Simple DIY Wooden Headboard

If you’ve been following along, you know I made a last-minute decision to participate in Linda at Calling it Home’s One Room Challenge this fall, and give our bedroom a little makeover. I’ve added a few to-dos to my list along the way, and I thought the DIY headboard that we completed this week was worth sharing on its own!

While browsing Pinterest one night, I found this DIY headboard post by Britt at My Daily Randomness, and loved the simplicity and rustic warmth that it brings to a neutral room. Perfect for the look I’m going for.

So, full disclaimer, while I would love to take creative credit for this beauty, I pretty much replicated the look of Britt’s headboard exactly. The one modification that we made was to mount the horizontal boards to a vertical frame, rather than screwing the boards to the wall.

Extra-full disclaimer, Jesse did most of the engineering for the headboard, and the bulk of the carpentry work. He’s a keeper.

I did get in on the staining, and assembling of the board. And I’m here to overload you with photos and share the how-to. So that’s something.

Materials list:

  • (4) 1″x8″x6′ Knotty Pine Boards (or “Common Boards” according to Home Depot)
  • (3) 1″x4″x6′ Knotty Pine Boards/Common Boards
  • 6 x 1 1/4″ Interior Wood Screws
  • 3/8″ Button Plugs, Birch
  • Stain. We used Watco Danish Oil, because we already had some on hand and it happened to be the exact color that I wanted – Dark Walnut.
  • 1 box Command Picture Hanging Strips, Large

Tools needed:

  • A saw to cut your boards to length. We used our radial arm saw. Or, you could have Home Depot cut them for you.
  • Sand paper/block
  • Rags and/or foam brushes
  • Drill/Driver
  • 3/8″ Forstner Bit (drills flat bottomed holes so you don’t have to drill as deep to allow for a counter-sunk screw)
  • Tape Measure
  • Speed square or drafting triangle, if you have one available
  • Wood Glue (optional – we didn’t end up using this to glue the wood plugs in – they are pretty snug right now. I don’t know if the wood might shrink or adjust and these will loosen up eventually.)

Cut your boards to size.

We cut our 8″ boards to 64″ lengths using our radial arm saw. Our queen mattress is 60″ wide, so we wanted the headboard to stick out a couple of inches on each side.

For the vertical legs, we first used a piece of cardboard to decide how high we wanted the headboard to sit above the bed. We then measured from the top of the cardboard to the top of our baseboard, planning to have the verticals sit on top of the baseboard.

We liked about 43″ above the baseboard, which is roughly 4′ from the floor. Knowing that we wanted the vertical boards to hide 3/4″ below the top of the 8″ top horizontal board, we cut our vertical boards 42″ long to frame the headboard. Quick spoiler, when we thought we were completely done and ready to mount our headboard, we decided that we wanted it a little bit lower. We ended up cutting 2″ off of the legs, so they are now 40″ long.

Our original plan was to double up the vertical legs at the bottom to allow for the headboard to stand on the floor, and work around the baseboard. Like so.

However, the quarter round trim at the bottom threw a wrench in the plan. Jesse even tried using a handsaw to cut a 45° angle out of the board, but it wasn’t enough to clear the quarter round and reach the floor.

So, in the end we just decided to let the verticals sit on top of the baseboard. Our plan was to secure the headboard to the wall with command velcro strips, so it doesn’t need a ton of structural support from the floor.

Sand and Stain.

We used a wood block and some 120 grit sandpaper to give the boards a good sanding. This is important to ensure your stain will apply smoothly. We tested the stain first on an un-sanded scrap board, and it turned out pretty splotchy.

After you have sanded all of your 8″ boards on the front and the edges, it’s a good idea to take a dry rag with some texture to it, and give the boards a good wipe down to get rid of any dust.

Once that’s done, you are ready for stain. We tested the stain on the pine with both a foam brush and a t-shirt, and decided we liked a combination of both for best application. We applied the first coat using an old t-shirt as a rag. The t-shirt soaks up a lot of the stain, but applies a nice thin coat as a sort of “primer”, without soaking into the wood too much in certain areas.

We then applied a second coat with a foam brush, trying to squeeze most of the excess stain out of the brush prior to applying. It definitely darkened up and brought out more of the grain with the second coat.

We stained the front and edges of our 8″ boards, as well as our 3 1/2″ vertical boards for the frame.

Once you are happy with your stain, let the boards dry overnight.

Layout and Assemble.

This is the part that Jesse tackled, while I was making dinner. We wanted the vertical frame to be 60″ wide, so that it would line up with our mattress. We also decided that the vertical frame pieces would sit 3/4″ down from the top.

Jesse marked out the screw locations at 1 1/2″ from the top and bottom of each horizontal board, and 3 3/4″ in from the edge. (Because our vertical legs sit 2″ in from the edge of the boards, this would put the screws right in the center of the 3 1/2″ wide verticals.)

We also marked out screw locations in the center for our third vertical support.

He then used the forstner bit to drill down about 3/16″ at each of the screw locations, on the front of the horizontal boards.

Once you have these marked out, you are ready to lay out your outer verticals and start attaching.

This took a lot of lining up, measuring, adjusting, and measuring again.

When you have the top horizontal board in the right location on the frame, you can drill through the center of your screw location until you hit the vertical board behind, so that you have a pilot hole for your screw.

Attach the top two outer screws on your top board to the outer frame first. Measure between your outside verticals at the top and the bottom, as well as diagonally from the top corner to the bottom opposite to ensure you are keeping the frame square.

Decide how much space you want between your horizontal boards. We used a couple of different drill bits to space them out, and decided that we liked a 1/4″ gap.

Space your horizontal boards evenly using a drill bit, check again to be sure your diagonal dimensions match, and screw each board to the outer verticals.

Mount the center vertical last. We marked the center on a piece of painter’s tape, to line up with the center of the vertical leg. We then carefully pushed that down to 3/4″ below the top before screwing together.

We liked the look of the un-stained birch wood plugs to cover the recessed screws. They fit perfectly and are quite snug, so we didn’t end up securing them with wood glue.

Looking pretty good, right??

We thought we were done and ready to mount the headboard. When we saw it against the wall, we decided we wanted it to sit 2″ lower. Jesse made some quick adjustments, and we also decided to cut the center vertical off flush with the bottom of the headboard, so it just stands on two legs.

Mount to the wall, and admire your hard work!

We used some large velcro-type Command strips to secure our headboard to the wall. Those things are genius.

And that is it! This project took us 2 evenings after work and a few hours over the weekend. It’s a pretty easy DIY that has a big impact!