The DIY Blues – How (not) to Mix Chalk Paint

Over the summer, I found out a friend of mine was related to the guy who owned the (now defunct) company that built my house. Since the day we moved in I have whined wondered why they didn’t build the fireplace chase all the way up to the ceiling. I can’t imagine that another 3′ of brick facade would have broken the bank (though maybe so since they went under shortly after completing this place) and chalked it up to their lack of design style.


I had my pal dial up her bro-in-law (via Facebook) and get me the name of his brick supplier. After measuring the area and ensuring I was up to the task (read: googling “How to install brick veneer“) I called them up only to find that they, too, had gone out of business.


For the next several weeks the hubs caught me staring at the blank wall above the fireplace, wheels spinning. He knew it was only a matter of time before inspiration hit and I’d come up with some {awesome} plan to tear the living room apart again.

After we had our faux wood floors ripped up and relaid for the third time I was hesitant to toss out the leftovers so they sat in the box at the foot of our bed until last week. As I was vacuuming the dust/dog hair out of that box inspiration struck. {cue magical fairy music}

If you follow me on Instagram you may recall this photo. (and if you don’t – you’re missing pictures of complete nonsense and adorable puppies)


My initial plan was to piece the planks together (just like they are on the floor) vertically and build up over the fireplace mantel a la beadboard. However, that plan fell apart – quickly. While I had enough material to run the planks the width of the fireplace and build a box, they were 6″ too short to frame it out. Grrr x 2.

Since the wall was already all marked up and I finally had a clear vision I devised Plan B. I ran to Menards and picked up some 1″ x 6″ x 8′ pieces of pre-primed MDF board. I measured and marked then ran them through the miter saw. The frame went up with ease. The first, second and third planks fit perfectly. Wow – this was too easy. Something was off – my projects never come together this well.


And there it was. Somewhere along the line I lost a 1/4 of an inch and was left with a gap between the top board and the frame header just big enough to stick a fingertip through. Definitely too big to ignore. {Sigh} In ‘rewind’ mode down came the boards, recuts were made and my DIY project got a complete do-over.

…except this time I wanted it to be blue.


True, the white did coordinate well with the window cornices I’d made but faded right into the yellow wall at night. Why bother building up the fireplace if it wasn’t a noticeable change? And I wanted it to tie in with the bricks not the windows. So out came the paint and plaster of paris.

Now, I feel it only fair to admit that up to this point I had not jumped on the chalk paint bandwagon. Sure I’d seen tons of pins and read all the rave reviews from other bloggers who swear by the stuff but I hadn’t actually tried it yet so I figured how hard could it be? <~~~ famous.last.words

At nearly 5:00 am I mixed up an Annie Sloan knock-off. A cup of this, a tablespoon of that and I was ready to soldier on with the project.

First, I filled in the ‘seams’ and it looked pretty good. Then I went to reload my brush for a full paint stroke and hit near-solid goo. Um. I don’t recall reading about this…I hopped off the step stool, added a bit of water, mixed ‘er up and got back to work. All the while I’m thinking o O (this doesn’t look right) but I kept going.


frenchie1 #deeconstruct

I got the first coat on and stepped back for a full-scale look. Huh, something about it still didn’t look right and I said as much to the lazy pup lounging in the chair.

His lack of concern encouraged me to get a second opinion.

…whose incriminating stare forced me to take five and check back in with those ‘How To’s I’d read earlier.

milo_lou #deeconstruct



Okay. So, here’s the thing.

I suck when it comes to reading directions and I’m not too good at following instructions either. I prefer to gloss over the words and mumble “yeah, yeah I got this” and blaze my DIY trail full steam ahead.

Admittedly, this rarely goes the way I plan.

Yet my epic fails seem to work themselves out in the long run so I see no real reason to change my strategy. But let me tell you that it sure sucks when I’m stuck in the trenches of my own stubbornness with nowhere to go but up.


Are you seeing this mess through your tears of laughter?? It’s ok, I was crying too.

Apparently, when I put 2 cups of p.o.p. in the bowl, added some water and a bit of paint I totally screwed up the formula for chalk paint. The *right* way to do it called for a heck of a lot more paint and a teensy bit less plaster. Whoops!

