Feb 012013

And just in time for the weekend.. the long awaited pallet headboard!


I’m excited to (finally) share this project! It’s the biggest project I’ve shared to date. Turning pallets into furniture or decor is nothing new, this I know. Last January, my wish of having a headboard became a reality, using, you guessed it, a pallet (or two…and a couple other supplies)! Thanks to my father in law who occasionally has spare pallets in his warehouse, we were able to make a unique headboard for around $20. The project spanned about 2 days, working an hour or so here and there. I was able to do some of it by myself, but needed Tristan’s help for other parts. I hope to give you enough tips and information so you can make your own headboard. If you have any questions, I’d be more than happy to try to answer the best I can. Leave a message at the bottom of this post, or send me an email at {ricedesignblog (at) gmail (dot) com}. I’d love to hear from you and I’d love to help if I can!

Our Supplies:

Pallets (we used two pallets, because some of the boards split as I was taking them apart and some were in bad condition).

2x4s for the frame (Two pieces at 66 inches each. Two at 48 inches)

Hardware- 4 nuts/bolts/washers (these attach the headboard to the metal bed frame) and a box of screws (to attach the pallet boards to the frame and make the frame. We used black screws so they’d blend in on the front).

A drill and a hammer.

A crowbar would have been super helpful for pulling the pallets apart. Hindsight.

Sand paper, stain and polyeurethane (and a foam brush/rag for the stain, a brush for the poly).

As an afterthought- white paint to paint the frame. This is totally unnecessary, though, because you don’t really see the frame.

A level. We didn’t use one, it was just pure luck (and good eye-balling) that the thing turned out straight, even and square.


What We Did:

1. I started by pulling the boards off the pallets. This was actually really hard! Whoever makes pallets isn’t playing around. I used a hammer to pound each board loose and then pry them up. A crowbar would’ve been nice. Or something to wedge and get some leverage. I was able to get a bunch off, but needed Tristan’s muscles to loosen others.

2. Tristan went to Home Depot to get the supplies. They cut the 2x4s to size. Two at 66 inches. Two at 48 inches. The 2x4s make the frame for the headboard.

This is where things get a little weird. Talk about winging it. If we made another headboard, I’d do it differently.

3. We laid one of 66 inch long 2×4 on the ground, horizontally. Then we started laying the pallet boards on top of the 2×4, going vertically. The pallet boards need to be perpendicular to the 2×4. This is where a level would come in handy. We alternated different widths and made the top intentionally uneven. Some were higher/lower than others. But as a general rule of thumb, the 2×4 was 7 inches from the top of the pallet boards. Once we had them laid out, Tristan went down the line and screwed them all into place. (I would definitely recommend pre-drilling holes for the screws!) The screws were driven through the front of the pallet boards, so the black made them blend in a little, but I still like that you can kind of see them.

So at this point, all the pallet boards are attached to a 2×4 about 7 inches from the top of the pallet boards.

4. Then we needed to attach them to the other 2×4. So we slid the other 66″ 2×4 under all the pallets. It is 24 inches from the top (2×4). Tristan went down the line, screwing all the pallet boards to this 2×4. This, again, is where a level would have come in handy. I’m so grateful the thing came out even and square and not completely wonky!

5. Our metal hollywood frame has 2 plates to attach a headboard. The plates are 53 inches apart, so the vertical (2x4s) of the frame needed to be 53 inches apart, so we could bolt it to the headboard.

6. So Tristan measured and screwed each 48 inch 2×4, going vertically, 3 inches in from each side. This made them 53 inches apart. He used 4 screws to attach each to the top horizontal (2×4) and 4 screws to attach to the bottom. (The vertical 2x4s were screwed directly into the horizontal 2x4s. The picture below will, hopefully, make more sense).

I hope this picture helps explain some of the measurements. And makes those instructions somewhat understandable.

Page 1

Let’s all pretend my handwriting on that picture doesn’t look like a 5 year old, OK?! I’m new to this ‘write on a picture’ thing!

7. Then we took the whole thing outside and I sanded it down really well and put one coat of poly on. (Hindsight- it’d probably be easier to sand down the pallet boards before they were screwed to the frame.) I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stain the wood or not. In hindsight, I should have sanded, stained and poly-ed the headboard and then attached it to the bed. Oh, hindsight.

