8 Uses for Short Planks

    Yet another use for planks: bridges! Photo: Andrew Bowden/FlickrI recently replaced the slats in a bedframe, because I needed a different slatting system to support a new mattress. My existing slats, with the exception of one, were in fine shape, though, so they clearly weren't waste wood, although a friend did suggest "tossing" them. (P.S. Many cities, like San Francisco, actually accept wood in their recycling bins now!)

    At first, I thought I'd just use them as kindling, but that seemed like a waste as well -- after all, there are abundant sources of kindling from scrap wood that is too broken up or damaged to be any good for building projects. And I had a stack of perfectly nice pine planks in great shape, all cut to the same length. They weren't warped, moldy, or damaged with paint, stain, or fixtures like nails and screws; basically, they were ready to use for all kinds of projects.

    So I sat down and started brainstorming a list of ideas. You might have planks and scrap wood around the house, or easy access through a building site or urban reuse facility. Furthermore, things like pallets can be broken down into planks for easy storage and future use. Basically, if you have a chance to pick up some free or low-cost planks, take it!

    None of these uses require a particularly high level of DIY skill, because when it comes to anything more advanced than replacing a light switch, I'm usually lost. Those with more advanced handyman inclinations could probably come up with a whole lot more uses!

    1. Raised beds for the garden

    I have a serious gopher problem in the garden, and I've been using half wine barrels for gardening, which looks great, but gets expensive. They're also not very space efficient, considering the small area I have fenced for my fruits and vegetables. Square beds would be perfect, and these planks would be ideal. I can quickly use them several layers tall to make walls for my beds, with a layer of gopher wire on the bottom to deter unwanted visitors.

    2. Duckboards

    No, this isn't a hot new cuisine. Duckboards, as you may or may not know, are planks (keyword!) laid across areas of boggy or wet soil. They're very handy between beds in the garden, especially in the winter, where built up or raised beds tend to create depressions between them that turn into watersheds, resulting in wet, unhappy feet. You can also use duckboards to bridge a low area in the yard, or create a dry(ish) path from the car to the door.

    If you want to get fancy, pick up some supporting beams and lay them parallel to each other. Attach duckboards at perpendicular angles to create a low raised bridge that will also remain stable when people walk or wheel across.

    Duckboards are also used as an alternative to shower mats. You could buy one, or you could make your own for a fraction of the cost!

    3. Organizing

    Screw some hooks into a plank or just cover it in nails to turn it into a flat hanging organizer for earrings, necklaces, kitchen supplies, and more. If you have tight space in the kitchen, as I do, going vertical is essential, and being able to hang commonly-used items (like measuring spoons and cups) on the walls frees up vital room in your drawers.

    You can also mount planks the other way to create small shelves for items like spices. Instead of losing things on the back of a deep shelf, you'll have the advantage of being able to see everything you're storing on the shallower plank shelf.

    4. Solid shelving niches on wire shelves

    We have a wire shelf in the bathroom that's great for storing most things. The wire openwork design allows things to dry so they don't get moldy or soft in the warm, moist air of the bathroom, and it's easy to clean. But man, I am so tired of having my toothbrush fall through if I don't perch it at just the right angle across the wire. Stick a plank in there and you have a little area for storing small items that are prone to falling through!

    5. Drawer dividers

    Another organizing trick, drawer dividers help you keep things from getting too wild in the dresser, bathroom, or anywhere else. Planks might not look gorgeous (although you can change that if you're crafty), but they make fast and easy drawer dividers so you can create compartments to break a larger drawer into more manageable sections. Plus, they're easily moved and reconfigured, which is even better.

    6. Signs

    My planks, cut in half, are just about the right size for signs. I can hang them in the pantry to label various shelves (perhaps a layer of chalkboard paint so I can change the signs up as need be would be a good idea), put them outside on my garden beds to keep track of what's growing where, and more. If you're planning a wedding or another big party, you might want to consider stockpiling planks for making signs to direct people to various areas, and for posting information around the venue.

    7. Reinforcement

    If, like me, you own a lot of books and your shelves are groaning, a plank on the underside of the shelf at the middle or back can help keep it from collapsing. Paint or stain the plank so it blends in, making it less noticeable once the books are back in place. You can bolt the plank in place for strength, or use short screws (you don't want the sharp end protruding to damage books or unwary fingers).

    Planks are also useful for reinforcing fencing, especially along the bottom, where pests might be inclined to attempt to get in. Running them along the bottom of a chicken coop or garden fence, for example, deters skunks and racoons who can't slip through or under the plank to get to the goodies inside. This way I don't have to call a San Francisco fencing company to reinforce my fences.

    8. Cat tree construction

    Cat trees can be a great way to provide environmental enrichment for cats, and sturdy supporting planks can be an excellent construction material. Thanks to their stoutness and similar size, my planks could be fit together in a variety of ways to make multiple levels, stairs, and more. Then I can cover them with carpeting, seagrass, or other materials to add texture.

    Katie Marks writes for Networx.com.

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