Classroom DIY: Whiteboard Tables

Jun 20, 2014 by

Classroom DIY: Whiteboard Tables
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Yesterday I wrote about how we went from desks to tables in Room 10.

Desks to Tables

Today, I want to show you how we went from brown tables to beautiful, clean whiteboard tables. The supplies needed for the project include primer, a paint tray, a paint roller (foam), painters tape and whiteboard paint. Whiteboard paint is sold at Home Depot or on for about $20 a box. I used 2 boxes to paint 6 tables, making these tables less than $10 each to make.

Classroom DIY: Whiteboard Tables

To start, I cleaned off the top of all my brown tables. Wiped them down, dried them off totally and then taped off the edges with painters tape. I didn’t do the best job of sealing the edges of the tape, so I suggest you push down REALLY hard when putting the tape on so the paint doesn’t drip down the sides of the tables.

Classroom DIY: Whiteboard Tables

To cover up the shiny brown laminate, I simply rolled on 3 layers of white primer. The primer stuck to the smooth laminate without any sanding on my part, which was a gamble I took that paid off well-I just didn’t want to deal with the sore arm or the dust everywhere. It took three coats for the table to be completely covered, although you could still see ‘patches’ on it. This is totally fine-as long as the majority of the table is white, the whiteboard paint in the next step will give it the completely white look.

Classroom DIY: Whiteboard Tables

After three coats of primer, the table is mostly white.

Once the primer is completely dry (I let it sit overnight), you’re ready to apply your whiteboard paint! The Rust-Oleum brand states you must use an open can within an hour, or it will no longer work correctly. This means you’ve got to work fast and watch the clock. When you open the box of paint, you will find two cans. You pour one into the other, mix it well and have your whiteboard paint. I poured this paint into my paint tray and began rolling it on the tables. It will look textured due to the foam roller, but you’ll notice as it dries, it smooths out. I got 4 coats on my 6 tables with just two boxes of the Rust-Oleum paint and the coverage is amazing.

Classroom DIY: Whiteboard Tables

After 4 coats of whiteboard paint.

I let this dry overnight, and it was hard and ready to go for school on Monday. The students, however, were not allowed to ‘test’ the board surface until Friday. The box says you need to let the paint cure for 3 days, but I didn’t want to risk it. When the students did test it, we found no ‘ghosting’ or left-over marks from markers EXCEPT the pink Expo brand ones. I now wish I had tested all the markers on a small area before letting the kids go crazy, as I have a large ‘KAILEY’ in pink across one of my tables that will just not come off. I think I may need to get another box and put a coat over it before school starts. The other colors wiped off perfectly, though.

Now that I had a room of gorgeous white tables, I wanted a way to call on groups. I went to Micheals in search of… I didn’t know what. Just SOMETHING to put on the tables to make them stand apart. Within the summer section, I found these:

Classroom DIY: Whiteboard Tables

I believe these were about $3 each on sale.

Yeah, it bothers me, too, that the white one doesn’t match the others. But once they are all on the tables you can’t tell. I then wandered over to the floral department to see what I could find. And once there, I found these:

Classroom DIY: Whiteboard Tables

$2 a stem at Micheals, so try to grab them during a sale.

Put ’em together and what have you got? Colored jars for each table! We now have a red table, a blue table, a teal table, a white table and a green table!

Classroom DIY: Whiteboard Tables

One word of caution: the students want to play with the flowers. All.the.time. And they want to stick their pencils in the jars. Besides that, they work great!

Classroom DIY: Whiteboard Tables

The Green Group in action!

I lovelovelove our new white tables. Because I don’t have a large enough class at the moment to need all six desks, I lowered one to it’s shortest settings and made a ‘coffee table’ out it. This is where I put community supplies, set out their workbooks or just set papers that I’m working on.

Classroom DIY: Whiteboard Tables

I’ll get a better picture in July when head back to the classroom!

Good luck if you choose to turn your own tables into whiteboard tables, and please let me know if I can help clarify any of these steps for you!


