This weekend I got the itch to start a new project. Being the only white appliance, my refrigerator was really becoming an eyesore in my kitchen. Though it still works beautifully and I don’t really have the budget to replace it right now, I thought there must be a way to camouflage it somehow. After doing a little online digging, I found a tutorial on making a chalkboard refrigerator.
Scary? Yes. But I decided to just GO FOR IT. I used a chalkboard refrigerator tutorial on The Handmade Home as my jumping off point, and set off for Home Depot at 6:30am Saturday morning (yes, I was THAT excited to get started).
Chalkboard Refrigerator Materials
These are the materials you’ll need to make your chalkboard refrigerator:
- a small roller brush (I used 4″ foam rollers that are labeled for cabinet painting)
- a paintbrush (to get in all the nooks and crannies)
- painter’s tape
- painting tray
- magnetic primer (I used Rust-oleum’s Magnetic Latex Primer, which was about $20 for a quart)
- chalkboard paint (I used Rust-oleum’s Chalkboard Paint in black, which was about $10 for a quart. They also make a tintable chalkboard paint for a little bit more money, if you don’t want a black chalkboard)
- saran wrap (to cover the ice maker holes so no paint got in there)
- Spray paint for plastic — to paint the ice maker insert & grille (I used 2 different colors of Krylon Fusion Spray Paint for Plastic in Satin Black and Ivy Leaf, it was about $4 for a can).
If you are painting a black or stainless fridge with chalkboard paint, you may not need the spray paint. In that case, the grille and ice maker are most likely already black.
Chalkboard Refrigerator Tutorial
The first thing I did was pull the refrigerator out and give it a good cleaning. Once it was dry, I taped off all the areas of the fridge that I didn’t want to paint. It’s really important to tape off the rubber parts, because getting paint into those will cause the fridge not to close correctly (or at all). I also taped around the ice maker and the panel with the buttons that control the ice maker. After laying down my drop-cloth and covering any cabinets/appliances/furniture that might get splashed, I was ready to go!
I didn’t sand the fridge, and found that the magnetic primer was thick enough to really seal up a lot of the texture that was on the surface. I’m assuming if you want a really, really smooth finish that sanding is not a bad idea… I just didn’t find it necessary in my situation.
I think the biggest key to using the magnetic primer is to make sure it’s shaken really well. The tutorial on The Handmade Home suggests shaking the paint for a very long time. Instead of spending my time (and manual labor), I took the paint to the counter at Home Depot when I purchased it, and asked them to shake it very well for me in their paint mixer machine. When I got home, it was still mixed very well, so I gave it a quick 30-60 second shake and poured it into the paint try.
I started with the roller and did the top, sides, and front panels. I then went through with the brush to get the primer in all the areas I missed — such as underneath the handles, along the edges, and the panels that only show when you open the fridge. I found those panels to be the most difficult, because taping off the rubber could not be done until I was ready to paint — otherwise the fridge would not close and seal. With a little bit of effort, I was able to tape it, paint it and then remove the tape and close the fridge back up.
I ended up doing 2 thin coats of the primer on the entire fridge. I then went back and did a 3rd coat on the front panels, because this is where most of the magnets and chalkboard usage would be. I wanted to make sure that it had a solid coat of the magnetic primer so that I could still use magnets on the fridge, even after the chalkboard coats.
The chalkboard refrigerator tutorial on The Handmade Home said they waited about an hour in between coats of primer. I really didn’t do this. I found that by the time I was done with the entire fridge I was able to start right back at the beginning with the next coat. By going in the same order, it ensured every panel had a decent amount of time to dry. I’d say that each coat took about 30 minutes. Once I was done with the final coat of primer, I took a break and gave it about 2 hours to dry completely. It’s pretty stinky, so open the windows, turn on the fan, and go outside for some fresh air! I took my Roxy Ann out for a long walk while it was drying.
