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Turn An Ugly Hollow Core Door Into A Pretty Chalkboard

Last Updated on February 26, 2013 by Kristi Linauer

Good morning, and happy Monday to you! I hope you had a wonderful weekend!

I finally got my HVAC closet door finished, and here’s how it turned out…

Yep, it’s a big ‘ole chalkboard!  And you know what?  I love it!

I had such a hard time deciding what to do with this door.  If you’ll remember, when I finished my custom air return vent cover last week, my door still looked like this…

Plain, ugly, and just unlevel enough to drive me batty.  I considered replacing it with a standard six panel door, which is what I plan on putting on all of the other doors in the condo (and I already have on the bedroom).  But the problem is that the height of this door would have to be cut since it doesn’t go all the way to the floor, and the cut line would go right through the lower panels.  I just couldn’t bring myself to do that.  It would have looked unfinished in my mind.

And obviously the idea to paint everything out in the wall color to make it disappear didn’t work.  Let’s face it…there’s no hiding the fact that there’s a big ‘ole door with a big ‘ole vent underneath it.

So, I thought if I can’t make it disappear, I may as well make it a feature!  There’s no middle ground for this door.  🙂

I started by using my miter saw to cut pieces of 1.5-inch decorative trim to go around the edge of the door.  Fortunately with some careful placement of the moulding, I was able to disguise the fact that the door hangs slightly unlevel.

I put it as close to the edge as possible.  (Getting it around the hinges wasn’t the easiest thing in the world, but I managed.)

The trim that I used was the perfect size to go around the door knob.

After attaching the outer trim, I measured in three inches to mark where I wanted the chalkboard section to be.  I had to be sure that this section (and the trim that I would be adding later) was inset enough to clear the door knob.

Since the utility closet with the argyle walls is only feet away from this closet door, I didn’t want to introduce a new color into this area.  So I made my own chalkboard paint using the same brown wall color from the utility closet.  I used 1 cup of flat latex paint mixed with 2 tablespoons of dry unsanded grout.  I applied it with a foam roller, and that amount of chalkboard paint turned out to be perfect for a chalkboard this size.  After one coat, it was looking kind of rough…

But after three coats, it was looking really nice.

When the chalkboard paint was dry, I removed the tape and added smaller trim around the chalkboard.  The door was already looking so much better!

I was anxious to try out this homemade chalkboard paint, so I went ahead and “primed” it by rubbing the side of a piece of chalk over the entire surface of the chalkboard area…

…then I rubbed it off with a rag.  It definitely lightened the color some, but it gave it more of an authentic chalkboard look.

Of course, I had to go ahead and test it out.  I scribbled one of my favorite verses on it.  My handwriting left a lot to be desired, but the actual chalkboard paint worked wonderfully!

Next I taped off the chalkboard area, and gave the entire door a coat of primer.

Followed by a coat of my semi-gloss trim paint.  I’m just thrilled with how it turned out!

Now let’s take a look at the before and after, shall we?

I’m always amazed at the difference that a little paint and trim can make.  (And yardsticks, of course!)  🙂

Now I’m going to move on to the next closet over…the washer/dryer closet.  (And yes, those are towels piled by the washer.  Hey…I’m just keepin’ it real here!)

Anyway, I removed the doors from the closet because they were just plain ugly.  Plus, the washer inches forward every time I use it, so the doors would never close completely.  So I’ve got to find a solution for my creeping washer, and then I’ve got to cover the closet in some way that looks nice but doesn’t involve more doors.  I’ve got an idea, and hopefully it won’t be too difficult or time-consuming.  Stay tuned for that.

Did you miss the details of my new air return vent that I made out of wood Home Depot yard sticks?  You can see that tutorial here.


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  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 27, 2012 at 8:18 am

    I really love this idea…and homemade chalkboard paint. Really? And you can do this with any color? Unman, my wheels are turning 🙂 Not like I don’t have enough ideas floating up there anyway, lol. I love your door. It looks awesome 🙂

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 27, 2012 at 8:57 am

    I knew you’d do something exceptional with that door…. Can’t wait to see your washer solution.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 27, 2012 at 9:10 am

    Such a huge difference! I love the chalkboard door and the way you framed it with moulding!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Dorothy Mooney
    February 27, 2012 at 9:12 am

    It turned out beautifully!!!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 27, 2012 at 9:40 am

    FABULOUSNESS!!! Looks great, AND that is my favorite verse!

    Maybe one day I’ll get some woodworking tools and be able to do such awesome stuff!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Angel Collins
    February 27, 2012 at 9:41 am

    Nice idea! It turned out beautifully. I love your door! It is so amazing. 🙂

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Angel Collins
    February 27, 2012 at 11:33 am

    I love the idea of the chalk board, I can use that as in organizer and helps me to reminds all the plans that i have to do.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 27, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    We recently created a chalkboard door in the nursery. You can see ours here:

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Kelly @ Eclectically Vintage
    February 27, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    I still love chalkboards – and it’s a great way to disguise that door. I have some chalkboard plans in the making too!

    I see the rest of the utility room is coming along – can’t wait to see!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 27, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    I hate my hollow core doors and they are EVERYWHERE in here ANNND an ugly brown color to boot. I love what you did!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Michelle Lubbers
    February 27, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    Phenomenal transformation! If only I had a tenth of your vision, and guts =).

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    [email protected]
    February 27, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    Woot Woot!! I love how the air vent turned out and united perfectly with the door! And…the detailing on the door is fabulous. You are a wonderful craftswoman!! And thanks for the reminder of the verse. I have a friend who needs those words.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    christine kellogg
    February 27, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    Another fantastic job!!! I wish we were friends 😉

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 28, 2012 at 8:51 am

    I am persuaded, too! What a great solution for the door. Kristi, love how you come up with such fun ideas and inspiration!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 28, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    awesome job!!!!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 29, 2012 at 1:35 am

    It’s like night and day!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    March 1, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    Looks amazing! The washer walking as it’s used means it’s probably unlevel. Level it up and it should be fine.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    June 15, 2012 at 6:35 am

    So creative, and it turned out wonderful. Very insightful and inspiring!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Tara @Creative Hobbies
    August 12, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    I love this idea! I have some useless doors in my storage and I want a REALLY big idea board for my craft/junk/dining room, I will give this a try. Have you thought about doing some kind of cute fabric treatment for the washer space? I know you said there is argyle not too far away, but I’m sure you could figure out how to make it look nice. Love how you “[kept] it real”, btw lol

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    December 24, 2012 at 1:55 am

    Excellent idea! Does anyone know if i can use these ingedients on a strange door in the middle of my kitchen with a window in it? There are 2 extra windows in the kitchen, so i wouldnt be taking out any natural light. Maybe i can even tape off a peep hole and cover it with a sticky note when i dont want to use it.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Fun With Freehand Chalk Art (Look Out, Dana Tanamachi!)
    January 7, 2013 at 10:05 am

    […] Here are my first attempts at chalk art on my cute little chalkboard that I created on my once-ugly hollow core door. […]

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    My Small Condo Laundry Room (a.k.a. Hallway Makeover) Before & After
    January 11, 2013 at 10:25 am

    […] dingy, disgusting and plain hollow core door with an equally disgusting metal vent beneath it.  I dressed up the door with some trim and chalkboard paint, and created a custom air vent out of wood yardsticks and lumber.  Then I hung my magazine wreath […]

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 3, 2013 at 8:42 am

    So pleased I discovered your blog! I’m gonna pluck-up my courage and go for gold with your HVAC closet door solution. Love it!