Asked on Jul 13, 2013

At a stand-still with my DIY headboard

Mallory Ludwig
by Mallory Ludwig
We just "upgraded" to a king bed (or should I say mattress and bed frame) and I had a vision for a beautiful rustic headboard made out of reclaimed wood- for which I blame Pinterest, making me think I'm crafty. With my budget, I knew doing it myself was probably the only way to achieve that look anytime soon. So, coming across the reclaimed wood was the easy part. However, the 5 wood "panels" I have are vertical and every single DIY headboard online from wood is horizontal. I have connected the five panels together unsuccessfully and now I'm starting at square one. Any ideas on how to connect the wood panels more securely? And when I get them together, how do I build a frame around them and legs to attach to the actual frame. I've included a picture of a couple panels separate from each other, to give you an idea. And the 2nd picture shows how I attempted to attach them. The fronts of the panels are flat, so the horizontal pieces of wood on the back were the main problem when I tried to attach the panels, because the vertical pieces of wood weren't connected, only the horizontal pieces on the back. Sorry, if this is confusing, but I've tried so hard to use any ounce of "DIY" in my blood. Thanks for any suggestions or help you can offer!
q at a stand still with my diy headboard, diy, how to, painted furniture, repurposing upcycling, woodworking projects
q at a stand still with my diy headboard, diy, how to, painted furniture, repurposing upcycling, woodworking projects
  15 answers
  • Paula Beckham Paula Beckham on Jul 13, 2013
    Mallory, I'm going to leave the tutorial to someone who's actually built a headboard from pallets. But I wouldn't worry about your boards being vertical. I've seen plenty of headboards made that way. For more interest along the top, you might cut the boards off at different lengths. As you've already discovered, those mending plates are not strong enough to attach the pallets to each other. You're going to need a solid board (2, actually) to run the full width of the pallets in order to secure them. Those boards, along with horizontal pallet boards, will give you something to attach legs to. Again, I'll let somebody else supply the details. Good luck and don't give up! Paula

  • Shamrock Hill Designs Shamrock Hill Designs on Jul 13, 2013
    Hi Mallory! First, I must congratulate you for beginning a new DIY project. So many people don't even take the first step because they are frozen with the fear of doing something wrong, or not knowing exactly how to see it through from start to finish. You have overcome the first obstacle by just giving it a go and learning from your mistakes as you problem-solve to complete the project. Now you know what will NOT work; this will save you time the next time you tackle a similar project :) I'm sure others will agree with me when I say that the "trial-and-error" method is often the best way to learn new techniques. Well, at least it is how I gained most of my DIY knowledge aside from what I learned while helping my craftsman father with his home improvement projects over the years :) While there is no singular "right" way to finish your headboard, I will provide some suggestions below for completing your project. I'm sure others will offer alternative methods as well; just take the steps you are most comfortable with as you work through the process, based on everyone's input. If you have specific questions or need clarification for what I provide here, please feel free to email or call me (my contact information can be found on my website: I would suggest first connecting the five panels to each other with two 1" x 4" pieces of lumber (one inch thick, and 4 inches wide) attached to the upper and lower horizontal supports on the back of the panels. I can't tell exactly what the dimensions of each panel or the horizontal supports on the back are, but make sure the lumber is long enough to span the entire width of all five panels when placed side by side, minus the measurement of ONE panel. In other words, you'll want to center the piece of lumber along the panels' horizontal supports so that HALF of the width of each end panel is exposed. Typically lumber comes in 8-foot lengths, so depending upon the width of the five panels put together, you may (or may not) have to cut the lumber to fit if the 8 foot length is too long. Often your local hardware store will cut lumber for you if you know the exact length you need. NOTE: since I'm unsure of the measurements of the wood used to construct your panels, I'm assuming the 4" wide lumber is a good choice. Bottom line is to make sure the width of the lumber you buy is enough to cover AT LEAST half of the width of the horizontal support on the back of the panel if measuring the horizontal piece from top to bottom. Also, make sure whatever screws you use are long enough to penetrate the 1" thickness of the 1" x 4" lumber, as well as the thickness of the horizontal support you're attaching it to. If you're unsure what screw length is best, you can ask someone at your hardware store for help. Once you have the 1" x 4" lumber attached to the upper and lower supports on the back of the panels (connecting all five panels), you can now attach the headboard to the wall. I don't recommend making legs or a frame to attach the headboard to the mattress rails. Most likely, it will be top heavy, will be too cumbersome and will rattle against the wall when you move around in your bed. Of course, there is always a way to do this correctly, but I think the carpentry involved in doing so is excessive for this DIY project and, frankly, is unnecessary to achieve the look you're going for. You can attach the headboard to the wall in a variety of ways. The easiest way is to attach a simple frame to the wall and THEN attach the headboard to the frame. No matter which method you choose, you'll want to make sure you find your wall studs to ensure the headboard will be securely attached, and select a screw length that will allow for 2-1/2" of the screw to go into the drywall/stud after the screw has also been driven through the simple frame. Typically, drywall is 1/2" thick, so the screw should be long enough to go through the frame, as well as the 1/2" drywall, and still have about 2" of screw length leftover to go into the stud. (Consult your hardware specialist or look online for suggestions on finding studs behind drywall; some people recommend using a stud finder; others say it's easiest to knock on the wall until you hear a change in the sound of the knock - it sounds more "solid" and has less "give" when knocking on a stud.) I can give you an easy idea for mounting it to the wall once I know the dimensions of the completed headboard (after you attach all five panels to each other.) I feel like I've already typed so much here, so, instead of guessing on the headboard's dimensions and giving you some options based on my guesses, I'm happy to give you specifics for mounting it to the wall once I know the actual dimensions on the thickness of the headboard (total combined inches of the panel's vertical wood thickness, horizontal support thickness, PLUS the 1" thickness of the piece of lumber used to connect the five panels.) If you're interested in my suggestions, please let me know and I'll reply with that information. You can either respond to this comment, or contact me directly via email or cellphone (as mentioned above, my contact information can be found on Best of luck with your project; I look forward to seeing photos of the finished product! -Carey

