Instructions for Making Headboards With MDF

MDF is medium density fiberboard. This material is used for all kinds of projects because it is less expensive than similar sized plywood, has a smoother finish and is heavy and sturdy enough for furniture. Often a lumber store will cut MDF to the exact size you need, which makes building a headboard even easier.

Measure the width of your bed and add 6 inches. Decide how tall you would like your headboard, keeping in mind that a sheet of MDF is typically 4 by 8 feet. Have the MDF cut to the size you need.

Measure 3 inches from the top edge of the headboard and draw a horizontal line across the width of the headboard. Measure 1 inch below the top line and draw a second line. Measure 3 inches from each side and draw vertical lines. Measure 1 inch inside each of those lines and draw two more vertical lines.

Cover the entire front of the headboard with spray adhesive. Use an electric knife to cut a strip of foam 3 inches by the width of the headboard. Press the strip along the top front of the headboard. Measure from the bottom of this strip to the bottom of the headboard and cut two more 3-inch strips. Place one on each side of the headboard.

Measure from the lower pencil line to the bottom of the headboard for height. Measure between each pencil line on the side for width. Cut a piece of foam to these measurements and fit it inside the inner pencil lines. You should have a 1-inch gap near the top and along each side.

Cut quilt batting large enough to cover the front of your headboard and wrap to the back with 6 inches extra on each side. Center the batting over the large foam section and work it down into the 1-inch gaps. Add a few staples to keep the batting in place. Ease the batting (don't let it bunch) and stretch it over the top to staple on the back side.

Ease the batting at the corners (you may need to carefully trim some to keep it smooth), wrap the batting around the sides and staple along the back. Finish by wrapping the bottom edge and stapling it on the back. Trim off any excess on the back of the headboard.

Measure the length of your 1-inch gap. Cut a piece of 1-inch cord 4-inches longer than you need. Select fabric that contrasts with your headboard fabric, wrap it over the cord (right side out) and seam tight to the cord. You want about 1/2 inch of fabric excess.

Place your fabric over the headboard starting in the large foam area. Press the fabric into the 1-inch gap and staple well. Ease the corners and pull the fabric over the top back and staple. Ease the corners and pull the fabric over the sides and staple to the back. Finish with the bottom. You should have a 3-inch raised band, a 1-inch dip and a large centre panel.

Peel back the fabric on your wrapped cord about an inch. Snip the cord short. Place the 1-inch fabric in the 1-inch channel at the bottom of one side of the headboard. Staple it in place. Press the cord into the foam gap and staple. This may take a bit of finger pressure. Follow the cord all the way around to the bottom on the other side. Trim the cord 1-inch long, peel back the fabric. Snip the cord 1-inch short, wrap the end of the cord in the fabric and staple.

Trim off the excess fabric on the back side of the headboard. Mount the headboard using flush-mount picture cleats. Screw the bottom cleats into the wall and the top cleats into the back of the headboard. Slide the headboard down until the cleats connect.


The channel in the foam creates a dramatic accent for the covered cording.

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • MDF
  • Pencil
  • Yardstick
  • Spray adhesive
  • 1-inch foam
  • Electric knife
  • Batting
  • Fabric
  • Power staple gun
  • 1-inch cording
  • Scissors
  • Flush-mount cleats
  • Power screwdriver
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About the Author

F.R.R. Mallory has been published since 1996, writing books, short stories, articles and essays. She has worked as an architect, restored cars, designed clothing, renovated homes and makes crafts. She is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley with bachelor's degrees in psychology and English. Her fiction short story "Black Ice" recently won a National Space Society contest.