DIY Pallet Wood Headboard | House by the Bay

How to Build an Easy and Inexpensive DIY Pallet Wood Headboard

Progress is moving quickly in my $100 guest room makeover – the DIY pallet wood headboard is finished and installed!

DIY Pallet Wood Headboard | House by the Bay

This headboard was made from two pallets that we had leftover from when we built our deck. They sat leaning against our house for YEARS waiting for the perfect project. Browsing around Pinterest I came across this gorgeous wood headboard from West Elm:

West Elm Alexa Headboard InspirationSource: West Elm

It inspired me to create my own headboard using the pallet wood, and because these pallets were FREE this made it a very inexpensive project – perfect for my guest room makeover.

In total I spent $32.50 in new materials for this project (the ½” plywood backing, a can of poly and 3 1×4 strips). Everything else I already had on hand. That brings my total for the guest room makeover to $59.02 (so far).

Interested to see how I made my headboard? Check out all the details below or skip to the end of the post to see all the other rooms being made over as part of the $100 room challenge! 

DIY Pallet Wood Headboard Tutorial

For my queen sized headboard I used:

  • 2 Identical pallets
  • 1/2” Plywood cut to 60” x 40”
  • 1 can Varathane Matte Triple Thick Polyurethane 
  • 3 – 8’ 1×4 pieces
  • Scrap piece of 3/4“ plywood cut to 7” x 60” for the french cleat
  • Circular Saw
  • Mitre Saw
  • Air compressor
  • Nail gun + 1.5” and 1.25” nails
  • Various grits of sandpaper
  • Paint brush
  • Ruler, measuring tape, quick square and pencil
  • Stud finder & level

Prepping the Pallets

My first step was to remove the boards from my pallets. After a couple of failed attempts to pry the boards off I decided to just cut them off using my circular saw. I didn’t worry about getting my cuts straight, I just tried to keep as much of the board as possible.

DIY Pallet Wood Headboard | House by the Bay

Once all the boards were removed I used my quick square and mitre saw to square the ends of each board, cutting them to the nearest inch in length. I ended up with a variety of boards that were between 14” and 17”.

DIY Pallet Wood Headboard | House by the Bay

At this point I gave all the boards a wash and let them dry out completely (a couple of days in the sun). Once they were dry, I started playing around with the layout – the herringbone pattern was my favourite AND I found that if I kept all the same length pieces together the variety of lengths wasn’t going to be a problem.

DIY Pallet Wood Headboard | House by the Bay

Note: I wanted to keep the rough and natural look of the pallet wood so I did not sand or stain my pieces. I did remove any large chunks that looked dangerous or pieces that were already starting to come off the boards. If you want to give your headboard a smoother look or change the colour I would do that at this point, before assembling the finished product.

Assembling the Headboard

Once I was satisfied with my pattern I started transfering the pieces to my plywood backing. I cut the edges of my first strips at a 45 degree angle so they would sit flush with the side of the plywood.

DIY Pallet Wood Headboard | House by the Bay

Working across, I placed my boards and nailed them down using my nail gun, making slight adjustments when necessary. When all my main boards were attached, Chris and I flipped the whole thing over so I could cut away the excess.

DIY Pallet Wood Headboard | House by the Bay

We then flipped the headboard over again so I could fill in all the gaps that needed small fiddly pieces. I did this by putting the scrap piece in position, tracing the edge onto the bottom, cutting it to size with the mitre saw and then nailing it in place.

DIY Pallet Wood Headboard | House by the Bay

Seal the Wood

My next step was to slather the entire thing with three coats of Varathane Triple Thick Polyurethane. I did briefly consider using a pour-over epoxy, but figured I would end up losing a lot of it between the boards and out the sides. I started with two very thick coats of the triple thick, one day apart to allow lots of time for it to dry. How thick? Like this:

DIY Pallet Wood Headboard | House by the Bay Design

After my second coat was fully dry it was time to smooth out any rough bits that were poking through the poly coat. I used some 220 grit sandpaper to lightly buff out any areas that were sharp. This means that there will be no splinters or snagged pillows on this headboard BUT there is still a texture to the rough wood. I then applied my third (and last) coat of the poly.

Create the French Cleat and Frame

To install my headboard I decided to use a french cleat, this is essentially a hanger created by cutting a piece of plywood in half at a 30 degree angle. If you’re not familiar, here’s a great diagram to shows you what I mean:

French Cleat

Image source: Home Construction & Improvement

One half attaches to the headboard and one attaches to the wall at the studs. This creates a strong and level hanger. To make sure the headboard sits properly against the wall I also added a spacer piece to the bottom of the headboard the same thickness as the cleat.

DIY Pallet Wood Headboard | House by the Bay
After attaching the cleat to the headboard I decided to frame the entire thing to give it a more finished look and hide the gap that would appear between the wall and the headboard. I cut some pieces of 1×4 strapping to 2.5” wide so the frame would sit slightly raised from the front of the headboard but would be flush to the french cleat on the back.


To install the headboard to the wall I measured where I wanted the top of the headboard to sit on the wall. I then measured down 7.25” (the distance from the top of the headboard to the bottom of the assembled cleat) and drew a level line. I then marked out the placement of the wall studs and, with help from Chris installed the wall portion of the cleat lining up the bottom on the level line. We used 3” #8 screws to create a strong hold into the studs.

DIY Pallet Wood Headboard | House by the Bay

Once the cleat was installed on the wall it was simply a matter of lifting the headboard into place!

DIY Pallet Wood Headboard | House by the Bay

Thanks for visiting and if you decide to make your own headboard using this tutorial I’d love to see your photos!

Check out these other amazing makeovers as part of the $100 room challenge!


DIY Pallet Wood Headboard | House by the Bay Design

13 thoughts on “How to Build an Easy and Inexpensive DIY Pallet Wood Headboard”

  1. I am absolutely in love with it! I am trying to figure out where I can do this! Maybe a piece of art on the wall? This room is going to look so good, I can’t wait to see the finished product.

  2. Casey, your headboard looks absolutely amazing!! I had considered doing a version of that same West Elm headboard when I did my teenage son’s room over last year. Now I’m about to embark on my younger son’s room and you’ve got the wheels turning in my head about this again. The herringbone design looks so awesome, I love how it came out!!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top