How to build a moss wall

Amit Kumar Gupta
10 min readSep 14, 2019

Building your own moss wall can be a great way to add some natural color and beauty to your home with the added joy of expressing your own creativity. If you use preserved moss, your moss wall will require almost no maintenance, so don’t worry if you don’t have a green thumb. And if that’s not enough, it’s also a lot cheaper than paying someone else to make one for you or paying for artwork. Want to build your own? Read on!

close up of our moss wall

What a moss wall is (and isn’t)

The type of moss wall described in this post consists of a large, thin, rectangular, wooden board with a layer of preserved moss glued onto one side. The board is framed and mounted on a wall by hanging the frame on nails that you will hammer into your wall.

In some trendy stores, restaurants, and offices you may find living moss walls, or living walls in general (consisting of plants other than moss). The moss wall described in this post is not a living wall. Living walls are often very beautiful, but less practical. Two notable differences are:

  • Living walls consist of living plants that need soil and water. Those walls probably requires significant maintenance — you’ll need to worry about water, sunlight, nutrients, and possibly pests.
  • Living walls also require a lot of space because soil and plant roots are voluminous, so you will often see them where walls are recessed or where the plants cover nearly the full wall, otherwise they would inconveniently jut out from the wall several inches. The moss wall described in this post only protrudes an inch or so from the wall, not much different than any other framed piece of artwork.

Planning

Envision

The first thing to do is envision what you want it to look like in the end. How big will it be? What shape? Where in your home will you put it? What colors and textures of moss do you want to use? What sort of pattern or design do you want to create with the moss — geometric or abstract patterns, an organic natural look, an image of something like a face or a map of the world? If you’re going with something organic and natural, you don’t need to think too hard up front about exactly what it will look like, but it’s good to have some rough idea of the kinds and quantities of moss you want.

Assess feasibility

Once you have a sense for what you want to make and where you want to put it, you can start to estimate how much it will weigh and how much it will cost.

Weight: 1 pound of moss covers about 3 square feet, so e.g. if you’re envisioning a 4' x 6' moss wall that will take 8 pounds of moss. A 4' x 6' board made of plywood that’s 11/32” thick weighs about 35 pounds. The weight of the frame and the glue should be negligible, so add the weight of the moss and the wood together to estimate the total weight.

Depending on the planned width of your moss wall you’ll probably aim to use one or two nails to mount it on your wall. I’m not an expert, but there are probably many different ways to mount a frame on a wall, including ways that don’t involve nails, and the best way to mount probably depends on a variety of factors including the material of your wall. If you have drywall, a reasonable option is to have one or two J-hooks on your frame which will hang on one or two nails that you’ll hammer into the wall, away from any studs. For that particular scenario, a one-nail moss wall should weigh less than 25 pounds and a two-nail moss wall should weigh less than 50 pounds.

Cost: You can buy bags/boxes of preserved moss on Amazon, in many different colors and species of moss. Different species of moss have different looks and textures. Buying one large bag/box of one type of moss is cheaper than buying many smaller bags, though when you buy many bags you can obviously get a lot more variety in terms of texture and color. As mentioned above, 1 pound of moss covers about 3 square feet, so thinking about the design you have in mind, you can estimate how much of each type/color of moss you want, and check Amazon to see what that will cost. We bought three 3-pound boxes (this, this, and this) and two smaller 8-oz mix-and-match bags (this) that we didn’t end up using, and ended up with moss to spare when we were done. In total, we probably spent around $200 (USD) on moss.

If you don’t already have them, you’ll need glue guns and glue sticks which you can also purchase from Amazon. We bought two glue guns and a whole bunch of glue sticks, which cost about $20 in total.

You’ll also need a hammer, nails, a tape measure, and a level. Many toolkits these days come with all of those. If you don’t already have one, buy a good toolkit.

Along with the plywood board, you’ll need sandpaper, both of which you can get from your neighborhood hardware store. Sandpaper is cheap. Your hardware store may not carry wood boards in the exact dimensions you’re looking for, you’ll likely need to buy one a bit bigger and have them cut it to your desired size. We bought a 4' x 8' plywood board (which they cut to 4' x 6' for us), 11/32” thick, and it cost $20-$30.

The most expensive part of the whole endeavor is framing. We went to our neighborhood framing shop to get a quote on framing the 4' x 6' board, using the cheapest frame they offered. This cost about $230.

Logistics: Most of the material is shipped to you, and you can build the moss wall in the comfort of your own home without any special tools, but there are a couple things that can be tricky.