Classroom DIY: Whiteboard Tables

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  1. Kelli huntley

    How do you clean your whiteboard tables?

    • katieuppman

      Hey, Kelli! We just wipe them off with soft clothes (I use washclothes I cut in half). You can also use the Expo spray once a week, but I haven’t seen any need for it. The marker wipes off these tables totally (with the exception of that pink color).

      • Sommer

        I’ve had similar issues with the pink markers on my regular good-ole fashioned wall white boards too. I’ve found that coloring over the pink with a black expo marker then wiping it off makes the pink disappear in a flash.

        • katieuppman

          What a great tip, Sommer! I recently found a pink marker in my room, and you would have thought it was a lethal contagion the way I swooped it out the room! No pink markers in Room 10! 😉

      • Molly W.

        While I don’t have whiteboard tables, I’ve had the assistants at Lowe’s cut white shower board down-to-size for student whiteboards and then used children’s socks to both hold the markers and be used to wipe down the boards. They’re often cheaper than washcloths, they hold the markers nicely and the kids are usually more inclined to wipe their boards thoroughly because they like wearing the sock on one of their hands like a mitten! At the end of the activity, I just ask for everyone’s dirty socks and they return them with the marker inside. 🙂

        • katieuppman

          Fabulous ideas, Molly!! I never thought about storing the markers inside the socks!

          • Thanks so much for your post! I tried this a few days ago and I noticed my table has bumps and is prickly after the paint has dried. I have not tried to write on it yet. Did you notice that your tables after painting had little bumps and prickles? I used a primer and let sit for 24 hours before painting. The table is wood. Thanks!!

        • Audra

          What a clever idea!
          Thanks for sharing everyone. I’m looking to create a new space in my classroom, one that doesn’t actually exist yet. I’d like to purchase whiteboard tables that are foldable and portable to quickly rearrange the room for varied activities. I haven’t found much online and what I did find is expensive. This opens up new doors! 🙂

          • katieuppman

            So glad this got the creative juices flowing!!

          • Ria C

            I read today that pretty much any non-porous surface can be used as a whiteboard. Ikea have some white, high-gloss tables that would probably work brilliantly. They also have great folding tables of various sizes. Not sure if they come in high-gloss, but you might be able to paint some kind of clear gloss/ sealant over the top. Just make sure it’s a non-yellowing type.
            Apparently melamine, which is non-porous, is fine too, but I haven’t tried it.

    • Jody

      Rubbing alcohol: works wonders quickly & makes board look new! Plus waaaaay cheaper than that “special” spray

    • Leah

      Use a magic eraser to get stained marker off!

  2. Deidre Espadron

    Hi Kat,

    This is DHE from AtoZ and you have really inspired you with your table idea. I asked my P for permission to alter tables before trying this out. When I explained what I wanted to do with the tables, he became excited and said maybe others will follow suit. I bought all my supplies yesterday and will get started on my project this week! Thanks for sharing this idea! I can’t wait to watch my students in action with this.

    • katieuppman

      That is AWESOME, DHE!! Let us know how it goes!

      • Deidre Espadron

        My students are enjoying them! They are perfect for centers and my room looks bigger, cleaner, and they are much easier to keep clean.

  3. Barry

    how durable is the finish? Will putting down scissors or small tools scratch it?

    • katieuppman

      Thanks for asking, Barry! They seem to be holding up really well for us! Of course, if students dig at them with pencils or scissors, they will get holes. But normal, everyday wear seems to be fine with them. I’m not seeing any scratches yet!


      • Heather Heeden

        It has been a couple years now. Are the desks still holding up as whiteboards?

        • katieuppman

          Hi, Heather! The tables are still doing great! I do give them each a new coat of primer and whiteboard paint each summer as a year of fifth graders can be pretty rough on them. But other than that, they are doing great!

