13 DIY Reclaimed Wood and Pallet Fireplace Surrounds

Interiors of a modern living room
Eric Audras / Getty Images

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. 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 treatment is fair game. Since pallet boards are short, they easily fit the dimensions of fireplace surrounds, so minimal cutting is required. There are many sources for finding wood.

Reclaimed Wood

Much reclaimed wood—the most desirable kind that comes from warehouses, barns, bowling alleys, and school gyms—is costly 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. You can build a 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 free or cheap reclaimed wood. It comes pre-distressed. Veteran pallet wood foragers usually have a tarp, hammer, pry bar, and a reciprocating saw at the ready for on-site disassembly.

  • Outside businesses: Before taking a pallet, speak to the business owner. 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 weathered outside have an attractive, weathered look. However, pallets that have been out 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, and you often get to see photos of them ahead of time.

Is Wood 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 inches from the opening.

If you have an electric (non-flammable) fireplace, you do not have clearance restrictions. If you have a particular model, consult your local permitting office or municipality rules to check if your fireplace model is permitted where you live and if there are any restrictions.

  • 01 of 13

    Free and Painted

    Pallet fireplace surround
    Addison Meadows Lane

    Over at Addison Meadows Lane, Stacey's husband and his best friend constructed the underlying base of this pallet fireplace surround out of two-by-fours and oriented-strand board (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, which was free.

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  • 02 of 13

    Simple and Fresh

    Natural Pallet Wood Fireplace
    Noni's House

    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.

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  • 03 of 13

    Cottage Chic

    White Painted Pallet Wood Fireplace
    Noni's House

    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.

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  • 04 of 13

    Lofty Ambitions

    Erie Street Loft with Pallet Fireplace
    Moss Design

    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. This reclaimed wood fireplace surround perfectly complements the exposed brick and heavy beams of this reimagined space.

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  • 05 of 13

    Start Small

    White Painted Cottage Style Mantel Extension
    Cottage Instincts

    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.

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  • 06 of 13

    All Wrapped Up

    Fireplace Wood Pallet Upper Surround
    Katie Jane Interiors

    Bare pallet boards provide crisp visual balance for this fireplace with a lower section of manufactured veneer stone. Decorator Katie Jane wrapped the boards along the sides for a neat, tailored look.

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  • 07 of 13

    Over the Fireplace and Under Budget

    Faux Reclaimed Wood Fireplace Surround
    Autumn Fuchs / Fuchsia Design

    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. The project cost less than $100.

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  • 08 of 13

    Milled to Perfection

    Gas Fireplace with Reclaimed Wood
    Real Antique Wood Mill

    Behold the beauty of extremely antique wood boards used for this fireplace surround. This New Jersey-based company builds reclaimed wood masterpieces in its mill. 

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  • 09 of 13

    Cure for the Common Fireplace

    Reclaimed Wood Fireplace Top
    Averie Lane

    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.

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  • 10 of 13

    Mix It Up

    Reclaimed Wood Fireplace in Florida
    FAMA Reclaimed

    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.

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  • 11 of 13

    Accent Planning

    Stikwood Accent Fireplace
    The Lettered Cottage

    Layla Palmer knew she wanted the look of reclaimed wood for her fireplace—but not too much. With the help of Stikwood stick-on boards, made of real reclaimed wood veneer, she added rustic wood accents to the firebox perimeter.

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  • 12 of 13

    Perfect Touch

    Reclaimed Wood Mantel and Pallets
    I Think We Could Be Friends

    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:

    • Being highly selective about the pallets
    • Cutting nails off with the reciprocating saw
    • Stacking pallet boards of varying textures and colors
    • Using a reclaimed wood mantel from a relative's old barn
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  • 13 of 13

    Faux Excellence

    Faux Pallet Wood Fireplace Surround

    The How to Home

    Mary Beth, from the design blog The How to Home, 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, which had 25-square-feet of clean, dry, red oak pallet boards for this project. The best thing, disassembly of pallets was not required.