The beauty of this simple, modern DIY headboard is that you can build it quickly and easily. We started ours at noon and it was hung up and installed before bed that night. The longest part of the whole project is waiting for the paint to dry…literally!
Though we made this bed for a canopy bed frame, there are just a few small adjustments needed to make this headboard for a standard bed frame. We’ll talk through those adjustments in this post, so if you don’t have a canopy bed, don’t worry. We’ve still got you covered!
Alright, let’s start DIYing and build a modern headboard out of plywood!
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How to Build a Modern Headboard Out of Plywood
- Miter Saw (we use this blade with ours)
- Kreg Jig (not sure which to get? Check out which Kreg Jig to get in 2023)
- Circular Saw (we highly recommend a cutting guide too)
- Brad Nailer
- Measuring Tape (beginner DIYer? Be sure to check out this post with measuring tips)
- Safety Equipment
New to DIY? Check out our post on beginner woodworking tools to determine which tools to get!
- (1) ¾” 4×8 sheet of plywood (technically you’ll only need a 2×8 sheet, but those are hard to come by. We used pre-primed plywood)
- (2) 1x3x8s (we used primed pine. If building a twin or full headboard, one 1x3x8 should suffice depending on your final dimensions)
- Wood glue (this is our favorite type)
- Sandpaper (180 and 220 grit)
- 1.25″ Kreg screws
- 1.5” nails
If you are building this DIY headboard as a standalone headboard rather than for a canopy bed, you’ll also need:
- 3x3x8 or 4x4x8 post for the legs (depends on wood availability and how chunky of a look you’re going for)
- (4) washers
- (4) ¼” – 20 x 2 hex bolts (if you can find 2.25 or 2.5” instead, even better)
- (4) ¼” lock nuts
STEP 1: DECIDE ON THE MEASUREMENTS
We were adding this headboard to our DIY canopy bed, so we needed to start the process by measuring between the posts of our canopy bed. The distance between the posts is the width of our headboard.
If you aren’t working with a canopy bed, you’ll want to add legs to the sides of the plywood as well as a stretcher down below to secure it to your bed frame like we did in these DIY cane headboard plans.
We recommend making the legs out of 3×3 or 4×4 posts so that the headboard is able to stand.
Standard overall headboard widths are as follows:
- Twin Headboard: 41”
- Full Headboard: 56”
- Queen Headboard: 62”
- King Headboard: 80”
- California King Headboard: 74”
The measurements above are the overall width, so you’ll want to subtract out the width of your leg posts to determine the width of your plywood.
Though the standard height of a headboard is 14” above the mattress, we made ours slightly taller. That’s the beauty of DIY – you can customize the look for what YOU want. Feel free to use our measurements or make yours taller or shorter.
We cut our plywood to be 21.5” tall, making the headboard 23” once fully assembled. Once installed, about 21” of it is visible.
STEP 2: CUT YOUR WOOD
Cut your plywood down to the dimensions you decided on in step 1. Then cut (2) 1x3s to the same width as your plywood.
Note: if you are building this headboard to complete your DIY canopy bed that you built using our plans, you might consider using 1x2s instead of the 1x3s, or cutting down your 1x3s to match the bed posts. The posts of the bed frame are 2.25” wide, but the 1×3 is 2.5” wide, so our headboard does extend past the back of the posts by a quarter inch. It doesn’t bother us, but it is something to keep in mind if you think it would bother you!
If you’re not building this for a canopy bed, you’ll want to cut your leg posts to be the overall height that you would like your headboard to be off the ground. You’ll also want to cut a stretcher out of the plywood panel that is between 4 and 7” tall and matches the width of your plywood piece that will be used for the main headboard.
STEP 3: DRILL POCKET HOLES
Using the ¾” settings, drill 3-4 pocket holes along both short ends of your plywood. We’ll use these to attach the headboard to the bed or legs later.
If building this not for a canopy bed, drill 2-3 pocket holes on either short end of your plywood stretcher as well.
Pocket holes are the foundation of most DIY furniture. Become a pocket hole pro in less than an hour in Pocket Holes: Explained.
STEP 4: ATTACH 1×3 FRAME
If you don’t have a nailer, you could use pocket holes to install the 1x3s to the plywood instead. That’s just a little more time consuming and the screws cost a little more money than nails.
Place a scrap piece of ¾” wood (or two) underneath the plywood to hold it off the ground. The pocket holes should be facing up towards you. These scrap pieces of wood will allow us to inset the plywood ¾” from the front of the 1×3 frame for some added dimension.
Add glue to a long edge of the plywood panel and then place a 1×3 along the edge, making sure the sides are lined up with the sides of the plywood.
Use 1.5” nails to secure the 1×3 to the plywood panel. Repeat with the second side.
STEP 5: ATTACH LEGS + STRETCHER (SKIP IF BUILDING A HEADBOARD FOR A CANOPY BED)
Use glue and 1.25” Kreg screws to secure the legs and the stretcher to the main headboard piece.
The front of 1x3s should be flush with the front of the legs. The top of the headboard will be in line with the top of the legs.
For the stretcher, you’ll want to double-check the placement for your particular bed frame. Placing it about 5-7” from the bottom of the legs should work for most standard bed frames, but it’s good to double-check. Essentially you want the stretcher to be in line with the holes in your headboard that are designed to attach headboards through.
STEP 6: PREP, STAIN OR PAINT
Since we painted our bed, we filled the nail holes with spackle and then sanded with 220 grit sandpaper. We then caulked the seam between the 1x3s and the plywood. Once the caulk was dry, we painted using two coats of Sherwin Williams Caviar in Satin.
As long as you didn’t use pre-primed wood like us, you could definitely finish this with a beautiful stain. In that case, we’d recommend filling the nail holes with wood filler (we tested out a handful and found a clear favorite), and then sanding the wood with 180 and 220 grit sandpaper. Depending on how rough your wood is, you might need to start with 120 grit. See our post on how to sand wood for more details.
STEP 7: INSTALL YOUR HEADBOARD
Installing the headboard to the canopy bed is pretty simple. We measured both sides and placed a piece of tape at the height that we wanted the bottom of the headboard to be at. We placed ours so that the bottom of the headboard sat about 2″ below the top of the mattress.
Then we placed the headboard at that height and installed the first side with 1.25” Kreg screws. We confirmed it was still level and flush with the front of the canopy bed posts and then secured the second side with 1.25” Kreg screws.
If not installing this headboard to a canopy bed, you’ll center your headboard on the bed frame and mark where you want to attach it. Pre-drill all the way through the headboard using a ¼” drill bit, making sure to avoid any pocket hole screws that are in the stretcher.
Place a washer on a ¼”-20 x 2 hex bolt and slide it through the back of the headboard. Then make sure the bed frame is flush with the front of the headboard and “lock” in the headboard with a ¼” lock nut.
Repeat with the other 3 bolts.
There you have it! Now you know how to build a clean, simple, modern headboard out of plywood (and a few 1x3s)! Adding a headboard really is one of the simplest ways to make a bedroom feel brand new.
If you want to explore more headboard options, check out these posts:
- DIY Cane Headboard Plans
- DIY Wooden Headboard Plans (this one is such a neat design!)
- 10 Unique Headboard Designs
- DIY Platform Bed with Built-In Headboard and Nightstands