  4. Hi Katie,

    I saw a tweet about using whiteboard paint and I took the challenge. Thanks for the inspiration and great idea. I know my students will love it! I gave you a big shout out in my latest blog post. Thanks!


  5. Amy

    Do you think I could paint this over a chalkboard?? My school refuses to buy me a whiteboard and my chalkboard is terrible!

    • katieuppman

      Absolutely! You need to use a primer for this to work anyhow-the white board paint isn’t a thick white, so you need the surface of your wall/table to be white. I would take a small can of primer and paint over the chalkboard several times until it’s thick and solid white. Then simply roll on the white board paint! You’ll want to do several coats of the white board paint, and you might need to re-do it each summer, but it’s not that expensive-I would think one package of white board paint would cover it well. Also, make sure you test your markers on a corner of the board to make sure they wipe off easy-we found pink did NOT, and I would hate for you to do all that work and then have a giant word on your board you couldn’t get off! 😉

      • Thank goodness I kept scrolling! This was the exact question I was going to ask! I will pass along this information to my colleague who wanted to paint our chalkboards!

      • Leah

        Use a magic eraser on the pink!! the ME is an awesome alternative to the typical dry erase eraser. and it works better!

  6. Natalie

    You could tape the flowers to your dry erase markers. That way they are always at hand and make the markers harder for a student to accidentally walk away with. I love the idea of turning tables into whiteboards (especially tables in need of a new surface).

  7. Lucas

    I was looking at that specific type of whiteboard paint, and I heard that the boards were a pain to erase. I was just curious if you had any troubles with erasing the markers or if there were any specific types of markers you used.
    Thank you

    • katieuppman

      We’ve not had much any trouble with erasing-just test your markers first. Expo brand works great, as do most others. We use simple felt erasers. Sometimes kids use bleach wipes at the end of the day. We are finding that after a year of using the tables, they are starting to look a little scuffed up and have areas on them that are ‘collecting’ marker color, but they still look white from afar and the words/numbers are erasing just fine. I figure we’ll just re-paint them each summer and they’ll continue to work great!

  8. Wow! Love this idea. You’ve totally inspired me to get started in my class. Really looking forward to asking if I can… or maybe apologise after? Will probably only be able to do onr of the tables but will use the rest on another surface in class. Exciting!! 🙂 Thanks!!

    • katieuppman

      Good luck, Alex! Let me know if you have any questions!!

  9. Gail

    I have used the white 8 foot panels from Home depot on my tables ( they cut them) for the past 10 years. The issue with them is they become scratched ( chairs put up, book bags and notebooks) and they need to be replaced. I would love to have something more permanent. Have you had scratches and can you repaint over the original?

    • katieuppman

      Great question, Gail! I had my first scratches this year and they were from a friendly student who decided to dig names into the whiteboard surface with something sharp. There have been no other scratches, only some darker shadowing areas where the kids use the markers a LOT. I figure I’ll have to re-paint the tables each summer, but it’s just a few coats of primer and then a can of whiteboard paint will cover all the tables again. I would see no problem in re-painting them each summer, but you will def. want to put primer on before you do a new coat of whiteboard paint-the whiteboard is pretty clear and all the previous marks will show right through without the new primer! 😉

  10. Faye

    We would love to try this but we are worried that it’ll get everywhere. Our kids write their work on boards first and then copy it to their books. Does the ink cover their books or make a mess everywhere? How do you use it in your class?

    • katieuppman

      The ink only comes off if you deliberately erase it, just like on a normal white board. Students this year just grabbed Expo markers from a community basket and mostly did math work and brainstorming on the tables. Our tables are large enough that they could write on the table area next to their paper/books. If a student was repeatedly rubbing their arm over the ink area, I suppose their sleeve would act as an eraser and it would get on their clothes. But it’s not like wet paint-the marker dries pretty much the moment you write with it. I have never seen it get on a book or a piece of paper. Hope this helps!

