Dumpster Diving

Are you a garbage picker, dumpster diver, binner, do you dig trolling for trash? I confess I am one of those freaks you see pulled over on the side of the road putting someone else’s curbside garbage into my car. I have been asked more times than I can count how to make the chalkboard that hangs in my kitchen.

So for those of you who think that the “whiteboards” in your children’s classroom are the illustrative method of choice, listen up. When I hear one of my kids has acted up in school, I immediately wonder why doesn’t she have a lung full of chalk dust or sore shoulders sore from banging erasers out? Oh…. right…. no chalkboards.

In memory of days gone by, let’s grab those old windows your neighbor has thrown in the trash and make ourselves a groovy, retro cool chalkboard shall we?

  • An old window
  • A hammer
  • An old sheet or painters tarp
  • gloves
  • A metal paint scraper and or a wire toothed brush
  • Measuring tape
  • Luan board cut to size
  • Chalkboard paint* and brush
  • Small finishing nails
  • A couple tips before starting. Depending on how long the old windows have been siting outside, you may want to spray them for bugs. If you are worried about lead paint, either scape every last bit of paint off outside or buy a lead paint tester kit from the hardware store. They are very accurate and inexpensive.

    All steps are shown in slide show below.

    Step 1-Lay the window down on top of a painters tarp or old sheet and cover the top of the window with the tarp as well to prevent glass from flying up and piercing you in the eye.

    Step 2-Break glass with a hammer, pounding directly on tarp not glass. Use pliers to pull out any stubborn pieces of glass.

    Step 3- Stand the window up and hit the muntins (the strips of wood that hold the panes of glass together) with a hammer until they break off. Start with the short muntins (not the longer cross pieces), as they give the least resistance.

    Step 4-Use a metal paint scraper or a metal toothed wire brush to remove any loose paint. I like the worn rustic look, but if that is not for you, give it a couple coats of paint.

    Step 5– Throw all of the glass wood and paint chips into the trash.

    Step 6- Measure from the inside of the window (there is about an 1/4 ledge all around the inside frame) for width and length.

    Step 7- Have a piece of 1/8″-1/4″ luan plywood cut to size for your measurements. This can be done at any hardware store that sells plywood.

    Step 8-Paint the front of the plywood with three coats of  black (or whatever color you like) chalkboard paint.  I find the liquid paint works far better than the spray paint.

    Step 9- After paint is dry, place the board (painted side down) into window and secure with small nails all around border (see image in slide show).

    Now, it’s done and ready to hang. You can get a bit fancier and wire the back for hanging. I tack up all kinds of memo and things I need to remember on the frame. It is not like I am worried about ruining the finish!

    *Chalkboard paint is available at  Saunders Hardware and American Royal Hardware. Most  good hardware store carry chalkboard paint.

    What is your favorite thing you have ever rescued from the trash or are people like myself freaks that make you scratch your head in confusion as you drive by?

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    1. Thank you for this idea! We saved a couple of the better windows, but they are four and six paned. Can you do this with smaller pieces too? I was thinking photo frames, but chalkboard works too.

    2. You don’t have to take out the wood muntins but it makes it trick to write on a chalkboard with small sections. If you want to make one into a photo frame make sure you blow the photos up so there is no border. So cut the photos to size and cut mat board to the same size of the photo for the backing. I would use something called glazer points to keep the mat board in place instead of nails.

    3. You know what they say, “One man’s trash…” My husband is always seeing “interesting” things in the trash but then again, he’s got a bit of the pack rat in him. Sometimes he hits pay dirt. I can’t believe what people throw out. Years ago, I got a nice lawyer’s bookshelf that someone had thrown out in East Orange. I do draw the line at anything with fabric due to today’s bedbug epidemic. But wood, glass, metal…all game.

    4. MM good point. Right now until this bed bug problem is under control nothing fabric!!! I wouldn’t even do anything that can’t be sprayed at this point…. and anyone who says not to be paranoid about bed bugs has never had them!

      Shopping at Curby’s my new favorite line……:)

    5. Our neighbors across the street put a small wooden kitchen side table/island on rollers out at the curb. We watched as several cars stopped to look (we’re on a pretty busy street), but no one could fit it into their vehicles. As soon as the last car left and before anyone else could stop to look, my hubby dashed over to claim it, pushing it across the street. Perfect condition.

      Btw, thanks Holly for including notes like the liquid chalkboard paint works better than spray. Very helpful to know. Any recommendations on what to spray for bugs? I have the same concerns, won’t bring home anything fabric for fear of bedbugs.

    6. Everyone should be realistic about bed bugs. I know I am still fighting them….and no I did not get them from something funky I dragged home. I most likely brought them home on my suitcase. I’m having a BB dog in this week to pin point exacty where they are at this point. We have been treated 2x and there are probably only 1 or 2 left but they refuse to die!!!

      With wood that has been sitting outside termites would be a concern. Most hardware stores and garden centers carry spray for termites.

      For BB get your hands on some DDT….ok so maybe not. The best thing is spray plain old rubbing alcohol on any area you are concerned about. Do not take and kind of wooden bedding unless you know where it came from!

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