Magnetic Dry-Erase Wall!




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Feast your eyes on the incredibly awesome Magnetic Dry-Erase Wall!

I had a problem:  we had a dry erase board, and the best place for it happened to be right in a high traffic area of the house.  That was the main reason it was a good place, as it was easy to remember to write down a phone number or read the shopping list or whatever.  However, with so much traffic it was always getting knocked off the wall.  

One day it fell down and damaged the hook on the back, while at the same time pulling the nail out of the wall.  I realized something had to be done.  With a little cogitation, a solution presented itself!

I grabbed the Home Depot gift card my Dad gave me for my birthday and headed for the paint section.  I've had my eye on these specialty paints Rustoleum makes for a while, and decided it was time to give them a whirl.  I picked up a ridiculously heavy can of magnetic primer, and an oddly light package of dry erase paint, took them home, and promptly dragged my feet about getting it done for a month.  It turns out sanding textured wall down to a smooth finish is a huge pain in the rear.

Sadly, once I finally got around to doing this, I violated my own cardinal rule of makin' stuff . . . I didn't take any process pictures.  I thought, oh well, this is very simple, no one really wants a full instructable about it.  However, by the time I was done I realized that I wish I had had some more in depth instruction, perhaps with some notes about pitfalls and problems that can arise!

So today you'll have to make do with photos of the completed work and my overly verbose description of the how to's and how not to's of making your wall into a Magnetic Dry-Erase Wall.

Stuff you need:
  • Sand paper of various grits
  • A power sander (not 100% required, but really helps)
  • Paintbrushes
  • High density paint roller for a smooth finish
  • Paint thinner for cleanup
  • Magnetic primer
  • Dry-erase paint
  • Masking tape
  • Spackle
  • White latex primer (or other interior paint)
  • Newspaper or plastic to catch any drips
  • Paint trays of some sort (that you don't mind throwing out when you're done)
1. First, make sure it's okay to do this to your wall.  I asked the landlord (me) and he said, "Sure, go ahead," while shaking his head and rolling his eyes.

2.  Use masking tape to mark out roughly where you want this to go.  I didn't want it framed or anything, I just wanted it to literally be part of the wall, so I just marked out a rectangle where the old dry erase board was.

3.  **** UPDATE 10/18/12:  Toga_Dan has mentioned in the comments that drywall texture can be dampened and scraped off!  I imagine if I'd known that, this would have been MUCH easier.  Thanks for the advice, Dan! ***

Now you're going to need to sand the area smooth.  This is a humongous pain the butt.  I would prefer to do this to a new wall, rather than working with an old, already textured wall.  I sanded through the top coat of paint, through a bunch of plaster texture, and through one more layer of paint, then decided I'd gone deep enough and tried not to sand through the next layer.  Turns out, my currently yellow kitchen used to be blue, and before that it was horrifyingly pink.  Also, someone put a fist shaped hole in this section of wall once upon a time.  Hooray for home archaeology! 

Make sure you use a breathing mask and eye protection, dust will get everywhere and it's probably bad for you.  I even drafted India to stand around catching the worst of the dust with the shop vac, but this still made a big mess.

4.  Spackle up the holes you almost certainly will have found, and the accidental deep spots you've mistakenly sanded into the wall.  When that dries, sand everything one more time and you should be ready for the primer.

5.  Brush away any excess dust, and tape up the wall and floor with newspaper or plastic.  I didn't do this, as I am an idiot, and unsurprisingly I made a mess.  

Mix the magnetic primer thoroughly.  This will take some time.  If you are buying the primer the same day you're going to start using it, ask the folks at the paint store to run the can through the paint mixer.  It will save you a lot of trouble.  Once it's completely mixed up, pour a little into a paint tray and use a smooth brush to put a thin coat on the wall.  Try to be quick about it, as the solvent tends to evaporate and leave the primer a bit chunky.  If you're careful you can redisolve any chunks of iron you've got on the wall by applying more wet primer to them.

The instructions recommend that you do at least three thin coats for maximum magnet grab.  I did four, and I feel like I should have done one or two more.

6.  Lightly sand this layer to make it smooth again--I ended up with plenty of lumps that needed to be reduced, and the overall texture was kind of grainy.  When done, apply a coat or two of the plain white latex paint.  I made a mistake and put it on too thick, I think, and the wall isn't as magnetic as I would like.  Sand the final result one last time, getting it as smooth as absolutely possible.  I didn't sand mine enough, and it is slightly lumpy.