8. We brought the headboard inside and Tristan bolted it to the metal bed frame, using nuts, bolts and washers. He put 4 bolts on one side and then decided two bolts was more than enough, so he only used 2 on the other side.


This photo shows how the headboard bolts to the metal frame. And also that I quit painting the frame white at the bottom. I don’t really know why. The other side is painted. Must have gotten distracted. When using 2 bolts, use 1 above and 1 below.

So at this point, the headboard is sanded and has one coat of poly. And it’s attached to the bed. And I’m thrilled!


This is an instagram shot taken right after the headboard was attached. Back when our room was still light blue. And the bed was on a different wall. What’s hard to see in this photo in how some of the boards have a pink-ish hue to them… which leads me too…

A couple months down the road, I decided that I did, in fact, want to stain it. I’m very glad that I only put on one coat of poly. I pulled the mattress off the bed, opened all the windows, and stained it (still attached to the bed). There wasn’t enough poly on it so the stain went on just fine.

A couple months later I stained it a bit darker, and finished it with wax. It has such a lovely matte, soft finish. The dark stain also helped cancel out some of the pink-ish tones in the wood.

And then I painted the frame white. You barely ever see the frame, unless you’re standing beside the head of the bed. It looks more finished being white and not bare 2×4.

I kinda want to take a saw to the top of it and make it straight, but Tristan likes it as is, so uneven it’ll stay… for now!


We use crates as our nightstands. I stacked two apples crates and painted them white. I love crates. Since they don’t have a lot of surface area, I saved space by using clamp lamps as our bedside lights, and clamping them to the headboard. They’re just office lamps, but I actually really like them! They’re simple and clean and give a sort of industrial-ish look. I found them at Home Depot, I think.


And there it is! The {diy pallet headboard}! I debated cutting the top of the headboard to make it straight. But since we added the shelf, I like it uneven. The straight, clean line of the shelf compensates for the uneven-ness of the headboard! If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below or send me an email!

(originally posted 2/1/13. updated on 3/22/13)

Update 3/26/2013- A commenter shared this link about the safety concerns of using pallets. My apologies for not including this in the original post. When we got our pallets, my husband looked into it and felt safe that the pallets we were using were OK. You may want to look into the safety concerns of pallets and make sure the ones you want to use are safe! Happy crafting!

 February 1, 2013  Posted by at 20:53 diy, our home

  129 Responses to “diy {pallet headboard}”

Comments (84) Pingbacks (45)
  1. I love this idea. It gives the room such a nice rustic touch!

  2. i love the unevenness!

  3. Hi,
    You recently submitted this post to craftgawker, we just wanted to let you know that you can also submit this post to dwellinggawker.com. :)


  4. Love this headboard idea!

  5. Katy, LOVE the headboard. Hate to say it, but I agree with Tristan – leave the boards uneven:)

    • Yes, you’re both right! haha. I like it uneven now, too! Especially since we put the shelf on the wall above it :) I’m so glad I didn’t cut it! :)

  6. Katy I adore you. I’ve got my pallets, my stain, my poly, all ready for a bit of warmer weather to follow your super helpful instruction to make this dreammmmy headboard. Thanks loads!

    • Oh I’m so glad!! Send pictures when you’re done! I’d love to see it. Now if only the weather would cooperate… :) Have fun building!

  7. You’ve inspired me! My spare room needs a theme and this s perfect! Now to find some pallets.

  8. This is so beautiful! I love DIY furniture, and love repurposed pallets, so this is right up my alley. So lovely!!

  9. gorgeous! Great pics :) I love this headboard.

  10. This looks great! But I hate to be the debbie downer of the group … most shipping pallets contain harsh pesticides to stop cross contamination of invasive insects as the wood moves across borders. Unless these were specifically treated to leach the chemicals out, you might have an issue here. Not all pallets, mind you, but some of them. http://greenupgrader.com/19085/how-to-tell-if-wood-pallets-are-safe-for-crafting/

    • Thanks for the link! Not a debbie downer to point out a health concern! When we got the pallets from my father in law, my husband did his research and looked at the pallets and felt safe that the ones we were using were OK. I’m going to update the post to add this link, so people can do their due diligence before they use pallets for a headboard or whatever other craft project. Thanks for your comment! :)

  11. Where did you get your metal bed frame? love this idea!

    • Thanks! Our metal frame was handed down to us, but you can buy them most places you can buy mattresses/furniture. They’re sometimes called Hollywood frames. Department stores might sell them. I did a quick search and it looks like Walmart even has them! Hope this helps!

