I’m not a mind reader and didn’t now what your *air finger quotes* VISION was.”  Ahhh, life of a married couple. ;)  Moral of the story: If you’re going to use knobs, make sure you only buy the number you actually need.}

 

Attaching the Knobs

After measuring out the placement of the four knobs on each shelf, my husband then busted out his drill and drilled holes for all of them.  Then he screwed each of them in…..and we were happy our calculations were correct and the knobs were even!  I was at least.

How to Make and Install Pallet Bookshelves | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

Attaching the Bottom Boards

It was then time to attach the bottom board on each shelf so the books would have something to rest on.  All this required was lining the boards up and then drilling in three screws into each, one on either end and one in the center.  As you can see, my husband just drilled the screws right in between the existing nail holes.

How to Make and Install Pallet Bookshelves | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

Adding Felt Bumpers to the Back

To help protect the wall, I decided to add some felt bumpers along the back of each shelf.  I just cut up little strips from a scrap piece of craft felt and then glued them over all the nail heads.

How to Make and Install Pallet Bookshelves | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

Installing the Pallet Bookshelves

To install these bad boys, we first used a stud finder to see if we could use any studs (The Hubs thought he was *hilarious* when he held it up to his chest and said “Found one!!”  Men….).

Our studs weren’t where we needed them to be, so we had to use some anchors since we’d be attaching the shelves straight into the drywall.

If you can use studs, just hang the shelves by screwing them straight in.

How to Make and Install Pallet Bookshelves | Where The Smiles Have Been

To use the drywall anchors, here’s what we did (sorry there aren’t step-by-step pictures, but this was a two-person job!):

  1. I picked up the first shelf and lined it up where I wanted it while The Hubs made sure it was centered on the wall and level (thanks to a handy iPhone app).
  2. He then used his drill and drilled through the center of the left section of the top board and straight into the drywall.  Then he did the same to the center of the right section.
    1. This meant that each shelf would be attached with two screws and ensured our holes in the shelf and the wall were lined up.
  3. Next, I placed the shelf on the floor while The Hubs hammered in the green drywall anchors into each newly-drilled hole in the wall.
  4. He then drilled a screw halfway into each hole that he just previously drilled in the shelf.
  5. I then picked the shelf back up and aligned the screws into each wall anchor, and The Hubs then drilled them all the way in.

We then repeated the steps to hang the second shelf.  And that’s it!

How to Make and Install Pallet Bookshelves | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

The Installed Pallet Bookshelves!

And here’s how they look once installed and filled with books!  Pretty nice, huh?  Adding these shelves not only gave us some much-needed storage space, but it also helped open up the room more and gave Rowan more area to play and run around in.

Plus they look soooo cool and rustic, especially hanging from that bright and bold accent wall!!

How to Make and Install Pallet Bookshelves | Where The Smiles Have Been

In the top shelf, I put some books that are a little too advanced for Rowan right now, as well as some that are not very toddler-friendly (i.e. not board books) or ones he just doesn’t seem too interested in.

I also put some others up there that I’ll gradually rotate in with the lower ones so he doesn’t get bored.  It’ll be like Christmas all over!

How to Make and Install Pallet Bookshelves | Where The Smiles Have Been

How to Make and Install Pallet Bookshelves | Where The Smiles Have Been

I hung a little basket off a knob on the lower shelf and stuck in some of Rowan’s favorite smaller toys that tend to fall to the bottom of his large toy bin….which he feverishly digs through trying to find these specific toys while tossing EVERYTHING else out all over the floor….and then I have to pick it all up.

How to Make and Install Pallet Bookshelves | Where The Smiles Have Been

He went straight over to the basket and smiled broadly once he saw all his favorite little toys are right there for him now, and easily accessible.  Mom for the win!

How to Make and Install Pallet Bookshelves | Where The Smiles Have Been

I was also happy to see that Rowan can very easily grab books out of the lower shelf on his own, and also put them away.  It sure beats tossing every last book out of his green basket and onto the floor trying to find Jungle Babies or It’s Pajama Time! (two of his faves).

How to Make and Install Pallet Bookshelves | Where The Smiles Have Been

I was also pleasantly surprised by just how many books each shelf holds.  Both shelves freed up enough space in his green basket that he has plenty of room for his library to grow before requiring any additional storage.

How to Make and Install Pallet Bookshelves | Where The Smiles Have Been

And I just love how they look in his room now.  They really are super cool, and the knobs are such a nice little touch….they not only add more storage potential, but they help make the shelves look more like “real” furniture and less pallety.

I mean how cool is it that his backpack and matching lunchbox now coordinate with his room perfectly?!  I so did not plan on that, but it’s a happy coincidence indeed!

How to Make and Install Pallet Bookshelves | Where The Smiles Have Been

How to Make and Install Pallet Bookshelves | Where The Smiles Have Been

Another bonus: these shelves are easily removable and work well in a kid’s room for sure, but they would work well in any other room in the house.

I’ve also made another project using wood from this very same pallet: a sign with our wedding anniversary in Roman numerals!

Pallet Wood Roman Numeral Anniversary Sign | Where The Smiles Have Been

 

Want to See Even More Amazing Things You Can Make with Pallets??

Check out my Pinterest board called Palette Palooza where I share all kinds of great ideas for upcycling with pallets!

Follow Christine at Where The Smiles Have Been’s board Pallet Palooza! on Pinterest.

 

Thanks so much for stopping by!

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About Christine

I'm Christine, a SAHM to a spunky toddler and his mini-me infant brother, and married to the best guy you'll ever meet. I (try to) spend their nap times getting my craft on and I blog about my creations and adventures in parenting at Where The Smiles Have Been. My loves are all things DIY, especially Silhouette projects, wreaths, & personalized decor. And ice cream....definitely love me some ice cream.

Comments

  1. these turned out super cute!! I love that you added the knobs! I wish I was this creative!

    • Oh please, Lexi….you’re super creative! :) Thanks for all the kind words! The knobs are really working out….they provide so much extra storage!

  2. I love DIY projects and this looks fantastic, especially against that colorful wall, which by the way I LOVE! Looks like an image you see in a magazine!

    • Wow Stef, that’s quite the compliment! Thank you so much! I’m very happy with how it turned out (both the wall and the pallet bookshelves). They make me feel like a real DIYer! ;)

  3. This is very cool!! My girls books get out of control!! In a good way…they just have so many. This would work perfectly in their room.

    Your walls are also very fun!

  4. Oh my goodness what a fantastic accent wall!

    Having said that, your boy is soo cute!

    And having said that too, I love what you did with the pallets and the coordinating accents of the backpack and the lunchbox.

    • Thank you so much for all the kind words! I really like the accent wall and pallet bookshelves, but my little man is the cutest of them all. :) Thanks for stopping by these parts!

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