DIY Climbing Wall: How to Build A Climbing Wall

DIY_Climbing_Wall_How_To_Build_A_Climbing_Wall

Building a climbing wall is both fun and challenging. You are sure to get a rewarding experience in the activity itself, and you will get many benefits from the wall for years to come. A well-built wall should be able to simulate the rock climbing demands – it will let you work on your climbing techniques while you get stronger. 

A DIY climbing wall is constructed similarly to a wood-framed house – the individual walls are constructed using a lumber framework and attached to an already existing structure – for example, the garage wall – or supported by its structure. The framework is sheeted with plywood, forming the climbing surface. In this article, we will show you how to build a climbing wall. 

A Step by Step Guide on How to Build a DIY Climbing Wall

1. Designing the Climbing Wall 

If you do not have a lot of experience climbing indoors – meaning that you haven’t used gym climbing shoes that much – you should try to visit different climbing gyms before designing your wall. 

Consider recording some basic measurements from the walls you like. The more experience you have about how climbing walls look like, the easier it will be to design your wall. 

2. Evaluate the Available Space 

Even before you can learn how to build a climbing wall, you should take a look at the space you have available for building the wall. Decide on how to use the space as efficiently as possible. 

Be sure to consider what else you may want to use the space for. For example, if it is a garage, you may want to leave room to park your car. 

If the wall is indoors, you will still want to have access to the electrical outlets and the back of your climbing wall so that you can make any necessary repairs to the T-nuts once the wall is complete. If you will have to cover the doors or windows during the construction, be sure to find alternate ventilation, access, and lighting sources. 

When selecting the space, always remember that falling tends to be too noisy and climbing chalk gets everywhere. If you are building your wall indoors, isolate it from your living space, especially if you share the space with people who do not go rock climbing. When building the wall outside, keep in mind that you will have to weatherproof it somehow. 

3. Decide How to Support the Wall 

Attaching the climbing wall to an existing structure will help you eliminate some support braces. The wall will also be easier to design and build. However, attaching to the existing structure will lock you into the location – that existing structure will become part of the wall design. Before using an existing structure, you should ensure the structure is strong enough to support the added stress from your bouldering wall. 

A free-standing wall will be much easier to transport if you have to move. Additionally, it will not damage any existing structure. A free-standing wall is great if you are renting or you do not have an ideal structure to anchor into. 

Constructing the free-standing climbing wall will cost more compared to a fixed wall. Also, the wall will be more difficult to design. You will have to take the added responsibility of creating a support structure. Since the stiffness inherent in attaching the wall to a rigid structure will be lost, you will have to compensate by making use of additional bracing and wider framing materials. 

4. Visualize the DIY Climbing Wall 

Once you understand the space you are working with, the next thing you will need to do is visualize the wall’s basic shape. Make several rough sketches of varying ideals to see how everything fits together. After deciding on the climbing wall shape, orientation, and location, construct a scale model using foam board or cardboard. 

When choosing the wall shape, keep in mind that certain angles and shapes produce similar moves and limit your climbing footwork. If you build vertical walls and horizontal walls, you will end up feeling the same every time you put on your climbing shorts and bouldering shoes, irrespective of the moves or climbing holds you put on them. 

While complex shapes and curves may seem interesting when they are new, they can get boring quickly. Flat, overhanging climbing walls of between 20 and 45 degrees usually allow for a variety of moves. 

You can think of your wall as a series of eight-foot-wide modules. Depending on the available space, identify 1 or more basic wall shapes that you would like to include in the design. 

Basing the modules on 8-foot widths will make the construction much easier for you. It will also ensure ideal material yield while keeping the costs down. 

Play around with arranging the primary walls in varying configurations until you are satisfied the walls will be great for you every time you put on your climbing helmet and climbing gloves. When you are positioning the walls, do not forget to leave room for a climbing fall – leave enough space to make sure you are falling without hitting another wall. 

A common mistake that people who are learning how to build a climbing wall for the first time make is not leaving a short, vertical kicker panel at the bottom of walls steeper than 20 or 30 degrees. The kicker panel will offer ample room for the feet at the start of the problems. 

You will need to design secondary walls (or panels). These will fill the space between your primary walls and tie them into 1 seamless climbing structure. 

If the primary walls abut, make triangular panels to form 90-degree corners between them. If the primary walls are facing each other, bridge windows/doors, or turn corners, your secondary walls may have to be more complex in shape. 

5. Lay Your Wall Out 

Once your model is appealing enough, you will need to transfer its dimensions to a drawing. Next, use tacks, tape, or strings to mark the positions of the design elements, full size, in the actual space. To mark the border for each wall, hang a plumb line from the ceiling. 

