Chalk walls are excellent parenting

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UPDATE: More info & photos on our magnetic chalkboard wall here.

We had a chalk wall in the one small hallway at our our house. It was magical. Hours of entertainment, getting out that desire to draw on the walls that all kids have, a creative outlet, alphabet lessons… the list goes on and on. I literally loved that thing.

A month and a half into the new house and I’ve been wanting to recreate it every day. The day has finally come!  My little artists are back to their creativity and alphabet school is back in session.


Here’s Chloe’s first display.  I believe she creatively named a dinosaur.


I waited until after we had the entire house painted for a few reasons: less confusion, wanted the chair rail painted professionally, I was crazy busy getting ready for painters. We hired professional painters because we were reprinting the trim, walls, doors, ceilings, everything. I’m a great painter, but I’m also a great vacation-with-family-while-someone-else-does-it kin of gal.

Here’s how I did it:

Don’t feel fooled by the time spend on this.  It won’t happen in an afternoon.  Here’s how it went for me (over a week or two) on the days I worked on this:

Day 1: Chair rail (+ had the painters paint it with the house)
Day 2: First coat of mud
Day 3: 2nd coat of mud (because I hadn’t put it on thick enough to cover our heavy texture)
Day 4: Sand, sand, sand until I was sore
Day 5: Lots and lots of magnetic primer, then a few hours later, chalk paint <– (this is where I started at the last house since the walls were already smooth)
Day 6: Let the kids play with it!

Materials Needed:
– Joint Compound, drywall knife, mud pan to smooth walls (if needed)

Painter’s tape, I recommend one for delicate surfaces
– Something to cover your floors, I used trash bags
Magnetic Primer (Optional)
Chalkboard Paint

I started with a small, blank hallway. It worked perfectly because its going to be our “mud hallway” (more on that later) since its right off of the garage and laundry room PLUS it’s right off of the family room. It’s the perfect place to make a mess close to the hub of our home. In our previous home, I had done this in the only location possible which was the hallway to the bedrooms right across from our hall bath. It was also right off the living room and between the main living areas and the hallway.

At our previous home, we had gotten rid of all wall texture so I just taped off a line and went for it. Our new home took a bit more planning. We have plenty of texture on the walls which is no good for chalk, especially for kids + chalk. You would have to press down REALLY hard for crappy results.


I wanted a chair rail since the new house had a more elegant feel and to define the textured vs flat wall. I had it painted with the trim when painters were scheduled anyway. Next up, masking off the area to prepare to “float” the wall flat.


Then comes the mud. If you’re the “make it happen” type, call the Sheetrock installers. If you DIY, know that this is an art, not a science, and there is no room for perfection. Errors can be fixed and its a chalkboard wall, not heart surgery.


I used a trowel and powder joint compound mix because I had them on-hand, but you can also use the pre-mixed stuff in a bucket. Spread the mud out as smoothly as you can and expect lines to happen. You’ll fix them later. I recommend using the slow dry stuff, especially if it’s your first time. There is quickset mud, but you’ll want the extra time to work.

Let it dry.


Next, if you want it to be magnetic, put on as many coats of magnetic primer (I used Rust-Oleum) as you can.  I put fewer coats on the edges so it wouldn’t be so thick next to the trim, and layered it on THICK in the middle using a trim roller with a pad for smooth surfaces.  It does have strong fumes so plan accordingly.  More coats = more magnetic.  I used a good half can on this.  The magnetic bits settle to the bottom so stir it up well and feel free to use some plasticware to scoop some out into your pan (or leftover paper party plate if you’re fancy).  I tried to use left-over magnetic primer and found that it had separated beyond repair.

After it is good and dried, it’s time for chalk-paint.  I used Rust-Oleum brand again.


After about 24 hours, it should be good to go!  Many people “condition” the surface first by covering it completely in chalk, then erasing.  We did the quickie version.

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