My girlfriend and I just moved into a new apartment together and neither of us own much furniture (three chairs if we include the rolling computer chair). Desiring an eco-friendly, non-toxic couch (a loveseat to start) that wouldn't cost us over $2000 (come on Upholstery Arts, eco-friendly needs to be wallet friendly too), I set out to build a somewhat stylish couch, made entirely of recycled pallets (about 150 million pallets end up in landfills every year).
For $20 worth of materials (second-hand cushions and a couple boxes of different-sized nails) and about a day's worth of time (finding pallets, transporting them on my roof rack, cutting them, constructing the couch without plans) this is what I came up with, and it's sturdy and very comfortable!
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose! A sturdy little couch (and half-pallet foot stool) I threw together over the weekend using pallets (only new material was a handful of nails). Recycled, non-toxic, sturdy as heck and really comfortable.
Beach blanket back (you could upholster it). Multi-colour striped cushions bought for $5 a piece at "mis'cel'la'ny" (humans for responsible reconsumption) near Hastings & Nanaimo (the ladies there are awesome, so interesting and energetic and I now know everything there is to know about the neighbourhood...or close to it ; ). The foot stool slides directly under the couch (which also has a tonne of storage space if you need it), a great innovation from Linnet.
This is light plywood from a collapsible wooden shipping box I found in my search for pallets. Shipping symbols give the couch a bit of a story. Good to keep it upright, but this thing definitely isn't fragile.
The guts of the operation: Two smaller pallets as the side supports/pieces, held together and framed by three 2x4's salvaged from a larger pallet. After that it's the plywood shipping box backing in a triangular shape, with recycled garden wire fencing for the bench seat (strong and shapes nicely). Put together sparingly using nails, with 1" roofing nails to secure the wire bench seat underneath the frame. STURDY. Pallet Love
So that's it. We now have plans to make a larger couch/day bed using a larger pallet, possibly mounted on casters to allow for easy reconfiguration of our living space.
As a building material, pallets are free, so there isn't too much to complain about. The wood itself varies in quality depending on age and manufacture, and depending on the type of nails used to construct the pallet (typically spiral). It's often best to cut rather than pry apart. The wood breaks easily if the nails are deeply seated, so you need to be strategic and sparing in your cuts.
A serious benefit is the symmetry of the pallets - not much measuring required if they're a standard size. I kept thanking the keen eyes of the Chinese pallet builders who probably put these together before they were shipped (with who knows what else) to North America.
As soon as you start building with pallets, every alley becomes a treasure trove...just don't hoard them. Also, be mindful of your neighbours, hammering is best done in an adjacent alleyway or side street, and definitely not in the evening (I owe my neighbour a bottle of wine for putting up with my overly keen hammering).
Happy pallet furniture building!