Mary Beth Foster
When my husband and I upgraded to a king-sized bed this spring, one of the ensuing problems we knew we’d have to tackle was the headboard. Our old queen-sized headboard was actually one of the first home improvement project we took on together to spruce up my then-boyfriend’s bachelor pad, but it wasn’t going to fit on our new and improved sleeping space.
We found a great floating headboard we liked the look of on Hazzard’s Hypotheses. Here’s how we worked together to make it work in our bedroom.
- 3 6-foot boards (see important notes on board selection below)
- Sandpaper or orbital sander
- Wood stain (we used Minwax Dark Walnut)
- Protective top coat for wood surfaces (like Minwax Polycrilic Protective Finish)
- 2 large foam brushes or paint brushes
- 2 packages of large 3M command strips
A few important notes on selecting boards:
- 6-foot boards are perfect for a king-sized bed, no cutting required. If you’re working with a differently sized bed, you might need to trim your boards or buy boards of a different length.
- Think about how tall you want your headboard to be; in other words, how high do you want it to extend above the bed?
We wanted ours to be just slightly taller than the bedside lamps so we had a decent gap between the top of the headboard and the bottom of the framed pictures that were already hanging on the wall. Three boards was perfect for us, but you could always make a taller headboard by adding another board or two.
- There are several different types of 6-foot boards you can purchase at your local home improvement store. We went with basic whitewood, the cheapest boards you can buy.
It’s a little rougher than more expensive boards like pine or poplar, and you have to dig a little to find the “good ones,” but it’s also two to three times cheaper, and we liked that the wood grain had interesting designs in it.
- Don’t be afraid to be the crazy couple taking all the boards off the shelf and inspecting them. Make sure you choose boards that are free of dents and marks. Remember, you’re staining, not painting, so the wood grain will show through.
Make sure it’s pretty. For the boards to “float” effectively, they need to sit flush against the wall, so you’ll also need to make sure you select the straightest boards you can find.
Once you’ve got all your materials home, you’re ready to work
Start by sanding your boards using sandpaper, a sanding block, or an orbital sander. Sanding can be messy; you’ll probably want to do it outside or at least in your garage.
Sand the fronts, sides, edges and corners of the boards. The only side you don’t need to worry about is the back, since that will sit up against the wall. If you go with whitewood like we did, give the sides, edges and corners a little extra attention; they tend to be sharp and rough.
Sanding creates a lot of dust, so you’ll want to wipe the boards down with a dry rag after you’ve finished sanding to create a clean surface for staining.
Next, prop your boards up off the ground for staining (which you’ll definitely want to do outside). Your goal is to have them flat but elevated, sitting on something you don’t mind getting a little stain-y.
I laid mine across a pair of sawhorses, but if you don’t have those, you could lay them across a few old boards, blocks of wood, folded up cardboard: you get the idea. Follow the directions on your stain, which are generally to brush on an even coat in the direction of the wood grain, let it sit for 10-15 minutes, and then wipe off the excess stain with a clean rag.
Make sure to get the sides, too. Don’t worry if some stain gets on the backs of the boards; they’ll sit up against the wall, so you’ll never see it.
It takes 4-6 hours for stain to dry completely, so take a break.
After 4-6 hours, you’re ready to apply another coat of stain (if the color isn’t dark enough for your liking) or move on to a protective top coat. Apply the top coat the same way you applied the stain: brush on a thin coat in the direction of the wood grain. Make sure you get the sides, too.
You’ll want to apply 2-3 coats of protective top coat, waiting two hours and sanding lightly in between coats. After applying your final layer of protective top coat, let your boards dry for a full 24 hours before bringing them in the house to hang.
It’s time to hang your new headboard!
You might think the hard part is finished, but oh no, my friends, the hardest part is yet to come.
It turned out the hardest part of this project was the part that required working together to hang these boards on the wall. The first important decision we had to make was where to place the first board.
Did we want it exactly lined up with the mattress? Slightly above it? Extending below it?
We decided to place it just slightly below the top of the mattress (so our pillows wouldn’t slide between the mattress and the board). Once you decide where you want your first board, level it, and mark the corners with a pencil.
Remember, you’ve only decided where you want it; you’re not actually ready to attach it yet. Make sure you mark your corners so you can put it in place without going through the deciding where you want it and leveling process again.
Now you’re ready to hang the first board.
Here’s the thing: command strips are harder to use than they look. I assumed they were like tack or tape: stick them to the wall, stick your piece on it, and you’re done, right? Not exactly.
Hanging something using command strips involves the mind-bogglingly complex process of snapping the strips together, attaching them to the board (pressing them in firmly with your thumb for 30 seconds), pressing the board to the wall, pulling the board off the wall, pressing the command strips firmly into the wall for 30 seconds, and then leaving them for an hour before you can permanently attach your board.
There are directions on the command strips themselves, but be aware that it’s probably going to be more complicated than you think. We used two command strips on each board, one on each of the top corners. That left us with one extra command strip, which we used on the top board, which turned out to be a little warped, so the extra command strip helped us get it flush against the wall.
Once board number one is on the wall, you’re ready to attach board number two.
We wanted a slight gap between boards. Here’s where a yardstick comes in handy.
Rather than measuring and marking the small gap and then leveling the second board, we simply laid the yardstick on top of board #1 and then laid board #2 on the yardstick, effectively leaving a yardstick-sized gap between boards.
Bonus: as long as board #1 was level, using this “stacking” method ensures board #2 will be as well without any additional leveling. Remember to mark your corners because you’ll have to go through the same crazy process with the command strips.
Do it all once more with board #3, and voila! You’ve made your own floating headboard.
This is a great weekend upgrade for couples because it’s relatively inexpensive (particularly compared to some of the fancy headboards on the market) and doesn’t require any special tools.
It’s also great for renters (or homeowners like us who like to rearrange frequently). Because you used command strips to attach the boards to the wall, they should come off easily without leaving marks or holes.
Is this a project you’d like to tackle with your spouse to make your bedroom a romantic getaway?