Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Our DIY Headboard

For the past four or more years, the pillows on our bed have been falling back behind the mattress.  When you would go to bed at night, everything was perfect, but when you'd wake up in the morning, one of your pillows was missing.  Why? you ask.  We never had the extra cash to splurge on a headboard. 

The bed that we bought was a platform frame from West Elm, and we decided that we weren't able to spend the extra $450 on the headboard... why did you need one of those anyway? Unfortunately, we found out the answer, every night for years, before we decided to do something about it.

I had heard talks, and read countless pages about how to make your own headboard.  Fabric headboards, ones made out of old kitchen cabinets, even ones made out of old doors or tables.  "Just a few simple steps" they all claimed.  But all of them seemed to go far beyond our fairly new DIY skills, so I decided to design something easy for us.

I apologize in advance that I didn't take step by step photos of this process.  It was before we decided to start blogging, so I'll do my best with sketches to show the process.

This is what I came up with:
Easy?  You say?
It made all the sense in the world to me.

MDF... check
2x3's... check
High Density Foam... check
Batting... check

The first step was to figure out exactly what size headboard we wanted and where we wanted it to sit in regards to our mattress.

In all the posts that I had read, no one addressed where the headboard should hit the mattress.  We decided that in order for things to stop falling behind the mattress, the headboard should go down to about half-way to the bottom of the mattress.  You can sort of make this out on the sketch page.  There was one thing we didn't account for, but I'll talk about that later in the "lessons learned" section.

We have a queen bed.  The bed frame is 62" wide, so in order to give us a little more room on either side of the framing elements, we decided to make the headboard 64" wide.  We also decided that we wanted the top of the headboard to be 44" above the finished floor.  We gave ourselves 14" off the floor, which put the headboard against the back of the mattress, and made it an even 30" tall.

Next we headed out to buy our materials.  Yes we needed the obvious things like wood, foam & batting, but we also needed nuts & bolts, spray adhesive, wood glue, a spade bit & of course fabric!  We used the following materials:

*1/2" MDF (4x8 sheet)
*1- 2"x3"x8' piece of lumber
*2" thick high density foam to cover headboard
*Cotton/ polyester batting
*Fabric large enough to cover the headboard size, the thickness of the batting, foam & MDF with a few inches to spare for stapling.
*Four 5/8" bolts (w/ 4 washers and 4 nuts) for attaching headboard to the frame
*Four bolts (with 8 washers & 4 nuts to attach headboard frame to bed frame (this will vary depending on your bed frame)
*spray adhesive
*gorilla glue
*1" spade bit
*1/4" finishing staples

The first step was the "frame" that was attached to the bed frame.  Our wood bed frame had holes ready for the attachment of a headboard.  We decided to use 2x3's and to attache them with bolts to the existing frame.  We made the 2x3's 42" tall, leaving 2" at the top for the batting and fabric overlap that we will get to later.

One of the important factors of our headboard was that we wanted to make the padded portion removable.  Over the years this bed could change rooms, the room could change colors & we wanted to be able to remove the padded portion and reupholster it.  This is easily accomplished with bolts attached to the MDF and bolted onto the frame.  All we had to do was drill holes through the MDF & the 2x3's at corresponding locations.  But we didn't want bolts sticking out the back and scratching up the wall.  So we measured exactly what the assembly would be:  1/2" MDF + 1-1/2" Framing member = 2".  We got 2" long 5/8" bolts & counter sunk them into the 2x3's 1/2" inch.  So the holes on the front of the frame were just large enough for the bolts & the holes on the back were 1" around, so that there was room to screw on the washers and bolts.   These holes were 2" down from the top of the 2x3's & 4" up from the bottom of the MDF headboard.

The next step was the MDF.  We drilled 4 holes in the MDF to correspond to the holes in the 2x3's.  We used gorilla glue to glue the 4 bolts through these holes.  The heads of the bolts would be embedded in the foam, so that the threaded portion stuck out the back.  We lets this dry overnight, cut off the excess foam from the gorilla glue & moved on to the next step.  The image below shows what this step looked like if attached to the frame.

Next we took the 2" thick, high density foam and cut it to fit the MDF.  The foam that we got from JoAnn's was 90" long and 24" wide.  We cut the foam into three 30" pieces & trimmed the middle piece to fit the 64" dimension.  At first we thought we should carve out spaces for the bolts to sit flush, but after we applied the foam, we realized that you couldn't feel the bolts at all thru the foam.  So we sprayed the MDF, stuck on the foam and let it sit for a couple hours.

The next step was to apply the batting.  We got a twin size sheet for quilting purposes.  It was thick enough that we could fold it over so that it was three sheets thick & it fit the bed perfectly.  We sprayed spray mount onto the foam and added the batting layer by layer, spraying each layer to the last layer added.  We then trimmed the batting.  You can trim it to be the same size as the foam, or leave a little hanging over to make the fabric wrap the assembly a little easier.  We chose the latter.

Then we got out our stapling gun and attached the fabric.  We laid the fabric pattern-side down on the floor, laid the headboard on top of it, and started stapling.  We did one staple at the middle of each side to be sure that we had enough fabric.  Then we slowly started working out from the center to the corners. 

We checked a lot of website about how to tuck the corners, each having a different method, until we found one that we liked.  The way that we did ours was to take the pointed corner and fold it over to form a triangular shape.  We then folded the two remaining triangles straight down, to make a "pinched" corner.

Then all we did was attach the headboard to the frame and VIOLA!  Our very own fabric headboard.

Personal Photo

Maybe next time we'll try to tackle something more complicated... but we were pretty proud of ourselves with this one, and not a single pillow lost since the headboard was installed!

EDITED TO ADD - Lessons Learned:

I almost forgot that I had also said that I was going to post a "lessons learned" note after the post was over.  Remember I was talking about making sure that the headboard went down behind the mattress... well for us it caused a bit of an issue.  Because the headboard frame was attached directly to the bed frame & the headboard w/ MDF, foam, batting and fabric was close to 3" thick, it pushed the mattress forward quite a bit.. so much so that it no longer fit in the confines of the platform frame. 

The easy fix is to put a "wedge" in between the 2x3's and the bedframe.  Even an inch to an inch and a half, the same width of the 2x3's to make the headboard frame sit a little futher off the bedframe. 


  1. Just a quick note. We are in the process of building an end table with the left over MDF & a couple 1/1's. Right now it's in about 35 pieces, but when it's done, it will be up here! We can't wait to share it!

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