How To Disassemble A Pallet – 2 Easy Methods

Anyone who has attempted to take a pallet apart understands the frustration of doing so. Generally, the project you’re working on is easier than trying to learn how to disassemble a pallet!

Yet, it’s hard to complain too much because using pallets for material should mean you aren’t paying for material. It’s kind of like the old term “beggars can’t be choosers”. Really the lions share of your efforts are spent in finding the best pallet dismantling tools. Fortunately, at The Saw Guy, we have all of the right methods for how to take pallets apart without breaking them.

We are going to focus on two methods for disassembling pallets using these common pallet breaking tools:

  • The Cutting Method to Dismantle a Pallet – Use a sawzall (reciprocating saw) to cut the nails connecting the pallet boards.
  • The Prying Method to Disassemble a Pallet – Use a pry-bar and hammer to pry the boards away from the base of the pallet.

Need tips for finding free pallets?  Check out our 10 Tips For Finding Free Pallets.

The Cutting Method Using a Pallet Saw

This is my preferred method because it is faster than any other method I have attempted.

Most of my pallet projects are not so fancy that I care about nails in the wood or maintaining the “original” length of the boards. You could say that I have low standards for accuracy…

My low standards afford me the luxury of spending about 5 minutes dismantling each pallet…and without much effort.

Here is how it’s done.

1. Cut Excess Wood From Sides

I find it easier to cut the wood away that is hanging over the side of the pallet, but it isn’t necessary.  Depending on the project, you may need the boards at their full length.

Likewise, you may want the boards smaller.  In this case, cut along the runners and remove the small pieces of wood still attached by the nails afterwards.

disassemble pallet

2. Cut Nails With Sawzall

Make sure you have a metal blade attached to the reciprocating saw, and one long enough to cut both nails at the same time. But to be honest, the best saw for cutting pallets is the sawzall, hands down the best pallet saw

Sometimes it can be difficult to get the blade between the boards, but if you press the trigger slightly, the reciprocating blade will slowly work its way to the nails.

disassemble pallet


3. Remove Nails From Cut Boards

Use a punch to hit the nail through the board.

disassemble pallet

The Prying Method

This is how I see most people dismantle their pallets.  You definitely want to use this method if you require the original length of the pallet boards, and you have the patience required.

The prying method is much slower, and can be frustrating because, if you’re not careful with how you use a pallet pry bar, you can easily crack the boards.

1. Position Pry-bar

Position in the center of the board, and preferably on the more solid side of the board.

disassemble pallet

2. Hit Pallet Prybar With Hammer

You want to hit the prybar until you can get as much of the bar beneath the board as possible.

disassemble pallet

3. Carefully Leverage Pallet Prybar

It’s inevitable you will break some of the boards during this part of the process.  The best advice I can give you is to get as much of the bar beneath the board before you pry, and do a little at a time.

disassemble pallet

4. Remove Nails From Cut Wood

A lot of times the nails are rusty because they have been exposed to the elements on a regular basis.  This only makes removing the nails more difficult.

Try not to bend the nails as you hammer them through the hole.  Once you get enough room on the nail head, use the claw of the hammer to pry it out.

disassemble pallet

I have recently discovered a product intended for quickly prying apart pallets.  It’s called “The Pallet Pal” and is a pretty neat pallet dismantle tool that you will absolutely love. However, it isn’t a foolproof tool to dismantle a palletand you will definitely crack boards occasionally.

My Favorite Method on How to Disassemble a Pallet

All things being equal, I still prefer The Cutting Method as a way to dismantle a pallet.

Check out this awesome coffee table made from pallets.

About Brandon Potters

Hi, I’m Brandon and I can’t express how excited I am that you chose The Saw Guy as your resource for project ideas, tool reviews, and all-around guide to the world of DIY. I spent years in the construction industry refining my knowledge of various trades and even spent a few years working at a major hardware store. ​If there is anyone who can help you make a well-informed, unbiased, budget-conscious decision, it’s me and my team.

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