100% Reuse: Industrial Pallet Sectional Couch for Outdoors


Palletcouch Main
100% Reuse: Industrial Pallet Sectional Couch for Outdoors
By Wendy Tremayne
With more people recognizing the value of scrap materials it can be hard to find great stuff in the waste stream. These days I rely on the surplus store as much as the curb. Surplus stores often carry industrial waste materials: tough, oversized items that come in mass, like 4′ diameter round metal dishes, human-sized wooden cable spools, or a gross of 1′-tall iron springs, to name a few.
Last spring I ran across half a dozen 2’×3′ clay-colored plastic pallets at a Surplus City in Albuquerque, N.M. They were likely used to ship a high-end non-consumer item. When I saw the pile of them, weeds grown over the top and wedged under a giant machine that looked as if it may have come out of New Mexico’s Sandia Labs, the image of a sectional couch for outdoors flashed in my mind. I had wanted to build one for my porch but had not yet found the right materials in the waste stream. As is often the case in surplus yards, I tried to find an employee to help me dig it out and then got my work gloves out of the trunk and freed my future couch from the clutches of further decay. Then I turned to my little Maxima and wondered how I would get these babies nearly 200 miles south to where I lived. I crammed three of them into my car: one in the trunk, one in the back seat, and I jammed one up front with the passenger seat pushed all the way back. I was a tad nervous that the spiders living inside the pallets would lurch out and find me while I was driving home. A stick of Nag Champa incense that I keep in the ashtray of the car, lit periodically along the drive, helped transform the musky mold smell of the junkyard into the musky smell of a yoga studio. The bounty made it home safe and sound.
Last week I went back to Surplus City and found the fourth and last pallet to complete the set, and I made the couches. Here’s the project, easily adapted to any industrial pallet you can find.


Carpet or polyester thread for outdoor upholstery
Large needle
Blowtorch and metal rod or Sawzall
Dust mask

Pallets: $5 each × 4 = $20
4″ cushion foam pulled from thrown away couches = free
Shade cloth rescued from a previous project = nearly free, purchased 15 yards (36 wide) new for $20.


Palletcouch Scrub
Because this project is destined for the outdoors, I used repurposed shade cloth and old couch foam that likely had a long history I’d rather not imagine. To prevent myself from imagining its past, my first step was cleaning and disinfecting the materials. The pallets, couch foam, and shade cloth were all washed down with soap and water, scrubbed with a brush, let dry, then sprayed with oxygenated water to rid any bacteria or mold. Alternatively, vinegar and water work well dispensed from a spray bottle, and baking soda can be sprinkled on the foam and let to sit out in the fresh air.
Step 1: Measure the size of your pallet tops (these are your seats). Using this measurement, mark the foam with a Sharpie, indicating where you need to cut it to fit the seat.
Palletcouch Foamcutting
Step 2: To cut the foam you may use either a Sawzall or heat a metal rod with a blowtorch and simply move the hot rod through the foam. If you are using the rod technique, make sure to wear a mask and welding gloves. The rod will be super hot once heated, and the heated foam may produce toxins you won’t want to breathe in. The hot wire method slices through the foam neatly. The Sawzall produces a messier, ragged edge.
Palletcouch Step3
Step 3: Place the foam on top of the shade cloth and wrap it as you would a gift. Fold in the sides to be sure you will have enough material to cover each side plus an extra inch of fabric where the ends meet.
Palletcouch Step4
Step 4: Bring the ends of the fabric together at the edges of the foam. Temporarily hold the fabric ends together with straight pins.
Palletcouch Step5
Step 5: Hand-sew with carpet or outdoor upholstery thread. A thimble comes in handy here. Toss your newly wrapped cushions on the pallets and arrange to fit your space.
Palletcouch Step6
Step 6: Enjoy your outdoor couch — it’ll likely last longer than anything you bought in the store!
About the Author:
Wendy Tremayne is renovating an RV park into a 100% reuse, off-grid B&B in Truth or Consequences, N.M. Another project, Swap-O-Rama-Rama, is a clothing swap and DIY workshop designed to offer people an alternative to consumerism.

