Maybe you've noticed something as you head in to plunk down on your pillow-top each night: Your bed's just a gussied-up mattress, and it's making the whole room look neglected. Well, with a trip to the home center for some ready-made parts, plus a few basic tools of your own, you can give it a proper framework. This Old House general contractor Tom Silva assembled the handsome head- and footboard shown here in just a day, using paneled bifold doors and stock molding. "Using off-the-shelf products makes this project easy," says Tom. "The basic woodworking is done for you." Read on to learn how to build a bed like this one, customized to your taste and space.
When using prepackaged bifold doors to make a headboard, look for solid-wood construction and doors that already have hinges on them. The hinges hold the doors together as you cut them to make the separate headboard and footboard panels.
Note: These instructions are for a full- or queen-size bed. For a twin bed, use four doors; for a king, use seven doors.
Connect the Doors
Using a drill/driver, remove the bottom hinges on two pairs of bifold doors and remove all the hinges on the third set. Set aside one door. Move the middle hinge on the two paired sets to a location just above the center rail so that the doors remain attached but the hinges won't be in the way when you cut through the rail. Lay the pairs side by side and lay one single door on the end. Measure and transfer the location of the hinges to the seam between the pairs and between the pair and the single door. Attach the extra hinges—the ones you removed earlier—between the pairs and single door to create one solid piece.
Cut the Panels
Clamp a saw guide to the attached doors. Using a circular saw, follow the guide to cut off all five bottom panels. Using a drill/driver and 1½-inch screws, attach a length of 1x3 across the five bottom panels to create a solid footboard.
Create the Crown Molding Top
Mark the base of the crown molding to the width of the headboard. Position the crown upside down on the deck of a miter saw, braced against the fence and deck the same way it would be positioned against a wall and ceiling. Cut the ends of the molding at 45 degrees for outside corners. To create returns for the mitered ends of the crown, cut two more pieces of molding 1 inch wide, with a straight cut on one side and an outside miter on the other.
Put the three pieces together into a three-dimensional top, joining the returns to the ends with wood glue and 4d finishing nails.
Attach the Top to the Headboard
Lay the five connected headboard panels faceup on a worktable. Dot the top rail with wood glue wherever the doors meet. Position the crown top 1 inch below the top of the headboard. Nail it every 6 to 8 inches with 4d finishing nails.
Cap the Headboard and Footboard
Using a circular saw, rip a 1x6 pine board to the depth of the crown molding plus a ¾-inch reveal at the front and back. Cut the strip to the width of the headboard, adding a ¾-inch reveal on each end. Sand or plane the edges to round them over. Apply wood glue to the top of the crown molding, and center the 1x6 cap on it. Nail it down with 4d finishing nails.
Using a circular saw, cut a 1x3 pine board to the width of the footboard plus a ¾-inch reveal on either end. Sand or plane the edges to round them over. Glue and nail the 1x3 to the footboard using 4d finishing nails.
Attach the Feet
Using a drill/driver, make holes for the feet in the bottom corners of the headboard and footboard. Select the proper-size drill bit by holding it end-to-end with the bolts attached to the feet—it is best to choose a bit that is slightly smaller than the bolt. Screw the feet into the holes. Paint all the pieces or stain and polyurethane them.
Install the Footboard
Turn the bed frame so that there are mounting slots at the foot of the bed. Using a drill/driver, attach the footboard through holes in the bed frame using 1½-inch screws and fender washers. Bolt steel strapping to either side of the frame, angle it upward, and screw it to the footboard sides to brace the two together.
Mount the Headboard
You can also attach the headboard to the bed frame, but it will be sturdier if it's mounted right on the wall by hanging it on a cleat. Using a drill/driver and 2½-inch screws going into studs or wall anchors, attach a level strip of blocking to the wall, positioning it just below the height of the bottom of the headboard cap. Slide the headboard into place with the cap on top of the blocking. Nail it down it with 4d finish nails. Screw through the base of the headboard and into the studs or wall anchors using 2½-inch screws.