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My bedroom transformation is well on its way with the completion of my barn door headboard! I finished it this weekend and just have a few small finishing details left. I’m so happy with how it turned out!
Want to know how I made my reclaimed wood barn door headboard?
Once I decided to make my headboard, I began researching. I found lots of info on building your own headboard using wooden boards, and I also ran across tutorials on faking the reclaimed wood, but there wasn’t a tutorial on reclaiming your own wood from a barn and making a headboard out of it. So for those of you who are interested in doing the same thing, I’ll walk you through the following steps:
I wasn’t planning to make a headboard out of barn doors, but I guess it was meant to be. I knew I wanted to replace our headboard, and I was searching Craigslist for reclaimed wood when I ran across a listing for an old barn being taken apart and sold by the board. The owner of the barn also had four barn doors. I immediately thought of using a barn door for the headboard, thinking it would be cooler than a store-bought headboard and easier than building my own from scratch.
(Now that it’s finished, I realize I was right about the first part, but definitely wrong about the second part. Making this headboard was a lot of work!)
After communicating with the listing owner, RH and I made the trek out to what I would call “the country” in Gainesville, north of the metro Atlanta area. The barn was an honest-to-goodness barn, complete with the charming stench of horse manure.
Tips if you’re crazy enough to try this yourself:
- Determine how many doors you need. I originally planned to turn one door on its side and mount it to wooden legs, but then I realized that it would have been far too narrow for my wide king-sized bed. I decided that two doors standing side-by-side would work better. I also bought one standalone barn wood board in case I decided to add extra width to the headboard.
- Wear proper shoes. I totally wore the wrong shoes andwhile I looked cute in my houndstooth knit flatsI was at risk of stepping on a nail or, at the very least, getting horse poop on them.
- Make sure the door(s) will fit in your car. Get the dimensions ahead of time and measure your cargo area. Bring an old blanket to protect your seats and cargo bed from the doors, as they may be filthy and full of nails.
- Bring a friend. These doors are frequently solid wood, so they can be very heavy!
Our loft is on the small side, and we don’t have a basement, garage or other large storage area. I realized that it was really important to figure out a good spot to store the doors while I worked on them. I didn’t want them to be in the way, especially while they were still straight-from-the-barn dirty.
It was dark by the time we got home with the doors, and I couldn’t work on them immediately. I removed the dangerous nails that were sticking out and wedged the doors between the treadmill and the wall in our office, covered in one of those plastic blue tarps.
I waited until the next weekend to clean the doors so I could work outside during daylight. Because I live in a loft-condo, I’m very limited in the options I have for cleaning large items like these doors. Some of the info I read suggested using a pressure washer to wash barn wood clean. That might have worked, but I would have been worried about damaging the wood and metal hinges. I didn’t even access to a hose, much less a pressure washer. Instead, I used two 5-gallon buckets and a 20″ gong brush out on my little patio. I would have preferred to have had a hose and nozzle sprayer to wash down the doors. I’m sure the people walking by my place that day wondered what the heck I was up to!
I filled the first bucket with warm water and a mild detergent (a few drops of Shaklee Basic Hbut you could use dishwashing liquid) and the second bucket with clean warm water. I dipped the brush into the soapy water and began scrubbing the doors down, alternating every now and then with clean water to rinse off the soap and dirt. It took me a couple of hours to scrub down the barn wood board and both doors, front and back. I replaced the water in both buckets halfway through when it became too dirty.
Once the doors and board were sufficiently scrubbed, I propped them up outside to let them dry. After a few hours of drying, I brought them inside overnight.
While I’m sure Timmy Termite and Paul the Powder Post Beetle would love to join us for dinner sometime, I knew I had to do something to make sure a host of creepy crawlies didn’t infiltrate our place. This is the subject that I spent the most time reading about.
