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  • HOWDY.

    Thanks for stopping by sweetfrenchtoast!

    I'm Sabrina, and I love to make pretty things, visit inspiring places, eat really good food, and take lots of photos along the way. Though I live with my husband in Atlanta, GA, I consider the world my home, and I can't wait to see more of it.

how-to: diy barn door headboard

I’ve been selected by the BobVila.com team to be featured in their monthly Bob Vila Thumbs Up blogger contest! Please take a moment to check out the contest and vote for my barn door headboard.

Bob Vila Thumbs Up

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!

barn door headboard

old vs new headboard

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:

  1. Find
  2. Store
  3. Clean
  4. Treat
  5. Assemble
  6. Enjoy

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Wear proper shoes. I totally wore the wrong shoes and—while I looked cute in my houndstooth knit flats—I was at risk of stepping on a nail or, at the very least, getting horse poop on them.
  3. 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.
  4. Bring a friend. These doors are frequently solid wood, so they can be very heavy!
building my barn door headboard

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.

nail in reclaimed barn wood


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 H—but 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.

building my barn door headboard

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 headboard—which would be very close to our heads every night—especially 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.

building my barn door headboard
building my barn door headboard

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 reach—front, 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.

building my barn door headboard
building my barn door headboard

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!

barn door headboard
barn door headboard

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!

July 29, 2012 - 9:38 pm

Shirlee - I recently bought some barn wood, and decided to take the 3 pieces I was going to “frame” the headboard out to the yard to clean. I just used a brush and a hose. Lots of dirt came off of course, then I laid them in the sun to dry. To my surprise, the wood is no longer the gray color I so loved. I’m not sure what happened, except perhaps there was so much dusty dirt, the brush cleaned everything off and exposed a “new” coat of real wood. Any suggestions? I’d like the gray color, but if it’s not going to reveal itself sitting out in the sun soon, I’m going to take the remaining 4 boards (that will be the center of the headboard) and clean them as well to match the other 3. I’m disappointed, but wondering if there’s anything else I can do. I really don’t want to use any “bleaching” ideas unless it really works and doesn’t pose a threat to my “sleeping” health.

Thanks for posting your wonderful headboard.

August 2, 2012 - 5:30 pm

sabrina - Hi, Shirlee! The only suggestion I have is to either let the wood age and weather to the gray color you’re looking for, or perhaps you could prepare a driftwood stain (gray-colored stain) wash and treat your wood with that. I totally understand what you’re saying — the extra piece of barn wood that I bought is a lovely weathered gray on one side, but the side that was protected from the elements looks nearly new. Good luck with your project! 🙂

August 19, 2012 - 7:36 pm

Jenifer - Where did you get your bedding? It looks really comfortable and soft.

August 21, 2012 - 1:12 pm

sabrina - Jenifer, I got the down comforter at Costco and it’s covered in a duvet from Target. The grey knit throw is from West Elm. I’ve switched to a quilted comforter for summer, but I’m looking forward to snuggling up under the down comforter again this winter. It’s very comfy and soft!

August 26, 2012 - 7:05 pm

fun with drawer liners » sweetfrenchtoast - […] the barn door headboard kicked off our bedroom makeover, RH and I spent the next few months (!) searching for the perfect […]

September 10, 2012 - 11:35 am

14 DIY headboards that will rock your bedroom | Revedecor - […] This headboard wasn’t actually hand-made but it sure was a great idea. Putting a barn door in your bedroom might sound a little weird but as you can see, it looks very nice. However, before placing the barn door near the bed, it had to be properly cleaned and disinfected as it could have contained a lot of germs. The wood was left natural and unfinished for a more authentic rustic look. […]

September 11, 2012 - 2:01 am
September 22, 2012 - 12:41 pm

DIY make your own headboard | Mr. Kate - […] how about using some old barn doors for your headboard. via sweet french toast […]

September 25, 2013 - 2:54 pm

Top 10 Amazing DIY Projects made from Old Doors - […] DIY project and photos credit to sweetfrenchtoast.com […]

November 15, 2013 - 2:33 pm

Kailey Frisch - Hey… I have purchased my two barn doors and they are antique, so with that they are very used…. After getting them home, I have seen a lot of bent nails all over the doors and I cant get them out without damaging the wood. I would leave them in but those nails aren’t holding the boards together do in this case I will have to pound new nails in and the it will have more nails and then there will be MORE nails…
What should I do?

December 1, 2013 - 8:35 pm

Sabrina - Hi, Kailey! Sorry for the delayed reply. I’m not sure I entirely understand your question. I did not have to add any nails to my barn doors to hold them together. If you have old nails that can’t be removed without damaging the doors, I would try hammering them and bending them to lay as flush to the surface of the doors as possible. As long as the nails aren’t in hazard’s way, they can give your finished piece even more character. Good luck!

April 4, 2014 - 12:50 pm

Ashley - Are you in charge of “The Old Country Cupboard”? I can’t tell who is associated with it. I found them via an email I received. Looked on the website and at the beds. For an additional $300, you can, per their description, “Change the style of our bed by adding a barn door headboard. Get the aged look that you have always wanted.” I Google image searched for other varieties of barnwood door headboards and ended up seeing the same image, yours, on here. If you are not associated with this online store, they are using your image and passing it off as their own and claiming it as their own.

April 4, 2014 - 12:52 pm

Ashley - Here is a link to what I am talking about: http://theoldcountrycupboard.com/Beds.htm

September 4, 2014 - 10:07 pm

Sabrina - I’m excited to share that my barn door headboard is featured in Bob Vila’s Thumbs Up blogger contest! You can check it out and vote for my headboard here: http://www.bobvila.com/thumbs-up/6-vote-for-your-favorite-diy-headboards 🙂 (you can vote once per day, per device!)

September 16, 2014 - 12:56 pm

Create a New Headboard From Barn Doors - […] Want to see how the headboard was created, step-by-step? Head over to Sweet French Toast. […]

January 19, 2015 - 7:02 am

15 DIY Headboard Ideas - Budget Girl - […] DIY Barn Door Headboard from Sweet French […]

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