  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Jul 13, 2013
    Pick up a few 6 foot lengths of basic pine and run them full length along the back. These can be screwed in from the back and hold all of the smaller sections together. Rather than attaching to the bed frame it can be attached to the wall.

  • Mallory Ludwig Mallory Ludwig on Jul 13, 2013
    wow! thanks for all of your suggestions and encouragement! Carey, I completely understand all uctions and I will head to Home Depot today to get the 1x4 pieces and wood screws. the dimensions of the five panels when all together is approximately80 inches wide and 40 inches tall. thanks again for all your expert advice!!

  • Mallory Ludwig Mallory Ludwig on Jul 13, 2013
    I meant to say all of your instructions- I'm on my phone. sorry!

  • Vintage Headboards Vintage Headboards on Jul 15, 2013
    I took one of your pics and did a quick drawing to help you to get this knocked out fast. Having build a lot of headboards using re-purposed materials we have had our share of time developing simple solutions to us these non-conventional materials and designs to come up with cost effective solutions. The first thing that I would do is use either a 2" x 4" or 2" x 6" piece of pine as the legs. If it is a king size bed the mattress is 74" wide. The legs need to be 69" to 72" from outside to outside. I would glue and screw the legs to the back of the wood headboard. Before cutting the length of the legs, measure from the floor to the top of the mattress to determine leg height. Nothing is more frustrating than having your pillow go underneath the headboard and wind up next to the wall and you being half awake trying to find it. You will find with mattresses today that the bottom of the headboard will be 26" to 29" in length. One thin I noticed is that you had used small metal brackets to attach the sections of wood together. I would pick up a small piece of angle iron, (it can be made out of aluminum too) and attach two pieces to the back of the headboard to tie everything in together. It shouldn't be necessary to attach the headboard to the wall unless the brackets on the metal bed frame are not strong. Please feel free to call me if you have any questions. Good luck with your project. 972.668.2603

  • Barbara Thomas Barbara Thomas on Jul 15, 2013
    Just wanted to say the wood is so beautiful, I hope you don't plan on painting it. How nice Vintage Headboards above gave you such great instructions! Isn't this place great?

  • Lynn Lynn on Jul 15, 2013
    I used French Cleat to attach an old table top to my wall for a headboard and it is wonderful. It is metal and the part that attaches to the old table top is metal. Magic! Easy to remove if we move and sell house! This is a wonderful web site for those of us who wish to do these things ourselves.

  • Lisa Lisa on Jul 15, 2013
    I haven't read through all of the other suggestions here, but here's my 2 cents. Go to your local Home Depot or whatever store you prefer and pick up 4 pieces of 1 x 4 x 8 (anything thicker may be too thick and keep it from going against your wall) pine that will go the width of your headboard and "screw" them in across the top and bottom, but also use liquid nails between the 1 x 4 and the panels. Then use the last 2 boards as the legs as mentioned above by "Vintage Headboards". Again, I personally think anything thicker will make it come away from the wall too much. I would even suggest you use a couple of picture frame lights behind the boards on either side of the headboard for some soft back lighting.

  • Julie Farmer Julie Farmer on Jul 15, 2013
    Why not just attach it to the wall behind the bed? Don't paint, clear coat the wood and attach lovely little things you find that you like...make it your own!~~

  • Robin Miller Cresci Robin Miller Cresci on Jul 15, 2013
    I would just like to say, Good Job! Good for you for giving it your best! Just like another person said, trial and error is how we learn other techniques! You Rock!

  • Jan Keel-Bradley Jan Keel-Bradley on Jul 15, 2013
    as far as legs and attaching to the frame.... why not just attach to the wall?

  • Tegma Tegma on Jul 16, 2013
    I think you've done a great job! I love the rustic look of the wood, and horizontal positioning of it isn't necessary. In fact, I like the vertical look much more so. Definitely don't paint the wood if you want to keep that rustic look. What I might suggest is that your turn the boards over and make the back side, the front. I like the pieces going horizontal (holding the wood together) as it gives more character to the headboard rather than it being so plain. Then you could just add your 1 x 4 to the back to hold everything together, and to hang.

  • Deborah Jo Deborah Jo on Aug 24, 2015
    I am in the process of making a head board from reclaimed 100 yr old shiplap barn board. Once I get mine secured together I am going to adhere it to 2x2 I purchase from Home Depot or Lowes. You can have them. Cut them to length you want. So they will be the legs to my headboard. You could then used screws to attach it to your frame.

  • Ashlie Ashlie on Nov 10, 2015
    How do you feel about steel pipe? You could male a frame withe the pipe and use some metal strap like things to attack h the wood panels. I love metal and wood together. I made a coffee table out of a missile case, pallet wood and steel pipe. My next project will be shelves with steel pipe frame and rough wood slabs for shelves.