How to Build and Install a Headboard Frame

The most thrilling part of building a headboard from scratch is customizing the shape and size to suit your aesthetic and space. Learn three different ways to construct a headboard frame and how to hang a headboard on the wall.

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Basic Headboard Frame

Before you upholster a headboard, you need to construct a solid frame. Here we will show you how to make three different styles of frames: a basic shape like this one, a two-dimensional headboard and a wing-back headboard. The tools and materials you'll need are 3/4" plywood, paper, permanent marker or pencil, fabric, scissors, square, yardstick, nail, hammer, string, goggles, jigsaw, electric screwdriver and attachments, screws, sander, wood glue, panelboard, staple gun and staples, bolts, washers and nuts, a level, painter's tape and a cleat or Z bracket (we used Carina Picture Frame Inc.).

Basic Headboard: Determine the Shape and Size

Start with a full sheet of 3/4”-thick plywood. Have the hardware store cut it two inches wider than the width of your bed. The height of the headboard can be adjusted by cutting legs to size. Be sure to save any plywood scraps for later use. If you’re upholstering an organically-shaped headboard, freehand the shape on a large piece of paper. Then trace the paper pattern onto the plywood. If the shape is symmetrical, draw half of the shape on paper and trace it onto the plywood and then flip the paper pattern over to trace the other half.

Basic Headboard: Make a Compass to Round Corners

To make rounded corners, first determine the radius of the curve. Hammer a nail into the plywood the same distance from the edge as the radius. Attach a string of the same length to the nail on one end and a pencil on the other. With the string taught, use the pencil to mark the curve.

Basic Headboard: Cut the Headboard Shape

Use a jigsaw to cut out the shape of the headboard by following your drawn lines. Be sure to wear goggles to protect your eyes from flying woodchips and sawdust.

Two-Dimensional Headboard

To add an extra touch of style and some extra cushion, make a double-frame headboard.

Two-Dimensional Headboard: Attach Extra Pieces

To make a double-thick headboard, follow the steps for making a curved headboard then double the thickness by attaching scraps of plywood on the backside of the headboard frame around the edges. Having the second layer of headboard frame makes it easy to conceal the mounting brackets and the attachment points of the legs. As you screw pieces into the main headboard shape, it may be necessary to cut them so they fit end to end. Leave a 4”-square space at the bottom of the sides to attach the legs.

Two-Dimensional Headboard: Recut the Edge of the Plywood

Flip the headboard over and cut the scrap plywood to mimic the shape of the main headboard piece. Remove rough spots and splinters by sanding the edges.

Two-Dimensional Headboard: Make and Attach Legs

Determine the desired height of the headboard. Assuming your headboard shape is shorter than the desired height, cut two pieces of scrap plywood to construct each leg. One piece should be the exact height needed to achieve the desired overall headboard height, and the second piece should be that same height plus 4”. Both pieces should be 4” wide. Glue and screw the two leg pieces together so the bottom edges are flush. Then glue and screw the longer end to the bottom of the headboard on the backside.

Make a Wingback Headboard

To add a sophisticated look to your bedroom, try a tufted wingback headboard. For this headboard, the main piece of plywood should be the width of the bed plus two times the thickness of the padding on the wings. It’s not necessary to make and attach legs since the wings can act as legs.

Wingback Headboard: Make Brackets

Brackets will be used to attach the wings to the frame. The amount of brackets you'll need will depend on the height of your headboard. You'll want a bracket every 12 to 18 inches, so probably about 8 to 10 brackets should suffice. To make the brackets, draw a curved triangular shape on a piece of scrap plywood and cut it out using a jigsaw. Use the first triangle bracket as a template to make the rest.

Wingback Headboard: Attach Brackets

Cut two pieces of plywood to the desired height and width of the wings. Butt the back edge of the wing into the side of the headboard. Glue and screw corner brackets every 12” to 18” along the right and left edges of the main headboard.

Wingback Headboard: Fasten the Wings

Screw the corner brackets into the wings from the outside of the wings. Screw the back edge of the wings into the main headboard for additional stability.

Wingback Headboard: Cover Corner Brackets

To create a smooth transition and solid surface between the wings and headboard, cut a piece of panelboard and staple it to the corner brackets, wings and headboard.

Attach Bedframe to Headboard

If you’re using a standard bed frame, line up the ends with the legs of the headboard and mark the placement of the bolts on the headboard legs.

Attach Bedframe to Headboard

Clear the fabric from the bolt locations and drill holes through the legs at the same diameter as the bolts.

Attach Bedframe to Headboard

From the back to the front, place the bolts through the legs and bed frame and secure with washers and nuts.

Attach Headboard to Wall

If you have a tall headboard or don’t plan on attaching it to the bed frame, use a Z bracket or a cleat to mount the headboard to the wall.

Attach Headboard to Wall

Determine the desired placement of the Z bracket and use a level to be sure it is straight. Screw the bracket into studs or use drywall anchors to add strength to the attachment points. If you don’t have a helper, use painter’s tape to hold the bracket in place while you work.

Attach Headboard to Wall

Use the placement of the bracket on the wall to determine the correct placement of the bracket on the backside of the headboard. Use a level for consistency and screw the bracket into the backside of the headboard.

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