DIY: Ruler Growth Chart

File this one under harder than it looks.  We’ve all seen the growth charts that look like giant rulers.  I’ve always loved the way they look (maybe it’s the teacher in me that can’t pass up a giant school supply on the wall), but I’ve never wanted to fork over the cash for something that looked so simple.

Well, I always forget that simple is actually a difficult aesthetic to achieve.  I started this thinking I’d knock it out in an afternoon, then messed it up.  I pouted for like a month because I was so annoyed I had made such a dumb mistake that would require me to start all over.  So, it sat in the corner taunting me and Nolan knocked it over (he was fine, just scared from the noise) before I finally stopped procrastinating and finished it.

So, learn from my mistakes, because this growth chart really is a simple DIY!

Growth Chart Supplies:

  • 6-7′ board- We went with a 7′ piece of Poplar.  I liked the width of the Poplar that Home Depot offered.  The type of wood is totally up to you and your preference.  We went with a 7′ board because AJ and I are both tall (I’m 5’9″ and he’s 6’6″), so we’re expecting tall kids.  I’m really hoping they humor me and let me still measure them when they’re that big!
  • Stain- again this is personal preference.  I went with Minwax Dark Walnut
  • Paint- you will want a color that will show up against your stain.  Since my stain was darker, I went with a lighter paint.  I actually used the white latex ceiling paint we had leftover.
  • Stencil- I bought this one from Stencils Galore on Etsy.
  • A rag or brush to apply stain
  • Gloves (if on hand to keep stain off your hands)
  • Paint brush
  • Sand paper
  • Wall hangers or brackets

Growth Chart Instructions:

  1. Sand the board.  I started off sanding by hand since Nolan was napping and I didn’t want to risk waking him up since his room is right above the garage, but ended up using the electric sander.  Definitely save yourself the time and just go for the electric sander.  If you’re lucky, you’ll get a helper or two.  If you’re even luckier, you’ll be really bad at sanding and your husband will be super anal and he’ll do it for you.
    DIY ruler growth chart    DIY ruler growth chart
  2. Stain the board.  I like a really thin stain because I still like to see the grain of the wood.  I used an old t-shirt to apply this stain in Dark Walnut. because it gives the most control.  Brushes saturate the board with the stain and you have less control of how much you are applying.  But, if you’re going for a darker look, a brush might be what you’re looking for.  You could also use the rag technique and do several coats until you get the desired look. Also, make sure you get all the dust off.  I like to use a wet rag to wipe it all off.  Make sure the stain dries completely.  This is a bonus to doing one thin coat- it dries really quickly!  One sample sized can should be more than enough.  I used what was left from the mud room bench and art board because I wanted it to match.DIY ruler growth chart DIY ruler growth chart
  3. Paint on the tick marks and numbers.  Here is where I totally messed up.  I used a sponge-y paintbrush because it’s what I had on hand, but I totally forgot how much paint they absorb, and it bled all through the stencil and didn’t achieve the crisp, clean lines I wanted  The other mistake I had made was that I started painting the tick marks on one end and while it was drying I started painting on the opposite end thinking I could just meet in the middle and save time.  Yeah, well, for some reason it didn’t matching up perfectly and it just looked bad. This is when I abandoned the project for a month because I was dreading sanding it all off to start again.  So, to avoid having to sand off all your hard work, make sure to use a drier brush.  The idea is to do a lot of light, thin layers.  The second time around I poured some paint on a paper plate so I’d be able to control how much paint went on the brush and I could take off some of the excess.                         The lines still didn’t end up as crisp as I’d envisioned, but I think that’s part of the handmade look.  I think those are the sort of things only the person who made it notices anyway.
  4. Add hardware to the back to hang.  I wanted it to hang as flush on the wall as possible, so after a little research at Home Depot, I got these.  Poplar is actually pretty heavy, so we used anchors and screws too.
  5. Measure your kiddos.                                                                                     

I made one other mistake that I didn’t think about until we went to hang it.  When the growth chart is hanging on the wall, it doesn’t represent the actual measurements because the baseboard is in the way.  So the one 1′ mark is actually about 15″, the 2′ mark is about 27″ and so on.

At first I was really annoyed that I hadn’t thought that through too.  I was NOT about to sand it down again and start all over, so I decided to hang it where I want with no regard to the actual measurements and just take it off the wall when I measure the kids.  It’s something I plan to use only once a year on their birthdays (maybe twice a year at their half birthdays too if I’m really on top of it), so it won’t be that big of a deal to take the growth chart down and measure them.

If that is something that will really bother you, I recommend starting the ruler at the 2′ mark so you’re able to hang the board 2′ off the ground.  Of course, this will vary depending on the size of your baseboards.


Overall, I’m happy with how the growth chart turned out!  It wasn’t as simple as I thought it was, mostly because I tried to rush it and didn’t really think it all the way through, but that’s the story of my life these days.  I bet this is a lot easier if you’re getting adequate sleep and your brain functions properly. It’s almost impossible to devote my full attention to anything these days so I’m glad I could salvage my mistakes instead of leaving a half finished project around until I finally just threw it away.

Interested to see what the rest of the space looks like?!  See how I DIY’d the artwork display board here.  Check out the built in mudroom on the opposite wall here.

What do you think? Leave a comment!