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We have a big-ass whiteboard in the Toolmonger office, and it’s often a centerpiece for creative work. There’s nothing nicer than having lots of space to spread out a group’s ideas and kick them around visually. So when it comes to whiteboards, bigger is indeed better. But what if you want to turn an entire wall into a whiteboard? Sure, people have been doing this for a while now, but it’s been more the sort of thing you’d see a startup blow VC money on than something you could do at home or in a small business environment. Thankfully, that’s changed.

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We found a couple of pretty good-looking options, which we present here from the most expensive to the least.

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Stick-On Whiteboards

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The high-buck whiteboard variants we mentioned at the top of this post are porcelain-coated metal sheets, and they’re the best. Not only is the porcelain durable as hell, but the magnetic backings are also ferrous, allowing you to stick stuff to the boards with magnets. But if you’re willing to forego the magnetic bit, we found some much more cost-effective stick-on solutions. WhiteyBoard, for example, offers a peel-and-stick variant that’s thick enough to smooth out rough wall surfaces, yet significantly cheaper than hard panels. $80 gets you a 4′ x 6′ sheet, which they claim not only doesn’t damage walls, but is removable and reusable. Tack on another $50 and you can have the same thing in a 4′ x 10′ variant. They call this their Corporate Whiteyboard. They offer the same thing in a whole bunch of different sizes and prices as well.

Paint-On Whiteboards

Assuming you have smooth office walls (or are willing to deal with whatever texture surface you’re stuck with), the same company offers a dry erase paint, which when applied in multiple coats turns (so they say) your wall into an erasable, reusable dry erase surface. Pricing starts at $65 for enough paint to cover a 30 sq. ft. area, so this stuff runs about 80% the price of the stick-on types, with the advantage that you can easily cover odd-shaped walls or surfaces. There’s also something kinda cool about being able to write all over what otherwise appear to be normal walls.

The installation process looks pretty simple: just clean, paint, re-coat, and let it dry. If you want something other than white, they offer a clear version of the dry erase paint, which you can apply over normal paint colors of your choice.

Showerboard

This is the old standby. Showerboard, a white-coated high-density fiberboard designed for use in building super-cheap showers, actually works as a mostly-passable whiteboard. I say “mostly” because if you leave marker writing on the board for more than a day or so, it starts to seep in and become permanent. The advantage to this method is that it’s cheaper than dirt: you can score a 4′ x 8′ sheet from your local big box for around $15. Just don’t fool yourself into thinking they’re really dry erase boards. They’re not. Still, some folks have come up with interesting ways of cleaning them. Personally, the few times I did this (once in college and once in a really, really cheap office) I just pulled the boards down and replaced them when someone forgot to erase ‘em.

I’m interested to see if the Whiteyboard products hold up well, especially the paint. If we get a chance, we’ll do a test. Do any of you have experience with this stuff?

 

35 Responses to Cheap(er) Whiteboard Walls

  1. brett says:

    I have though about using some type of formica type material and some mdf to achieve the same effect. Maybe somebody else has tried this with some luck.

  2. Rich says:

    What about just glass, or glass over a white background?

    • Adric says:

      At Quelab, ive made some from old picture frames with glass in them. They work great. there is a little shadow under the text so sometimes photos of the whiteboard look a little blurry.

      But just spraypaint the back of the glass white and mount it back up in the frame.. and your done! or if you want to put a topic or header on it, you can just put it on white paper and just frame it.

      glass is nice the marker comes off nicely!

      My next one im going to use glow in the dark spraypaint. so its a glowing message board!

  3. Shopmonger says:

    HAaa haaa haaaa I just had the wall in my classroom painted, so we can put up acrylic or plexiglass…. 4×8 sheets…. So there is another solution for you

    ShopMonger

  4. SplinteredBoard says:

    When I run out of room on the whiteboards at work, I just use the windows. Works great. I know glass isn’t always low-buck, and probably not what you’d suggest for any shop environment, but it’s working for us :)

  5. Dan says:

    I know glass works, as someone else mentioned. I understand that plexiglass works too. Does anyone know if plexi has the same trouble that shower board has, eg if you leave the ink on it stains?

  6. Rick Reimundez says:

    We have big sliding glass doors for our team room at the office. We’ve needed more whiteboard space, so I just took the 3M 2x3foot flip chart paper and stuck it to the outside of our office. Everyone things we’re being secretive, but in reality we’re using the glass wall and sliding glass doors as whiteboards. Works great.

    Toying with spraying some of that fake window display snow they use for vacant storefronts and during the holidays on the outside. But the paper is working just fine.

    We’re building out new office space and trying to figure out how we’re doing white boards. We think we may have a ton of glass walls/doors so we can do this with it. The office furnishings like walls/dividers isn’t coming out of our team budget the same way it would if we had to purchase whiteboards to install/hang.. :-D

    • metis says:

      while not inexpensive, there are white electro tinting glass panels. clear conference room when not in use, turn em all on for privacy mode, or on panel by panel for more white board space.

      • Rick Reimundez says:

        Yeah, we considered that. But I think there’s only so far we can push this budget code.. ;-) Remains to be seen, though, how much we really can push it.

    • Adric says:

      OOOh, I bet our local Re-store (habitat for humanity construction thrift) has some sliding shower doors in a track, may have to get them for a song to mount up on a wall. possibly even use the space behind the sliding doors with more glass for more project space.

