DIYdiy projects

diy project: salvaged barnwood headboard

by Kate Pruitt

Lately we’ve been getting more requests for furniture DIY projects. Luckily this awesome tutorial from Sarah Torrence of 508 Restoration & Design for a salvaged barnwood headboard landed in my inbox, and was just too pretty to pass up. Due to their size and the amount of use they receive, headboards can be intimidating, even if the form is fairly straightforward. Sarah had demystified the process and given us a great starter project for anyone looking to give their bedroom a bit of that rustic, organic feel a perfect quick and easy refresh for fall. Thank you so much for sharing, Sarah! —Kate

Read the full how-to after the jump!

This project was born because we needed a headboard, we already had some fantastic oak barn wood and we were ready to build something that was meaningful to us. In the end, we didn’t want anything fancy- just a simple peaceful room. We have worked with barn wood a lot and are familiar with how great it can look sanded, waxed, stained, stenciled…. but we have always loved the natural gray weathered look it has when we first collect it. Our main goal: create a simple headboard that is clean but looks as natural as possible. Even if you don’t have access to barn wood, a similar look can easily be achieved with regular wood from a home improvement store that is stained with driftwood stain. Either way, it doesn’t have to be perfect…. just your own! Sarah



  • old barn wood (any length)
  • 1.5″ wood screws (depends on the thickness of your boards)
  • (2) 1” x 4” x 64” boards for legs
  • scrap wood & wood shims (optional)
  • fine grit sanding sponge
  • stiff-bristle scrub brush
  • finish (we used 2–3 cans of Valspar clear flat spray)
  • (4) 2″ bolts with 5/8 hex nut


  • miter saw
  • drill
  • ratchet or wrenches for tightening bolts
  • air compressor (optional)


1. Start by determining the size of your actual headboard (without legs) and chalk this area out on the ground. For our queen size bed, the actual barn wood part was 44” x 64”. This gives you a space to easily lay out your barn wood pieces.

2. Begin placing your pieces where you want them — do this before cutting by just laying them on top of each other. BE CREATIVE. We wanted ours staggered, so we just placed the boards on top of each other until we knew where our cuts would be. If you have long enough boards, you can just do them all one length.

3. Mark with a pencil where you want to cut each piece and cut with a miter saw.

Note: Keep in mind that actual barn wood is random and not necessarily square. So when you are cutting and lining things up, it won’t be perfect. This is the beauty. There will be gaps and imperfections.

4. Next, flip all the pieces over so that you can begin attaching the legs and secure the staggered pieces (joints).

5. Cut your (2) 1” x 4”s to the desired height for the legs. Our legs were 64″. Use the wood screws to screw in legs about 2″ to 4″ from the top and along the edges of the barn wood.

6. At every joint/seam, attach scrap pieces of wood (we used varying sizes, all roughly 1/2″ thick). Because the thickness of our barn wood was varied, we used the shims to make sure the front side of the headboard was fairly flush.

If you have chosen pieces that are all one length, you don’t have to worry about this step, although I suggest you screw another 1” x 4” along the middle of the headboard for extra support.

Now that the piece is constructed, it looks like this:

7. Make sure the surface is clean (splinter and dust free!). Start by sanding the entire piece thoroughly, but not heavily, with a fine grit sanding sponge. Then clean thoroughly with a DRY scrub brush. Finally, blow the dust off with an air compressor.

8. If you want to add something personal, now is the time to do it. We wrote “awake my soul” with chalk and then hand-painted over that with latex paint.

9. Spray with 3 to 5 coats of a flat, clear finish. We found that the flat spray was the product that kept the wood most true to its natural gray, weathered look. We added several extra coats of spray near the bottom of the headboard where our sheets would be. Let dry for 24 to 48 hours.

10. To attach to a basic metal frame, you will need to line the legs up with the frame and mark where your bolts will go. Then drill your 2 holes in each leg, insert the bolts and tighten.

You’re finished!!


