How to Dismantle a Pallet? Discover the Best Ways to Disassemble a Wood Pallet!

You found some wood pallets and have the perfect idea in mind. What next? You try to take apart pallets but break more wood planks than you save. Here’s where this tips page will come in handy. We’ll share nine ways to learn how to disassemble a wooden pallet, including DIY videos & tips! If you have other ideas to dismantle a pallet not listed here, do not hesitate to comment and share your way of disassembling wooden pallets with our community.

How to Dismantle a Pallet? Discover the Best Ways to Disassemble a Wood Pallet!

The first task to perform when you start a new project (after finding a wood pallet), and the first question you’ll ask yourself is “how to take apart a pallet?”. But you need to know how to prevent splitting and breaking the pallet deck boards and keep nice wood planks. We’ll show you eight different methods to break down those pesky pallets – and we address different pallet types and tools you have handy.

How to dismantle a pallet? Our best tips!

How to Dismantle a Pallet? Discover the Best Ways to Disassemble a Wood Pallet!

The first thing to know is that disassembling a wooden pallet will require a lot of patience, a lot of attention, and a lot of elbow grease; yes, this is not as simple as it looks. The method listed below will depend on the tools you have in your arsenal and the type of pallets you want to take apart.

The “No Tools” Way

Imagine you have no tools at your disposal, nothing, only some boards leftover… OK, we must admit that starting a pallet project without any tools is a pretty big challenge, but there is a method to dismantle a pallet with absolutely no tools; you only need two boards or wood planks. By applying this method, as shown in the video below, you could achieve the zero reject objective without breaking any pallet slats.

The “Hammer” Way

You only have a hammer, and you want to dismantle a pallet. Start by dismantling the base of the pallet by hitting the chocks (or dice or blocks). Then, to detach the top planks/section of the pallet hit on the wood planks behind that maintains the pallet’s structure (their chances that these planks will be unusable as you will break them). That’s it! Watch the video below for an illustration of this method. This is by far the simplest way but also the more “destructive” one, and you will lose some pallet planks during the process… but remember that you only have a hammer with you :)

This is another video that will show you how to strip a pallet with simple, cheap tools in 10 minutes. This method doesn’t mark the wood or damage it excessively and only needs a few wooden blocks, a medium-sized hammer, a claw hammer, and some vice grips in case the nail heads pull off.

The “Hammer & Brick Chisel” Way

For this one, we suppose that you have a hammer and a brick chisel to take apart your pallet. First, before starting the pallet disassembly process, you will need to cut the nails between the wood planks with the brick chisel’s help. Insert it between the planks and the rafters (or dice or blocks) and then hit it with the hammer. Don’t hit too hard as you will break the wood planks, start to hit softly, and repeat again and again until the nail breaks.

How to Dismantle a Pallet? Discover the Best Ways to Disassemble a Wood Pallet!
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The “Hammer & Old Plank” Way

A friend sent us this video on how to quickly dismantle a pallet using a simple hammer and a plank without breaking the pallet’s planks. He tried this method and confirmed that this method is one of the best! He was able to avoid breaking all the planks of the pallets!

This method is one of our favorite methods; it didn’t require any pallet disassembly tool, only a hammer and an old wood plank (from another pallet, for example) that will be used to absorb all the hammer hits and impacts. Here are the step-by-step instructions:

  1. Wear Safety Glasses – Hammers can shatter small pieces off and recently one of our crafters was injured in the eye! See our Woodworking Safety page! Gloves are a terrific idea too!
  2. Turn the pallet upside-down.
  3. Place the plank (a scrap of wood that is comfortable in your hand) against the pallet block. Strike the block a few times by hitting the plank you’ve placed in front. This will distribute the blow more evenly and prevent damaging any boards. Rotate through all three blocks on the support section, slowly loosening it as you work. The technique here is to distribute your blows with the small sledgehammer between the three blocks and gradually knock the section apart. 
  4. Repeat on all remaining support sections until all are removed.
  5. Place the removed support sections underneath the main body of the pallet.
  6. Using the claw hammer, slowly knock the exposed nails through their holes. If the nails try to bend over, you can grip them with a large set of pliers or clamping pliers (such as Vice-Grips) to provide support. Try to get all nails out of the wood; otherwise, you risk damaging your tools when using the pieces for your next project. Knocking nails out of wood is a skill. that requires you to be patient and accurate. Use the small sledgehammer to tap the nails into shape if they bend.
  7. If a nail becomes too malleable or bent, cut it in half using pliers or a hacksaw and try knocking it out again.
  8. Once those nails are out, use the pry bar or crowbar to remove the deck boards. In this case, as there are seven boards, all the odd number boards are released using the even number boards to pivot the pry bar.
  9. Turn the remaining section over and again on the blocks knock the last strips of wood out.

