Our New Built-in Magnetic Kitchen Chalkboard

Posted on Mar 6, 2014


We are almost finished with our kitchen renovation and we have now entered the organizational stage of the project.  To help us stay organized, I wanted to try making a custom magnetic chalkboard message board.  My plan was for something to keep track of our day-to-day paper trail plus be a place to hang kids art etc… I find if I don’t have anywhere to put things they just build up cluttering the kitchen island or worse get misplaced and forgotten.

During our renovation the fridge was moved from one side of the kitchen to other.  While it was the right thing to do with the space it left us with a cabinet that was missing an end cap and crown moulding.  This isn’t something that would be that big of a deal to leave and make do but it lends itself to my kitchen message board idea very nicely (I always feel better if I am taking care of two issues at once, two birds one stone baby!).

My inspiration came from this great kitchen space I saw on Houzz:

Traditional Kitchen by San Francisco Architects & DesignersGast Architects

So here is a before shot of the space we were working with:


You will see that compared to the other cabinet sides this one looks more bare.  There were a couple of things that were going to make this project a bit tricky: it is fairly narrow (14.5″) and the wall behind it is not even but when you are working with a century home you just need to go with the flow on these things and make do.

This is what the other finished ends look like in our kitchen, they have a nice shaker frame (which I love and totally suit the house) with some wainscoting and crown moulding.  These cabinets were here when we bought the house and are about 15 years old but we were able to cheaply update them by just giving them a fresh coat of paint during our renovation.


I started doing my research and found a few options out there on how you can create a magnetic chalkboard.  You can use magnetic chalkboard paint directly on the cabinet end or you could use a sheet of metal and then chalkboard paint or chalkboard vinyl on top.  I did some reading on magnetic paint and the consensus seemed to be that it takes A LOT of coats (think 12) to achieve a fairly functional magnetic surface.  I really wanted our magnetic board to be useful and not get frustrated by magnets and papers falling off all the time.  Some people reported even after many coats they need to use very strong magnets.  Since I want at least part of this board to be for the kids to use, extremely strong magnet are not a safe option. Rare-earth magnets can be very dangerous if swallowed, you don’t have to search long to find a bunch of information on this.   I also like the fact that using metal sheeting would produce a lot less (if any) off-gassing compared to a whole bunch of coats of magnetic paint. It was really easy to find some thin sheet metal and it was also quite cheap.  I found mine at The Home Depot for $4.80 a sheet, it was in the ductwork/HVAC department.  Just make sure whatever you buy is magnetic because some stainless steel is not. 

My next step was deciding how to “chalkboardize” my metal without paint.  The easiest solution seemed to be sticking on some sort of chalkboard vinyl.  I was nervous about the PVC and the phthalates that come along with products like this, so I was thrilled when I came across a product called ChalkTalk™


Unlike plasticized chalkboard vinyl products, this is an environmentally-friendly product. It is safe for use in food service environments or in a home.  Tested by a certified independent lab for CPSIA compliance,  it lead-free and phthalate free ( phthalates are something that The US National Toxicology Program (NTP) says that DEHP “is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” you can read more: http://www.cancer.ca/en/prevention-and-screening/be-aware/harmful-substances-and-environmental-risks/phthalates/?region=on#ixzz2uv7ppuBc).  It was more expensive than the PVC vinyl I found online but for me the cost is justified.  Just incase you need any more convincing on the dangers of plastics here is a scary read.

I ran a quick test with a small piece to make sure it would stick to the metal and to ensure it worked well with chalk, success!! It stuck down very well and the chalk marked up and washed off perfectly:


I had to choose a design for my kitchen message board.  It is a very tall narrow space so I felt that leaving it completely black would be too much.  Plus the sheet metal I found only came in 16″X36″ pieces so I had to hide at least one seam.  I took the measurements and came up with a few different ideas that mimicked the existing frame from the other cabinet ends (These were done in Sketchup, my favorite free modelling tool):


I decided to go with the 3 panel design on the far right, which left me with the biggest magnetic chalk surface in the middle of the space.    My sister had suggested I might try just doing chalk in the middle and then leaving the top and bottom white so the black wasn’t too overpowering. I think this is a good idea from an aesthetic perspective but in the end I really wanted the bottom area for the kids to play with. 

Time to get our hands dirty…  First thing I did was cut the sheet metal and corresponding chalkboard to stick onto it.  We tried some tin snips and even a dremel blade but in the end, good old scissors worked the best for cutting the metal:



Sticking down the big piece of chalk sticker proved to be a bit more challenging than the small test I had done earlier.  It was definitely DIY-able but I had my husband help hold the end while I pressed the sticky part down trying to avoid air bubbles.  It is really important to make sure you are sticking it down onto a clean surface.  Even just a little speck of dust will cause a bump/air bubble to form.  For anyone who has stuck down vinyl before you will know what I am talking about.  We managed to get all three done without any bubbles but had to peel back and restart a few times on one of them.  Somehow a piece of dust snuck its way onto the metal even after I wiped it down.

You might be able to tell that we aren’t too concerned about the edges of the metal or vinyl, this is because they are going to be covered up by the shaker frame we will build around it.

We then used a nail gun and nailed our magnetic chalkboards right onto the side of the cabinet.  We toyed with the idea of using an adhesive as well but I wanted to keep this project as non-toxic as possible so we skipped this step.  I would just make sure to hold down the metal while you nail the edges and you should be able to get a nice close fit.  Here is what it looked like without the frame, not too pretty but I couldn’t resist popping some magnets on there to see how it worked.


When it came to acquiring the materials to build the frame we were actually quite lucky.  The previous owners of our house had left some scrap wood in the garage that just happened to be the right size for the job and there were just enough pieces to build the exact frame I had chosen for my design.  They were bare wood and had to be painted white to match our cabinets.   We used Benjamin Moore Natura No-VOC paint on our cabinets in the kitchen when we repainted them this past year and luckily I still had some leftover paint in the same custom white color.

We used the nail gun again to nail down the frame and then I did a quick nail hole fill with some paintable dap, waited a couple hours for it to dry and did another coat of paint.  Not my best paint job since I had an 11month old latched onto my legs while I was doing it but it works!  I may give it another light sand and fix it up later when I have a chance but here is the finished product for now:

kitchen magnetic chalkboard
kitchen magnetic message board

For some perspective on size here is a more panned out shot:

Traditional kitchen

I am really happy with how it turned out and it went into use immediately!  There are still a couple of steps left to finish off this area of the kitchen but they don’t affect function.  We need to buy some matching crown moulding to attach onto the top of this cabinet unit and then I would like to put up wainscoting to match with the rest of the kitchen.  Time to put down the tools for a bit get some fun magnets for the kids to play with! I will update you with some pictures once we get it all done:)


1 Comment

  1. Michelle Norberry
    March 12, 2014

    You took that chalkboard to a whole new level! Love the added magnetic feature, I cant wait to try this.


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