Painting the Chalkboard Refrigerator
Once I came back from my walk and the primer was completely dry, I began the chalkboard paint coats. While I was at Home Depot, I also had them shake this can in their machine for me. So I gave it another quick shake, and poured it into a fresh paint tray. With a new roller, I continued the same exact process that I did with the magnetic primer. Nice, thin, even coats work best for the paint and primer. I also worked hard to make my strokes long and even so that it has a smooth finish. I don’t think this is the type of paint you can touch-up — it will probably leave a blotch in the spot you fixed so if you need to touch it up at any point you should repaint the entire panel for an even finish (I had this experience with an accent wall I painted with textured sand paint). After 2 coats of paint, the refrigerator looked perfect. I waited for everything to dry, and then gave the front panels (the ones that will get the most use) a 3rd coat.
I know a lot of people will not like the white ice maker panel with the black paint, but that’s a reality you really can’t change if you have a white fridge . For me, it was a good decision to paint it because I feel that with the white chalk, it really will look ok. To me, the idea of a fridge with a small amount of white on it vs. an entirely white sore thumb definitely won out. I think if you are nervous about such a contrast, another option for painting your fridge would be using the Rust-oleum Tintable Chalkboard Paint. They offer 12 colors to choose from! Perhaps a medium grey (Moonstone) or the green (Schoolhouse Green) chalkboard would make for less contrast and give your fridge an even more unique look?
I let the chalkboard paint try thoroughly. My original plan was to leave the ice maker white. But, as you can see in the photo above, it really didn’t work. There’s nothing I can do about the smaller white panel with the functional buttons, but after some thought I decided that it was possible to paint the actual dispenser area. The first step was to tape off the freshly painted chalkboard panels so I didn’t get any overspray on them. I used painters tape and I also taped some cardboard to the panels to eliminate the chance that anything would get messed up.
I took some saran wrap (the stuff you use to cover up your food), and I balled it up and covered the actual dispenser area so that no spray paint actually got into the mechanisms that dispense the ice and water. First of all it’s unsanitary (yuck), and secondly, it would probably gunk everything up so it wouldn’t work properly. There’s probably a bunch of different things you can use to cover these areas, so just use whatever you have on hand. Tin foil, paper towels, or napkins would probably do the trick.
I then shook the spray paint and slowly and carefully sprayed the area. It’s tricky doing such a small area without getting any drips, but using a pulse motion on the trigger with short squirts seemed to work pretty well for me. Just cover it the best you can. I would wait a couple days before using the ice maker to make sure the paint has enough time to cure and become completely hard and durable for everyday use.
While I was painting, I decided to clean up the base grille at the bottom of the fridge. I thought it might be fun to paint this with a pop of color — I use green accents in my kitchen and had leftover spray paint from other projects so I just went with it. You could also use the same color that you purchased for the ice maker area to make it blend in. I think it’s a fun and subtle way to create a cohesive color scheme.
Final Thoughts on the Chalkboard Refrigerator
The chalkboard refrigerator was actually a really, really easy project. I was anticipating it to be really time consuming, and also to be disappointed with the results. I have to say that it really only took half a day from start to finish and I’m totally in love with it. I think the finish looks great. The chalkboard paint box suggests waiting 3 days before actually using chalk on the finish. Once it’s ready, Rust-oleum recommends to “prime” the surface of the paint by running chalk on it’s side over the entire surface area, then erasing. That should get your board ready for use.
Everything should clean off nicely with a wet sponge. It also says in the instructions that after you give it a good cleaning you should re-prime the surface with chalk. I really haven’t used my chalkboard yet, so I don’t have many comments on how durable it is. I did, however, find this really great FAQ from a blogger who actually has used (and lived with) the chalkboard refrigerator for awhile. The post has some very helpful tips and answers to a lot of common questions about this chalkboard refrigerator project.
Have you made your own chalkboard refrigerator? Do you have any experience with chalkboard paint? I’d love to hear from you!