There are many options for treating unfinished wood, including commercial products like Boracare and Timbor, but I didn’t feel comfortable using them on a headboardwhich would be very close to our heads every nightespecially since the homebrew version of Boracare contains antifreeze. Besides that, Boracare is pretty pricey.
The day after scrubbing the doors and board clean, I decided to treat the wood using a Borax solution. Borax has the same primary ingredient as Boracare (borate), but it’s much safer for people.
I mixed 3 cups of Borax into 1 gallon of warm water and stirred to dissolve as much of it as possible. My original plan was to spray the solution onto the wood, but that worked for about three minutes before the spray bottle became clogged by the Borax crystals solidifying. I ended up changing from my leather work gloves to latex gloves and soaking a sponge with the solution. I then pressed the sponge onto the surface of the wood, making sure to cover every exposed piece of the doors I could reachfront, back, top and bottom. This took way longer than spraying would have taken, but I was satisfied that I was able to sufficiently soak the wood in the solution. Theoretically, any pests in the wood will either dry out or eat the borate in the wood and die. I am counting on this working!
After treating the wood with the Borax solution, I let the doors and board dry all day outside and then for another six days inside since I had to wait for another weekend to continue the process. I figured this was plenty of time for the wood to dry thoroughly and also to acclimate to the temperature/humidity inside our place.
As the wood dried, little crystals of Borax began to form on the surface. My plan was to lay out a huge plastic drop cloth on my patio, move the doors back outside, and brush the crystals off. This weekend was insanely windy though, and I was worried about the crystals flying into my hair and my eyes, even though I am a safety nerd and wear the oh-so-stylish safety goggles and dust mask while I work.
Instead of working outside in the wind, I covered the guest bathroom in the plastic drop cloth and brushed down the wood board in the tub. Then I realized that there was no way the barn doors were going to make it into the guest bath tub gracefully, so I moved the drop cloth and set up a little work area in the living room. I don’t have any photos of that, but it seriously looked like a HazMat area with everything covered in plastic and me waving around my gong brush while decked out in goggles and a face mask.
I brushed down the doors, with the key word being brushed down. Downward strokes ensured that the crystals and any remaining dirt fell down onto the drop cloth instead of flying through the air. I vacuumed the drop cloth with my DustBuster a few times while I was working, and when every surface of the doors had been brushed, I rolled up the drop cloth and stuffed it into a garbage bag.
If I wanted to stain the wood, I would have done that after thoroughly cleaning the wood from the Borax treatment. I decided to leave the wood natural and unfinished though.
With the doors in good shape, it was time to assemble the headboard! I moved the old headboard out of the way and carefully moved the single doors into place, side-by-side. I tried various configurations (the “Z” facing the wall, facing out, hinges open, hinges closed) before RH helped me find the winning look. The doors are a little crooked, so I placed the single barn wood board behind the middle of the headboard, where the two doors should meet and instead leave a rather large gap.
And with that, the headboard was pretty much complete! I want to get a pair of those little furniture wedges to try to tilt the doors toward the center a bit and minimize the gap. I also improvised a headboard “skirt” of sorts by taping together a few flat (unfolded) cupcake boxes and wrapping them around the base of the doors to provide a barrier between the wood and the mattress. I’d like to replace that with a piece of burlap or linen filled with batting.
The true test came when I moved the decorative pillows that were leaning up against the doors. Since they are white, I honestly expected them to show at least a little red dirt, but they were spotless!
I absolutely love it and can’t wait to continue the master bedroom transformation! I attended a Benjamin Moore color workshop at west elm tonight, so now I’m jazzed about picking paint colors. I’m planning on using a flat white paint, and tonight’s workshop convinced me to paint the trim in the same shade instead of using grey as I had originally planned. I had also thought a warmer shade of white would match the warm wood headboard better, but the Benjamin Moore color consultant suggested I use a cooler white on the walls with the warm wood headboard as the focal piece.
I’ll share how the updates are going, but in the meantime, please let me know if you have any questions! Thanks for stopping by!
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