  7. Shawn says:

    My design/marketing firm, Kinesis, uses white-glass table tops mounted to the wall. They’re great – they clean like a dream, look far more professional, and don’t hold the “ghosts” of dry-erase markers of old.

    The glass is actually a table top from Ikea.

    We use these great clamps from sagatsune to mount them to the walls. Happy to provide pics if anyone is interested. They are on the expensive side, however.

    Shawn

    • Michael says:

      I think that is a great idea.
      Where & what size tabletops?
      What kind of mounting brackets?
      Does it look good or later me a hack project?

      Michael

  8. Anthony says:

    Speaking of using glass with a white background, I just followed this “IKEA-hack” posted here — http://www.ikeahackers.net/2012/01/not-expensive-glass-whiteboard.html

    It works great and the ink will never permeate and stain as it will on shower board or with the stuff you paint on the wall. It’s pretty cheap overall considering you’re getting such a huge panel.

  9. matt says:

    Nooooooooo. I recommend staying away from paint on whiteboards. I work at a Uni, where they are putting them in, and they look horrible after just a few uses.
    the rough paint surface is far from an ideal whiteboard surface.

    I recommend proper whiteboards, or as has been mentioned, Plexiglass and similar seems to be popular.

  10. Christian says:

    If you want to paint a whiteboard onto a wall, and also want to stick magnets to it, “magnetic paint” (more accurately, paint containing large amounts of ferrous metal) does exist. I don’t how smooth the finish on the stuff is, though. I suppose that would be a factor of how finely-ground the iron filings in the paint are.

  11. sandro says:

    About 20 years ago, a friend recommended “Applause Board”, from the local big box. It worked great for me, lasted about 12 years until I moved. We left writing on it for months at a time, and only ever had to use the regular whiteboard cleaning solution on it.

  12. o4tuna says:

    Couldn’t you paint some kind of sealer (clear or white) on to the shower board to stop it from bleeding?

  13. Andy says:

    You should definitely, definitely test the paint.

  14. dutch_bart says:

    Dont go the ultra cursor way get some nice glas in a frame like a picture/poster frame and you can even print out something like a kalender and but it bekende de glass

  15. browndog77 says:

    The IKEA tabletop sounds like a winner here! Adding a sheet of 24 ga. sheet metal to the back of the glass would make the magnets work quite well.

    • Dan says:

      Um, I would not bet on that browndog. Table glass is pretty thick so you would have to use strong magnets and even then the glass is smooth so they might just slide off. Maybe it would work but you should try it before you buy. Maybe have beter luck with plexiglass that can be thinner and less slick?

      • browndog77 says:

        Plexiglass is too prone to scratching, in my opinion. Maybe some tempered glass with a high quality coating on the back side. Or maybe the coating would best be applied to the sheet metal backing. Worth a test on a small scale model!

  16. Eric says:

    You could probably even turn these into a speaker with some tactile transducers from Dayton Audio

  17. ShopMonger says:

    And no the pens do not bleed into plexi, we had to do a demo for the Superintendent, and we accidentally left it on for a month or so… and no issue it just wiped right off.. also try using Vis -a- Vis markers. These are so much better in a lot of cases, because they dry out too quickly.

    ShopMonger

  18. Steve says:

    I’ve done a lot in this space. we had a bunch of boards at work. We took them down and did the paint on all the walls that had boards plus some. The boards clean up much easier. Red ink is harder to erase from the paint, I guess you could say it bleeds in a little. But we really like it. At home, I have the sticky sheets. I bought a 2X10 foot roll for 10 bucks on overhalfsale.com. I wasn’t sure I got a good deal, but from the prices you quoted, I feel pretty good about it. My wife uses showerboard at work. She is a public school teacher. She says they work great.

    There is a guy in my office who has a corner office. He just uses the window. It seems to work great.

  19. Gough Dawes says:

    One medium-tech solution that I saw in one shop was to use the metal doors. They’d been painted white at an autobody shop and worked great. Being steel, they also held magnets.

  20. Sturgis Kyle says:

    At work i use opal polycarbonate sheet. It can be cut in any shape and if needed you can place a light behind it, turning it into a light board in a pinch.

  21. Elliot says:

    At the elementary school I work at we used the Whitey Board paint over the old chalk boards and it’s great! The only problem is that if it chips or rips at all though (like kids throwing chairs at it)you have to put some duct tape on it or something because it will continue to peel quickly. Granted, we’ve only had it up for 9 months so far, but so far pretty damn good!

  22. Rich says:

    What about steel sheet with some of the adhesive whiteboard stuff?

  23. Haley says:

    Wow, I never thought of all of these things. Great article! When you talk about the stick-on white boards, you mention that they come in two different sizes, are there more available sizes? If I want to make a smaller or bigger white board what would I do? Just curious if this is something that comes in smaller sizes or if it is easy to manually cute to your liking. Which in that case could make for a lot of fun shapes!
    Thanks again.

  24. Mr F.A Koen says:

    I am the HOD at Dawnview High School and want to change our blackboard in to a whiteboard. The panels that I want to change is 1830mm x 1150mm. There is about 25 classes. What is the best method to do it. Can you please send me a quotation to do something like it. Or supply material and we do it.

    Anton Koen

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