Wood pallet works are a great way to improve your home’s curb appeal.
You can use them indoors for decoration or outdoor for functional purposes.
Pallets can be used to create anything from flower boxes to benches and even coffee tables.
When painting your wood pallet work, it is important to choose the right type of paint. You want to paint that will be durable and withstand the elements.
So, what kind of paint should you use?
Typically there are two kinds of paints that you can use on wood pallets: latex and acrylic.
For indoors, use the regular versions. But for outdoor pallet projects, make sure you use a higher quality weatherproof latex and acrylic paint that comes at a premium price.
Staining your old wooden pallets is also a great option to change the look and make them new again, especially if you want them to give your pallets a more distressed appearance.
All you need is to make sure that you use the right tools and follow the steps to stain or paint the work.
Painting Wood Pallets Indoors
Most wood pallets you will find in the US are either made up of oak or pine. While the former is a hardwood latter is a softwood.
No matter what type of wood your pallets are made of, painting the surface for indoor use can help in two ways.
First of all, it will cover up any imperfections, dirt, or stains that might be on the wood.
Secondly, and more importantly, it will help protect the wood from any future damage.
If you plan to paint your wood pallets indoors, like for crafts or a decorative project, use regular latex or acrylic paint.
Follow these steps to get the paint job done…
1. Sand Wood Pallets
Start by sanding the wood to create a smooth surface.
For sanding, use medium-grit sandpaper (100-150 grit) and work your way up to a fine grit that ranges from 180-220 grit.
While medium grit will help to create a smooth surface, fine grit will help to remove any remaining debris or inconsistencies in the wood pallet. After sanding, wipe the dust off with a tack cloth or a damp rag.
2. Primer Wooden Pallets
Once you have sanded the surface nicely, now it’s time to prime it for the paint to adhere better.
Use a latex water-based based primer by Kilz or Zinsser for your wood pallet project indoors for better results that will also help the paint last longer.
Apply the primer with a chip brush (best recommended for priming and painting wood pallets) and cover all the surfaces evenly, including the edges and corners of all the pallet pieces.
Let the primer dry completely before moving ahead.
TIP: If you desire to get a more vintage look to your project, you can skip the primer altogether. Just paint it nicely.
3. Paint the Wood Pallet Project
Once the primer is completely dry, start painting the wood pallets with your chosen color.
Although I would recommend using a chip brush for better results, you can use a roller or a sprayer to apply the latex or acrylic paint (from Sherwin Williams) evenly on all surfaces.
Do not forget to paint all the edges and corners of each pallet piece as you have done while priming.
Start with one thin coat and let it dry completely before adding a second layer if needed.
The second or the third coat of paint will give a nice even color and will also help the paint to last longer.
So make sure you add the final coat a bit thicker and allow the paint to dry completely.
4. Seal the Paint (optional)
Once the paint is completely dry, now it’s time to protect it with a premium sealer.
Although it’s not essential, sealing the paint will help to make it more durable and last longer, particularly if it’s your favorite piece of patio furniture or a decorative artwork made of wood pallets.
For sealing wood pallets, use a water-based sealer for a natural-looking finish or a polyurethane-based sealer for more durability.
You can even use a water-based polyurethane sealer to get the best of both worlds – durability and a natural-looking finish.
Apply the sealer you have picked with a brush or roller and let it dry completely between coats.
You might need to add 2-3 coats of sealer to get the desired results. Allow the sealer to dry completely between coats.
TIP: If you want to skip the sealer altogether, consider using water-based polyurethane paint that will give you the durability of a sealer and the natural-looking finish of the paint.
5. Let the Wood Pallets Dry Completely
Once you are done with all the above steps, let the wood pallets dry – before using them or putting them outdoors.
It will take at least 24 hours for the paint and sealer to dry completely.
You can use a fan or hair dryer on the low setting to speed up the drying process if needed.
Now your wood pallets are finished and ready to use.
What color to paint wood pallets with?
The great thing about using wood pallets is that they are very versatile and can be used for a variety of projects.
This means – you are free to use any color of paint that you like, but some colors work better than others.
For a natural look indoors, consider using a light-colored stain or paint (such as white, cream, or light brown) that will make the grains of wood visible and highly appealing.
If you want your indoor pallet project to stand out, use bright colors or bold patterns with colors such as blue, red, green, and yellow.
To learn more about painting and staining wood pallets, check out this great tutorial.
Painting Wooden Pallets for Outdoor Use
Outdoor projects with a more rustic look can be created by using reclaimed wood pallets that have already been weathered by the elements.
But if you want to build a new decorative piece of the project for your garden or patio, here are the steps that you need to follow while painting the bare wood pallets:
1. Start With a Clean Wood Pallet
The very first step is to make sure the wood pallet is clean and free of dirt, dust, grease, or any other type of debris.
You can use a power washer to clean the wood surface or scrub it with a stiff brush and some soapy water.
2. Use Sandpaper to Rough up the Surface
After the wood pallet is clean and dry, use sandpaper to rough up the surface of the wood.
For outdoor wood pallet projects, I would generally recommend using coarse grit sandpaper of around 60-grit.