Fast forward an hour and eleventeen million sandpaper swipes later and I was right back to square one. Oh, and the sun was coming up. Grrreat.



  1. Bobi Jensen March 1, 2013 at 6:00 am

    The idea looks like a good one, so I can't wait to see how you fix it 🙂

    I have a weekend Link party if you'd care to join:

    • Dee March 1, 2013 at 7:50 am

      Thanks for the invite Bobi – I linked up. 🙂 I wish I could tell you this project was done. Well it's painted but now it needs to be dressed up. Nobody likes a naked mantle. {sigh}

  2. Christine February 25, 2013 at 11:05 am

    Oh Dee!! I'm sure you're going to get it to look perfect in no time 🙂

    Thanks so much for sharing this at The DIY Dreamer… From Dream To Reality! Can't wait to see what you link up tomorrow!

  3. Peggy-PJH Designs February 24, 2013 at 6:07 am

    Dee, I'm with you! Why do something the easy way?! Its always more interesting to take the long way around! NOT! I do things like this all the time. lol You are doing a great job and I know it is going to be beautiful when you get through. Thanks so much for sharing at Transformed Tuesday. I really enjoyed your post.



  4. Michelle L February 22, 2013 at 7:55 pm

    Thanks for the advice and warning about the paint – but even though it's a fail for now, I can tell it will be gorgeous when you are finished!

  5. DeDe@DesignedDecor February 22, 2013 at 1:38 am

    Funny story, but not for you! I so can relate to the stubborness and forging through anyways. I too half read instructions and learn the hard way!

  6. Diana Rambles February 21, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    It's important to share fails! Thanks for sharing this at my Pin Me Linky Party.

  7. Mary Beth @ Cupcakes February 20, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing what you learned and for linking up to Project Inspire{d} ~ have a great week, Dee!

  8. Linda February 20, 2013 at 5:53 am

    You always take on such amazingly difficult projects. Mitering corners? I want to learn how to use power tools. Thanks for sharing. Linda

    • Dee February 20, 2013 at 7:57 am

      Linda – have you checked out the post about my g/friend Sonne going on the road?? Sign up for the tour & she'll teach you how to use all sorts of power tools! 🙂 (And thank you for always checking in – means soooo much to me!) ~ Dee

  9. Melissa @Serendipity February 19, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    Sounds like something I would do! I'm horrendous about glossing over directions and thinking "I got this" only to wind up spending more time fixing whatever I'm doing than it would have taken to read the directions in the first place– you think I would learn my lesson. 🙂 I feel your pain!

  10. Inspire Me Heather February 19, 2013 at 2:56 am

    I see what you mean about the fireplace! I think you're on the right track though, I'm sure you'll figure it out!

  11. Lucy February 18, 2013 at 5:10 pm

    I was just relating my disaster of a sponge cake to my friends on Facebook chat when I came across this post. They were getting a good laugh out of my story and it felt good to laugh about it and your mishap too. (Mine had to do with not reading the directions well also!)

    • Dee February 18, 2013 at 6:00 pm

      Directions are highly overrated. 🙂

  12. patty February 18, 2013 at 8:47 am

    I am getting ready to do some chalk painting so I appreciate your honesty. I have never done it myself and am feeling quite timid about it. I am impressed with your sawing ability but i see you have a background in construction. Good luck and I can't wait to see your beautiful fireplace next week!

    • Dee February 18, 2013 at 6:02 pm

      Thanks Patty! You'd think after a decade in construction I'd have learned to do a lot of this in the field but I was running projects – not doing work. Everything I've learned on the DIY has been with a steep learning curve & all on my own time. So, if I can do it – anyone can! (btw – I'm a rockstar with the chalk paint now – once you figure it out the stuff is super easy!)

  13. Kelly @ View Along t February 18, 2013 at 7:48 am

    Aww I'm bummed it didn't work out, but I have SO been there, my friend! Feeling your pain!

  14. CrystelleBoutique February 18, 2013 at 5:56 am

    LOL! I am so glad you can laugh at yourself!

    Good for you!

    hugs x


  15. A Lived in Home February 18, 2013 at 5:38 am

    Oops! I hope it turned out great in the end after many hours of sweat and tears! Thanks for sharing at my party!

  16. Janette@The2Seasons February 18, 2013 at 5:19 am

    Sorry this didn't work out. Have you thought about painting the stone/brick and the wall the same color?

