How to Make an Upholstered Rectangular Headboard With Buttons

Written by jennifer harshman
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How to Make an Upholstered Rectangular Headboard With Buttons
Upholstered headboard with buttons (morning bed image by araraadt from

Changing a bed's headboard is one quick way to change the look of a bedroom. Upholstery foam can be difficult to find, but layers of quilt batting, blankets or other fluffy material will also work if necessary. You can cover the headboard in just about any material; a pleather-type material is easy to wipe clean, while other fabrics may be treated with a stain repellent spray. Begin with pre-washed, dried and ironed fabric.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Stud finder
  • 1/2 inch thick plywood, cut to desired size
  • Tape measure
  • Protective eyewear
  • Drill and drill bits
  • Router and T-slot cutter
  • Sander
  • Sandpaper (medium grit)
  • 2 packages quilt batting
  • Scissors
  • Fabric, pleather or other material, about twice the size of the plywood
  • Staple gun
  • Staples
  • 20 to 40 upholstery prong buttons
  • Hammer (optional)
  • Utility knife (optional)
  • Any decorative materials desired (optional)
  • Sewing needle and thread (optional)
  • Screwdriver bit for drill
  • 2 wood screws, 3 inches long
  • Helper

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  1. 1

    Locate the studs in the wall where the headboard will be. Mark them lightly with a pencil. Halfway down the plywood, in line with where the studs will be when your headboard is mounted, mark the right and left side of the plywood where you will put T-slots for hanging the headboard. Mark one inch below the first marks.

    How to Make an Upholstered Rectangular Headboard With Buttons
    Carefully marking your studs will save you headaches later. (pencil image by Richard Seeney from
  2. 2

    Drill a 1/4-inch deep hole with the 1/4-inch drill bit in each of the bottom marks, which are one inch below the point where the headboard will be suspended on the screws. Rout a T-slot, starting from each hole, up to the other marks. Clear away the sawdust.

  3. 3

    Drill holes in the plywood sheet for the buttons. Use the drill bit that is about the same size as the button prongs. Typical headboards alternate the placement of the buttons, so on the top row they would be placed every 4 inches starting at 2 inches, and on the next row they would be placed every 4 inches starting at 4 inches. The button placement alternates, with all of the odd-numbered rows being the same as the first row and the even-numbered rows being the same as the second row. Determine the pattern and the spacing that you want and drill the holes accordingly.

    How to Make an Upholstered Rectangular Headboard With Buttons
    Your drill bit should be the same size as the buton prongs. (drill bit image by Greg Pickens from
  4. 4

    Sand the plywood to get rid of any splinters. It doesn't need to be pretty because it's all going to be covered, but you don't want to get splinters while you're working with it.

  5. 5

    Cut or fold several layers of batting to the size of the plywood. Cut one larger piece of batting to the size of the plywood plus about 12 inches on all four sides. This piece of batting should be able to wrap over the other layers and still extend around the edge of the plywood.

  6. 6

    Cut the fabric to size, which will be about an inch taller and wider than the larger piece of batting. Drape it over the headboard, if necessary, to determine how large it needs to be. Allow more room if desired. The fabric will need to extend past the batting and lie flat on the board with enough room to staple it to the board. An extra inch is usually enough.

  7. 7

    Put a staple at the centre of the top edge on the back side of the plywood (the side you drilled). Smooth the fabric and make sure that the grain is straight (if applicable). Place a staple on the back side at the bottom. Work your way out toward the edges, placing staples an inch apart. Alternate stapling the top and bottom, keeping the material smooth. Stop two inches from the corners. How taut you pull the fabric will affect how the headboard will look. Pulling it tighter will make the buttons look more pronounced. Looser fabric will make it look softer, fluffier.

    How to Make an Upholstered Rectangular Headboard With Buttons
    Stapling the fabric looser will make your headboard look fluffier. (heavy duty stapler image by Christopher Dodge from
  8. 8

    Staple the sides, starting at the middle and working your way to the ends. Smooth the fabric as you go. Fold the fabric as desired at the corners to get the look you like. Examples include a smooth fold like a wrapped package or an accordion fold, with ripples distributed evenly around the corners. Remember that you can remove the staples and try again if you don't like the look of your first attempt.

  9. 9

    Press the staple gun hard into the fabric right next to one of the holes you drilled. Press it all the way to the board, and staple. Holding the board so that it stands up on edge will allow you to access both the front and the back of the board at the same time. Feeling the back where a hole is with one hand may help you determine where to place the staple with the other hand. Place a staple very close to, but not covering, each hole. This will hold the fabric in place and take the stress off of the buttons.

  10. 10

    Push the prongs of a button through the material, the batting and the board. While pushing the button from the front with one hand, bend the prongs out with the other hand. Press the prongs out flat against the back of the plywood board. Tap with a hammer, if needed, to flatten the prongs. Install a prong button in each hole. Depending on the kind of material you're using, you may need to make a tiny cut in the material with a utility knife. Spray with stain repellent now if desired, and allow to dry. Decorate the headboard with trim, beads or other materials if desired.

    How to Make an Upholstered Rectangular Headboard With Buttons
    Decorate your headboard with beads and add an individual touch. (Bead store image by TekinT from
  11. 11

    Install the headboard on the wall. The headboard will rest on screws at the top of the T-slots, so keep this in mind when placing the screws. Drive two screws into the wall studs 1 inch lower than you want the middle of the headboard to be but don't drive them all the way into the wall. Leave the heads of the screws sticking no more than 1/4 inch. Have a helper assist you and place the headboard so that the holes line up with the screws, then slide the headboard down a bit so that the screws are in the T-slots you routed. Slide the bed back into place.

    How to Make an Upholstered Rectangular Headboard With Buttons
    Button tufted headboard (Three beautiful pillows on a rich bed image by terex from

Tips and warnings

  • Be sure to wash, dry and iron your material before beginning, if applicable.
  • Decorations can be changed. If attaching strings of beads, for example, attach them on the back edge and drape them down over the top of the headboard, then when you want to remove them, just snip the thread and the holes won't show.
  • You can attach strings of beads or other small objects to the whole headboard by sliding the string down behind the buttons.
  • To remove the headboard, slide it up about an inch and pull it away from the wall.
  • Use protective eyewear whenever you use tools.
  • If you block the holes with the staples, it will be difficult or impossible to push the prong buttons through the board.
  • The finished product may not look like you imagined it would. You may like it more after a few days. If not, you can always change it.

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