You don’t need to sand the wood down to bare wood; just make sure that the surface is nice and rough.
This will help the paint to adhere to the surface better.
3. Apply a Primer Coat
Once the surface is sanded, you need to apply a primer coat to the wood pallet. weatherproof latex
KILZ Premium High-Hide Stain Blocking Latex Primer is a great product for this type of outdoor project as it will help to block any stains that might bleed through the paint.
This will also help to seal the wood and provide a smooth surface for the paint to adhere to.
4. Choose the Right Type of Paint
For painting wood pallets that will be used outdoors, you need to use weatherproof paint.
While oil-based paints will hold up a little better for outdoor projects, modern-day latex or acrylic paints can also be used, provided you pick the right type of paint and brand.
The best paints to use for outdoor projects are those that are specifically designed for exterior use, such as BEHR PREMIUM PLUS or Sherwin-Williams exterior paints.
5. Apply the Paint on Outdoor Pallets
Once you have chosen the right type of paint, go ahead and start painting the wood pallet.
I would recommend using a brush for smaller projects and a roller for larger projects.
Make sure to apply the paint evenly on the wood surfaces, including all the edges.
For the choice of color, outdoor wood pallets can be left natural or can be painted in any color that you like.
You can match them to the color scheme of your home or pick a color that complements the plants and flowers in your garden.
6. Let the Paint Dry Completely
After you have applied the paint to your pallets, allow them to dry very well.
This can take anywhere from 24 to 48 hours, depending on the type of paint and the weather conditions.
7. Add a Coat of Sealer and Let the Pallet Work Cure
If you want to add an extra layer of protection to your outdoor wood pallet project, apply a coat of sealer once the paint is dry.
This is especially important if you are using the wood pallet in an open area that will be exposed to direct sunlight or harsh weather conditions.
You can use a clear sealer such as polyurethane or a tinted sealer that will help to protect the paint from fading.
Applying a coat of sealer is not necessary, but it will help to extend the life of your project.
Once you have applied the sealer, let it dry completely before using the wood pallet for about 24 hours. Curing it may, however, take up to 30 days.
Once the paint and sealer are cured completely, go ahead and enjoy your beautiful painted wood pallet project.
Distressing Your Pallet Wood Work – Tips and Ideas
No matter what type of wood pallet project you are working on, you can always add a bit of character and rustic charm by distressing the wood.
Worry not; a distressed look for your wood pallet project is easy to achieve by following these steps…
1. Start with a light sanding
The first step is to sand the surface of the wood lightly.
You don’t have to sand down to the bare wood, but make sure the surface is smooth.
For rough spots, use heavy-grit sandpaper or a steel wool pad.
2. Apply a base coat of paint
Once the surface is sanded, apply a base coat of paint of any color that you want.
If you’re going for a lightly distressed look, use light-colored paint; however, for a more dramatic look, you should consider using a darker color.
3. Paint your top coat
After the base coat is dry, apply the top coat. This should be a different color than the base coat.
For a lightly distressed look, use white or off-white paint. But for a more dramatic or subtle look, using a darker color of tinted paint makes sense.
4. Sand the edges
Once the top coat is dry, start to sand the edges. Focus on the areas that will get the most wear and tear.
You can also sand around any hardware that you have attached to the wood, like nails, screws, hinges, chains, etc.
5. Apply a clear sealer
After you’re finished sanding, spray a thin coat of clear sealer to the wood using a sprayer pump.
This will help to preserve the paint on a pallet and keep it from chipping or fading.
Why are Some Pallets come Painted – What Does it Mean?
When buying pallets, you may find some pallets that come painted in red, blue, brown, or green.
Generally, the type of paint used on the pallet will not affect its quality or durability if you want to buy them for your projects.
Many FMCG companies in the US and the UK will use a specific color to paint their pallets so they can easily be identified as their own.
This makes it easy for employees to know which pallets belong to the company and helps deter theft.
If your pallet has been painted, stained, or marked in bright colors, this can also mean that it most likely belongs to a pallet rental company. Each of these pallets bears the color and code of one of the many different rental firms.
Another reason why pallets may be painted is for aesthetic purposes. For example, some people may want to use a certain color to match the décor of their home or business.
If you come across a pallet that has been painted, don’t be discouraged from using it for your project. The paint of the pallet can be removed or still be adjusted as per your needs.
The Bottom Line
The key to making sure your outdoor wood pallet projects last is to use the right type of paint and sealer.
Latex paint and acrylic paint are the best type of paint to use on pallets because they are weather-resistant and can withstand direct sunlight and harsh weather conditions.
Both of them can be weatherproof and durable. Plus, they come in a variety of colors.
However, they both have their own set of advantages and disadvantages.
Like latex paint is cheaper and easier to find, but it isn’t as durable as acrylic paint.
Acrylic paint, on the other hand, is more expensive, but it is more durable and has a longer lifespan.
When picking the paint, consider the type of wood, the project requirements, and your budget.
Once you’ve decided on the type of paint, apply it right and enjoy your beautiful painted wood pallet project.
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Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for more than a decade to serve the customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques that are being implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.
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