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The Chalkboard Wall Revisited

chalkboard_erinLast month, I wrote about my plan to convert one of the walls in my house into a giant chalkboard in an attempt to help me plan effectively and keep track of the “Big Picture.” It’s been about 4 weeks now since I painted my wall, so I wanted to report back with some thoughts on the process and the results.

First, a confession: I hadn’t ever painted a wall before. I had painted canvases, pottery, and furniture, but walls were a new and unknown variable, so to start, I spent several hours reading webpages about how to paint walls. At first I felt kind of like an idiot, since there was a not-small part of my brain thinking “C’mon, really?! How hard could it be? Just start painting already!” In retrospect, I am very glad that I didn’t listen to that part. I actually learned a lot from spending a little time reading about what I should be doing before I started doing it. Most helpful were eHow’s page for the basics, and the much more detailed and very informative This Old House page. In a nutshell, I learned about not only the importance of painter’s tape and floor coverings (both of which I had already guessed), but I also learned about the importance of cleaning, sanding and “cutting in.”

I finally felt ready to go to the store. I went to Home Depot because I knew that they sold the chalkboard paint I wanted, Rustoleum’s Tint Base. The paint is actually available in the traditional chalkboard colors, black and green, already mixed, but I wanted to go with a color that would match the rest of my house a bit better. The Tintable Base offers customers a choice of twelve different colors. Not surprisingly, the colors look different from the website on the box, so if this interests you, I’d recommend going to the store and looking at those swatches for the most accurate results (at least the Periwinkle swatch is more accurate–it looks like blue online but in real life, it’s a bit more purple). At Home Depot, I bought primer, the paint, and a roller kit that included a paint tray, a roller and cover, a paintbrush, and a paint can key. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out which roller cover would be best for this project: Smooth? Semi-smooth? 3/8″? 1/4″? 5/16? I also didn’t know which kind of paint thinner I needed, just in case. Home Depot wasn’t especially helpful in this regard. The next day, I went to Lowes to pick up a few other things, and I happened to cruise through the paint section, and wow was it much more user-friendly. I wished that I had gone there first. They had helpful cards posted about which roller covers to buy, and there were a lot of different options for other products. I even managed to find a really cool little gadget to help with the edging.

Then the moment of truth: Actually getting started. I removed the light switch and electrical outlet covers, taped the switch & outlet, and taped the baseboard. I then sanded the entire wall with very finely grained sand paper. I then wiped the wall down with a damp cloth and let it dry completely. 

First I applied a coat of primer since the wall had previously been painted a lovely shade of Artichoke green, and I let the primer dry overnight. Rustoleum offers a magnetic primer that would allow you to not only use the wall for a chalkboard but also hang things on it with magnets, but I decided against the magnets since my chalkboard is in a high traffic area. I then sanded the primed wall, wiped it down again, and painted the chalkboard. The actual painting took about three days (including all the drying time, and I was extra-conservative about this since I live in the South and the humidity has been off the charts this summer).

Once the painting was finished, the chalkboard had to stand for three days before I could write on it. I waited an extra day for good measure, and conditioned the board by rubbing chalk all over it and erasing it (as per the instructions). I then drew three calendars (June July, and August) across the top of the wall. I added my travel plans for the summer and my writing deadlines. I also wrote the ingredients for a recipe I’ve been making a lot lately so I wouldn’t have to keep looking it up (stay tuned for What’s for Lunch in July!). Just today, I also added a list of books that I need to read or reread this summer. Occasionally, I will write my grocery list there or a reminder about something or other.

A few commenters on the original post, stachowiak and fellow ProfHacker Natalie Houston, recommended Dry Erase paint instead of the chalkboard, and I did consider the Dry Erase option. In the end, I opted against it in no small part because the Dry Erase paint is not tintable, and a white wall just wouldn’t look good in that space. I definitely underestimated the amount of dust that the chalkboard wall would produce, but using dustless chalk certainly helps, and since I share my home with a dog and two cats, I’m already sweeping the floors constantly. But what works for me in my space isn’t necessarily what will work best for you in your space. So far, I don’t erase much, and I am not allergic to chalk dust. But if you have allergies or want something that you can erase easily and often, or if you are less particular about the color scheme than I am, the White Board may well be your best answer.

If you like the idea of a chalkboard or dry-erase wall but have commitment issues (or a landlord who frowns on that kind of thing), you might look into Wallies, a company who manufactures various wall decals including chalkboards and dry-erase boards. Wallies would give you the functionality of the chalkboard or dry-erase wall without having to repaint later. The decal versions might also be useful in an office on campus.

So far, I’ve been pleased with the results. I’ve been productive and keeping a steady pace. It’s been very useful to see how much of my summer has elapsed. Knowing where I am in the big picture has helped me stay on task with my writing goals and my own productivity. It also helps me to simply keep track of what day it is (kind of challenging sometimes without a teaching schedule!). 

How is your summer going so far? Are you where you want to be with your writing (or teaching or reading)? What strategies have you been using? Please share in the comments section.

[Creative Commons licensed image by the author, Flickr user eetempleton.]

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