Be careful when you dismantle a pallet – particularly knocking the blocks of their end boards to avoid injuring your fingers.

Also, take care to avoid kneeling or standing on the nails. The nails are ribbed (and not for your pleasure). Nails also have shards of metal attached from when they were in a nail gun. Avoid running your fingers along with them. You risk receiving metal or wood splinters if you don’t wear gloves!

Editor’s Note: This technique to disassemble wooden pallets may not work with pallet types using full pallet stringers (the boards with the forklift arches carved in).

Watch the video below for a live example.

The “Claw Bar” Way

For this method, you will need a claw bar (or a pick) and a hammer. This method is used to remove the pallet dice. Using the hammer, tap alternately on the dices to slightly loosen them. To avoid damaging the wood and spread the shock, use a tapping block between the dice and the hammer. Place your hammer between the cross and the dice, and then pry. Reproduce this gesture with the claw bar to finish the removal.

How to Dismantle a Pallet? Discover the Best Ways to Disassemble a Wood Pallet!

The “Hacksaw” Way

This one is for those who are well equipped and have a hacksaw available. Saw the nails by placing the blade of your hacksaw between the planks and the rafters, or dice, depending on the kind of pallet. If the space to insert the blade is too narrow, pry with a small screwdriver to spread the planks.

How to Dismantle a Pallet? Discover the Best Ways to Disassemble a Wood Pallet!

The “Sawzall” Way

This method is the fastest one and is like the previous method. You will need a Sawzall (also called a reciprocating saw); it’s an expense, but if you have a lot of pallets to disassemble, it could save you a lot of time. Use with your Sawzall a couple of 12’’ construction blades that are more robust than the little 5’’ blade delivered with your brand new Sawzall. Then, the method is simple, take your Sawzall, set it on its side, and slice through the nails on each end of the pallet… repeat this operation for all the planks of your pallet. Watch the video below by Sarah James; it’s better than thousands of words (and watch the process, not Sarah :))

The “Pallet Buster” Way

You can use a pallet dismantling bar or pallet buster such as the one made and sold by Cargo Cycles; it’s a little investment, but if you have a lot of pallets to dismantle, it’s worth the money spent. It is the most effective and efficient tool for manually stripping the deck boards from the stringers on used wooden pallets so that the timbers can be reclaimed, recycled, or reused for other purposes. A standard wooden pallet can be stripped with a little practice in about 2 minutes without damaging any of the timbers.

Bonus: In the video below, Uncle Knackers use two techniques, the one from Method 3 and the one from Method 7.

The “Circular Saw” Way

How do you dismantle a pallet without breaking any boards? How do you dismantle a pallet without special equipment? How do you dismantle a pallet without a pallet buster? How do you dismantle a pallet without a reciprocating saw or Sawzall? Today I’m going to show you how to dismantle a pallet using a circular saw and a demolition blade – it’s fast and easy.

The “The Reclaim Design” method

My wife and I run a small business in Cape Town, making eco-friendly home decor and furniture from reclaimed wood (and other recycled materials). As a result, I’ve become very familiar with breaking pallets!

I have seen many videos online making claims to break apart a pallet in 3 minutes and whatnot, but my experience has been very far from that, and I wanted to share a more truthful/realistic appraisal of the pallet breaking situation :)

Dismantle Euro Pallets (EPAL) Fast

In this video, I show you how to dismantle euro pallets (pallets with blocks – EPAL) without using any expensive tools or power tools. You will get all the boards out of the pallet without any expensive tools and without cracking and splintering the boards, and you can reuse the upcycled wood for your projects immediately. Here is my method explained:

  • Step 1: I remove the bottom boards and blocks with a big hammer. If you put the pallet in a vertical position and give them light tabs from the top, they come off easily.
  • Step 2: There will be some long nails sticking out from the top bords. I cut off the nails with a bolt cutter, so there is about 1 centimeter left of the nail. That makes it much easier to hammer the nail out. You only need to tap a few times on the cut-off nail end to make the nail head visible on the top side of the board. You can now pull the short nail out with a prybar.
  • Step 3: Do not use a crowbar to try to twist the boards apart. You will make marks on them, and some will splinter. Instead, put the pallet on a flat surface like a floor, and place a piece of wood under the board, just next to the stringer you want to push off. Then with another piece of wood, you tap a few times on the stringer from above, and it will come off easily, without breaking the stringer or the boards it was attached to. There will be no nails in the stringers and only short nails on the boards. You can remove them easily with a small hammer and a prybar.
  • Step 4: Remove the blocks from the bottom boards. The easiest way is to fasten the block in a bench vise and use the board as a leaver. If you are afraid the board will break, you can use a prybar to help. Some of the blocks were too big for my improvised outdoor vise, so I hammered the pry bar between the block and the board and twisted it off. After removing the nails, all boards are now dismantled and free of nails.