  12. I have some wood pieces taken from an old fence that was being replaced. They have quite a bit of weathering, but do you think they work work in place of the pallets?

    • I would think so! As long as they’re still sturdy (not rotting or bowed too much). I think weathered wood like that is beautiful and could make a really nice piece. Give it a good cleaning/sanding, and then I’d stain it (if you wanted) or just seal it. I’d love to see a picture of it, if you make one!

  13. Really great thoughts. Pallets ensure high strength. Thanks for your informative article.

  14. The pallet headboard looks great. I was wondering where you got the light from? I would be perfect for our headboard as we are looking for a reading light.

    • Thanks so much Ed! The light is just a clamp desk light from Home Depot! Hope that helps. It is a nice reading light, though the metal does get a bit warm if it’s on for a long time!

  15. Is this a queen or full size bed? Can’t wait to make this headboard – great idea !

    • It’s a queen! But if you change the measurements, you could make it for any size bed! Thanks so much for your comment!

  16. We just finished our version of this for my teenage son’s room. Came out great! Can’t figure out how to send you a photo.

    • Oh that’s AWESOME! I would love to see a picture. You could email me? ricedesignblog(at)gmail(dot)com

  17. This pallet headboard looks so cute. I really really like it alot.

  18. I fell in love with this idea the moment I saw it on Pinterest. & your directions are very detailed!
    Wondered what stain you used & where you got the shelf above the headboard?

    Thank you. :)

    • Thanks so much Sara! I used Minwax dark walnut stain. And the shelf above our bed is a board from Home Depot that I painted white (the same white as the wall there) and then used ‘L’ shaped brackets oriented upwards for the shelf to sit on (so they would be hidden by the pictures). I should write a post on the shelf! Thanks so much for your comment!

  19. Hi! I’m making a headboard like yours and I have a question. What size screws did you use? Thanks!

  20. I just finished my enlistment with the military and sold all my things before moving back home. Looking to do a lot of DIY stuff for the empty apartment. I liked this headboard idea the best!!! I think I am going to give it a try!! Ill let you know how it goes :) thank you for taking the time to share this.

    • Well, first of all, THANK YOU for your service to our country! I’d love to see your headboard if you make one!

  21. Love! Where is the shelf from?.

    • Thanks so much! We made it using a long board and some brackets. I need to post about the shelf! It was easy to make and I love having it above the bed!

  22. love the idea! about to try it myself. do you know what size screws you used to attach the pallet to the frame? and also, what size bolts did you use? thanks for the inspiration!

    • Thanks Laura! Oh man.. I can’t remember the sizes. Let me see if I can find out and I’ll let ya know!

  23. Love this headboard! I think it would be perfect for an antique-filled country home with a crystal chandelier over the bed! I may just give this a try! Thank you so much for sharing! Like a previous commentor, I would love to know what size screws you used!

    • Thanks so much! I can’t remember the size screws.. I’ll try to find out and get back to you!

  24. What size bed is this for?

  25. Was this made for a queen?

  26. Never mind read an earlier comment. Just built my wife this for our anniversary. Thank you for the idea! Swapped out pallet boards for old recycled hard wood flooring the pieces literally snapped together!

  27. I love this headboard and used your model to make my own. I used “weathered gray” Rustoleum stain, did a polyurethane, then sanded again, and did the top edges even a little more jig jagged. We used extra plywood we had lying around but will eventually go to the 2×4 description you have listed since ours isn’t the most sturdy. I am so in love though with it and thanks for the tutorial.

  28. Awesome job! Looks great and I DEF like the uneven boards.

  29. Did you ever find out what size screws you used? Thanks!

  30. Sweet website, super layout, very clean and utilise genial. kdbfacekeabb

  31. Love this! I really like the uneaven look and I am planning on making this to go with the crate nightstands I am making right now… I didn’t even notice at first that you also have crate night stands! One question, what size screws did y’all use?

