Old Door Upcycle

Julie Briggs
by Julie Briggs
6 Materials
Every month I team up with a group of talented ladies for a Thrift Store Decor Upcycle Challenge. The only rule is that you need to turn a thrift store, flea market, garage sale or ReStore into a new home decor item. This month I took a pair of narrow doors that I found at the ReStore for 10 bucks into magnetic boards to display DIY magnetic poetry.
This is kind of an oddball project, I know. But while I liked the idea of the doors flanking this small buffet that I have my sunroom, I wasn't sure what to do with them. I thought about mirrors, or mounting sconces on them, but in the end decided to experiment with magnetic paint.
This is what I started with. The doors are solid wood and pretty heavy, but kind of dirty and gross with cheap brass knobs and a retro air freshener.
After cleaning them up, I taped off the edges and gave the doors 2 coats of magnetic primer and top coat of chalkboard paint. I was pretty disappointed when I tried to put the magnetic poetry up and most of the magnets would not stick. BOO!

I Googled “magnetic paint” and discovered that it’s not as easy as they would like you to believe to “make any surface magnetic”. I found TONS of terrible reviews and a few tips on how to make it work a little better. Since I wasn’t doing a work station type application where I would be trying to hang up sheets of paper – just lightweight magnets – I decided that it was worth giving it another shot.

I retaped everything and gave it two more coats, followed by one more coat of chalkboard paint, and I now have a pair of doors that my nifty DIY magnetic poetry will stick to. Hallelujah!
If you're going to tackle a magnetic paint project, follow these tips:

Stir the magnetic paint REALLY well, and then stir it more. The paint contains metal filings and they want to settle to the bottom. You have to get as much of that as you can onto your surface.

The can suggests using a small foam roller, which I did for my first 2 coats. The 2nd time around I used a brush, mainly because I didn’t have any more foam rollers, and while I think it helped me get a lot more paint onto the doors, there was no avoiding brush marks – my end result is pretty textured, which I don’t love. Definitely use the rollers and just plan on many, many coats.

Plan to throw out whatever brush or roller you use – it’s not worth trying to clean it up. This paint is very thick and heavy.

Use a minimum of four coats, more if you can manage it.

This probably works best for small surfaces. I cannot imagine trying to cover a wall with this stuff, not to mention the expense.

Try to do this in warmer weather when you can do it outside or at least open doors and windows – the fumes are pretty strong.
I used to have a set of magnetic poetry on my fridge, and it was always fun to see the "poetry" my party guests left for me. But when I did my recent kitchen reno I didn't put it back up because it looked a little cluttery and my kitchen is so tiny that it doesn't make sense to have a people gathered in front of the fridge.

They do sell jumbo sets of magnetic poetry, but I wanted to be able to display favorite song lyrics and quotes so I made my own. Head over to the blog for the details.
Suggested materials:
  • 2 Old Doors
  • Rustoleum magnetic primer
  • Chalkboard paint
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Julie Briggs
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
Frequently asked questions
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  • Sandra K Salisbury Sandra K Salisbury on May 22, 2016
    I admire your ingenuity in creating your lovely "message" boards! But, did I miss something, because I don't understand why you need chalkboard paint over the magnetic paint? I'm guessing it is because you may want the ease of "freehand composing"?

  • Nee Nee Nee Nee on Jul 31, 2017
    I am inspired by the orb ceiling light. Did you use barrel straps to make the orb? Love it!!!

  • Lynn Lynn on Mar 15, 2019

    I have 2 long picture frames.Any ideas what to do with them?

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  • Hjs3 Hjs3 on Aug 26, 2016
    Just a little share that might enhance the enthusiasm for these projects with old door and or windows for that matter. Most of the wood obtained for these vintage items no doubt came outta slow growth forestry or that which was so thick back in the day that it grew more slowly creating a denser wood pulp. Little wonder why you still see victorian window frames etc. still being restored today NOT replaced. Great stuff here...

  • Karen Merritt3 Karen Merritt3 on Jan 28, 2019

    Great job! They look awesome. I bought two long narrow windows alot like those. I added a cheap door mirror to one and used mirror paint to the other. I love them.