Last time you saw the fourth wall of the boys room it looked like this:
Ack. So messy and cluttery.
I've been planning a chalkboard wall in this room for several months. I was inspired by pictures like this one and this one. There was a moment of hesitation when I worried that the dark color would make our small room feel even smaller, but then I realized that a chalkboard would keep this high-traffic piece of wall between the door and the closet free from any furniture, I hoped that in the end it would actually give the room better flow, and even make it seem bigger. Was I right?
The first thing I had to figure whether the wall was smooth enough for chalkboard drawings. It would be a bummer to go through all the work of transforming the wall, only to realize it was too bumpy for writing. So I directly on the wall with a piece of chalk to test it.
The verdict? Yes. Too bumpy.
I did a little research and found out I had three options for smoothing out my wall.
1. Sand the whole wall until the texture was gone, then prime and paint.
2. Cover the wall with hard board, a thin, smooth sheet of building material. Then spackle, prime, and paint.
3. Coat the entire wall with a thin coat of plaster to fill in the low spots of the texture, then sand, prime, and paint.
If the room had been empty, I would have chosen the sanding option. It would cost the least, and with an electric sander, it probably wouldn't take all that long. But the idea of having to cover everything with plastic, and then clean up all the sanding dust was just too much. And since the third option also called for a bit of sanding (although not nearly as much) I opted for the cleanest route--#2: the hard board.
I measured the walls, and very carefully plotted out how much of the stuff I was going to need. Hard board comes in 4'x8' pieces, in either 3/16 inch thickness or 1/8 inch. I went for the thinner version. Thankfully the tall sections of the wall were exactly perfect for using 2 sheets, with one sheet divided vertically for either side of the door. I was able to avoid buying a third big piece for the section above the door, because Home Depot also sells hard board in 2'x4' sheets. All three pieces cost about $24. So as far as chalkboard go, this was still a very affordable option. I had the boards cut at the store. *note* When getting boards cut at Home Depot or Lowes, take the time to double check all the measurements and marks before the guy puts it through the giant saw. It might seem rude to check his work, but it's worth it to avoid mistakes. It also helps to not have four children with you, but sometimes that is just unavoidable...
While I was at Home Depot I picked up a can of chalkboard paint, and some smooth paint rollers.
When I got out to my van, I opened up the back to load everything up. I had laid down or removed enough of the seats that the area was long enough to fit the 8-ft boards. What I hadn't realized, is that my van's interior space is not tall enough to fit the boards' 4-ft width. After all the measuring, cutting, and child-wrangling that had gone into the last hour, I just stood there staring into my car, not sure what to do next.
The sun was beating down on me with all the force of its triple-digit oppression. I was debating whether to unpack all the kids and head back inside, to balance the boards on top of our heads for the short drive home, or to ditch it all in the parking lot and speed away laughing like a maniac. I had just decided on the latter, when I heard someone offer to help.
I turned to see a man wearing a sombrero and an orange apron with the name Gonzo on it. At first I didn't answer, because I knew that a sombrero-wearing Gonzo was just the kind of mirage I would dream up, and that the heat was playing tricks on my weary mind. But when he offered again, I considered the possibility that he might be real, and actually help me out of my self-induced predicament. I snapped a picture just to be sure.
Gonzo suggested that we tie the boards to the luggage rack. Ah, the luggage rack! Another five minutes, and lots of twine later, we were on our way. And although I imagined myself hitting the breaks and sending those boards flying into another car, they were actually quite secure, and stayed put for the mile-drive home. Thanks, Gonzo!
Once all the kids and the boards were inside, I set to work attaching them to the wall. I used nails to secure the boards to the studs. Then I went back over the nail holes and the seam with some spackle. I let it dry over night, and then went over it with a piece of sandpaper. Yes, I had to sand after all, but the mess was minimal.
The next step was priming. I gave the boards one coat of kilz that we had already so that the chalkboard paint would sit on top of them, instead of soaking in and using more paint than was necessary. After that, it took two coats of chalkboard paint. I've never used chalkboard paint before this, and had no idea what it was like. But rolling on that deep-black inky paint over my new smooth walls was deeply satisfying.
After the second coat was dry, we marked the time, and waited three days for it to cure. That was tough. The kids were anxious to write on their new surface, but I made them wait the entire 72 hours. It seemed like weeks!
At the end, we grabbed some white sidewalk chalk and seasoned the wall by rubbing it down with the side of the chalk.
It was very fast work--only took about 10 minutes to season the whole thing.
Then we wiped it down and had some fun!
Keeping furniture off of this wall looks so much cleaner, and provides lots more play space on the floor.
For the most part, I let them draw on it as much as they want (white chalk only to avoid carpet stains) and I only wipe it down to make more space or write giant messages and blog post titles.
I let the kids wash away their drawings with a water-dampened cloth, which works pretty well. But in all my research for this project, I found that the secret to a glossy, clean chalkboard is a cloth soaked in Coca Cola.
Sounds crazy, I know, but it works. The kids know I have a secret potion for cleaning the chalkboard, but I decided to keep the details to myself. I imagined spilled coke, and lines of ants swarming their bedroom. Aint nobody got time for that.
Are you working on any projects in your kids rooms this week? What have you discovered about space-saving and smart design? Have you ever worked with chalkboard paint? I admit that I'm hooked, and am currently looking for more surfaces to cover with it. I'll be around in the comment section to answer any questions. Have a good one!