DIY expert Mark Rason on how to build a giant backyard chalkboard

Mark Rason is an expert DIY’er and self-taught woodworker and carpenter who frequently shares his tips and tricks on building high-quality, hand-crafted products on social media. He is also the project manager for Scott McGillivray’s Youtube series called Scott’s House CallFollow him at @remarkableworks to discover new ideas and inspiration.

Father’s Day is a little different this year, but there’s still tons of creative and fun ways to celebrate right at home. I think we’re all guilty of being overly glued to our screens these days, but if you’re lucky enough to celebrate in-person, this Father’s Day is a chance to spend some quality family time together outdoors.

Of course most of us don’t want to spend our day working away at a complicated project, but this giant four-foot by four-foot chalkboard that I made for my daughter can be built in under 30 minutes and is a great task the family can get involved in.

What’s better? It’s inexpensive to make, and it will entertain your children for hours all summer long, while giving you and your partner some much-needed quiet time. Here are the basic instructions.

Gather the materials

First thing to remember, if you plan on putting this chalkboard in your backyard, you need to buy all-season materials to sustain those unpredictable summertime downpours. I used MicroPro Sienna’s treated wood for my frame because it’s sturdy enough to withstand the elements.

You’ll also need to purchase a 40-inch by 40-inch square backer board, chalkboard paint, deck screws (I used three-inch and one-and-a-quarter-inch screws), a mitre saw, drill, box cutter knife, ruler, tape measure and safety glasses.

Pro Tip: If you are using MicroPro Sienna wood, apply a high-quality water repellent or exterior stain as soon as it’s dry to the touch. This will help prevent warping, cracking or splitting.

Start the build

First things first, start by building the frame. To create a four-foot chalkboard, you first need to cut four 42-inch pieces of wood, with 45-degree mitres on the ends. Use the three-inch deck screws to hold the boards together on the outside tip. Whenever possible, always try to hide your fasteners for a cleaner look.

Next up, the chalkboard. Use a box cutter knife to create a 40-inch by 40-inch square out of your backer board. Once that is ready, open the chalkboard paint and start painting. For this project, I used Rust-Oleum Canada chalkboard spray paint. Apply four or five coats and that should do the trick.

Finally, the finishing touches. Once the backer board is dry and the frame is assembled, mount the backer board to the back of the frame using the one-and-a-quarter-inch screws. Don’t worry if it’s not completely flush, it won’t be noticeable from the front. If you’re fastening it to a fence post, make sure your screws penetrate the frame and the backer board to secure it properly.

Make it special

I love chalkboards because they’re such versatile DIY projects. You can use them as décor in your home, a fun toy for your kids, or a stylish way to stay on top of that never-ending to-do list. I mounted my daughter’s chalkboard on my fence in the backyard, so that I can easily move it higher as my daughter grows (sappy Dad over here, I know.) During the winter months, I can also detach it and easily bring it inside.

Don’t be afraid to get creative with it. Maybe let your kids choose the frame’s paint colour or paint it to match other pieces in your yard. Coloured chalkboard paint is also available in a variety of colours. Who says your chalkboard needs to be traditional black? For a fun element, consider using magnetic chalk paint, and you can put fun drawings or photos on it as well.

Lastly — and perhaps most importantly — don’t forget to take credit for this new toy when you present the finished product to your kids!

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