How to Make an Upcycled Headboard From a Wood Pallet

This upcycled rustic headboard is easy to build and made almost entirely of salvaged materials. With some careful planning, you can build one in just a few hours for a cost of about $20.

From Shipping Pallet to Headboard

Warehouses, contractors and large shippers are good sources for used pallets. They are very often thrown out; so chances are someone will be happy to save on the disposal fees by giving them to you. Make sure the wood is not contaminated with any toxic or degradable materials. The wood should be intact but otherwise imperfect and varying in patina.

Tools and Materials

To make a pallet headboard, you'll need: 2 to 3 salvaged pallets; (2) salvaged boards for legs (approximately 1" x 6"); construction adhesive; finish nailer with 1-1/4" 18-gauge finish nails; orbital sander with 80- and 220-grit sanding discs; painter's tape; paint, paintbrushes or paint sponges; stencils; shellac or polyurethane; denatured alcohol; reciprocating saw with metal blade; circular or chop saw; and a drill with bit set.

Break Apart Pallet

Use a reciprocating saw to cut right behind the planks and through the nail shanks. Be sure to use a fresh blade and this step will go quickly. For this twin-size headboard, we used eight planks of varying widths.

Gather the Wood

Even if one pallet provides enough wood, break down several pallets so that you can mix up the planks and have a varied look.

Determine Height

Measure the combined height of the bed frame, box spring and mattress and then add 32". Ours was 24” + 32” makes our bed frame 56” tall.

Make the Legs

Cut two legs to the correct height. We scored some salvaged barn wood to use for the legs. Also, cut an intermediate support to 32".

Plan the Layout

Mix different planks from different pallets so you will create a more interesting headboard.

Layout the Legs

Position the two legs on a work surface and square them up so that they are 2" narrower in width than the finished headboard.

Add Middle Support Piece

Center the intermediate support between the two legs and apply construction adhesive at the top row.

Layout Top Plank

Position the first plank so that it is slightly higher than the tops of the legs.

Position Top Plank

Make sure that both sides of the plank extend 1" beyond the legs on each side.

Fasten Top Plank

Using firm downward pressure, shoot two 1-1/4" 18-gauge finish nails into each leg and the intermediate support piece.

Go Close to the Splits

If there is a crack or split in the plank, be sure to fasten on each side of it.

Add More Planks

Apply construction adhesive and insert nails for each subsequent row and continue installing planks tight to the previous row. Discard any planks that have excessive curvature.

Get Rid of Warpness

Pallet planks are thin and usually have seen better days, so it’s not uncommon for them to be warped. Use course-thread drywall screws as necessary to pull these in tighter before nailing.

Finish Securing More Rows

Continue installing planks in a random pattern.

Measure the Height

Make sure the last board finishes just below the top of the mattress.

Sand It Smooth

Use an orbital sander to smooth the roughest spots with 80-grit sandpaper and then lightly sand the entire surface with 220-grit paper.

Get Around the Edges

Sand the edges, top, and rear overlaps on each side.

Add Some Personality

Give the rustic wood some flair with a custom design. We added a pop of green with a free-hand tree branch. Trace your pattern in pencil first or free-hand it with painter's tape.

Press the Tape Down

Be sure the tape is tight and firmly adhered to prevent paint bleed.

Apply Paint

We wanted the design to have some imperfection, so a sponge was used to apply the paint.

Add Leaves

A stencil was used to create the leaf pattern.

Let It Dry

Allow the paint to dry.

Apply a Clear Coat

We used shellac because it is a natural product, is easy to touch up and dries super fast which means less time between coats.

Add a Second Coat of Sealer

When the first coat is dry, lightly sand the entire surface to remove any lifted wood grain. Apply the second coat heavier and work it into any cracks and crevices. The clear coat will accentuate the colors and textures on the slats such as these original mill lines and paint.

Attach to Bed or Hang From the Wall

Mount the headboard to the bed frame by using small carriage bolts or attach the headboard directly to the wall using a cleat.