If you have any ideas for improvements and tricks I have not shown here, please let me know in the comments below. I would really like to know.

What About The Nails?

What to do with the nails? You have two options depending on the finish you want to make to your project.

Remove the nails

If nails were sawed, use a nail punch, a hammer, and a clamp to remove them. Place the nail punch on the cut portion of the nail, then gently tap with a hammer to make it stand out from the other side. Turn your board and remove the nail with the clamp. If the nails are full, tap on the tip to make them stand out, and then remove them with a clamp. Backfill the holes with wood pulp.

Keep nails

Cut the tip of the nails that protrude from your board with a hacksaw or an angle grinder.

The choice of removing or keeping the nails depends on you! Keeping the nails adds a certain charm and specific rustic characteristic to the pallet craft you’re making. However, sometimes you’re making a very finished piece where nails won’t add to the appeal. It’s strictly up to you.

No matter what you do, take care when working with pallets. Don’t forget that the nails are in place if you leave them – they could cause significant damage to your tools – and to YOU. ALWAYS wear protective gear, especially goggles or safety glasses when working with pallets.

We hope these methods will help you to disassemble your pallets, particularly for those who don’t own a reciprocating saw (Sawzall) or have one at their disposal. Do you have another method to share? Share it with our readers through the comments and if you have some videos or tutorials, do not hesitate to send them to us, and we will update this article accordingly.

Also, don’t miss our reviews of the best pallet busters & breakers available, to be sure to choose the best pry bar!

Happy Pallet Crafting! :)

How to Dismantle a Pallet? Discover the Best Ways to Disassemble a Wood Pallet!
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Neville S-Jones
Neville S-Jones

In NZ where the pallets seem 99% to be made of radiata pine I prefer to use the bock& mallet method, using a 3 Kg sledge hammer which i just drop onto the boards–not too much force. The Sawzall and similar machines look ($$ly) effective but since I put my wood through a thicknesser or planer…the Last thing they want to do is to deal with embedded lengths of nail….make myself really popular at the Menzshed…..

Paul
Paul

I’ve taken several pallets apart using a 21/2 ton floor jack. As long as it fits inside the pallet like a pump jack it’s relatively easy to disassemble

Mark Hodges
Mark Hodges

There’s a YouTuber who has a design and plans for a “pallet pal”. I made one a few years back and it’s a brilliant little tool and by far the least destructive and easiest method I have tried. Controlled leverage, amazingly effective. Haven’t messed with pallets in a few years now but am going to make me a new pallet pal for my new project. Do a search for “Izzy’s Pallet Pal” and watch the videos. He charges 3 bucks for the plans and it’s well worth it. For disclosure – I have no other interest than a hobbyist who… Read more »

J. Blay.
J. Blay.

Another no tools option which rarely damaged lats is what my Mrs calls the Viking method, Pair of gloves if you like, Stand your pallet on a long side, and gently rock it side to side, once you get about a quarter/half inch of wiggle roll it onto one of the lower corners, hands equally spread ON TOP and to the sides of the uppermost point, Lift and drop, or lift and smash if you’re up to that, as your hands are on top there is no risk of trapped fingers. Repeat a cpuple of times until it begins to… Read more »

J. Blay.
J. Blay.
Reply to  J. Blay.

Aargh, typos…
Damages*
Couple*
Lift and drop>Onto the bottom corner*.

Leslie
Leslie

Hello, I watched Sarahs video on dismantling a pallet and she built a pallet stand to hold it securely. Is there a way to find out a more detailed instruction for that? Thank you for taking the time to answer.

Lilia Robberts
Lilia Robberts

Dismantling a pallet right now is very similar to the task that I am working on. Thank you for going through the different ways of how to do it. I think I might to try to do is the hammer way, I also am looking into getting a wrecking bar.

Jamie
Jamie

Hey. Wanted to thank you for putting this list together and wanted to share my duo technique. I use the hammer and old plank method based on available tools, then I do have a new method I don’t see here to deal with the nails. And that’s using a hollow screw extractor bit. After I deal with the boards I simply core out the nails(this can be done alone too if you just want the deck boards) then tap in wooden dowels (can be sourced from stores cheap or by coring dowels out of other wood planks(sacrificial board), then wood… Read more »

Andrea Moore
Andrea Moore

I have just worked out a different, no strength (well almost no strength) needed way to dismantle these tricky blighters. To remove the outer planks I have just used a plug cutter. And yippee it worked. Then just a simple task to remove the nails from the inner plank with some pliers. No swearing, no “I give in” and more importantly no chunks of wood breaking of the plank!!Jobs a goodun’

Karic

I’m in need of help on how to chose the right saw to use when cutting a pallet.
and I also need advise on how make great finishing

