Framed Chalkboard Tutorial

I know I’m a little behind the times on this one, but I recently finished making a framed chalkboard for my mom’s kitchen (which has undergone some major changes over the last year.)

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It’s a really simple and cheap project, so it’s a great option for a big wall that needs a statement piece. Here’s what you need:

  • A frame 
  • The glass for the frame or a high quality, thin piece of plywood that fits inside the frame
  • Latex primer
  • Chalkboard paint
  • A high density foam roller or good quality paint brush
  • Extra fine sanding block
  • Paint for your frame (optional)
  • A heavy duty stapler if you’re frame doesn’t have a way to hold the center piece
  • And, of course, chalk!

So a while back my mom found this old frame in my grandma’s basement. It’s a very solid, wooden frame, and it’s huge, so she decided it would be the perfect statement piece for a large wall in her kitchen.

Old frame

Since the frame didn’t come with glass, we needed to find an alternative for the actual chalkboard. We measured the inside of the frame carefully and then went to Home Depot and found precut pieces of thin, high quality plywood. We chose the one that felt the smoothest and had the least imperfections. It was actually already the right height, so we just needed to cut off the extra on one end. Remember, they will make one free cut for you, which made this step super easy!

If your frame does come with glass, then all you need to do is clean it to prep it for painting.

For this project, we decided to use Rustoleum’s chalkboard paint. It’s usually around $14. I have made my own chalkboard paint before, but it’s a lot less work to buy it and it’s easier to get a smooth finish.

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Rustoleum recommends that you prime your surface first with a latex primer. Unfortunately, we were working on this project at my mom’s house and she didn’t have any latex primer, so we skipped that step. Shhh, don’t tell! Since we didn’t prime, I applied 3 coats of the paint with a high density foam roller, though it looked good after just 2. In between each coat, I lightly sanded the surface with an extra fine sanding block. As with any painting project, it’s always a good idea to sand in between coats for the smoothest finish, but DO NOT sand after the final coat.

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After that, I actually took the project back to my house to finish it. Once the paint was dry, I needed to conditioned the surface with chalk. To do this, just hold the chalk sideways and rub it over the entire chalkboard, and then wipe it off.

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You might need to do this several times before you can write on the chalkboard and erase without still seeing everything you just wrote.

Then I prepped the frame. One end of the frame was pretty water damaged, so after a light sanding and a good cleaning with a TSP substitute, I sprayed it with a couple coats of Kilz Complete oil primer.

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If you’re using a newer frame or one that isn’t bare wood, you probably don’t need to use an oil primer, and might not need any primer at all. Depends on how much use you expect it to get. But because this one was bare wood and had water damage, we needed to use something heavy duty to lock in all those stains.

When working with oil on small projects, I always prefer to use a spray primer because there’s no cleanup. Sadly, though, the coverage is not as thick as when you brush it, so it doesn’t always cover tough stains. After a couple coats of spray primer, it was still bleeding through. See the orange spot?

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To solve that, I spot primed the bleeding areas with the original Kilz oil primer.

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After that, I caulked the corners of the frame and brushed on 2 coats of Valspar’s Tranquility that my mom got as free samples.

Once the frame is completed, it’s time for assembly! Since this frame was an older frame, there was no provided way to attach a middle piece. We used a heavy duty T50 staple gun (with fairly long staples) and put a staple in about every 6 inches. Then we gently hammered down the staples so they were pressing against the wood and holding it in place.

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We also had to shave a bit off some of the corners to make it fit around the nails in the frame. The plywood is thin and fairly soft, so we were able to do this with a utility knife and cut off just as much as we needed to squeeze it into place.

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If you have a newer frame with a glass piece, the reassembly step might be really easy! But even still, it wasn’t complicated and didn’t require any fancy tools. And it just turned out so cute!!

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The frame is so thick, I love the color, and I love that you can still see the wood grain of the frame!

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For anyone wanting to do a large section of chalkboard, I would definitely recommend buying the paint. Unless you already have black paint (or whatever color you’re wanting to do) and unsanded grout on hand, it might actually be cheaper to buy the paint. Plus, it goes a long way. It’s worth making your own if you want a custom color or already have the supplies and just need to do a small area, but if not, skip the headache of trying to get rid of lumps in the paint and create smooth finish with the DIY version (I do think it’s possible, just more work!!)

And FYI, the paint goes a lot farther if you don’t spill half of the quart because you didn’t realize it was open!

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Considering that a “cheap” piece of art this large might cost you upwards of $50 or $100, the total cost for this project isn’t too shabby. My mom got the frame and the Valspar paint for free. I think she paid around $14 for the chalkboard paint (and she still has leftovers of that), $8 for the plywood, and $6 for the spray primer. I had everything else on hand. That makes the total about $30!  If you’re frame had glass and didn’t need so much priming, it would be even cheaper.

The frame still hasn’t made the 3 hour trek back home, and it’s so cute that if I hadn’t already told my mom it was done, I might just keep it! Kidding, of course. She has the perfect spot for it…it will go on the large, blank wall on the right side of this picture.

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Won’t it be so perfect? I’m excited for her, but I’ll be sad to see it go. It’s looking mighty dapper propped up against the wall in my kitchen, and I almost think it makes my stupid floors look charming. Almost?

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I’m trying to decide if I want to paint the inside of my pantry door with chalkboard paint. Imagine the possibilities: to do lists, grocery lists, recipes, meal plans, etc. Have you painted anything with chalkboard paint recently?

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