  32. What stain did you use?

  33. Love this idea for our cabin!
    I am in the midst of completing this project, but wondered how much you sanded the boards prior to staining? I sanded to the point that there are no splinters, but it is still rough. I just worry the stain won’t look even (I know some variation is rustic, but too much looks bad). Thanks in advance for your feedback!!

  34. I am no longer sure the place you’re getting your info, but great topic. I needs to spend a while studying much more or understanding more. Thanks for wonderful info I was on the lookout for this info for my mission. beegabgbdeek

  35. Hi Katy! I’m making the pallet bed this weekend – inspired by your design! What brand and color stain did you use, I love it!

  36. Also – how wide is the headboard?

  37. I love this so much, I will be making this and my hubby will have to love it or leave ;P hehe thanks for the great post x!

  38. I love this!! I think I’m going to have to try it :)

  39. Thanks for the post! Here’s my version, mostly following your lead! http://imgur.com/a/ykGDt

  40. Just came across this, LOVE IT (!!) and I want to make one- I checked at my hardware store and they sell pallets really cheap but there are different sized pallets… I really like the height of yours- would you mind letting me know what length pallet you used? Thanks so much!

  41. What color stain did you use? The first time I stained mine it was way too dark.

  42. I will surely copy your idea! I specially LOVE the way the wood is uneven at the top and the color you used.

    CONGRATS! And thanks for posting!

  43. Love Love Love this!! Going to try and do this for my new apartment in September! Can’t Wait.

  44. Thanks for this article. I’d also like to convey that it can always be hard if you find yourself in school and starting out to initiate a long history of credit. There are many college students who are only trying to live and have long or good credit history can often be a difficult thing to have. becfkedfkfadkeee

  45. Hi, what size bed are the dimensions for? Full, Queen??

    Thank you.

  46. Hi Katy,
    Looks amazing!! We are in the process of making our own [here in Melbourne, Australia] I can even find the same Minwax stain here..yay! Could you tell me what sort of poly you used to coat the stain? Many thanks

  47. …. or the wax you used [that you would recommend] to seal it after the stain?

  48. Hi! Awesome headboard… but I was wondering where that bedding is from! love it.

  49. I’m in the midst of making this now, the (white) frame is s bit confusing on how you attached it to the bed. Did you go through both 2×4’s to attach it to the bed frame or just the horizontal 2×4? If you only went through 1, was the bottom horizontal 2×4 on top of the bed frame or underneath the bed frame?

  50. What color stain did you use?

  51. found this idea saw your pictures. i am doing this! thank you for the great details and hindsights! i’m working with a really small room (bedroom/living) and need all the space i can use. this fits perfect and will add a wonderful charm to an empty room.

    one little Canadian thx you!

  52. What size was the bed?

  53. Hey Katy what size bed do you have?

  54. what size bed is this made for what size supplies would I need for a queen size headboard Have the pallets and for a 68 yr. young women I LOVE my power tools. Mom always said if you want something “go for it.” This is what keeps me young. Love your work

  55. Hi! I’m absolutely in love with this tutorial. Found it a few months ago and I keep coming back to it so I finally am set on using it for my new room at college. I was wondering where did you get your pallets? I read about the safety concerns and was wondering if you had recommendations on where to get safe ones to use.

  56. Hi Katy,

    You have inspired me to make my own pallet headboard. I just finished staining the wood and would like to know what wax you used to give your headboard such a beautiful finish. Will send a photo once done.

  57. Ah! What a beautifully rustic headboard. I am going to attempt to make this board with my husband if he’s on board. Thanks so much for your instructions!

    Drew N.

  58. About how long are the pallet boards

  59. My husband and I just got home from the store with our wood for this project! I’m super excited, but confused on one thing. We bought our wood from the “shopping list” and when we got back, we realized the “cut list” has 1x3s. They were not on the shopping list, so I’m wondering if I’m missing something or if we need to go back to the store tomorrow?

  60. Currently putting together my own headboard based off of your design! Was this headboard for a queen size bed? Just wondering if the measurements will match up! Thank you!

  61. I love this idea….i have a good bit of cedar wood in the garage for a patio table project, that i never got to. We actually sold the table and bought a new one. We have a king size bed and i believe i have plenty of wood. It’s only Feb soooo, lol, i have plenty of time to decide which direction i want the planks to go. Thank you for this :)

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.