One of the advantages custom made beds have over stock manufactured beds is the ability to have the bed sized perfectly for your mattress or mattress and box spring thickness. While mattress length and width are standardized their thicknesses are not at all. I’ve been building custom made beds for 32+ years and have made beds for mattresses ranging in thickness from 4″ up to 22″. Needless to say a 4″ mattress won’t fit very well in a bed frame made for a 22″ mattress. Even a few inches of difference in thickness can determine whether the headboard is too high, too low or just right.
For traditional bed frames like my pencil post bed I like to place the headboard so that the bottom of the headboard is 2″ above the top of the mattress. This is enough to visually separate the headboard from the mattress without leaving so much space that pillows are able to slip between the mattress and the headboard. When a customer places an order for one of my beds they also tell me the thickness of the mattress (or mattress and box spring) they will be using on the bed so that I can adjust the bed dimensions to fit it properly.
Measuring the thickness of your mattress is fairly straight forward in most cases but occasionally it can be tricky. I recently made a bed for a customer who measured his mattress at 14.5″. I made the bed to fit a mattress of that thickness and when he received it he email to say the bed was beautiful but the gap under the headboard was too big – about 5.5″. I had him measure the dimensions of the bed and everything checked out that it should fit a 14.5″ thick mattress with a 2″ gap under the headboard. However, the photo he sent clearly showed a much bigger gap. As it turned out his mattress had a 3″ thick tapered topper on it that made an 11.5″ thick mattress look 14.5″ thick. However, because the topper didn’t go all the way to the edge of the mattress, the thickness where it mattered (next to the headboard) was only 11.5″. The lesson to be learned is measure the thickness at the edge of your mattress. The thickness in the center of the mattress is irrelevant to the placement of the headboard. The solution in this case was to make two new posts for the head of the bed with the mortises for the headboard 3″ lower. I took the incorrect posts in exchange for the new ones and will eventually use them I’m sure. The customer paid for my time to deliver the new posts and disassemble and reassemble the bed – a full day’s labor since he lived 3+ hours away.