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Building on the house. Can I make beams from palletes?  RSS feed

 
adrian dwor
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Hello everyone,

I'm very new to building, and know very little about sustainable building techniques.

Anyway,

Me and my girlfriend have a home in Denmark, which we are slowly doing work on. We created gardens around the property planted trees and plants and now the next step is to start working on the house.

I would like to raise the roof 1.5 meters and probably change the shape of it as it's nearly a flat top.

I have access to free palettes, but very little extra money available for buying new materials.

I was thinking about taking palettes apart and nailing together the pieces in long thick beams and using that as a support for the roof.

I would like to get some advice on this idea. Will it be strong and durable enough? I also read on another forum that building out of palettes should be avoided as they contain some poisonous chemicals like formaldehyde.


Thanks a lot. -- Adrian
 
Troy Rhodes
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The short answer is, probably not a good idea to make a beam out of pallets.

Longer answer, it depends on how many feet or meters you need to span with your new beams, and how much weight they need to support.


The reason wood is strong enough to use as the main structural part of houses is the long fiber length. Nailing or gluing short boards together does not provide the same
strength, because the fibers are interrupted at every joint.


troy
 
R Scott
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Can be done, not with nails. The boards would need to be planed down to be the exact same thickness, then glued with high-end glue and pressed together with a few tons of force.

Not something for the average DIYer to tackle.
 
Troy Rhodes
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You are describing laminated beams, which can be wonderful.

They are an engineered wood product, and they have to start with graded wood of known strength and quality. Pallet boards with nail holes would not be a good starting material.

Not saying it's impossible, I'm saying it's better to use a different starting material.

They are sometimes known as glue-lam beams.


troy
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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From a safety perspective Troy...I understand not advising using pallet wood to fabricate a "lamellar beam." Having engineered and built them both in modern and traditional modalities, you are partly accurate in in the advice shared. Lamellar beam that are Engineered from graded lumber are a commercial product with commercial liability constraints and governmental "hoops" to achieve. That does not mean you could not take even a few small tree (if limited on a peace of property) and toggle, wedge and joint a larger lamellar beam from them to make a very large and very strong beam...in very green (wet) wood...that actually gets stronger with age...

Nevertheless, it is not true in this case that a DIYer could not achieve the load and span requirements with "pallet wood." and I would be more concerned with chemical treatments that some (not most) pallets may receive in the manufacture process and after. This concern in more to do with saw dust than in the finished product, so precautions should be taken to minimize exposure.

Short answer...hard work, lots of nail pulling, expense of tools, and lot and lots of pallet to take apart...

Regards,

j
 
Troy Rhodes
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Agreed!

The longer the fiber length of each constituent piece, the easier it is to end up with a long strong beam of reasonable dimensions. Pallets just aren't very long to start with.

 
Jay C. White Cloud
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In lamellar beams, fiber length = strength and/or speed. I wouldn't care to achieve the task, yet a fiber length of only 200 mm would be more than enough (with the correct joinery and adhesive) to build an extremely strong beam.

A pallet made of hard word (or even soft) could very effectively make a strong beam. The challenge: proper adhesive, correct joinery.

I have seen it done with just nails, but the nails only acted as clamps...the adhesive does the work of making the small sections of wood monolithic. If you do not get a positive and uniform bonding face, with proper staggering (no head joints) you will not achieve the maximum strength desired.
 
adrian dwor
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Hey,

Thank you everyone for responding.

Is it even possible to do this by myself within small costs?

The wood adhesive is probably very expensive. How would I go about applying "few tons of force" to adhere the boards?

There's many examples around of people making furniture and little things out of palettes. In this case, can palettes be used for any part of actual structuring of the house with relative ease for a nonexpert?
 
Troy Rhodes
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A google search, and a youtube search for

how to make a glulam beam and

glulam design tables


will get you a ton of resources.


To do it safely you need some engineering. A substitute would be to make your best estimate after educating yourself a lot, making one, and then doing destructive testing.

First to see how much it deflects under normal load, and then overloading it to 3x-5x normal load, or just keep loading it until it fails. This is possible by a motivated do-it-yourself

person, but there is a learning curve and a lot of work involved.



Are there regulating people who must inspect and approve your work on the house?

They may have a problem if you don't do it with all the proper certifications, approvals, licensed engineer, blah blah blah.


Depending on what you want to do with your house, a truss might be easier, faster and probably less materials, but not suitable with pallets usually. All the same inspection problems may assert themselves.
 
Troy Rhodes
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One of the do-it-yourself forums had a reasonable discussion about this. It's not the be-all end-all discussion, but they raise valid points on both sides:


http://www.doityourself.com/forum/decks-patios-porches-walkways-driveways-stairs-steps-docks/206134-making-glulam-beam.html#b




What kind of spans and weights are we talking about? Estimates are fine.


hth

troy
 
R Scott
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I have made my own glue-lam and box beams, but I started from plywood. I cut the plywood to the vertical size needed, staggered the joints, used really good glue, and used screws to hold it together while the glue dried. But this was still a pretty small beam (only a couple sheets of plywood total) and only a short span. I did it more because I needed it TALL than strong.

Here is a link to how to make a box beam, not sure how to do the math on strength needed.
http://books.google.com/books?id=5gxIBYlChPwC&pg=PA88&dq=diy+plywood+beam&hl=en&sa=X&ei=vA40VN2XDcypyATZvoKQBg&ved=0CDAQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=diy%20plywood%20beam&f=false
 
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