7.  Apply the dry erase paint.  This is trickier than you might think, and the instructions on the cans are a bit misleading at best.  They say to simply pour the small can into the larger one, and mix thoroughly.  That is because this isn't a traditional paint, but rather a kind of two part epoxy that is activated when mixed.  

Instead, you should measure out roughly equivalent parts to make enough for one or at most two coats.  The first time I did this I used a third of each can, and it was way too much.  The next time I reduced that to 1/9 of each can, which was just enough for two very thin coats.

The instructions say to use a roller designed for smooth finishes, lay down one coat, wait 20 minutes, lay down another, and if necessary, lay down a third.  By then, the paint will be starting to solidify around the edges.  DO NOT DO THIS.  By the time I got the third coat down, the paint was thick enough that it started to drip.  By morning, it had solidified with an unpleasantly droopy texture and I had to sand it down and paint again.

With my 1/9 quantity, I was able to lay down one very thin coat, wait about 40 minutes, and lay down a second very thin coat.  With the stuff already underneath, this was enough to give a mostly smooth, uniformly white finish.

8.  The last thing I had to do (since the paint was so thick and the magnetic base was too thin) was to add some thin neodymium magnets to the heavier pens, and to the backs of the clips.  Done!

Thanks for taking the time to read about my magnet wall!  It's really cool, everyone likes to draw right on the wall!  When we have our kitchen redone in a few years, I want to do that entire section of wall in dry erase.

Please take a moment to rate, subscribe, and email!  I love to hear back from everyone, so let me know what you think.  If you should make your own Magnetic Dry-Erase Wall, post some pictures in the comments and I'll send you a DIY patch and a 3 month pro membership!
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    17 Discussions


    1 year ago

    I have to give this a try. I have two kitchen pantry doors that would be a perfect canvas for this.


    1 year ago

    I enjoyed your realistic step by step instructions. People learn better by taking the time to read and fully understand that correcting mistakes is part of acheiving a finished product.
    I am going to give this project a try. It will help with my forgetfullness.

    1 reply

    3 years ago on Introduction

    Great idea but I wouldn't do too much sanding of the magnetic paint. It's the tiny metallic particles in the magnetic paint that make magnets stick and when you sand the magnetic paint, you are removing these particles. Also, I would use Magically Magnetic Paint Additive to make my own magnetic paint. It's much cheaper and I feel better than the pre-mixed magnetic paints you can buy. The pre-mixed stuff sits around on store shelves and in warehouses for long periods and even a paint store electric mixer can't mix it up well enough. With Magically Magnetic dry additive and your white primer paint, you mix it up fresh and easy every time you use it. It mixes up white, goes on white and stays white when it dries. It also covers easily with any color finish paint, even white paint.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    This is cool but not good enough to work with ordinary magnets.Try Candy Paint Asia's Magnetic Paint, they have awesome and powerful easy DIY paint kit.

    Chemetal sells a magnetic dry erase laminate. they sell thru distributors all over the place, which is good but can be a pain for non-building material professionals. You don't have to paint anything. The magnetic is especially good on the #160 dry erase steel, thought steel is hard to cut at home, unless you have a metal shop in your home, but chemetal can cut custom sizes with a one 4 x 8 sheet minimum.

    Thanks for this! It's always good to learn from others. ;) I used to work in the paint department at Lowes, and I LOVE Rustoleum. I recently saw a brand at Wal-Mart marketed under the Disney name for Dry Erase, as well. I'm hoping to turn a whole wall of my craft room into a magnetic dry erase board. ;) Crazy? Why, yes I am. lol

    1 reply

    5 years ago on Introduction

    I am a teacher and my maintenance staff tried this according to the directions on the boxes and kits. The put 8 coats of the dry-erase paint because it was so clear and thin and could not cover up the black magnetic paint. The result- the walls are not magnetic and the color is a not white but a very light greyish-blue. I would greatly appreciate your thoughts.
    Thanks so much.

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    That's terrible! I've got a couple of questions:
    -How many coats of magnetic primer did they use?
    -Did they let it dry completely between coats?
    -Did they apply a coat of plain white paint between the magnetic paint and dry erase paint?


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Oh, I don't see why not . . . the magnetic paint will add a bit of weight, but I think it would still work fine. In fact, I used the excess dry erase paint I had on my freezer door!

    If you do this, I'd love to see some pictures!