A DIY headboard is an easy, beginner friendly project with great impact. It can improve the look and feel of a bedroom in such a big way!
We made a DIY headboard as part of our DIY bed frame. However, many people already have a bed or mattress with box spring, yet they may still want to build a beautiful DIY wood headboard.
In this detailed tutorial, I will share with you how to build a free-standing wood headboard that looks just like ours to go with any type of bed! The free plan is showing a queen headboard, but I have included variations for you to build a DIY king size headboard and twin size headboard at the end.
If you want to build a wood platform bed integrated with a headboard, you can check out our DIY bed frame tutorial here!
Choosing wood for your DIY headboard:
I talked a lot in our DIY bed frame tutorial about wood species and how to choose wood for strength, work-ability and beauty. Select wood with nice grain, few cup and twist, and no splits. Keep in mind that knots are very dense, making them hard to drill and cut through.
Do NOT use pressure treated lumber, there can be toxic chemicals in them! Read more about choosing wood here ( in Step 1 ).
You can use this plan to build a pallet headboard.
However, some pallet wood are not good choices. Before you start on a DIY pallet headboard, please check out this detailed guide on how to find, select, and work with pallets!
Materials and tools for wood DIY headboard:
Note: lumber size is for queen headboard. See variations at the end for twin or king headboard. Some of the helpful resources are affiliate links. Full disclosure here.
- 4×4 Posts: (2) 4×4 @ 4’5″ cut from (1) 4×4 @ 10′. You can use 2x4s for posts, but I really like the look of the 4×4 posts for queen bed and king bed. For twin bed, 2×4 posts would look nice.
- 2×4 : (2) 2×4 @ 4’8 for top and bottom of headboard, cut from (2) 2×4 @ 10′.
- 1×4 : (10) 1×4 @ 4’8″, (3) 1×4 @ 2’11.5″, cut from (6) 1×4 @ 10′
- Kreg Pocket Hole Jig: this one is a good starter pocket hole jig, use it with a woodworking clamp, or this bigger set which has a built-in clamp, 1.25″ and 2.5″ Pocket Hole screws
- Sand paper : I used 120 grit sand paper for sanding the cut surfaces, and 300 to 400 fine grit sand paper to sand the front and side wood surfaces
- tape measure, combination square, pencils for marking, bar clamps
- drill, circular saw or jig saw, safety goggles, dust mask, hearing protection. Follow safety procedures!!
Step 1: Prepare the wood for your DIY headboard
Step 2: Build the center panel of the wood headboard
First decide the layout of your DIY headboard. Look at each post and slat, and choose the best looking side to face front. This is such a fun step to get a glimpse of the finished wood headboard!
We propped up the 1×4 slats and arranged them so that the various wood grains and knots look natural when put together. You wouldn’t want all the knots to end up on one side, right? 🙂
After getting a layout you like, mark the back of each piece with a number because we will be building our DIY headboard with the front side facing down on the work table.
To create the center panel, first drill all the pocket holes using a Kreg Pocket Hole Jig on the 1×4 braces ans 2×4 top & bottom piece as shown in plan below.
Lay the 1×4 slats on a flat surface, arrange the wood according to the numbers we marked on the back. I folded thick magazine covers 3 folds and used them as spacers between the slats. This is not just for looks. Why?
Have you heard of the terms “shiplap wall” , “tongue and groove flooring”, or ” floating panel door”? They are everywhere, we take them for granted. Here’s the reason behind all these designs features-
Considerations for wood movement. Wood fibers swell as they absorb moisture and shrink as they release it, causing the wood to expand and contract across the grain. A 12″ wide board can expand or contract by 1/8″.
If you add all the 1×4″ slats, we have a total of almost 1/2″ of wood movement. If these 1x4s as placed tightly together during a dry month, the headboard can bulge when air moisture goes up. These little spacers will give the wood rooms to move.
Check for square by measuring the entire panel from corner to corner. If the measurements aren’t the same, push the long corner towards the middle of the structure until they even out. Once identical, the panel is perfectly squared.
Hold the wood in place with bar clamps, screw the 1×4 braces to the slats using 1″ to 1.25″ wood screws, 2 for each slat on each end. See below.
Attache the center panel to the posts using 1.25″ and 2.5″ Pocket Hole screws as indicated on the plan. You can have the panel flush with the posts, or create a little offset. We laid the panel of slats flat on some 1/8″ to 3/16″ thick plywood and propped the panel up a bit to create an offset when attaching panel of slats to the posts.
Below is our finished DIY headboard! Because it is integrated with our DIY bed frame ( tutorial here), we have those brackets and a 2×6 bottom rail.
How to adapt this DIY headboard plan to any size bed, such as a king bed, a twin bed, with or without headboard, etc.
The plan below is for a king size headboard. The back support structures of a DIY king size headboard is the same as the queen size headboard. Just add 16 inches to the length of all the horizontal components: the 1x4s and 2x4s.
To build a twin size headboard, you don’t have to use 4×4 posts. 2x4s will look nice in that scale. See the twin size headboard plan below.
The bottom slat is 11″ above ground. You can adjust this height according to the height of your mattress. The wood slats should come 8″ to 12″ below the top of mattress.
Best natural finishes for your wood bed frame and headboard:
For our DIY headboard, I gave the boards a light gold stain using Recipe #7 in this tutorial: Easy Homemade All Natural Wood Stains with 7 Recipes!
If you want to paint your wood headboard, a beautiful option is a whitewashed wood finish using non-toxic paint. Here’s a detailed tutorial on how to whitewash wood in 3 simple ways-
My favorite wood finish is an all natural furniture wax made from bees wax and olive oil. I learned this recipe from a wooden toy maker. It has a lovely honey smell! You can find the details here at the end of our the DIY wood crate project-
I also selected some great natural wood finishes you can find on Amazon-
You may also love: 30 beautiful pallet wall and shiplap wall DIYs!