  11. Jen

    Make sure you try hand sanitizer on a cloth to get out pink. Where I teach all the old chalkboards have been painted with this paint to make surfaces whiteboard. At first they said to only use EXPO brand markers, but I found that I could use any brand marker, including permanent markers, and that with rubbing alcohol, or better yet, hand sanitizer the marker would come off perfectly without damaging the surface! Give it a try before you paint over it!


    • katieuppman

      What a fabulous tip!! I’ll try this tomorrow when I go in-thanks so much!


  12. Jennifer

    I have some tables I would like to white board in our writing center. However, these tables have a light wood grain, meaning they are grooved in places. Do I need to sand these tops first, or will a good coating of primer and white board paint be okay? I do not want marker color getting stuck in these grooves. Anyone have experience with this? Thanks!

  13. Jess

    Thanks so much for this post! I am getting ready to try this myself. I’ve heard I need to use lots of coats. I was just wondering how long you waited between each coat. I know you only have an hour to use each box and I was wondering how many coats you were able to get in without the paint getting ruined. Did you have to wait for one coat to dry before applying another? Can’t wait to try this myself!

    • katieuppman

      Hey, Jess! I have 7 tables that I paint, so by the time I finish with my 7th table, the 1st table is usually dry enough for another coat. I’m usually able to get 2-3 coats on all 7 tables in about 2 hours (I use 2 packages, so I mix 1/use it, mix the other/use it). I re-do them each summer and I’m actually about the put the white board paint on for this year today! 😉

  14. Marlon

    HI Katie, I am also planning to do this on my personal working station but the paint you use is not available here in Philippines. Have you tried using Candy Whiteboard Paint instead? Does it have the same effect? TIA for your answer!

    • katieuppman

      Hi, Marlon! I have only used the brand shown in the post, but the link you posted looks very similar! Couldn’t hurt to try, eh? 😉

  15. Jennie W.

    Hi there!
    Thanks for the excellent directions about how to do this project I had some pretty sad 20+ year old science tables for my ELA portable, and they looked horrible. We just finished painting today, and they look much nicer.
    I wonder if you have any trouble with the edges of the tables chipping or peeling. A few folks have decided to cover the edges with Duct tape, but I prefer a cleaner look. What do you think?
    Thank you for your great project and help!

    • katieuppman

      So glad you tried this! My first year of painting, I taped off the edges and just painted the tops of the tables. No chips, but there were drips that got under the tape and they looked really sloppy. This summer when I re-did the whiteboard paint, I painted the edges of the tables, too. They looks so clean and polished now-wish I had done it from the beginning! Still no chips-the paint is really hard. Hope this helps!

      • Jennie W.

        Thanks so much for your reply. I also wonder what you use to clean the tables after each class and perhaps on Fridays for a better clean. 🙂

        • Jennie W.

          Oops! I just saw your answer! Soft cloths and Expo spray. I wonder if anyone has tried any other solutions.

  16. Kim

    A Magic Eraser should get that pink Expo off. Don’t buy the cheap off brand. Get the real thing -Mr Clean so worth it

  17. Carol

    Do you know if the whiteboard paint will work on a bulletin board? The surface is a tan colored cork-like surface. Thank you!
    By the way, I am so happy I found your site, it’s wonderful!

    • katieuppman

      Thanks so much, Carol! I have no idea if it will work on corkboard. Perhaps try it on a small hand-held bulletin board from the Dollar Tree first to see if the holes/cracks make a difference? There is also white board contact paper that might work better!

  18. Schelbi Duff

    I have been wanting to do this with our group table in my preschool class. However, I am worried with the amount of glue that usually ends up on the table it will be ruined or hard to clean off. Have you had any experience with glue on this surface?

    • katieuppman

      Our glue, even when dry, wipes off easily with a wet rag! No damage to the whiteboard finish. 😉

  19. Jasmin

    I let students draw directly on brown desks and it wipes right off. Every so often when desk need a good clean I spray them with soap and water.

  20. Amy

    It’s been a are your desks holding up. I love the idea but will need proof it lasts before asking my boss to paint tables. Don’t want to ruin them.

