DIY Outdoor Chalkboard

Have we all seen the DIY chalkboards on Pinterest? Yes. Do we pin them and write in the comment box “Totally doing this for _____, so cool!” I know I did!

So I decided on a long weekend to actually start AND complete a pinterest project. No excuses!

I knew that some of the projects posted on Pinterest wouldn’t work for us with our climate, because they were meant for warmer, drier climates and not in northern Canada where we have winter over half the year! So if you’d like a more durable chalkboard, follow these directions and use the products we suggest.

Materials Used:

  • (1) 3X5 foot Cement Board (typically used behind shower tiles, waterproof/weatherproof)
  • 1 quart of exterior latex paint, black
  • 1 package of un-sanded tile grout
  • (3) 8 foot pieces of trim (optional) and screws to attach to cement board
  • 1 quart of exterior high gloss latex paint for trim, bright color! (optional)
  • 3-4 disposable mini paint rollers
  • 1 mini paint tray
  • 2 large paint rolls and 1 large roller
  • 1 large paint tray
  • tin foil (optional)
  • 6 deck screws
  • plastic spoons
  • plastic disposable container (I used an old margarine container)

Optional Materials (If you are very particular, like my husband!):

  • 1 cup measuring cup
  • 1 tablespoon

Step 1:

Lay cement board on a flat raised surface where it will stay clean. Dust off any debris and wipe with very damp cloth. Do not soak the surface with water.  

Put black (base) paint in disposable container. Add un-sanded tile grout little by little and stir with paint stick or disposable item (be very careful as our package of un-sanded grout was labeled with all sorts of warnings that it is corrosive).


Step 2:

Use disposable foam roller and aluminum foil-lined tray (or disposable tray liner) and give the cement board at least 3-4 coats of paint, letting it dry thoroughly between coats (which didn’t take long, trust me!).


We let our board sit overnight to make sure it was completely dry before continuing with framing and prepping the new chalkboard surface.

Using a handheld saw, measure and cut the trim pieces to fit around frame. You can be fancy and cut at 45 degree angles or just square them off nicely to fit. We screwed them on to the chalkboard, sanded them down to make sure no rough edges were showing, and wiped them down with a damp cloth before painting.


Mask the edges against the black chalkboard and scrape the edge to make sure the trim color doesn’t bleed onto the board.

Paint 2 or 3 coats of trim paint, depending on the color and the coverage on the wood.

Step 5: “PRIME” the surface

I used cheaper chalk (not the Crayola fancy bright colors) to “prime” the surface.

Basically we used several pieces and just completely covered the entire surface with a very thick layer of chalk, rubbing every direction. It is pretty messy and takes a bit of time, but I read on several websites that it makes a huge difference. The chalkboard is then ready to be drawn on and not retain those first “drawings” with a cloudy outline forever. Apparently if you don’t “prime” the surface, the first few drawings may stay visible in a hazy outline for a long time, no matter how much you wipe and wet it down. I didn’t want this to happen so I “primed” the surface as best as I could.  

To cut down on some of the chalk dust mess after “priming” we used a shop-vac to clean up the loose dust, and brushed it with a soft hand broom. Sweep and vacuum, over and over!

Step 6: (Mounting the Chalkboard)

We chose to mount our chalkboard on our new fence, but you could attach it to any surface indoors or outdoors! Considering that our summer season is only a few short months, and I can’t imagine sending a toddler outside to use the chalkboard in the middle of a snowstorm, I bet we’ll have one indoors at some point. For now we’ll let her enjoy this outside in the sunshine!

Using “Liquid Nails”, we attached a small board on the back of the chalkboard and let it dry overnight. We then screwed the sides of the chalkboard (on the trim) and the TOP of the anchoring board glued to the back to a horizontal board on the fence, which actually worked out to be the right height for a toddler to have full access to the entire chalkboard. At her short height, my daughter doesn’t have to reach up to use the board, and we get to sit and interact with her at her level.

Depending on the construction of your fence/wall, you may choose a different way to “mount” the chalkboard to your surface, I will just suggest that you make sure its attached safely and securely. You don’t want a piece of cement board crashing down on your toddler.

Step 7: 

ENJOY your new outdoor activity! Your neighbors will be in awe of your creativity! I often find myself outside well after my kids are in bed, wiping off that days art and getting creative myself. I can see why kids find it so exciting!

UPDATE! Its been over a year since we made our chalkboard and it is STILL gorgeous! It survived a northern Canadian winter and MANY rainy days/nights/weeks at a time…. no issues whatsoever. We moved across town and I HAD to bring it with us. There was no way I was leaving that for our buyers. My youngest child, Tyler was just a baby last year and now he goes to the chalkboard every day we are outside to do his “lines”. 

I see many years of use in the future, I’m so glad I buckled down and completed this project.


6 Responses to DIY Outdoor Chalkboard

  1. I’m so glad you shared this! I’ve been wanting my husband to make an outdoor chalkboard for our toddler.

  2. This is so awesome. I want to make one for our backyard!

  3. You guys did such an amazing job! It looks so awesome!!!

  4. Just wondering if you used it at all during the winter? If so, did you clean it outside or just bring it in during the winter?

  5. What a fun way to give the kids a great activity in your outdoor space. When they get too old you can use it for announcements or for fun at your next gathering.

  6. This is awesome! I’m in the process of making 2 of these and am noticing that the paint/unsanded grout mixture has left some little tiny lumps on the cement board-it’s not as smooth as if I were just using regular paint. Is this normal/ok? Or should I be mixing less of the grout in? I did the 1 cip to 1 tablespoon ratio.

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