  1. How will you get your wooden board home from the hardware store? If your board is big, it may not fit in your car or in a typical Uber or Lyft. We happen to live 5 or 6 blocks from a hardware store, so my fiancée and I just walked the board home. A moderate amount of wind can make carrying a big board pretty awkward, not a big deal but something to consider.
  2. You will likely want to glue most of the moss onto the board before framing it, because if you mess up or don’t like your design, you can scrap it before throwing the money into framing it. If you do this, you’ll need to transport your moss-covered board to a framer and back. How will you do this? If there’s a framing shop close enough to you in your neighborhood, consider just walking it.
  3. Sanding the board is messy and you don’t want a bunch of sawdust floating around the air you breathe in your home. Gluing moss onto the board is messy and there will be moss crumbs all over the floor near where you work. Depending on the size of your board, this activity will also take up a fair bit of floor space. Glue guns need to be plugged into power outlets. Make sure you have some outdoor space to sand your board and somewhere indoors that is easy to clean and close to power outlets where you can glue moss to the board.

Having thought about weight, cost, and logistics, does the project seem feasible? Is it within your budget? Will your walls be able to bear the weight? Will you have to figure out how to get a huge moss-covered board to the nearest framing shop that’s 5 miles away, and you don’t have a car?

If it doesn’t seem feasible, try envisioning something different (smaller, fewer colors, mounting it somewhere else in your home). Envision, assess feasibility, repeat, until you have a workable plan for something you’re excited to build and have in your home.

moss wall in the background is always a conversation-starter during video conference calls

Execution

Disclaimer: You should only do this if you’re an adult or have adult supervision. Don’t sue me if you hurt yourself, or spend money you regret spending later 😁.

You can get the whole project done in two weeks, and most of that time is spent waiting for Amazon deliveries and waiting for framing. The actual work you need to do is probably 5–15 hours depending on the size of your board.

  1. Purchase moss, glue, and glue guns from Amazon.
  2. While you’re waiting for those to be delivered, get the wooden board and sandpaper from a hardwood store.
  3. Sand one of the surfaces of the board that you plan to put the moss on. Sanding it creates a rougher surface which is easier for the glue to adhere to. It’s a good idea to sand the entire board, i.e. both surfaces, all the edges, and the corners. This will mitigate the risk of getting painful splinters. Do this outdoors, and avoid breathing in sawdust.
  4. Once the moss, glue, and glue guns arrive, think about the design you want to make and start to glue the moss into place. Take small handfuls of moss and apply glue generously to one side of the moss clump and the spot on the board where you’re going to put the moss, and then put the clump on that spot. Hold it there for several seconds to allow the glue to set. Stay several inches away from the edges so that the framers have space to work with when framing the board.
  5. It’s important to get a nice dense covering of moss, it’ll look bad if there are thin spots where you can see the wood underneath. After gluing moss on for a while, take a break, step back, and look at it from various angles looking for thin areas that need more moss.
  6. When you’ve done enough that you’re confident this will look good, go and get it framed, and make sure they affix J-hooks to the frame so you can mount it later (I’m not an expert, the framers may suggest an alternative that’s better suited to your scenario, but this post assumes your frame comes with J-hooks). If you’ve glued on a bunch of moss but don’t like how it’s turning out, you can scrap the project or buy new material and start over, and you haven’t blown a bunch of money yet on framing.
  7. When the framers are done, bring it home and glue more moss onto the board fill in the space going up to the frame (remember in step #4 you left space near the edges for framers to do their job).
  8. Based on how high up the wall you want to mount the moss wall, how high up along the frame the J-hooks are, and how far apart the J-hooks are, use a tape measure pencil to mark off the points where the J-hooks will touch the wall. If you are planning to hammer in two nails, you will want to make sure the two points you marked off are level. If you measured them equally high up from the floor, they should be, but slight angles can throw you off — use the tape measure as a straightedge and with the help of a level (like the kind that comes in most toolkits) make sure the two marked-off points really are level.
  9. Hammer the nails into the wall at a 45° angle downwards. Don’t hammer them all the way in, they need to be sticking out a bit for the J-hooks to hook onto. You can read more online about how to mount frames that have J-hooks.
  10. Mount the framed moss-wall by hooking the J-hooks onto the nails.
  11. Step back and admire your work!
moss walls have a nice 3-dimensional aspect to them, without being obtrusive

Maintenance

I promised earlier that moss walls are low maintenance, and they are! Preserved moss does not need watering, trimming, sunlight, nutrients, pest removal, etc. Depending on how well the moss was glued on, and how well or poorly you ensured there were no thin spots, and how often you or your guests brush up against your moss wall, you might find over time that it needs a bit of touch up. It’s easy enough to dismount it, get out the glue guns, and patch it up where needed. If you need to be a couple more glue sticks or bags of moss, it shouldn’t be a big deal.

Any moss that does come off over time obviously lands on the floor, but it’s highly unlikely to ever create a big mess, and your usual sweeping/vacuuming/Roomba-ing should take care of it.

birds-eye view

Holla!

Did this post help you? Got pics of a nice moss wall you made? Anything I could do to make this post more useful? Want some advice this post didn’t cover? Comment on the post and we can chat about moss walls.

Cheers!

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