    • Dee February 18, 2013 at 5:34 am

      I love the colors of the stone below which is why I wish they had continued up another 3'! I figured out where I went wrong, corrected the mistake and finished the project. The reveal will be posted this week – stay tuned and thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  17. Heather February 18, 2013 at 1:24 am

    It really sucks when you spend more time fixing the mistake than actually doing the project. Thanks for sharing your fail. I had a DIY chalk paint fail too when I used baking soda and paint. It ruined my project and I haven't fixed it yet!

    • Dee February 18, 2013 at 5:35 am

      Imagine the time I'd have saved if I had *read* the directions! Did someone recommend the baking soda or is that something you concocted all on your own???

  18. Tammy Northrup February 17, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    Thanks for the laugh! I needed that. I'm anxious to hear how the second batch turned out.

    • Dee February 18, 2013 at 5:36 am

      It's amazing how things work when you follow directions Tammy! Happy to report the 2nd time around was much more successful. Keep an eye out for the reveal!

  19. Roxana February 16, 2013 at 10:48 am

    Too funny, sounds like something I would do. It is going to look GREAT when you get it done. can't wait to see it!

    • Dee February 18, 2013 at 5:36 am

      You'd think after umpteen project fails I'd learn….not!

  20. Ashley @ The Freckle February 15, 2013 at 6:14 am

    Well, at least you can admit your failures. I've been wanting to try making my own – I definitely be a little cautious now!

    • Dee February 18, 2013 at 5:36 am

      I swear, if it wasn't for project fails I'd never make any progress. 🙂 Thanks for swinging by!

  21. Elizabeth@Table4Five February 15, 2013 at 4:11 am

    I'm laughing WITH you! lol I hate painting anything, because I'm always afraid it will dry funny and I'll just have to keep adding more and more coats. Plus it always drips on things like the kitchen table (ahem, *hubby*) where it can't easily be removed.

    So what's the plan now?

    • Dee February 18, 2013 at 5:38 am

      I tell myself that the droplets of paint I get on everything are just ways to tie everything together! Plus, it really has come in handy to have paint on my clothes when I run to the store – I can easily color match items! The project is almost done & will be posted shortly…

  22. Bev February 15, 2013 at 1:34 am

    I started off with DIY chalk Paint but used the un sanded grout instead and have to say that I like working with it. It firms up quickly but adding a spash of water brings it to perfect again.

    My epic fail was the first time I tried Milk Paint! LOL As easy as itis to use, I had not one, but two fails with it. Live and learn, they say!

    I love what you are doing with your fireplace and can't wait to see the end result! Personally, saws scare me because I just know I am going to hurt myself LOL

    • Dee February 15, 2013 at 1:49 am

      Oh milk paint – the name alone scares me. I've read about it and I don't think I can bother with something that goes bad. I mean, I can't even keep potatoes from growing things on them. I got the paint to plaster ratio down and I *think* I'm ready to seal it today. Unless sleep finally finds me and I'm konked out for the next 12 hours. It's always an unknown for me! I think I'll head over & read your thoughts for the day…

  23. Tammy Killough February 14, 2013 at 11:51 pm

    Oh dear! lol Well….at least you know when you've been beat! lol I've had the same screw up with home made chalk paint! OOPS…well…the carpentry looks great…and it'll be wonderful when your done. I do wish you'da added a pic of the pup…or is it pups? ~Tammy

    • Dee February 15, 2013 at 1:13 am

      Updated just for you! (I always, always take pics of the pups during the projects – they don’t always make the cut but when special requests are made I’m happy to oblige!)

  24. Alecia @ Chicken Scr February 14, 2013 at 11:25 pm

    I love the idea of building up your fireplace. I've gone the DIY chalk paint route many times and once you get it right it's fantastic! I've never added water, usually a few blobs of PoP and them stir well. It does get thicker the longer it sets so you have to move pretty quickly. It sands like a dream though. I hope your next attempt goes better! (there are pictures of my chalk paint mix in the post I comment-luved to the bottom)

    • Dee February 15, 2013 at 1:12 am

      You're not kidding about the sanding – if only everything were that easy to come off! I succeeded with round 2 so stay tuned for the reveal!

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