Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Budget Friendly DIY Chalkboard

     I knew, without a doubt, when I saw the basement here that we would convert part of it to a classroom.  I also knew that I'd have to take advantage of all that gorgeous wall space to put up a chalkboard.
  Sure, if I owned the house, I could slap some chalkboard paint on a wall and be done with it.  But... I don't own this place.  I'm borrowing it.  So, a wall-mounted board of some kind it would have to be.  A search online showed quickly that chalkboards are EXPENSIVE. 
This 4 by 8 foot magnetic chalkboard from is $429.99! 

     I started with this:
One sheet of hardboard- $7.25

     This is a four-foot wide by eight-foot long piece of hardboard.  Hardboard is a type of compressed paper/wood fiber.  It's generally about an eighth of an inch thick and feels like super-heavy cardboard.
We started by priming it with a coat of magnetic primer.

Painting with magnetic primer is tricky.  It could seriously be it's own blog post.  Suffice to say that you get a base with a ton of teeeeeeeeeny little metal shavings in- most of which will have settled to the bottom of the can.  After stirring, and stirring, and even more stirring, you'll have distributed most the metal shavings back into the base. After even more stirring you'll be able to start applying the primer to your board.  The instructions tell you to constantly stir the mixture.  This is a MUST.  The shavings settle quickly.  It also tells you to apply several thin coats.  I'll let you know now that it's almost impossible to apply a "thin" coat of this stuff.  Use really good quality sponge rollers for this- not cheap ones.  I'll also let you know that you don't want to pour more than a couple of tablespoons into your paint tray at a time and re-stir the paint every time you pour more.
I even got Napoleon in on the painting.  She's small enough she could sit on the board without warping it.

     After priming the board and letting it dry, we added four coats of spay-on chalkboard paint.  Do this in a well-ventilated area- PLEASE!

      To hang the board, I pulled out an eight foot long piece of molding.
The smudges were taken care of when I painted over the nail-heads.

After leveling the board, I discovered something really interesting.  Our floor was not level.  I don't mean it's a little-bit askew.  I came to realize that in the corners we have 8 foot ceilings and in the center of the floor we have 10 foot ceilings.  It made the entire chalkboard look like it's sloping downhill.  (Turns out I had to adjust it by eyeballing it instead of using a level.)  Nailed the molding into place and used it to prop up the chalkboard as I attached it to the wall.  (Note: The landlord gave me permission to nail it to the wall- otherwise, I would have used mirror clamps or even hung it like a giant picture frame with wire.)
The kids enjoyed "curing" the chalkboard paint.

   To cure the chalkboard paint, you simply rub the side of a piece of chalk all over it.  Wipe off, and you're done.  A perfectly usable chalkboard for a fraction of the cost.

Cost Break-Down: 
Hardboard  $7.25
Molding $9.78
Magnetic Primer $12 (with coupon)
Chalkboard Spray Paint   3 Cans @ $2 each (with coupon)
Rollers, dropcloth, nails, chalk   FREE
Total Cost: Approximately $35

Time Break-Down:
2 Hours Active Painting Time
24 Hours Inactive Painting Time
15 Minutes Installation 
5 Minutes Installation Touch-Up
Total Time: Approximately 2 Days

    I can't wait until the classroom is completely finished.  Chaos loves his new chalkboard and is excited to start second-grade in our new basement classroom.  Even better- I saved about 92% on the cost of a new chalkboard!

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  1. I had an in home day care years ago. I did the magnetic paint, then a thin layer of paint over it, framed it, and made a spot for the kids to play with the fridge magnet alphabets.

  2. Sound like a great idea. I need help with my creativity. I never would have thought about doing that. #commenthour

  3. This is a great idea for my kids' playroom! You always find all the coolest things!

  4. This is another great idea! I never knew that magnetic paint existed. Thanks for sharing! Stopping by to spread some Comment Hour love!

  5. Really cool! I bought a small chalkboard from IKEA for my 5 year old for about $20, but I think I like yours better. #commenthour


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