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Free Never Goes Out of Style
Reclaimed wood, especially in the form of wood shipping pallets, is often free for the asking, allowing you to create innovative wood masterpieces for next to nothing.
Reclaimed wood's style is flexible. Keep the wood raw and unfinished, nail holes included, or stain and add a clear coat for a more distinguished appearance. Paint it solid white and distress it. All manner of treatments is fair game.
Since pallet boards are short, they easily fit the dimensions of fireplace surrounds, so minimal cutting is required.
Sourcing the Wood
Reclaimed wood: Much reclaimed wood–the most desirable kind that comes from warehouses, barns, bowling alleys, and school gyms–is very expensive to purchase from retailers. However, some reclaimed wood from online retailers can be cost-effective. Reclaimed paneling from distributor Elmwood Reclaimed Timber runs in the $6 to $10 per square foot range, though that does not include shipping and handling. Some of the makers in this gallery were fortunate enough to have access to barn wood at relatives' farms.
Faux reclaimed wood: New wood that is either factory- or DIY-distressed can be cheaper than authentic reclaimed wood. One crafter featured here built her fireplace surround for less than $100 by using new wood from a home improvement store and distressing it. Stikwood is one brand of factory-made replica reclaimed wood that sticks directly on the wall with pull-tab adhesive strips.
Pallet wood: Pallet wood is reclaimed wood for the people. It is either free or cheap, and it comes pre-distressed.
Veteran pallet wood foragers know how to travel. Because they never know when they will run into a juicy find, their trunks contain a tarp, hammer, pry bar, and a reciprocating saw for on-site disassembly. It helps to have a bucket to put the nails in when breaking down pallets.
- Outside businesses: Before taking a pallet, first speak to the owner or a representative for permission. Pallets are not always free for the taking. Sometimes they are rentals slated for return or the owner has plans to reuse or sell them. A pallet ownership stamp (CocaCola, USPS, etc.) is usually a tip-off that the pallet is not fair game. Pallets that have been left outside do have an attractive, weathered look. However, pallets that have been outside for too long tend to break down when you disassemble them.
- Craigslist: Some pallet owners charge a nominal fee of $5 to $7 per pallet. It is well worth going through Craigslist and paying this fee to ensure that there will be no problems with taking the pallet. One added benefit: you can check out the condition of the pallets ahead of time if the owner posts a picture.
Is It Safe for Fireplaces?
International Residential Code, a model code adopted by many municipalities, does allow for combustible materials, such as wood sheathing, to be placed directly on fireplace surrounds. However, all combustibles must remain at least 6" from the opening. (IRC 1001.11)
If you have an electric (non-flammable) fireplace, you do not have clearance restrictions.
Because model codes are adapted to the needs of the municipality, be sure to consult your local permitting office.
About This Fireplace
Over at Addison Meadows Lane, Stacey's husband and his best friend constructed the underlying base out of 2x4s and OSB panels. Because they knew the OSB would show through the pallet boards, they first painted it black. Then they faced the entire structure–surround, mantel, and hearth–in pallet board. Cost of this facing board: free.Continue to 2 of 14 below.
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Simple and Fresh
Even though most pallet fireplaces have boards running horizontally, consider placing them vertically to draw the eye upward and create the illusion of a higher ceiling.Continue to 3 of 14 below.
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Pallet surround wood is most often left raw and unfinished, but that doesn't always have to be the case. This one has been painted white, for a country cottage effect.
Painted pallet wood fireplace from Noni at Noni's HouseContinue to 4 of 14 below.
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Chicago-based Moss Architecture and Design wanted this residential loft to honor its industrial roots, so they used as much on-site salvage material as possible: doors, windows, light fixtures, and lumber.
The reclaimed wood fireplace surround perfectly complements the exposed brick and heavy beams of this reimagined space.Continue to 5 of 14 below.
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Not ready to cover your entire fireplace? Follow this crafter's lead and begin your pallet work on a small scale.
When Cindy over at Cottage Instincts saw that it would be cost-prohibitive to continue the lower stonework to the ceiling, she instead used eleven pallet boards, painted them with Glidden Antique White, and distressed them with a palm sander.Continue to 6 of 14 below.
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All Wrapped Up
Bare pallet boards provide crisp visual balance to the lower section of manufactured veneer stone.
Decorator Katie Jane wrapped the boards along the sides for a neat, tailored look.Continue to 7 of 14 below.
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Mary Beth at the design blog Cupcakes and Crinoline took a novel approach to the concept of roadside pallet hunting–she skipped it entirely.
Instead, she used a product called Pallet In a Box, 25 sq. ft. of clean, dry, red oak pallet boards, ready for hanging. The best thing about it? Disassembly of pallets not required.Continue to 8 of 14 below.
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The designer at the blog I Think We Could Be Friends had a problem: Her basic builder house was devoid of personality. One solution was to face the fireplace in pallet wood.
She had a stipulation, though. She wanted a reclaimed wood look, not a "free pallet wood look," as she puts it.
She accomplished this by:
Continue to 9 of 14 below.
- Being highly selective about the pallets
- Cutting nails off with the reciprocating saw
- Stacking pallet boards of varying textures and colors
- And the finishing touch: a reclaimed wood mantel from a relative's old barn
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Over the Fireplace and Under Budget
Fuchsia Design owner Autumn Fuchs was determined to give her fireplace the reclaimed wood look, but she didn't like the high prices she was facing.
Instead, she purchased new tongue-and-groove wood from Home Depot, distressed it to make it look old, stained it, then attached it to the fireplace.
Mission accomplished for less than $100.Continue to 10 of 14 below.
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Milled to Perfection
Behold the beauty of extremely antique wood boards used for a fireplace surround. This New Jersey-based company builds reclaimed wood masterpieces in its mill.Continue to 11 of 14 below.
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Cure for the Common Fireplace
Amber at the design blog Averie Lane wanted to use reclaimed wood but she had a slight problem because the back wall had windows, the fireplace did not extend to the ceiling.
To accommodate this, she built a box around the fireplace and topped it with a mantel of reclaimed wood.Continue to 12 of 14 below.
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Mix It Up
This designer's client specified that the reclaimed wood surround should have an equal number of grays and browns throughout the mix. The faux reclaimed wood mantel was custom fabricated for that client.Continue to 13 of 14 below.
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What to do with that overly formal Georgian fireplace surround?
Keep it. Since it was too good to discard, this homeowner left it in place and fitted white-washed reclaimed wood around it for a delicate contrast.Continue to 14 of 14 below.
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