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Make a Giant Whiteboard for only $15

whiteboard diy cheap alternative

For a productive brainstorming session, whether as a team or solo, nothing beats a good old fashioned whiteboard. There have been online apps that try to fill this need, but I just haven’t found anything that allows the same kind of non-linear think vomit. Draw arrows to empty corners of the board for an extra thought, sketch out a design layout, or create an easily modifiable list; the whiteboard is the tool to get the job done.

There’s a problem, though. They’re mad friggin expensive. I recently had an incredibly productive whiteboard brainstorm at the local library, and decided that it’d be worth putting one up at home. A quick Amazon search revealed a stumbling block: a 6′x4′ board like the one at the library was a whopping $109. “Ok, so don’t get such big one, ya idiot,” I hear you saying, but even a tiny little 11×14 inch dorm room door whiteboard is $10.

The other issue I had, as usual, when you want to put something large on the wall and you live with your girlfriend, the gf wasn’t super-keen on putting a giant whiteboard up for all to see.

There had to be a better, cheaper, solution. I initially started out looking for Dry Erase paint, thinking I could just paint a section of my wall with it. But reading several poor reviews for such an expensive paint dissuaded me.

Then I came across an interesting tidbit: the surface whiteboards are made out of is also sold as a cheap-o shower liner at places like Home Depot. For only $13. For 4 FEET by 8 FEET.

The board at my store was labeled "Thrifty White Panel Board," but may also come under the names of "solid white tileboard," "Melamine tile wall panel," or "showerboard."

To keep things groovy with my girlfriend, we agreed to put a split whiteboard on the back of the door, and on the wall right behind the door. When the door is shut, I’ve got a giant whiteboard to use, when the door is open, no one can see it. Win-win.

The best part is, Home Depot will do the cuts for you free of charge. So I measured the width and height of the door (minus room for the knob), and had the panel board cut to fit.

I used 4 screws with large fender washers (about $2) to hold the boards to the door and wall, and then used double-sided foam tape from 3M to prevent any board wobble. Other folks have used picture hanging hooks, or liquid nails to hold it in place, but I was looking for a less permanent solution. Others have also glued the panel to a piece of plywood to create a super-sturdy surface that they then hung up. My method works fine for my needs, but there may be better ways depending on what your location requires.

It only took me about 20 minutes to get set up once I had the board at home. It works perfectly, with no ink ghosting, and erases just like a normal dry erase whiteboard does. I would recommend using good dry erase markers for the best results. Happy brainstorming!

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About

Andrew is the founder and editor of Primer. He's a graduate of American University and currently lives in Los Angeles. Read more about Primer on our About page.

  • JoshuaHaderach

    Great idea, I will definitely try this. A question though is how much damage is done to the wall and door with this method? Would it be something to worry about impacting the security deposit on my apartment?
    Thanks again, now to get to Home Depot.

    • http://www.primermagazine.com Andrew

      It just depends on how you hang it. I used four screws on each piece so that’s eight holes. 3m makes some heavy duty plastic Velcro that might work without drilling holes. Also if you patch the holes before you move out it might not be a problem. Check out our article on getting your security deposit back:
      http://www.primermagazine.com/2008/learn/moving-out-five-secrets-to-getting-back-your-security-deposit

      Another option is to use liquid nails and glue it to a piece of wood, and just lean it against the wall, as another tutorial I read did.

    • http://twitter.com/QuadrenFOUR Quadren4

       You could just make a rig out of wood for the “whiteboard”. It would probably cost you a couple more bucks, but with enough effort you could make a mobile whiteboard!  (sorry, really late comment, but I had to say it :P)

    • Tom

      I know this is late but for anyone else out there who’s curious. If you’re putting it on a door… Use hooks that go over the door (like towel hanger style) and have a hole for a screw on the side(s). Then screw the board into that. Or come up with a more easily removable way to mount the board to the hangers. Then you can move the board off your door and put it on another door with ease. Use some removable adhesive in a few areas on the back to keep it from wobbling…But the weight of it all will be taken care of so the adhesive won’t need to be strong enough to hold it up. Just hold it in place while you write on the surface. No holes. This would only work for a door though.

