Preparation for a Dry Erase Wall

 To optimize the dry erase surface the wall that is to be coated with dry erase paint should be prepared to a Gypsum Board Level 5 Finish as described in the Gypsum Association document GA-214.


“Level 5:

All joints and interior angles shall have tape embedded in joint compound and shall be immediately wiped with a joint knife leaving a thin coating of joint compound over all joints and interior angles. Two separate coats of joint compound shall be applied over all flat joints and one separate coat of joint compound shall be applied over interior angles. Fastener heads and accessories shall be covered with three separate coats of joint compound. A thin skim coat of joint compound trowel applied, or a material manufactured especially for this purpose and applied in accordance with manufacturer’s recommendations, applied to the entire surface. The surface shall be smooth and free of tool marks and ridges. Note: It is recommended that the prepared surface be coated with a drywall primer prior to the application of finish paint.”

The wall should be primed with a quality acrylic emulsion latex primer which can be finish coated with either the opaque dry erase coating system or can be intermediate coated with a quality acrylic emulsion latex finish paint in the specified color and then finish coated with the dry erase clear paint.

Acrylic emulsion latex primers and acrylic emulsion latex finish coats must be dry, having released all water, co-solvents and surfactants prior to finish coating with a dry erase paint. Light colors of acrylic latex emulsion paints are usually able to be finish coated with professional grade dry erase paint within 24 hours, whereas some deeper/darker colors which take longer to release surfactants require four to five days of cure prior to being finish coated with a professional grade dry erase paint.

Selection of Dry Erase Paint

Performance, ink release properties, application safety, ease of application and cost per square foot are all components of dry erase paint selection. Professional grade dry erase paints are performance coatings developed for professional application. Aliphatic polyurethanes and modified polysiloxanes are the two generic resin systems that are predominantly sold into the dry erase paint market.

Performance and Ink Release Properties

Dry erase ink is similar to permanent ink with the exception that dry erase ink contains a surfactant that allows the ink to be more readily removed from a smooth non-porous surface while the surfactant is still in the dry erase ink film. When the surfactant dries out of the film, the ink is more difficult to remove with a dry microfiber cloth and may require removal with a solvent such as isopropyl alcohol or a commercial cleaner such as Krud Kutter Original. The dry erase ink properties can also be restored to the dried ink by writing over the old ink markings with a dry erase marker which will regenerate the dry erase properties.
Due to build-up of dry erase ink residues over time, dry erase walls should be regularly cleaned with a non-abrasive cleaner that will cut the ink residue but not harm the dry erase coating. Check with the manufacturer of the dry erase coating to determine what cleaners are acceptable.
Performance and ink release properties vary with each dry erase product, generally speaking waterborne aliphatic polyurethanes contain the most warnings against the use of selected dry erase inks while modified polysiloxanes (such as EeZeClean Dry Erase Paint) offer the most effective ink release properties, even after the surfactant has evaporated from the dry erase ink.

Application Safety for the Applicator and Building Occupants

Aliphatic polyurethanes used as dry erase paints whether waterborne or solvent systems utilize an isocyanate which has been identified by OSHA as a chemical that “can cause occupational asthma; irritation of the skin, eyes, nose and throat; and cancer, OSHA reports. Isocyanate exposures have also caused deaths due to both asthma and hypersensitivity pneumonitis.” Thus proper respiratory precautions must be taken during application including the use of air supplied respirators and the evacuation of building occupants when aliphatic polyurethanes are being applied. Waterborne aliphatic polyurethanes are low odor, but still contain isocyanates. Silane modified epoxies used as dry erase paints are high solids epoxies with a low odor similar to the odor of disinfectants.

Modified polysiloxanes can be applied in occupied structures with minimal disruption to business operations located adjacent to the dry erase wall application. Modified polysiloxanes do not contain isocyanates or BPA.

Ease of Application

Professional coatings applicators normally apply dry erase paint by roller application, but may choose spray application in some situations. When roller applied or spray applied, the applicator will want the material to have a reasonable working time so a wet edge can be maintained over the course of the application. A longer working time also allows the dry erase paint to flow out and provide a smoother writing surface.

Cost per Square Foot

The cost per square foot varies widely with dry erase paint and does not necessarily reflect only the actual costs of the dry erase paint, but also extra specialty packaging and marketing costs. Professional applicators prefer to work out of gallon kits which can cover up to 400 square feet of wall space. Quart kits and short filled quart kits dramatically increase the cost per square foot for the material and labor on larger projects due to the applicator having to mix up small units.

To better determine the cost per square foot take the unit price and divide it by the recommended application rate (Unit price/number of recommended square feet per unit = Cost per Square Foot).

Maintenance and Sustainability of Dry Erase Walls

Dry erase inks are best removed from the dry erase painted surface with a dry microfiber cloth which can be washed and cleaned. Conventional chalk/dry erase board erasers which have a hard backing and are not easily cleaned are not appropriate for cleaning dry erase coated wall.

Dry erase ink residues can build up on the dry erase wall resulting in more difficult cleaning and a stained appearance of the dry erase coating. Manufacturers of dry erase ink markers and dry erase paints recommend cleaning dry erase walls on a regular basis with a cleaner that will cut and remove dry erase ink residue but will not damage the dry erase paint. Cleaning a dry erase surface should be done weekly on dry erase walls that have heavy use and at least once every two weeks on walls that are less frequently used. Dry erase cleaners vary in the ability to cut dry erase ink residue and it is important to use a cleaner that will not damage the dry erase paint. The manufacturer of the dry erase paint will be able to provide the name of a cleaner or solvent that will optimize the cleaning of the dry erase surface and not damage the dry erase coating. Check with the manufacturer of the dry erase coating for a recommended cleaner. Never use an abrasive cleaner that will abrade the surface of the dry erase wall.

Communicating with the Dry Erase Wall

Whether your dry erase wall is to collaborate, communicate, educate or illustrate you will find it to be a tool that will help bring about sustainable results when it is maintained. A dry erase marker, a microfiber cloth and a weekly cleaning with an appropriate dry erase paint cleaner will extend the service life of  your professionally installed dry erase wall.