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  • Just built 2 of these. Awesome. I own a sustainable living company and I am always looking for new ways to use all the reclaimed wood/material I have in my warehouse. Thanks for the idea.

  • I have been bugging my husband about trying a DIY headboard project with me for months and am so excited that we found one that we can both agree upon~not too girly and shouldn’t take us more than a day or so! Thanks for the lovely post and pretty photos!

  • I continue to have more and more calls from individuals wanting to build their own headboards, tables, etc . from wood we salvage from antique barns in the North. Although there is not much money for my time, I love the passion seen in these folks and enjoy helping out. Websites, like this one, should remove the intimidation of trying a similar project. Good luck!

  • I am so doing this project! I can’t wait to pick up the barn board sometime this week! and Begin to assemble this little beauty!

  • I am almost finished with my headboard and I am so excited! One comment I will add with regards to getting the boards splinter free….using a stiff-bristle brush after sanding only seemed to recreate the splinters I sanded off, even making the board a bit rougher. So I just resanded and then used air to blow away the residue, skipping the scrubing this time. It seemed to work just fine.

  • @Angela Koch – I’m glad you mentioned that. Its important to note that different kinds of wood, and even wood of different ages and weatheredness (new word!) will respond differently. Glad you found a good work-around for this problem. Send us a pic at fiveoeight.com once you’ve finished. We’d love to see it!

  • I have a question about the wood, I went back to my grandparents farm and was given a barn window, stall door and a garden gate they are about 115 yrs old, I worry about not getting the mildew smell out of the wood and I’m pretty sure the barn window has lead paint. How would I go about cleaning the wood?

  • Finished this project last week! Couldn’t be happier!! I’ve had this white distressed barn door forever, which I used to hang lots of costume jewelry on with tiny nails. Now I repurposed it into my headboard. Got the door on ebay for $20 and actually had it shipped to my front door very cheaply. Thanks for the fabulous idea!

  • Question … I have some awesome barn wood with a ton of character. I plan to air it out and get the loose gunk off but do I have to sand it? Just curious if that would make it lose some of that uniqueness. Also, we had to cut the boards from much longer pieces so now there is a much lighter edge left and right. Should I stain with a driftwood color or do you think it’s not worth it?


  • sorry this is late….but our bedding is just a crochet blanket and some white sheets! it was handed down from my grandmother. the euro shams, however, are from ikea.

  • So glad I found this, I am about to redo my teenage daughter’s room. We went and got old wood from her greatgrandparents home that no one lives in. The Barn and a room off the side of the house had fallen down completely. I’m using the old wood to make her headboard. Love the idea of writing something on the wood. Love that we are giving her her heritage!!!! Will send pic when done.

  • In the process of making a headboard with an old barn door. We are attaching it to a 1x12x12 hanging the door horizontal with the old hinges attached to the 1×12. So excited for the finished product! Thank you for the great idea!

  • I love this idea!! I already bought, scrubbed, and sanded my barn wood!! I am SO thrilled to get started!!
    Funny story: I was scrubbing my wood in my garage and my neighbor asked what I was doing…I told her I was washing the dirt off my wood. Apparently, it wasn’t dirt – BE CAREFUL with your wood choice and watch out for cow poop!!

  • Have worked with much barn wood and would advise all to treat wood with boric acid. Old wood very often has termites, carpenter ants, powder post beetles, etch. Don’t skip the unless you feel lucky… you don’t want to bring this inside your home.

  • I wanted to ask, how much was the total cost for this diy project? Please reply back, this is absolutely wonderful!

  • Great project! I would say that the 1×4’s are a bit flimsy/top heavy…I ended up cutting the legs off and hanging it on the wall like wall art. Very stable and allows me to move the bed away from the wall if I need too! Thanks again for inspiration!

  • One thing to keep in mind with this kind of project is the quality of the wood. Reclaimed barn wood is an aesthetic dream, but you’ll want to make sure that it’s sturdy enough for the task. Make sure you get your wood from a good dealer so it will last as long as possible.

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