How High Should A Bed Headboard Be? [Answers Per Bed Type]

If you're shopping for a new bed or recently upgraded to a wider mattress, you might be looking for the right headboard to complete the look. If so, you might have some obvious questions, such as how high a bed headboard should be. Can you use any headboard? After consulting with bed and headboard makers, we can give a clear answer. 
A standard-sized headboard should be as wide, or up to four inches wider, than the bed frame. Position the headboard, depending on bed size, so that between 14 and 58-inches can be seen above the mattress. Suggested heights for headboards based on mattress sizes are as follows:
  • Twin: 14-inches above the mattress
  • Full and Queen: 28-inches above the mattress
  • King and California King: 58-inches mattress

But why is a headboard important -do you even need one? How can you lower your headboard if it's far out of the recommended height range (and do you need to)? What if your headboard always has an annoying (or worse, dangerous) gap between the headboard and the mattress? Keep reading for solutions to all of these problems and more!

How High Should My Headboard Be?

How high should headboard be, How High Should A Bed Headboard Be? [Answers Per Bed Type]

Despite all the specifics listed above, there are really very few hard and fast rules with headboards. Though standard headboards are only as wide as the bed (or a few inches wider), some people like an extra-wide style covering most of the available wall. Some people choose extra tall as for height, while some people prefer a shorter style of headboard. Generally, it's recommended to avoid using a headboard taller than the length of the bed. That leaves a lot of room for creativity, though.

Headboards should be installed so that the bottom is three or four inches below the top of the mattress. The mattress should cover the very bottom of the headboard. Rarely (but occasionally) the headboard is designed so that the whole thing is supposed to be seen (for example, a picture). Obviously, these headboards are mounted above the mattress so that every part is visible.

The height given for each bed size refers to the amount of headboard seen. The actual headboard may be a lot larger. For example, a full-frame headboard will have roughly 25-inches just for the frame, which is entirely covered by the bed. Add in 14-inches of the exposed headboard (for a twin bed), and the headboard is actually 39-inches tall!

Tall headboards look best in rooms with tall ceilings. Short headboards are a good choice in rooms where you can't cover the whole wall -maybe a window or a painting is hanging above the bed. They also make a smaller room seem more open and spacious.

Why Is A Headboard Important?

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Close up side view of the pillows and headboard of an empty double bed with brown and beige linen

Headboards may seem to be simply a decorator's touch, a fancy addition to the bed. They are, and with good reason, because you can change the whole room's look just by swapping out your headboard. But they were actually designed for a practical purpose. Early headboards provided a layer of insulation to keep people warm while they slept. Walls were cold and drafty, and having a headboard between the wall and yourself meant a much better rest. 

To this day, some people still benefit from having a headboard if the bed rests against an outside wall - drafts do still occur. A headboard can also provide back support if you like to sit up and read in bed at night.  It can help keep pillows on the bed where they belong. Some people who don't use a headboard have even noticed marks from grease or sweat on the wall, where their head rubs every night (usually, these marks could be regularly cleaned, read "How to Clean a Fabric Headboard [6 Steps]").

Some headboards now are also designed to offer storage to aid in organization. For example, this one has bookshelves and a storage compartment:

Click here to see this headboard on Amazon.

For more information on why you can benefit from a headboard, read "Do Beds Need a Headboard? [The answer may surprise you!]"

Can A Headboard Be Smaller Than The Bed?

Bright bedroom with a bed with a soft headboard

Typically, it's a better idea just to pick a headboard that fits the bed. It looks a bit out of place when a headboard is smaller than the bed, and you may struggle to get it to fit. However, if you've recently changed to a larger bed and love your old headboard, it is possible to use a headboard that is smaller than the bed.

First, you'll need to figure out how to install it. The easiest way is to install your headboard on the wall, a great technique when the headboard no longer fits the bed frame. (For other reasons to install a headboard to the wall, read "Should the Headboard Be Against a Wall?")

For a fast and safe installation, use a French cleat system such as this one:

Click here to see this French cleat hanger on Amazon.

Simply install one cleat to the wall and one to the headboard. The two pieces slide into each other, locking to hold up the headboard. Just be certain that you screw the cleat into the wall at studs for stability. You can see a French cleat hanger in use here:


How Can I Fill In A Small Headboard?

Now that you have installed your smaller headboard against the wall, you'll want to do two things to make sure it doesn't look out of place against your new, wider bed.

  1.  Center the bed frame against the headboard. If it's not center, it's going to be even more obvious that the size is wrong.
  2. Fill the space with something symmetrical. For example, if the headboard is 10-inches smaller than the bed on each side, maybe hang a 10-inch wide picture. When you fill the space with something appropriate, it will make the overall look more pleasing to the eye. Below, find some more ideas to fill in the width of a small headboard.

Carved Wall Art

An intricately carved piece of wall art like this is an easy way to bring balance to both sides of your headboard and fill the space.

Click here to see this wall panel on Amazon.

Wall Stickers

For a touch of fun, you can find various wall stickers to go with just about any bedroom theme. Try these whimsical shiny circles.

Click here to see these wall stickers on Amazon.

Hanging Wall Garland

Using a hanging garland like this in the empty space next to the headboard is a great way to fill-out a wider bed. Plus, a garland is usually pretty flexible -you can find one as long or short as you need and change it out frequently to update the look.

Click here to see this hanging wall garland on Amazon.

How Do You Lower The Height Of A Headboard?

Oak wood bed with white leather adjustable bed headboard

Unless you have an adjustable headboard, you can't actually lower the height of the headboard. The only option to lower the headboard is to remove it from the bed and install it on the wall. This lets you position the headboard anywhere that you like. The steps for using a French cleat to hang a headboard on the wall are given above.

The second option is to raise the mattress, which, conversely, gives the appearance of a lower headboard. If you are simply trying to lower the headboard's height to keep it proportional to the bed, this solution will work for you. There are two easy ways to raise the mattress:

Use bed risers such as these:

Click here to see these bed risers on Amazon.

Add padding to the top of the bed, like this three-inch memory foam topper:

Click here to see this mattress topper on Amazon.

How Do You Fix A Gap Between The Mattress And The Headboard?

Bright and cozy modern bedroom with dressing room

The best way to fix a gap between the mattress and the headboard is to fill it with some kind of padding. However, you have to be careful if kids are in the house because small children sleeping in the bed could get stuck and suffocate in a gap. The simplest, safest solution is using a mattress wedge made specifically for this purpose, such as this one:

Click here to see this mattress wedge on Amazon.

Another possibility, if you're creatively inclined, is to upholster the headboard. Read more here "How To Make A Padded Headboard?"

For other solutions, try "How to Fill the Gap Between Headboard and Mattress?"

In Conclusion

Gray headboard on white bed and wooden accented room, How High Should A Bed Headboard Be? [Answers Per Bed Type]

Headboards always protrude above the mattress, by a wide range of 14 to 58-inches in a standard headboard. While the typical height is proportionate to the mattress size, there's a wide range of acceptable headboards. Both tall and short headboards can be used effectively to create a look that complements the rest of the bedroom. As long as headboards are no taller than the length of the mattress, feel free to use whatever best suits your style and decor.


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