    • katieuppman

      Hey, Amy! They are doing great! I repaint them each summer with some primer and new whiteboard paint so they are gleaming white in the fall for the new kiddos, but they still look really good at the end of the year. 😉

  21. Dee

    I have tables also I use pool noodles to tell me tables apart – cut a slit and wrap them around the leg of the table

  22. Donna Kesselring

    I am the social intervention teacher at my school and I work with kids from K-4th grade who have behavior issues. I did not want to have desks shoved across the room when frustration happens so we have picnic tables in our room. On the top of the picnic table I had my hubby cut down shower board to fit the top and we have giant white boards to use while we are working or just for a fun place to draw. My students love this and it makes it easier when we are working on math concepts or writing.

  23. Tana

    Do you have other tables in your room for other activities such as painting or coloring with utensils besides dry erase markers? I love the clean look of these tables but if other substances get on them do they still clean up nicely? The area I’m considering is a Sunday school classroom with a wide age range. Thank you!!

    • katieuppman

      We use the whiteboard tables for all our activities. If we are using Sharpies, the kiddos know to put paper underneath. Paint wipes right up. Even glue comes off pretty nicely when we wipe them down! Hope this helps!

      • Mindy

        Have you ever used Clorox wipes on the tables? We have breakfast in the classroom and afternoon snack. I am worried about just using a wet rag to clean the tables in general.

        • katieuppman

          We use ‘bleach wipes’ on the tables all the time! I would say maybe once a week, def. every other week. They work fabulously, and there is zero damage to the table!

  24. Alyssa

    Try a magic eraser to get the pink stain out. Magic erasers work wonders.

  25. Kayla

    “I got 4 coats on my 6 tables” Does that mean you used 4 coats per table? How long did you wait before doing another coat?

    • katieuppman

      Yes, Kayla! 4 coats per table. You have to use the whiteboard paint within an hour, so I waited about 15 minutes between coats. The whiteboard paint goes on thin (hence the need for primer and several coats), and will dry very quickly!

    • I’m so glad that the inrentet allows free info like this!

  26. We have individual student desk and I was trying to figure out how many boxes that I would need. Are your desk larger group desk?

    • katieuppman

      I would say each of my table tops was probably equal to 4 student desks. I was able to do several coats on 6 tables with 2 boxes, so that’s about 12 desks per box (with several coats per desk). Hope that helps! (Make sure you prime first! 😉 )

  27. Yvonne

    Can you use this on a plain wood tabletop?

    • katieuppman

      Sure! You would want to make sure the surface is as smooth as possible-the more porous the surface, the harder it will be to erase the marker when you’re done.

  28. Kate

    I noticed on your Youtube video that you ended up with white sides on your tables. Did you end up just painting them white later on? The sides of my tables are plastic so I’m not sure that paint would take to them well? But I’d love to spare myself the task of taping my tables if at all possible!

    • katieuppman

      After 2 years of trying to keep the sides black and getting paint drips down them, I decided to just paint them white, too! It sometimes chips off, but I re-paint every summer, so I just let it go during the year. 😉

  29. Colleen Bean

    How have they held up over the years? I’m trying to talk my principal into this. He wants me to tell you that I have knuckleheads in my room who will abuse the tables if you let them.


    • katieuppman

      Hi, Colleen! These have held up great. I always do a fresh coat of the whiteboard paint in the summer as they can get a bit worn over the year, but it’s well worth the $20. The kids have to be careful not to let Sharpies bleed through paper onto the tables, or to scratch them with paperclips (some like to etch designs with the sharp metal-KIDS!), but that would happen with regular tables, too. And at least with the whiteboard tables, if the kiddos stain them, I know I can just give them a new coat of whiteboard paint in the summer and they will look like new again. I think the white looks so very clean in the room and we’re still loving them three years later! Parents are also always impressed when they hear the tables are whiteboard-it gives you innovation brownie points with them. 😉


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