Upcycle: Pallet Into Bath Shelf

JM and I picked up an old pallet that was sitting in our alley months ago, and it’s been sitting in the kitchen ever since. But I finally got around to using it for a pallet upcycle project…I turned it into a bath shelf!

There are tons of great pallet project ideas out there, but I didn’t really need a new coffee table, or couch, or shelves right now. The bath shelf is so much more useful 🙂

Tutorial: Upcycle a pallet to a bath shelf by PracticallyFunctional.net

I love it! It’s big enough to hold a bunch of things, I love the color of the stain I used, plus the stain has polyurethane in it, so the shelf is waterproof (which is great for all those accidental drips!) And I love long, hot soaks (remember the relaxing detox bath recipe I posted?), so it’s perfect for me!

And it wasn’t too difficult to do. It took a while because I had to do it in tiny bits and pieces in the one hour of daylight right after I get home from work. 🙂 But I got it finished and it’s awesome!

Pallet Bath Shelf

If you want to make your own bath shelf out of pallet, here’s what you need:

Tutorial: Upcycle a pallet to a bath shelf by PracticallyFunctional.net

Here’s what I started with. One beat up (but well constructed!) pallet.

1. Take apart the pallet

I started taking the pallet apart with the claw end of a hammer, but that really did not work so well. It was slow going and frustrating, so I went and bought a pry bar. It was much easier after that!

Be careful not to splinter or split the wood on any pieces you’ll be using. For the bath shelf you only need 3-4 boards, depending on how wide you want your shelf to be.

I only used three boards for my shelf, and a smaller piece for the cleats, but I took the whole pallet apart cuz I figured I might as well do the whole thing right all at once! Plus I have some fun ideas for  the rest of the wood. 🙂

Here are the three main boards I ended up with.

Tutorial: Upcycle a pallet to a bath shelf: Boards before

Kinda raggedy, huh? That’s why the second step is…

2. Fix up and clean your wood

The boards were splintered and cracked. They were dirty, and they had giant holes in them from the nails. So I fixed them up!

Use your wood glue to fix any cracks or splintered off pieces. Make sure to wipe away any excess wood glue immediately. It doesn’t hold a stain, so if it dries on the surface of the wood, the piece won’t stain correctly. You can use a damp rag to clean up any spilled glue.

I don’t have any clamps, so I just used rubberbands to hold the pieces together while the glue was drying.

Tutorial: Upcycle a pallet to a bath shelf: Boards drying

After you’ve glued all the pieces and splintered bits back together you’ll want to fill the holes left by the nails. I shared a super easy trick for doing just that last Friday, so go check it out!

Once they’re all fixed up you need to clean your boards. Depending on your level of OCD you can do this a couple of ways. The easiest way is to just grab a damp rag and wipe them down to get any surface dirt off. I wanted mine a bit cleaner, so I took a stiff scrub brush, put the boards in the bathtub, and scrubbed with warm water for about half an hour. Either way works!

3. Make some cleats

Besides the 3-4 main boards for your shelf, you need two smaller, skinnier boards to use as cleats. A cleat is just a strip of wood (or metal or whatever) fastened across a bunch of boards to provide support.

The width of your cleat boards doesn’t matter, but you want them to be about two inches inside the edges of your main boards on either end (see drawing below).

Tutorial: Upcycle a pallet to a bath shelf: Cleats

Check out my awesome Paint skills! This is what the back of your shelf will look like, and those vertical boards are cleats.

4. Sand down all your edges

My boards were pretty rough and splintering on the edges, and I hate splinters! So I sanded the surfaces smooth, and I rounded the edges of all of my boards.

5. Drill pilot holes and countersinks in your cleats

I actually did this step after I stained my wood, but I realize now it makes a little more sense to do it before so that the edges of your countersinks are stained as well. So, sorry the pictures are out of order…

When you’re attaching your pieces together, you’ll want six screws through the cleat and into the boards (two per board). Drilling pilot holes into your cleats will help keep the wood from splitting when you screw it together.

Lay out your boards like in the drawing in Step 3 above and mark the spots for 6 pilot holes in one single row down your cleat (remember, two in each main board). You want to use a drill bit that is exactly the size of, or slightly bigger than the body of your screw (the solid body underneath the threads, not the head or the threads themselves). Once your holes are marked, pick up the cleat and drill all 6 holes straight through the cleat. Make sure not to drill through to any of the other boards, just the cleats!

I also decided to countersink the heads of my screws so they were flush with the surface of the board. If you have a countersink, use that. If you don’t have one (or don’t even know what a countersink is!), no worries! You can do this with a drill.

Grab a bigger drill bit (one that is the size of the head of your screws). Go back and drill right over the center of each of your pilot holes, but only go about a 1/8″ down into the wood instead of all the way through. I stuck a piece of tape to my drill bit to mark how far down I should drill. When the tape hits the board, stop drilling!

Tutorial: Upcycle a pallet to a bath shelf: DIY Countersink

This creates a nice little divot for the head of your screw to sit in so it doesn’t stick up out of your boards when it’s all screwed together. When you’re done, your pilot holes and countersinks should look like this. Except, not stained yet. That’s Step 6 🙂

Tutorial: Upcycle a pallet to a bath shelf: Pilot holes/countersinks

Can you see the tiny pilot holes inside of the larger countersinks?

