How to Build a Headboard – A Step-by-Step Tutorial

A bed hardly seems complete without a headboard. Large or small, simple or ornate, the headboard can really set the tone for the entire bedroom. If you’re ready for a change in headboard, or if you’ve lived without one altogether for far too long, this is a pretty straightforward DIY project that you can have done in an afternoon. The best part about building your own headboard is the fact that you can customize it to fit your space and your style perfectly. Let’s do it.

View in gallery

View in gallery

View in gallery

DIY Level: Beginner to Intermediate.

View in gallery

Materials Needed:

  • Plywood cut to size (example is for a twin bed, so it is 40” wide x 30” tall)
  • Two strips of 3/4” plywood (about 1-1/2” wide by 24” long)
  • Two strips of 5/8” board (about 3-1/2” wide by 24” long)
  • High density foam cut to size of large plywood (in this example, 40” x 30”)
  • Thin foam or batting (6”-8” longer and 6”-8” wider than the high density foam)
  • Home decor fabric of your choice, cut 8”-12” longer and 8”-12” wider than large plywood)
  • Screws, drill, level, staples, staple gun

View in gallery

Step 1: Create hanging apparatuses. Your headboard will mount on the wall almost like a puzzle, with one L-shaped “bracket” (attached to the back of the headboard) fitting into another L-shaped “bracket” (mounted on the wall). So you’ll begin everything by creating these brackets. Screw one thin strip of 3/4″ plywood onto the edge of one 5/8” board. Make sure your screws don’t penetrate the bottom of the 5/8” board.

View in gallery

Repeat for the other 3/4” strip and 5/8” board so you end up with two L-shaped brackets.

View in gallery

See how they’ll fit together on the wall? (Except, on the wall, they’ll be upright, rotated 90 degrees.)

View in gallery


Step 2: Mark wall for bracket mounting. Find two studs on the wall behind where your headboard will go. Use the studs closest to headboard center as possible; center it if you can, although there is a little wiggle room.

View in gallery


Step 3: Measure how high to mount your wall bracket in each stud space. This example shows a headboard mounted two-thirds of the way up the headboard (at 20” above the top of the mattress; remember, this headboard is 30” tall). The top of a chair rail can provide a nice, level measuring point.

View in gallery

Step 4: Attach ONE screw into the stud to hold it in place. Make sure the bracket is facing upward; in other words, you’ll want the 3/4″ plywood part on the bottom of the bracket, and the “open space” of the bracket at the top. I predrilled a second screw prior to mounting the first screw but didn’t penetrate to the wall at this point.

View in gallery

This next move is a minor, yet highly critical, step if you want your headboard to hang straight. Use a level to swivel your bracket to be exactly level on the wall, then screw in your second screw into the second stud on the wall. Complete drilling your secondary/support screws. This example incorporated four support screws total – two in each stud.

View in gallery

Step 5: Test the fit of the two brackets. Slide the now-free bracket into the open space of the wall-mounted bracket. (The free bracket in this example is shown by the plywood and green stripe in the photo above.) Measure from the top of the mattress up to the top of this free bracket. In this case, my measurement is 24”. Remember this number.

View in gallery

Step 6: Measure where the free bracket will go onto the back of the headboard. Taking your just-measured number (in this case, 24”), measure that distance from the bottom of the back of your headboard plywood. Mark this and draw a line at that height. Center your line on your headboard. (To do this easily, simply take the total width of your large plywood, in this case 40”, and subtract the total width of your bracket, in this case 24”. I end up with 16”. Divide that number in half, which is 8”, then measure that half-number, in this case 8”, from both edges of your large plywood along the line to mark horizontal center.)

View in gallery

Step 7: Mount the free bracket onto the back of the headboard. To keep things precise and simple, I loosely but carefully screwed two stabilizing screws from the free bracket down into the large plywood to hold the bracket in place. Flip the large plywood over, then screw from the large plywood into the bracket. I used four or five screws to hold it in place. This helps to make sure that no screw points will accidentally poke through the headboard. Then remove your two original holding screws, if necessary.

View in gallery

Step 8: Test out hanging the headboard. The goal is to have the brackets fit together snugly, for safety, but to have them, indeed, fit together. That’s why there is a 1/8” difference between the bracket pieces themselves, because this allows for slight wiggle room.

View in gallery

Step 9: Upholster the headboard. Lay your high density foam carefully on top of the large plywood piece and angle the edges of the foam all the way around the perimeter. Don’t worry about being exact. This will help with the lay of the upholstery at the end.

View in gallery

Step 10: Add thin foam or batting. The point of this step is to soften the edges of the large plywood where the high density foam may not cover it. Staple the thin foam or batting to fit smoothly but don’t worry about pulling it super taut yet.

View in gallery

When upholstering anything, always work from the middle outward toward the corners.

View in gallery

Keep the corners as trimmed of excess thin foam/batting as possible. You still have your upholstery fabric to wok on top of this, and you want plenty of room for a snug, professional fabric fit.

View in gallery

Complete all sides and corners of attaching the thin foam/batting. You don’t need a ton of staples for this; you just want enough to prevent movement. You’ll add more security when you staple the fabric in the next step.

View in gallery

Step 11: Attach the fabric to all four sides. This, in my opinion, is the fun part. Where it all starts to come together. I was almost too short on fabric, but I ended up having just enough to wrap around. Start by stapling 6”-8” apart from center, then pull the fabric taut and fill in that section with staples before moving on to the next 6”-8” section, always heading toward the corner. Staple right up to the corner but don’t do the corners until all the sides are completely secure. Make sure you’re pulling the fabric taut before every staple.

View in gallery

Step 12: Secure the corners. The key to professional upholstered corners is keeping the bunching and pleating to a minimum, if not making them nonexistent wherever possible. You’ll want to staple all the way to the corner, then pinch the corner fabric into a line.

View in gallery

Fold the corner fabric into a small pleat, making sure there are no bunching areas on either side, then staple to secure it.

View in gallery

Congrats! You have a professional-looking upholstered corner! No repeat for the other three corners. Tip: If you’re a beginner upholsterer, you might want to practice doing corners on the headboard’s two bottom corners first, just to get a feel for it since these are more forgiving visually.

View in gallery

Step 13: Trim all excess fabric, then mount the completed headboard to the wall. If you’ve measured carefully and stapled corners and edges carefully, you’ll have an awesome and professional-looking headboard. Optional: You can add nailhead trim around the edge of the headboard if you want. This example headboard turned out a little puffy around the edges for my taste, so I opted to do that.

View in gallery

Step 14: Stage the bed to make your headboard shine. This photo is a poor representation of that advice, because my toddler wanted to go to bed immediately. But she loves her headboard, and I’m sure she’ll have sweet dreams resting the top of her head against a second pillow.

View in gallery

View in gallery

View in gallery

Good luck! Please don’t be intimidated by this DIY project. You really can build your dream headboard in a snap. Just take your time, measure carefully, and enjoy the finished product!