Allow for width of the anchoring structure, wall stud thickness, and the plywood sheathing thickness. Verify that everything fits ideally. Double-check to confirm that the potential swings and falls will be clear and ensure that the necessary windows, doors, light fixtures, and electrical outlets are easily accessible. 

Ensure you have enough space to assemble your pieces separately, fasten them together, and then stand them up. You will need clearance to stand your climbing wall up without getting it wedged against your ceiling before it is in place. 

6. Get the Materials and Tools 

Materials

  • Framing connectors 
  • Joist hangers 
  • Concrete expansion anchors 
  • T-nuts – 3/8 inches, 4-prong, steel 
  • Nails – 16d vinyl-coated, sinker 
  • Self-drilling decking screws 
  • Wood framing-studs – 2” x 10”, 2” x 8”, 2” x 6”, 2” x 4”
  • Plywood – ¾” ACX, 4’ x 8’ sheets 

Tools 

  • Hex wrenches – 5/16” and 7/32” 
  • Various clamps 
  • Sawhorses
  • Step ladder and extension ladder 
  • Safety glasses 
  • Gloves 
  • Pry bar 
  • Extension cords 
  • Jigsaw 
  • Screwdriver bits 
  • Cordless drill
  • Drill bits 
  • Power drill 
  • Miter saw 
  • Circular saw
  • Stud finder
  • Wood chisel 
  • Claw hammer 
  • Pencils 
  • T-bevel 
  • Chalk line 
  • Combination/framing square 
  • 4-feet level 
  • Tape measure

Wall Construction 

The Framework 

The best thing to do is frame each wall separately. Build each framework and then attach it to the support structure before building the next framework. Consider starting with the most important or largest wall and then move on to the least important or smallest piece. Once the framework is in place for your primary walls, connect them with the framing for the secondary walls. 

Walls that are not too steep – say, up to 20 degrees overhanging – can be framed flat on the ground and then hoisted in place as a unit. Lay the top and bottom plates and the 2 outer studs (these are parts that run vertically in the house’s walls) on the floor. Measure diagonally from the opposite corners and then compare the length of both diagonals to make sure that the frame is square. Adjust your frame until the diagonals become equal and then secure your 4 corners with screws. 

Measure along the bottom and top plates and mark the location for the inner studs every sixteen inches. Make the measurements from the same side of the frame at the bottom and the top. Measure from the outside of your outer stud to the center of your first inner stud, then center-to-center for the remaining studs. 

If the DIY climbing wall is wider than the plywood sheet, ensure that the sheet ends in the middle of a stud so that your next sheet has room to attach to the same stud. If you use the 16-inch by 24-inch space and measure correctly, this should happen automatically. 

When framing a horizontal or vertical wall, the ends of the studs will need to be cut straight across or perpendicular to their length. When framing overhanging walls, you will have to cut the studs at an angle, so that the bottom and top plates sit flat on the ground and ceiling respectively. 

Use your T-bevel to mark the right angle and cut 1 stud. Check the stud and then use it as a template to cut the other studs identically. 

Since you have cut the stud at an angle, it will be wider than the plate where it will attach. If the wall sits flat on the ground, be sure to align the front (or the part you will use after donning your climbing pants) of the stud with the front plate and then make another cut on the stud’s backside so that it flushes with the plate. 

After framing the wall on the ground as explained above, tilt it up into position and then recheck it for square. Screw through the bottom and top plates directly into every floor and ceiling joist (these are parts that run horizontally in the ceiling or floor) using two #14 screws per joist. 

If the walls run parallel or at any angle other than 90 degrees to the ceiling joist, be sure to run your sleepers perpendicular to your joists, spaced on 24-inch centers, picking at least 3 joists with every sleeper. Next, attach your wall’s top plate (or header joist) to your sleepers. 

Frame steep walls by attaching the header joists first to the house’s ceiling wall studs and joists. Screw every header joist into every joist or stud along its span using at least two #14 screws per joist or stud. 

Ensure that the header joists are square and level to each other so that the wall framework and plywood sheeting will fit perfectly. Run the joists between your headers every 16 inches, again, ensuring that they face the crown of each joist up. Attach your joists with joist hangers. Cut a small flat section at the end of every joist to bear against the hanger. 

Plywood Sheeting 

Before attaching your plywood to the framework, you will need to install the T-nuts first. Stack three to six panels on saw horses and clamp them together. ACX plywood sheets feature an “A” side and a “C” side, meaning that 1 side is a higher laminate grade and features fewer voids of blemishes. Face your “A” sides up. These will face out to form a surface for your climbing exercises when your panels are in place. 

You can either drill holes randomly or layout a grid pattern. Either way, avoid putting holes where the joists will be. You will want 100 – 250 T-nuts for each sheet, the more the better. To drill the T-nut holes, you can use a spade style drill bit. Be sure to drill the holes straight. 

