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magnetic chalkboard

Our Magnetic Chalkboard Build

What do you do when you have a giant 10 foot empty wall? Fill it with a 4’x8′ Magnetic chalkboard of course. We had talked about doing something big with the back wall of our dining room for a long time and until I can settle on a paint color to cover up the wine red (ick) we figured why not cover it up with a chalkboard that would make a huge statement in the room. Doing nothing the easy or expensive way we knew that we’d need to DIY it to make it affordable. So seated behind our Fancy X table we hung this awesome Magnetic chalkboard.

Making the chalkboard magnetic was important to me because there are 1.2 BILLION pieces of paper that come home from our children’s schools every single day. I’m drowning in piles of papers and the truly important ones, like the ones that need a signature and field trip money, become lost in a sea of re-purposed trees. Cue my lightbulb idea of hanging said important documents from the board in plain sight with cute magnets.

Naturally, we googled and read a lot about how people hated the magnetic chalkboard paint. We knew that we wanted it to be able to hold up and hold up a piece of paper without slowly succumbing to gravity and falling down. So, we turned our attention to a sexy little sheet of cold rolled steel. Well, not so little. We bought a 4ft x 10ft sheet of metal goodness and had them cut 2ft off one end so we could mount it to a standard size sheet of plywood. We were fortunate to have a metal supplier just 15 minutes away and the whole sheet of steel only cost about $40. In hindsight, we could have gone with a thinner gauge of steel and saved even more $ and lessened the weight of the board overall. . Lesson learned.

To get started we used WD-40 to clean the grease and smudges off of the metal so that it would be clean when it came time to paint.

IMG_5437Next, we used about 3 tubes of heavy duty construction adhesive. We started with less and that proved to be a bad move. Both the metal and the plywood we mounted it to were smooth and so the grip was less than perfect. We ended up peeling it apart to add more adhesive. I would recommend hitting the wrong side of the metal with some gritty sandpaper to give the adhesive more surface area to grip. Same goes for the plywood if your sheet is particularly smooth. The steel alone weighs about 40 lbs and we knew that it would be a heavy sucker by the time we had it mounted and framed.

Our oldest girls helped apply the adhesive and what you see is a super cute daddy/daughter moment. We then used them as human weights once the 1/4″ plywood was laid on top of the metal. In order to make sure that the adhesive spread properly, we piled on reclaimed 2 x 10’s to act as weights while the adhesive cure. We chose a thinner piece of plywood for 2 reasons. Price and weight. The chalkboard would have better rigidity if we went with a thicker board but when you’re already planning to adhere 40 lbs. of metal to the front, you have to consider the stress you’re putting on your mounting hardware and subsequently, the wall itself.

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Real talk. Don’t leave steel in the sun and expect your adhesive to cure. Again, lesson learned. Even though it was a cool day, the heat from the sun had negative effects on our build and the plywood ended up sliding to one side by about ½”. Boo that. Shade is your friend when building a magnetic chalkboard. Side note, it’s also more friendly to your skin. But I digress.

Once the adhesive was fully cured, we cut the excess adhesive that had oozed out away and propped the board up for painting. We first rolled out the paint with a sponge roller but found that it left too many peaks and valley and we wanted that smooth slate finish. After the paint had dried, we used our sander and 100, 150 and 220 grit sandpaper to smooth it out. For the final touch we loaded up our Finish Max Fine HVLP Paint Sprayer following the instructions for thinning the paint (using water) and gave the board several more passes to keep the surface smooth and build up what sanding had taken away.

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While we waited for the paint to dry, we moved on to the frame. Without getting fancy and routing out a channel for the board to sit into, we decided to simply mount the frame directly onto the face of the chalkboard but overhanging by about 1″ on all sides. Before we took our wood to the saw, we stained them in a Dark Walnut that we had on hand from another project. We cut our 1×4″ pine boards to length and mitered the corners.

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Using our Kreg Jig we drilled two holes on the 45° angle of the side frame boards and assembled the frame using 1½” pocket screws that we had on hand from other builds.

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We knew that just relying on the adhesive to hold the board to the frame would most likely be disastrous. Instead, we pre-drilled pilot holes along the edges of the board so that we could screw the board to the frame from the back. We used #10 ½” flat wood screws and secured the chalkboard to the frame.

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We used 2 D-ring picture frame hooks 8″ from the top of the board and 2″ from the sides to mount the board.

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Because we knew that the frame wouldn’t be positioned along the wall where we could use the walls studs to support the weight, we found these drywall picture hangers that boast their ability to hold up to 200 pounds. We bought 2 and simply installed them along the wall to match the placement of the D-Ring mounting hardware and made sure that they were level.

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The build was easy enough and went quickly if you don’t consider the down time waiting for glue and paint to dry.

Following the instructions on the chalkboard paint, we waited 24 hours after applying the final coat to “season” our board. We covered the entire board with a layer of chalk. The reason this is a SUPER important step is because if you skip this step, the first thing you write on the board will forever be ghosted on. Then we put our minions kids to work cleaning off the board. Baby wipes are super handy, y’all!

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I would say that we spent about $90 on this project and have already identified areas where we could have cut costs if we were to do it again. Regardless, it sure beats buying it pre-made somewhere else where we would have paid $300-$400.

Oh, and what did we do with the extra steel? We made a 2ft x 4ft chalkboard for our oldest daughters’ shared room.

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