      • Tom

        Actually, you can use these…So a little tiny bit of screwing…To the top of the door though, where it won’t be seen. You shouldn’t lose your security deposit (they won’t exactly look at the top of the door). This isn’t what these brackets were intended for, but these (or something like them) should get the job done. http://www.homedepot.com/p/Quick-Door-Hanger-Single-Bag-201/202366685#.UerCO2R4ZJw

        • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

          Thanks for the good ideas!

  • Eric

    You can also use this

    http://www.ideapaint.com/

    • http://www.primermagazine.com Andrew

      Eric, I had looked into it. At $200, it’s a bit expensive.

  • Walter

    This is amazing. I have to try this for my kid. I have used the chalk board paint for her room and she loves it, but this will take it to a whole new level
    without any messy chalk dust…. Thanks for idea..

  • Matt

    Very nice. Will use this in my garage for sure. Still contemplating where else it could be useful. The kids room is a good idea, but he’s too small to be let loose with dry erase markers.

  • http://ajsphoto.com A.J. Sullivan

    Thrifty White Tileboard is also a photography staple as it makes for a great studio tool.

  • rasa

    I would love to have a magnetic white board for my son any thoughts how to pull that off?

    • Andrew

      There is magnetic paint (usually a little more spendy) usually available at the same places as the tile board. Painting the back of the tile board with a heavy coat would give you a magnetic white board that you can still write on.

  • http://n/a Frederick

    Another use for the showerboard is to have someone cut it into 12″x12″ squares. It is a great tool for teachers to use. Especially is you have a class of very energetic and intelligent students. Many have a hard time waiting to show they know an answer to an problem or questions with their hand up. If you give each student their own personal white board, it really cuts down on disruptions in the class. For less than 50.00 and someone to cut it, I was able to make two class sets (34 kids in each class).

    I would advise any and all teachers to use this cheap alternative to traditional school suppliers.

    Good luck for the upcomming school year!

    • Battlespeed

      Even cheaper: Get some posterboard (white and black), cut to 8-1/2 x 11 size. Pair the white and the black sheets of posterboard and laminate these together (laminating machine is cheap at WalMart, etc.). Now you have individual reversible whiteboards/blackboards!!

  • http://www.iamaaron.com/ Aaron Brewer

    Do you have a link to either Home Depot or Lowe’s for these products?

  • Scratch

    Thanks, I had mine up and ready to go within an hour of reading the article. Ran down to Home Depot, bought two for $28, had some screws and drywall anchors, stuck one to my wall and I have another that will go up, later. I do notice some ghosting, though, almost immediately. Could be the “new formula!” tag on the markers. Maybe the material is just not quality. Either way, Couldn’t be happier, as I’m one a pretty tight budget of late.

    • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

      Try rubbing it with a dryer sheet. For some reason this helps with the ghosting.

  • Michelle

    Great idea my company is so cheap and I need a large board. Will be going to Home Depot !

  • Jim

    Awesome article. I have been looking for ways to create a giant whiteboard and to not have to spend a small fortune.

  • Jenn

    OMG I THINK I LOVE YOU

    • Elida

      Thank you so so much
      I’m working on my three year olds room and she is very creative, I’m a college student and cant afford an actual white board.

  • skk

    does it matter if you use dry erase or wet erase markers?

  • David Christian– Game Designy

    This article may have just changed my life for the next five or so years.

    You’ll be in my heart. Always.

  • CLP

    I could use some help. Built a board exactly as described in the article, but when I write on the whiteboard with a marker, the ink doesn’t seem to want to stay on there. In other words, as soon as I’m done writing something, it starts to fade and disappear. Any suggestions?

    • vulgrin

      I am researching this tonight and someone mentioned that some boards have a thin plastic film on them. They had to get that off first, but it helped a lot… Probably depends on the branch of board.

    • Battlespeed

      That’s interesting – and possibly even useful somehow. I must cogitate…

  • Battlespeed

    I’ve heard that applying a coat of car wax makes these easier to erase and minimizes ghosting. Have you tried this by any chance?

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