After drilling, turn the panels over and remove the splinters formed by drilling. Install your T-nuts on the “C” side. Use a hammer to tap the T-nuts into the holes and set them straight. 

Next, you will need to put the panels in place on your framework. Screw several jug-holds on the panels to help maneuver them into position. Attach the panels with the #8 x 2” self-drive screws spaced approximately 6” apart all around the perimeter and along each stud or joist. Ensure that the screws are going into the center of the stud. 

Painting 

Bare plywood is fine if you are constructing your wall indoors. However, a coat of paint is extremely important if the wall is in a humid environment or outdoors. Any exterior-grade paint should work. Plug your T-nuts with golf tees during the painting process to keep the paint out of their threads. 

Fall Zone 

To increase your climbing safety, ensure that the area underneath the wall is safe. Ensure that the area is free from any objects that you could hit or land on in the case of a fall. 

If you are constructing your wall indoors, chances are, it will be too short to use locking carabiners, climbing harnesses, and other things that protect climbers from fatal falls when climbing outdoors. Hence, you should ensure that the surface under your wall is not composed of wood, asphalt, concrete, or any other hard material – falling on hard material can result in head injuries or even death. Ensure that the fall zone features a material that absorbs the shock effectively.  

Wall Holds 

When starting, you can get by with 15 – 20 holds per sheet. However, the more holds you have, the more interesting and fun the climbing wall will be. Most home walls end up with 100+ holds per plywood sheet. 

For now, you shouldn’t worry too much about the specific hold shapes. Just ensure that you have a good mix of different types of climbing holds. The bulk of your selection (around 60%) should be medium-sized bolt-on holds of every possible style. About 20% should be footholds. About 10% should be small handholds. 

Ensure that 30% of your total selection is made of a good variety of small holds. 10 to 20% of the selection should be jug holds. Finally, be sure to invest in some specialty shapes like corner holds, big slopers, and low-profile rails and plates to make things more interesting. 

Most manufacturers will include the correct bolts for use when installing their holds. Hence, by following the instructions for specific bolts, you should be able to avoid making mistakes. 

Course Setting

To make your wall more fun, you should put a lot of thought into designing your problems. Try to employ a wide variety of moves. Do not be afraid to include sideways or downward movements in the problems. 

Think of every hold as a potential side pull. Try to avoid big footholds – these will not help you improve your climbing technique or develop core strength. Experiment with footwork by designating your problems as: 

  • Open – Any hold on the climbing wall can be used as a foothold. 
  • Tracking – Only the designated handholds on your problem can be used as the footholds 
  • You can also designate specific footholds for every move. 

7. Get Climbing 

After finishing your climbing wall, you can start climbing. Always warm-up thoroughly before climbing and always ensure you are getting enough rest between your sessions. This should help you avoid over-use injuries. 

FAQs

How_do_you_make_a_homemade_climbing_wall_

Q: How Do You Make A Homemade Climbing Wall?

A: 

To make a climbing wall, you will need to first identify the space that you will use. Next, design your wall and even make a prototype wall to see how the finished wall will look like. Once you are satisfied that the design is okay, you can then implement it in your space.

Q: How Much Does It Cost to Build A Climbing Wall?

A: 

A basic bare-bone wall, 8 feet wide by 10 feet high and 45 degrees overhanging will cost about $500. If you would like to build a more lavish set up featuring different wall angles and a few hundred holds, you may have to spend over $1500.

Q: How Thick Should Plywood Be for A Climbing Wall?

A: 

When building a wall, you can use plywood featuring ¾-inch or 5/8-inch thickness. If you will be bolting the plywood to closely spaced studs, the 5/8-inch plywood should work fine and is more affordable.

Q: Can You Put Climbing Holds on A Tree?

A: 

Yes, you can put climbing holds on your tree. The key to choosing holds for the tree is for them to be screw-on. Also, they should have a small footprint. Small footprinted holds will have a better chance of laying flush against the tree.

Q: What Are Climbing Walls Made Of?

A: 

Home climbing walls are generally made up of wood, T-nuts, and handholds. Wood is the most used material since it forms the framework and the plywood. The T-nuts and screws are used to make sure that the handholds, primary walls, and secondary walls are all attached securely.

Q: How Many Climbing Holds Do I Need?

A: 

When starting, approximately 15 to 20 holds on each wall should be good. However, the more holds, the better. Most climbing walls end up with 100+ holds per plywood sheet.

Globo Surf Overview 

If you have been thinking of constructing a DIY climbing wall, this article should show you how to build a climbing wall. If you are already familiar with the basic construction techniques, building the climbing wall should be a snap. If you are completely new to construction, the wall may take longer to complete – however, you should be able to construct it.

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My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!