An open greenhouse area with plants on the ground can work fine, but the addition of benches increases usage tremendously and can be a real back-saver, too. If they cost next to nothing to make, then you have a real winner. My car garage/pallet greenhouse has been in place for several months and I decided that benches would facilitate watering (my back) and give me more space for organizing plants. To save money, I went back to my stack of pallets and fashioned all the benches that I needed using pallets and scrap wood. For all the benches, the total cost was less than $5.00 (for the screws).
I had the option of building individual benches from each pallet and setting them up in a row, or attaching all the pallets together and then adding legs so that I had two long benches. I opted to make individual benches from each pallet for two reasons: 1) Wrangling the smaller units was much easier and more manageable for me. I simply don’t know how I would have moved a 12 foot long bench and 2) Building individual units allowed more versatility for rearranging the benches in the greenhouse. So, I built eight benches 29 inches deep and 32-33 inches wide. Five benches were 32.5 inches high and four were 23.5 inches high (for the taller plants). I haven’t decided what to do for the “floor” of the greenhouse yet – but the plants are quite happy up on the benches now. My back is so much happier, too.
I had one very large pallet made of varying widths of 2×4 boards – on the top as well as the sides. I had never seen one quite like it – so I wrestled it onto my truck bed. I do mean wrestle, because that dude was incredibly heavy. Totally worth it, though. I found that I could make the legs for six pallet benches from that one pallet alone. If you ever find something like that sitting around, grab it fast.
The pallet above is an example of the types of pallets that I used for the tops of the benches. I found this incredible source for pallets from a large supplier of commercial copiers as I was driving around an industrial district looking for another pallet source I found on Craigslist. When I saw the pallets stacked up at the copier sales store, I asked some guys standing out back if I could take them. They were delighted. (So was I). Anyway, if you can find this type of source, grab all you can. They are heat treated – and HUGE bonus, they are super easy to take apart with just a hammer.
BUILDING THE BENCHES
Building the benches was quite simple and we ended up building each bench in about 20 minutes. To begin, there was a large space in the middle of each pallet – which would not be good for the top of a bench because the smaller pots would just fall through. So, I knocked out one of the slats and screwed it in about midway between the gap. Voila – the top of your shelf is done.
Each pallet had little pieces of wood on the top – I believe they were used to hold the office machine in place because they didn’t serve any other purpose that I could see. Here’s my mom (she’s 93) removing those little pieces of wood. Before you get upset at me for being a slave driver – she wants to help. And I like to keep her busy so that she is part of the renovating. And – hey – if a 93 years young lady can do this, so can YOU!!!!
While she was busy taking those wood pieces off, I had to figure out how high I wanted the benches to be.
In full disclosure, I grabbed four of the 2x4s that were about the same length and measured the shortest one. It was 32.5 inches, so I used that as the height for the taller benches. As it turned out, it was a perfect height to work with.
So, for the next step, simply measure and cut four legs the same length.
After the leg boards are cut, screw the legs into the sides of the pallet using two 3.5” screws on each leg. The good thing about pallets is that they have that 4×4-ish brace at each end, so the legs were very secure when I used the 3.5″ screws.
Once the legs were attached and I stood it up, I noticed the shelf seemed to wobble a bit. To eliminate the wobble, I cut two scrap boards and attached them to the legs – as seen below. I used scraps that I had around for the side braces, and with one on each side, the bench was quite stable. Whether I used a piece of a pallet, a spare 1×3 or 1×4 for the side brace, I aligned the tops at 10.5 inches (from the bottom of the leg). I did this so that if I later decided I wanted a second shelf, I could just slide a board onto the cross braces and have an instant shelf.
Wobble gone, shelf built in a very short period of time. Ain’t she a beauty? OK, I think all the varying looks of the wood legs and braces makes for an interesting look. If you don’t care for this “eclectic” look, the benches would look nice and probably more “together” if painted one color. Or perhaps, the legs and braces one color and the top wood. I just needed them to be there and functional – so I will let you know later if I decide to paint them.
Depending on the wood for the legs and the side braces, some of the benches ended up being fairly heavy. The greenhouse isn’t terribly far from where I was building the benches, but since I was trying to save my back, I decided to upend them on my wheelbarrow and take them to the greenhouse. I mention this because I want you to be able to do these projects, even if you are not terribly strong. Making the benches individually and using the wheelbarrow to move them means that I did not have to have a stronger person do the heavy lifting for me. I am woman, I am strong. . .
In one day, I was able to build the benches (with the help of Mom), put these babies in the greenhouse for less than $5.00. These are the deals that I like. And, I had very happy plants and a very happy back.Yes, I think plants appreciate these little things we do for them. See them smiling?
One last suggestion. As always, when you use pallets, you want to be very careful to make sure they are safe. Make sure that they are not coated with chemicals and don’t have chemicals spilled on them that would harm you or your plants. For a comprehensive post on identifying your pallets and making sure you are using safe wood, go here. In a nutshell, if they have an HT stamped on the wood, they are heat treated and safe to use.
Building benches for your greenhouse really makes them more accessible and usable. If you can build them quickly and inexpensively, that is even better. This quick project will provide you with an easy and cheap solution. What do you think of the benches? Do you have any other benches you have built? Share!!!