Do you really need a whiteboard?

Some know them as dry erase marker boards but here on the Weft coast the start up culture is prevalent and almost every office has a whiteboard. I noticed that many of the searches relating to whiteboards involve magnetism. Now if you didn’t take chemistry, you may not be familiar with the adjective ferrous but its from the Latin word for iron, the primary element used for attracting magnets.  Most whiteboard materials are non ferrous like glass and MDF but have a steel film on the back so that you can attach magnets to the board anyways.  For many its not the dry erase that is important, its the ferrous content, which can even be painted on to surfaces, but if you ask me nothing is better than just a sheet of steel. Be wary though that these self adhesive skins require enough space to lay flat before installing because they are easily bent in transit and you are going to want to hammer any creases out with a rubber mallet before peeling the back. And as always I recommend using this laser for guidelines to insure perfect fit, because you only get on chance to adhere them.

Most whiteboards I see are framed MDF, particle board, composite or melamine, the materials vary slighty but most are wood based similar to RTA furniture. Usually the back is shiny as the steel film is exposed, and with glass you want to take extra care as to not damage this shiny surface because  it can be seen.

Regardless of your choice, glass, wood or steel, office managers are usually in charge of installation. Of course I think you should hire a pro, that is how I pay my bills, but if you own a variable speed drill and a level, DIY is an option. Remember the old cliche, measure twice cut once. Drywall repair is not expensive but can be time consuming as you need several passes, sanding, painting etc, to get right. Do it right the first time and you can clean small scuffs with melamine sponges like Magic Eraser. Some boards are more forgiving than others. Glass and many others use a fixed mount so the whole must be perfectly aligned. Others hang on a french cleat or similar hardware and being level is the only requirement. This is an area where you get what you pay for and lower cost items are more difficult to install.

I have also seen boards that have been drilled through, which if you use a drywall bit to countersink the screws it will look OK, and you can easily screw to stud location, but moving to a new location usually means new holes and the finish will never be restored. Some boards are devoid of hardware and usually I drill straight through the frame. This can also prove not ideal as I have seen boards separate from the frame so screw placement is key and mounting should start from the bottom instead of the top, which is fine as it is usually easier to see your laser line from below but will certainly need the help of friends or coworkers to hold it in place while you drive the screws.

I’ll leave you with the screws. In most offices, studs are metal, so select sheet metal screws if you are going into the studs. Machine screws have a finer pitch to grip the steel. Also metal studs are often 24″ on center instead of 16″ common in residential. This morning I had a customer in Pioneer Square here in Seattle. Being the oldest part of downtown, the walls were lathe and plaster. Do not hammer plaster, if you break the “keys,” the access on the back side, the plaster can literally fall off the wall. You probably won’t be using nails but if you are hanging art whatever also around the office, pre drill plaster before using nails. Most installations will be drywall, because most construction after WWII is sheetrock or gypsum. A variety of anchors are available and since most boards are mounted flush to the wall, only concern is shear weight, so whatever the board came with is sufficient but I prefer these. The plastic ones will spread giving better hold on sheetrock, but will break if you hit lathe or stud, so drive the bare screw first to see if you’re on hollow wall. When driving or drilling always be wary of utilities, water, power, even vents. If you have drop ceiling its easy to get on a ladder and see what drops through, otherwise just having a look around is about all you have. Good news is that plumbing is usually in a stack, so if your not hanging in the kitchen you won’t likely find water, and sprinklers are cast so it will be difficult to breach, but power can be anywhere so again measure twice.  If you do decide to take my advice, also look for the anchors that come to a point, like the ones that say for studs and doors because like the plastic ones they will still break at about 20# of force. The pointed ones drive flush almost every time and will even work with plaster, and although they leave a large hole and don’t have the flange that hold them in place when the screw is removed, they still save you a ton of time and headache.

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