Palletmanmark

I am disabled with 4 slipped discs in my back and neck, had surgery once and will again soon.I have tried many different ways of stripping down a pallet but the easiest has got to be using a Chainsaw for all first cut work and a claw hammer or crow bar for removing middle blocks from the cut planks, usually one good whack knocks them off. Once the block is removed the remaining small square of wood can be hit off with your hammer, it usually splits where the nails are and falls off.

bill borden
bill borden

all well and good but how to get nails out and not damage wood

HeatherStiletto
Reply to  bill borden

Hi Bill, Heather the admin assistant here. Check out our Pallet Dismantling page. There are MANY ways to dismantle pallets and remove the nails. Some are more labor-intensive but will leave you with great-looking wood. Some are more efficient, and of course, there is the powered nail removing tool now. I want one of those for myself! Check out our pallet dismantling page here
https://www.1001pallets.com/how-to-dismantle-a-wooden-pallet/

mwc
mwc

THIS VIDEO IS PRETTY GOOD ALSO
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hqK5DgHIM-o

Tammy
Tammy

Has any one made a pocket door out of pallets?

Kry5gag

this video is the absolute fastest way i have ever seen to take apart pallets with out damaging the boards. its also the least amount of work. I cant believe more people are not doing it this way. here is a link to the video.
Fastest and Easiest way to break down a pallet
https://youtu.be/s9q1vrqmtMQ

Spencer Winegarden
Spencer Winegarden
Reply to  Kry5gag

The sawzall is by far the fastes method if you don’t mind keeping the nail heads in the wood. What is that air tool he’s using to remive he nails? I’ve never seen that tool before. I use a pallet (black one shown above actually) but I rest many more boards near the nails than I care to brake. I’ll be using a saw from now on though because I like having the nail heads in the wood still.

Bluegrassfan76

You can zip right through a pallet using a reciprocating saw with a 9″ metal cutting blade to cut through the nails. Sure beats prying them apart. Just takes a couple minutes per pallet and you are done.

Rod
Rod
Reply to  Bluegrassfan76

What if U don’t have a reciprocator??????????

Luis
Luis

Hi there I have a method that works for me I have dismantled quite a lot of pallets this way
I first take a blind punch and nock the nails in slightly and that loosens the bond between the metal and the wood
Useing what ever to pull the wood free is much easier
Regards Luis

HeatherStiletto
Reply to  Luis

Hi Luis – we’re always looking for cool tips that may make dismantling pallets easier. If you could make up a quick video of your technique, you can use http://www.wetransfer.com to send a larger file to us. My email is 1001pallets.heatherstiletto@gmail.com THANKS & happy palleting! – HS.

Malcolm Cragg
Malcolm Cragg

My own methods start by telling myself not to rush it,treat it as an art.All pallets are not created equal.
I always start with my long leverage pallet pry bar.On some you will get damage,but be gentle,and long term you will succeed.I always have a couple of pallets waiting for me to make friends with.

Leslie Matthews
Leslie Matthews

Coming from Australia I would have to say that Uncle Knackers works for me and he uses the safest option…

Dale Reed
Dale Reed

I sell used pallets that have been used one time, and kept inside also, looks good as new, 41×41 for $5 each if someone in the Ga area, around the Augusta Ga.

Thank you, these videos are great for me a complete beginner

Great to see many ways to dismantle pallets.

Mike Smith
Mike Smith

Soak the pallet with a sprinkler for 45 -60 minutes, use a long pry bar the board separate without splitting. Let them dry and use them on any project you have. Easiest way I’ve found to get them apart with minimal tools and effort.

Katie
Katie

The 2×4 method is a lifesaver! Thank you for sharing these tutorials!

Ms match
Ms match

I would think that girl would be smart enough to spray her eye protection with anti fog and then wear the mask, even just breathing a small amount of chemical dust is harmful.

Thanks for posting all of these tutorials. Really great to have a variety of methods to try so I can decide what works best for me.

LindaLW

Yeah the Pallet Pal looks like a cool invention. But my idea was to build stuff with what costs me the least, and that is an issue…

Izzy Swan has an awesome ,easy to build “Pallet Pal”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkKFGIjPSvI

Vincenzo Smorto
Vincenzo Smorto

I wash the pallets with clean water so as to soften the wood and loosen the nails. I use a hard rubber hammer and a prybar.

Bonnie Schoenwalder
Bonnie Schoenwalder

Thanks so much. I like both methods. Luv the table idea to sav the back. Daughter has to finish baseboards in new business using a garage type building. She saw your video & is going to use pallet wood she got free to make baseboards. Since her time is limited, the second version is her choice for time saving. Your ideas are a life saver

just received around 150 pieces to build from,
thank You for the videos :)

Vanessa
Vanessa

As a beginner the videos of how to dismantle a pallet are brilliant, thank you so much, no more broken boards.

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