16 thoughts on “100% Reuse: Industrial Pallet Sectional Couch for Outdoors

  1. Paul Overton says:

    Wow. Great project. I love the railing too! Thanks for the post.

  2. WES says:

    For cutting foam a serrated knife (ie bread knife, but keep a dedicated one for crafting) will do the trick. When I worked in a fabric store that sold foam by the yard we had an old electric knife (you know for cutting turkey or a roast beef again keep a dedicated one don’t go back and forth between crafting and food) and that would go through the foam without a problem it gave us the bed edge. Unless it was like 1 inch foam and then regular scissors did just fine.

  3. Ammie says:

    I LOVE this! I’ll keep this in mind for my oh-so-green future.

  4. sonja says:

    That is AWESOME! What a heroic and exciting ride home. I love ridiculous salvaging missions. 200 miles. Love it.

  5. Anonymous says:

    This is cool and all. But green? Not so much. How much fuel did you burn up on those two 400-mile round trips? I guarantee it was more than what it would have cost to build this from newly milled wood from your local Home Depot.
    Congrats on building a really cool couch – it’s beautiful, and there’s a great story behind it. I do not want to disparage your art; just makes me nuts when people equate “salvage” with “eco-friendly” and forget to look at the whole system.

  6. Kalera says:

    I disagree about it not being “green” if you happened upon the pallets by chance on a trip you were already making. Multipurposing such a trip means the extra finds get to ride the coattails of the original purpose… sure, driving there just for that reason would come close to cancelling out manufacturing and transportation of a similar item from China (depending on the gas mileage of the vehicle) but then you have to defray it by how many people may recycle locally available pallets based on these instructions.
    I doubt I might simply stumble across such a bounty, but there is a Best Buy very near me and I might give it a look next time I’m there, because, awesome!

  7. enermazing says:

    Great idea! Thanks!

  8. enermazing says:

    Recycling industrial pallets may not seem new to many – but do they recycle the rest as well?! – Great idea, and good instructions, too!

  9. sectional sofas says:

    Great idea for a sectional couch. Do you have any suggestions for the back cushions or tricks on making it water resistant?

  10. fatalhashbrown says:

    In response to the person who called this not a true “green” solution, you can get down off your horse now you smug, pompous douche.
    Buying all new wood and nails/screws to build pallets vs. finding already used (about to be sent to the landfill) wooden pallets and turning them into something functional that will allow them to be used for years or even decades?
    BTW, Home Depot literally throws there pallets into the dumpster (they do not recycle them, as I found upon being charged a $20 fee to clean out a rental truck for NOT removing an empty mulch pallet from the truck bed)
    Someone is trying to do something positive here and give others inspiration. Not everyone lives 200 miles from a place to get pallets you arrogant prick. This is the WORLD WIDE WEB. These folks live way out in New Mexico. I live in Columbus, OH. Old Pallets are as easy to find here as a rock outside your door. I am surrounded by warehouses, grocery stores, industrial areas, etc. Hell, someone else could be reading this whilst having 100’s of used pallets without a clue of what to do with them. My employer happens to be such an organization. I plan on going to work tomorrow and bringing home 10+ pallets to fill an entire room with furniture. I’ll even bring them home one at a time on my bicycle.

    1. Heather says:

      That was great!!!!! I hate a**holes like that.

  11. Peter John Fourie says:

    I am absolutely thrilled by how some folks really and truelly dont hesitate to experiment with their creative sides … honestly ! I just checked out these ideas on palletts and … really … really love this space. And you know how trees gets chopped up and wood waisted lik madness … its so comforting to know that atleast theirs folks out there who absolutely make use of their Greymatter and saves our beautifull planet from waiste and directs some off us to be and do the same …. thank you tons and tons … best wishes and loving this Spacs, rock on man

  12. Hannan Ahmad says:

    Your project is exceptional from the point of view that you are reusing wood pallets that may not be recycled due to a number of reasons. In contrast, the effort put on beautifying this location is extra, and finally it paid in the end.

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