Growing up, my mom had a small chalkboard that sat on the kitchen counter next to the coffee maker. She’d always write little messages for me and my brother – like encouraging words on math test days (Both me and my brother are artsy, and therefore, bad at math.) and the annual birthday and Christmas countdowns. Therein lies my love of chalkboards.
For the past few months, Greg and I’ve been keeping an eye out for something to turn into a chalkboard to go in the utility room. For a while, I thought about maybe using an old single-panel door and painting the inside of the panel with chalkboard paint. Then I could put a doorknob on it to serve as a hook for Bentley’s leash. That would be a really cool idea if only I could find a door that didn’t cost $180+. Plus, when I tried to picture it in my head, it seemed kinda bulky. So then I moved to plan B: a frame. I searched for literally months for an old frame that was long enough. Finding one wide enough was never a problem – it was the length that fell short. Then, it happened. I was at a local thrift store, The Love of Jesus Thrift Store for your Richmonders, and lo and behold there it was: a huge, slightly distressed (which was a good thing!), 28″ x 52″ wood frame. It was perfect. And, get this… it was only $1! Yes. One. Dollar. Uno denero. Even though there were only like five other people in the store, I went after it like a Mom on Black Friday 1996 diving for a Tickle Me Elmo.
The night I brought it home, my dad came over to say hi. Btw, if I haven’t mentioned it before, my parents live just across the street. When he saw this big beauty leaning against the wall, he said, “What is that?”. “Potiental, Dad. Potiental,” I responded. I explained to him what we were going to do with it and all he said was, “Uhh… okay.” Little did he know, I had plans. Big plans!
After going back and forth several times, we decided to not paint the frame. The original wood color was very close to the floors, and it really popped against the blue walls. Plus, we’ve already got the green dresser, and we didn’t want to add a crazy-colored frame for it to compete with. As for the chalkboard part, we thought about just painting over the artwork. The backing was nice and sturdy, but it had a lot of really deep scratches that would have shown up even after several layers of paint, so that was a no go. Instead, we decided to buy a piece of wainscoting, have it cut to size, then apply a few coats of magnetic primer followed by chalkboard paint. Then we got smart! We realized it would be really easy to just skip the magnetic primer step, buy a piece of sheet metal, and paint it with the chalkboard paint. Duh! So that’s what we did.
Lowe’s, Ace, True Value and Home Depot all sold sheet metal, but only up to 2 x 3 feet. We needed something more along the lines of 2 x 4 feet. Luckily, my dad “knows a guy” for just about every situation, and this was no different. Being in the access control business, he gets to know a lot of people in the construction industry, and he just happened to “know a guy” who supplies sheet metal to construction companies. As it turns out, they end up with a decent amount of scrap metal that they sell for a pretty reasonable price. We were able to get a sheet of steel for $20 and even had it cut to the exact size we needed! How cool is that?!
Once we had the sheet metal, we gave it a few good coats of primer on both sides to prevent rust. Then we coated the front side with chalkboard spray paint. After about three coats, we realized it wasn’t going to cut it. It was really splotchy and even after three coats, didn’t seem to be covering the metal very well – even with primer. We switched gears and picked up some Valspar Matte Chalkboard paint. Simply put, this stuff is the bomb dot com. I painted it right over the splotchy spray paint with a small foam roller. After just one coat, the board looked so much better and as smooth as butter. Even though one coat looked like it was enough, I ended up doing three coats for good measure.
Now came the fun part: finding a way to secure a 20-pound piece of sheet metal into a 20- to 30-year-old frame that was made for a 2-pound piece of artwork!
Enter our best friend: Liquid Nails. We prepped the frame by taking out the artwork, removing all the staples, and unscrewing the lightweight picture hanging hooks from the back of the frame. After checking the fit of the sheet metal in the frame – It was a very tight fit, thanks to my dad’s ninja-like measuring skills – we put a bead of liquid nails on the lip of the frame, pressed the metal into place, set some heavy stacks of books on top of it, and let it sit.
Twenty four hours later, we put a second layer of Liquid Nails on the back side of the metal (we applied it like you would a caulk line) just for extra security. At that point, we had done all we could. Either the frame was going to fall apart under the weight, or it was going to be rock solid. I have to admit, when Greg picked it up the first time after the glue had dried, I was a little nervous, but it was absolutely, 100% rock-solid. This baby ‘aint going anywhere!
Greg attached two small (yet reasonably heavy-duty) D-shaped rings to the back of the frame with screws, adding a little bit of
our BFF Liquid Nails to each screw. Then it was ready for hanging and chalking…
This entire project only cost 36 bucks. The frame was $1, the sheet metal was $20, and the roll-on chalkboard paint was $15. We already had the roller, primer (and the chalkboard spray paint that didn’t work out) left over from another project, and Liquid Nails is a staple around here… kinda like Cholula hot sauce.
Greg and I are both crazy in love with it! The texture of the Valspar paint is what I consider to be “perfect chalkboard texture” and our Crayola chalk writes on it really well and, just as importantly, erases like a dream with a damp paper towel.
For a bit of a quirky touch, we left the art plaque on the frame. It’s a cool way to remember where the frame came from.
I hate how my wide angle lens makes everything look grainy and the walls look bowed — the walls are straight. Promise. We really like how it helps fill up the laundry room a bit more. But the best perk… Christmas countdown! ; )