6. Stain your wood

Once you have your holes drilled, gather all your supplies for staining the wood. You’ll need your 3 main boards, your cleats, your stain, and painting accessories (paintbrush, stir stick, etc.)

Tutorial: Upcycle a pallet to a bath shelf: Preparing to stain

Sorry about the bad lighting angle… The only time I had available to do this was in the one hour of daylight left right after I got home from work because it rained every single weekend day for four weeks straight!

You need to stain both sides and all edges of your three main boards, but you can leave one side of the cleats un-stained if you’d like (make sure the “top” where the countersinks are is stained, and make sure to stain all four edges because they’ll be visible).

Tutorial: Upcycle a pallet to a bath shelf: Stained boards

The boards are leaning against the railing because both surfaces and all four edges are stained, but I left the cleats flat on the cardboard because only the tops and sides are stained.

7. Distress your wood

I didn’t “distress” my wood very much because the pallet was already pretty beat up, so it was mostly “pre-distressed”! But I did sand down a couple of spots where the stain had pooled up, and I sanded the edges down slightly to give them a worn look. I used a stain with polyurethane in it, so I didn’t want to sand too much or it would have ruined the waterproof-ness of my boards. If you use a regular stain, feel free to distress as much as you’d like 🙂

Tutorial: Upcycle a pallet to a bath shelf: Distressing

8. Apply a coat of finish so your wood is waterproof

I didn’t need to do a coat of finish on top of the stain because my stain had polyurethane in it. But you want your bath shelf to be waterproof (for obvious reasons!) so if you’re using plain old stain, make sure to do a coat of finish on top once it’s dry.

9. Assemble your shelf

The last step is to put all your pieces together.

Place all of your boards like in the image in Step 3 above. The “bad” sides of your main boards should be face up, and the side of your cleats with the countersinks should be face up as well. Once it’s all lined up, mark the placement of your cleats with a pencil.

Pick up a cleat and put a bunch of wood glue on the underside, then place it back down where you marked it.

Tutorial: Upcycle a pallet to a bath shelf: Gluing cleats

Do the same with the other cleat. Once they are glued in place, screw the cleat into the boards through all 12 of your pilot holes, and you’re done! (This should go without saying, but make sure you use screws that are the correct length…i.e. make sure the screws will go all the way through the cleat and a ways into the main board without coming out the top side!)

If you have clamps, clamp your cleats in place while the glue dries. The screws should hold it all together pretty nicely, but it never hurts to be doubly sure. We don’t have clamps, but JM was an English Lit. major in college and got his Master’s in it as well, so we do have a TON of giant, heavy books 🙂

Tutorial: Upcycle a pallet to a bath shelf: "Clamps"

Wait a little bit for the glue to dry and that’s it; your old pallet is now a lovely bath shelf!

I am SO thrilled with how this shelf turned out! It’s the perfect size, I love the color, and it’s totally waterproof!

Tutorial: Upcycle a pallet to a bath shelf: Waterproof

You can just wipe up any water drips with a towel whenever you’re done with your bath!

Tutorial: Upcycle a pallet to a bath shelf by PracticallyFunctional.net

Have you ever re-used a pallet, or made something out of some re-purposed wood? I’m really happy with how this turned out, and I still have enough of the pallet left over for another project I have planned. So yay!


I link up at these awesome parties!
This post may contain affiliate links to the products I use and recommend for your convenience. Your price won’t change, but these links will share a small commission that assists in the maintenance of this site.

Jessi Wohlwend

I believe that anyone can do crafts and DIY projects, regardless of skill or experience. I love sharing simple craft ideas, step by step DIY project tutorials, cleaning hacks, and other tips and tricks all with one goal in mind: giving you the tools you need to “do it yourself”, complete fun projects, and make awesome things!

You May Also Like

Reader Interactions

  1. Shannah @ Just Us Four says

    12 years ago

    First: Great choice in books!
    Second: Love the bath shelf! Aren’t pallets one of the best DIY items?!

  2. Kaitlyn says

    12 years ago

    This is such a creative idea!! Needing it for all those times my book ends up wet 🙂

  3. Mandy says

    12 years ago

    Wow! I LOVE that. It looks awesome 🙂

  4. Grace @ sense and simplicity says

    12 years ago

    I’ve been wondering how much people clean there pallets before they use them – good to know that on one extreme there is the half hour scrub! I love your bath shelf.

  5. Raquel says

    12 years ago

    Oh! I like the bath shelf and so need one of those. Love the way it came out. I am adding it to my project list.

  6. Kendra@ A Proverbs 31 Wife says

    12 years ago

    Old pallets are so useful! My mom collected a ton of them so she could make a small shelter for some animals. Talk about cutting the budget!
    I wish we had a nice tub b/c I would so make one of those tables 🙂

  7. stacysewsandschools says

    12 years ago

    That is BRILLIANT!!! I have a few pallets and couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do with them. Now I know!!! Thank you!! 🙂

  8. Katie says

    12 years ago

    That is SO. COOL. How perfect! And it doesn’t seem too difficult, either. Another one of your projects I’ll have to try at some point…there are a lot of those. ^_~

Load more comments

Leave a Comment or Review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *