Most people know there are two types of pallets, there are pallets made from lumber, and pallets made from plastic. Pallets made from lumber are more popular and have been around for a longer time. Lumber of pallets is not “scrap lumber” like many people believe. Pre-cut pallet lumber is good quality lumber that delivers the trusted reliability that you can depend on.
Unless you are a manufacturer you likely do not give a lot of thought to pallets or what they are made of but if you are a manufacturer than it is something that you will absolutely want to learn about so that you can plan and speak on the subject with confidence.
A basic understanding of pallet lumber will help you feel more confident in your choice to go with wood pallets. There is a lot to learn about the different woods and how they are used in the process. The information below will help you to learn the basics and make informed decisions about pallet lumber.
Why Wood Is Best for Pallets
You have a choice when you are deciding which material is best for your pallet needs. Most experts agree that wood is the preferential material. There are a couple of reasons that wood pallets are preferred.
- They are cost effective
- They are easy to manufacture
- They are repairable
- They are fully recyclable
- They are biodegradable
It is a cost-effective option. It is easy to manufacture, and wood pallets are easier to repair. It is the traditional material for pallets and has been used since the inception of the pallet back in the 1940’s. Manufacturing wood pallets has less of an impact on environment than manufacturing plastic pallets.
Wood pallets have a life cycle of about 10 years with very minimal repairs. Plastic is not biodegradable and can rarely be repurposed. Wood pallets are biodegradable and are often used in DIY projects. Wood is the winner when it comes to getting the most bang for your buck.
The Myths About Pallet Lumber
There are quite a few things that many people believe about pallet lumber that is simply not a fact. For example, not all pallets come from the same species of wood, as a matter of fact, most pallets are made from a mix of species. The EU and the US have pallet lumber standards but much of the rest of the world does not.
Pallet wood is not always treated. Under current standardization rules that many countries participate in, pallet wood must be heat treated to ensure that any wood disease or insect has been removed from the finished product.
The heat processing is required by many countries to keep insects, fungus and wood diseases from spreading from country to country. In most cases, it is a misconception to think that pallet wood is treated with chemicals. In some cases, the lumber is treated with chemicals, but it will be marked with information to let you know whether it is heat treated or chemically treated.
Pallet lumber is not scrap lumber or a lower grade of lumber. It is the same lumber that would be used to create furniture, and more.
Lumber for pallets is harvested from several different species of trees. Perfect lumber for pallets can come from both soft wood and hard wood species. All lumber for pallets comes from either deciduous trees or coniferous trees.
How Much Lumber is Used for Pallets?
It can be hard to answer how much lumber is used for pallets. Largely the size of the finished product will determine how much lumber you need to construct a pallet. For arguments sake, we will use the specifications of a standard pallet to determine how much lumber is used for pallets.
It takes about seven or eight boards to create the deck of the pallet. You will need blocks, stringers and feet if you choose. If you are going to build a two-sided deck than you would need between fourteen and sixteen boards for each pallet, and of course stringers and blocks.
On a larger scale, there are over 2 billion pallets currently in circulation, it is estimated that 17% of all wood harvested winds up as a pallet. That is literally tons of lumber that winds up as pallets.
If you need lumber to manufacture pallets the best way to figure out how much you need, is to speak to a reliable source that specializes in providing lumber for pallet manufacturing. If you provide the project specifics, they will be able to tell you how much lumber you need for the project.
Understanding Lumber Density
It is not enough to know that pallet lumber comes from either a hardwood or softwood tree, if you really want to get down to the nuts and bolts of things. There are 3 categories of wood:
- Softwood like cedar, pine, spruce, fir, hemlock, you will notice that each of these trees are coniferous trees which means they do not lose their leaves seasonally.
- High density wood comes from maple, ash, beech, elm, oak, and yellow maple, all these trees are deciduous trees.
- Low density wood comes from willow, linden, aspen and walnut.
Why does the density matter? The denser the lumber is the stronger the wood will be. The lumber industry uses the Janka Rating System to grade the density of wood and rank the hardness of the wood. For example, Hickory is one of the hardest of woods, but as a side note, it is never used to make pallets because of the cost.
Hardwoods are typically more costly then soft woods. For example, in the US, the most common lumber for pallets is Southern Yellow Pine. It is readily available, highly sustainable, and gets the job done nicely. While SYP is not the densest wood, it is affordable and reliable, which makes it the perfect lumber for pallets.
Pallet boards may come from one species while blocks and feet may come from another. Typically, the boards are the soft woods while the blocks and feet are the hardwoods. There is a misconception that the term “soft wood” means the lumber is not quite as strong as a hard wood option. The fact is soft woods are an excellent option for building pallets.
Heat treatment is required by many countries, soft woods are the perfect option for heat treatment. One of the benefits of heat-treating wood is that the process makes the wood harder. Other reasons that soft woods are more common for pallet lumber include availability. About eighty percent of the trees in the world are soft wood trees. It is also a less expensive option because of the availability.
Soft woods are weighing less than hard woods which means that soft woods make pallets that are easier to lift and move. While it is true that hardwoods are stronger initially than softwoods, after the kiln drying process the woods are equally durable.
Lumber for pallets typically is harvested from the most amply prolific trees in the region. While there are times that other species are used, it is only under special circumstances, and a part of a special order.
For the most part, wood for pallets comes from trees that are highly sustainable. There are processes in place to ensure that the wood harvested is not taken from trees that are at risk or that are struggling to maintain their populations.
Trees are not harvested simply for pallet lumber. The word is harvested for a wide range of purposes and pallets lumber is one of those purposes. In other words, whether the pallets were being made or not the wood be harvested.
In addition to not taking wood from rare species, lumber for pallets are completely recyclable. The wood from pallets can be used for a wide range of uses. DIY uses are popular. People construct furniture, shelving, tables and more. Recycling wood pallets makes the sustainability even more obvious.
Now That You Know the Basics
The type of lumber for making pallets that you wind up with greatly depends on the region is milling lumber for pallets. For example, in the US and throughout North America there are only 2 types of wood that are used, in the European Union, the EPAL can be made from 14 different species of wood.
In India, they go all out and craft pallets from Mahogany because Mahogany is the most available type of wood in India. While in some areas of the world Mahogany is considered a rare species and coveted in India it is not.
In most all cases manufacturers will designate pallets by either soft wood pallets or hard wood pallets, and almost never know which species of wood is used. If it is important to you to know, you can do a little research and teach yourself to recognize the type of wood that is being used to craft the pre-cut lumber for pallets.
Each specie of wood has different traits. The tone of the wood, the feel of the wood, the smell of the wood can all help you to discover what type of wood you are dealing with. It does not take long to learn the different traits to look for.
Ultimately, the best way to ensure that you get the high-quality lumber that you need is to turn to a reliable source. The quality of the lumber depends highly on the source that you get your lumber from. It is important that you do your homework in picking the source for your pallet lumber.
Lumber Shipments Come in Grades
When you purchase lumber for making pallets, you need to understand how that pallet lumber is graded. Almost all pallet lumber comes from the core or center of the tree. Precut pallet lumber is shipped in bundles.
The grading system of lumber deems pallet lumber “low-grade”, but this is not to be confused with low quality. It means that the lumber came from the core of the tree. The outside of the tree is a clearer, better looking lumber but it does not mean it is a higher quality lumber.
Lumber is graded based on its appearance. Smooth, no knots, and other imperfections makes lumber high grade. Milling lumber for pallets is not done with one species of tree. There can be many “approved species” in a shipment.
The lumber supplier may not even know which species which is. The raw products are divided into two groups, soft woods, and hard woods. Do not be surprised by the “low grade” designation, it has nothing to do with the quality of the wood.
Ordering Your Lumber for Pallets
One of the best ways to ensure that you are getting the best lumber for pallets is to turn to a trusted source. The right source will be able to meet all your lumber needs and can work with you if you have special requirements.
Some of the special requirements that you can request is the type of lumber that you want to use. For example, if you have large fragile items to palletize, you can request an all hardwood bundle for your pallet lumber.
The right source will have options available to meet a wide range of needs. They will work within your budget to ensure that you get the best quality lumber at the right price. It is important that you have a reliable source for your lumber needs.