Magnetic Whiteboard Wall(paper)

The tl;dr Version

  • Buy Rustoleum Magnetic Primer
  • Buy Whiteboard wall statics
  • Mix the primer very well. Mix it some more.
  • Apply primer to walls. I used about 7 coats; packaging suggests 3, but 7 is great for me
  • Measure and cut the whiteboards, apply to the walls, remove the bubbles
  • Get neodymium magnets for the walls to make sure you get a solid hold

The Full Version

My office is an odd shape–it’s not exactly square. Instead, there is about a 4 foot area that is on a 45-degree angle that makes the room only 10 feet wide in some parts and 12 feet wide in the other, and the entry door is in the angled portion. This is not a complaint, but it does make the space sort of difficult to do anything fun with.

The short wall is about 5.5 feet wide and 7 feet tall, and the space around the door is about 5 inches on one side and 12 inches on the other. Hey, I am not perfectly in the middle, but the door is in the right place. It would make sense if you were looking at it, and you would not even notice my imperfections. I hope.

There used to be a 2′ x 3′ whiteboard wall static on the space. I used it to keep track of my writing schedules and word counts and delivery dates. Plenty of imperfections in this little space, too.

I have always lusted a bit after those whiteboard painted walls–and I am pretty positive that I am not the only one.

The problem, of course, is that there is a substantial amount of waiting, and quite a bit of praying, I think, to make this work. I have seen these walls in offices where you can tell that what was once there is leaving parts of its dry erase soul in the paint. I have heard horror stories of vulgarities and inappropriate drawings being permanently etched into public-facing walls. One of my friends tells me that his company has their cleaning staff meticulously wipe down ALL of their walls every evening in order to prevent the ghosting and other leave-behind marks from staking their claim.

Anyway. It all seems like a gigantic pain in the rear, and nowhere near as simple as just taking wall statics and sticking them on the walls. The problem with the wall statics, of course, is that they do not have an edge like a hanging board, so it is easy to go off the whiteboard space and leave marks on the paint, which is not difficult to repair but I always feel like an idiot, or at least more of an idiot than normal. And they are not magnetic, which means tape is needed if you want to stick anything to the wall.

The solution: Rustoleum Magnetic Primer and Whiteboard wall statics!

Step 1: Prime the Wall

(I am going to assume that you will remove the light switch and outlet covers, and apply painters tape as appropriate.)

Do not be scared off by the less than stellar reviews at Amazon for this primer. It really is not that difficult to use if you read the instructions and understand how to use it. Mostly, it is mix well, apply a coat, let it dry, apply another coat, and so on.

My space was about 7′ tall by about 5′ 8″ and I bought 5 cans of the Rustoleum Metallic Primer. It’s around $20 per can, so keep that in mind. If you buy it at a DIY store, ask the paint department to shake the cans for you before you leave, especially if you are going to start the project right away. Once you open the cans, you will need to mix them. And mix them. The bottom of the cans will feel like they have sludge in the bottom, but that is just the mixture of metal filings–the stuff that makes it magnetic–settling in the bottom (yes, even when the cans have been shaken). Apply the primer.

Wait about 30 minutes. Do the next coat. We did not test after the first coat, but after the second coat, magnets were sticking to the wall already and it made it a bit more fun, but there was more to do. We ended up putting a total of 7 coats on the walls, and it was challenging to not get clumps of the metallic filings in areas–keep that in mind when you paint.

Oh, and ventilate the area; this stuff is toxic smelling and it gets pretty intense.

Step 2: Apply the Whiteyboards

This is the most difficult part and it took us about 2 – 2.5 hours. But we needed to cut to fit, and then there is the smoothing out of the air bubbles and all that. It sounds easy, but it was a 2-person job with the big 4′ x 6′ whiteboards.

One important thing to note: unroll the Whiteyboards and let them sit for a day or so if you can. It just helps to have them get the chance to be unrolled and flattened for a bit.

Spend the time getting out as many of the air bubbles as you can. In some cases, you will be lifting up areas that you just busted your hump to get down flat because it is the only way to get the bubbles out, but the squeegees that the folks from Whiteyboard provide are pretty good at helping you along the way. It will be tough to get this perfect, and if your wall is like mine, you will have plenty of imperfections and a bunch of clumps from the primer, but they will not be major. More importantly, those clumps really will not affect how you use the whiteboard space.

There is one last, very important thing to note: Do not think you will be able to use standard, run-of-the-mill refrigerator magnets. Unless you put a metallic wall behind the whiteboards, the magnetic force will not be as intense as you hope for.

Instead, pick up some neodymium magnets for the walls. They are strong. VERY strong. So strong that they were able to stay together on both sides of my hands. They can be tough to pull apart from each other, but they hold quite a bit to the walls very well.

And finally, here is the wall space in context of the entire office:

Good luck!


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