Make Your Own Rock Climbing Wall

If you are thinking of building a rock-climbing wall in your home, apartment or garage, you are probably considering several things. Do I have the space to build this? Am I talented enough to do this? Whatever your inhibitions are, there is no doubt that building a climbing wall in your home will provide a convenient place for you to work out, and will, no doubt, improve your climbing skills. No, it will not be as versatile as a climbing gym. Climbing gyms have much larger budgets and real estate than you do. Realistically, if you have an “empty” room or garage, you have room to build something that you can work out on and be proud of. If you are not talented enough, werecommend that you hire someone to do the design and/or construction for you, depending on your skill level. This article will discuss materials, tools, design and construction of a climbing wall that most will be able to do themselves, with little help from outside sources.

The first stage of building a climbing wall, like any project of this sort, is the planning phase. First, you must determine where you are going to build the wall. Consider first the environment of the garage. Is it heated? Is that going to be an issue in the winter? If it is not heated, and you live in an area that is cold in the winter, you may consider portable heaters.

Another thing to consider during your planning phase is cost. You should create a budget for your wall. Climbing walls can get expensive, so before you buy anything, you should budget the cost of all your materials. If you don’t, you may start a project you won’t be able to finish. With a budget you can make an informed decision whether to start or not. When creating your budget, don’t to forget to include T-Nuts and climbing holds. Holds can be expensive or reasonable, so shop smart!

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Design is critical. Ask yourself what you are building the wall for. What level of difficulty do you want to make it? Straight vertical walls are easy to build and great for beginners, but you will soon out grow them and get bored with them. So, put some thought into your design. Try to make your wall interesting. Create some angles, convexes or concave walls. Create walls that you will be able to change hold placement to change routes and keep things interesting. Just remember not to get too complicated; you have to build what you design!

There are several options when you begin your design. The most common way to construct your wall is to attach it to the existing framework in your garage. You can also build a freestanding structure. Freestanding walls can be moved easily and do not damage existing structures. Many renters use freestanding walls. A more challenging design would be the modular design. With a modular design, you can take the wall apart and assemble it again in a different configuration. This article will discuss building a wall using pre-existing walls as support.

Draw or sketch your wall design. Try to get as detailed as you can. Using foam board to build a model of your wall can help you conceptualize the structure. I still recommend that before beginning construction that you have your plans examined by a licensed engineer to determine that your structure will be safe to bear heavy loads.

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Common tools that you will need include:

-Circular saw/skill saw

-Miter saw

-Jigsaw or hand saw

-Drill with a screwdriver attachment

-Ladder

-Work table or saw horses

-Level

-Tape measure

-Extension cords

-Crow bar

-Ratchet and sockets

-Safety glasses

-Framing square or combination Square

-1/2″, 5/8″, 5/16″ and 7/16″ drill bits

-Hammer

-Hex set or allen wrenches for T-Nuts

-Chalkline

Materials you use will be varied depending on your design. More of the common materials you will be using are listed below.

-3/4″ plywood

-2X4, 2X6 and 2X8’s

-3″ and 4″ self tapping screws or wood screws

-1/2″X6 and 1/2X7″ carriage bolts

-Joist hangers

-T-Nuts


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The basic wall shape will be determined by the framing. Framing is usually accomplished with the same lumber that is used for the studs in your house. It is called “stud-grade” lumber. Most commonly used are 2X4″ or 2X6″ studs. The vertical members are called studs and the horizontal boards are called plates (the sole or base plate and the top plate). Studs are usually placed at 16″ or 24″ intervals. Measure carefully, and insert blocks (short pieces of wood in-between the studs) to add support. It is easiest to assemble the frames on the floor, where you can lay them flat. Measure everything twice, especially those pesky angles!

Anchoring is the term used for fastening the frame to an existing structure. Anchoring to wood (existing framework of the house) is the easiest. Anchoring to concrete is a bit more difficult, but supports loads much better. In this case we will be using the existing studs and the concrete floor of your garage. Due to safety considerations of your wall, anchoring must be sufficient to handle the loads you are going to put on the wall. If you are not sure, hire an engineer that can advise you.

Use carriage bolts and anchor bolts to attach the wood to the existing studs. Use concrete anchor bolts to attach the frame to the floor.

Sheathing is the wall surface. It provides the surface to attach your holds to as well as the support that the wall needs. Most commonly used is 3/4″ plywood. You can also use 5/8″ plywood, but there will be some flexing in your wall if you use it.

Cut the panels to fit the wall design, but do not attach them to the frame yet. Mark each one carefully so that you know where each piece goes after you have painted them and inserted the T-Nuts.

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T-Nuts are the nut that you use to bolt your holds to the wall. You should try to install 75-100 T-Nuts for each panel to ensure enough options to set routes. Ensure that you install enough, because it will be very difficult to install more once the wall is completed.

Measure and create quadrants on the front surface of the panels. Using quadrants helps to keep the holes evenly distributed over the panel. Using a 7/16″ drill, drill all the holes in the panels. Drill from the front of the panel to avoid splinters on the climbing surface. After the holes are drilled, turn the panel over and pound in the T-Nuts using a hammer. It is critical that the T-Nut is hammered in straight, or you will tend to cross-thread or strip the hold-bolts later.

Painting your climbing structure is recommended, but not required. The most common technique is to use an acrylic; a water based paint, with a cup or so of sand mixed in. You can also purchase textured paint. Before painting, ensure that you use a primer coat to prevent the sweating of the wood to destroy your paint.

Attach the plywood using 2″ wood screws at approximately every 16″ to your framework, and your climbing wall is near completion.

Holds come in any shape and size. You can purchase them or make them. The amount of holds you have on your wall is your choice based on your budget and training goals. Be careful not to cross-thread your bolts as you attach them.

Now that your wall is complete, don’t neglect safety. At a regular interval, check all the attaching hardware, anchors, screws and bolt holds for security. Look for signs of stress on the supporting wood.

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Last, but certainly not least, don’t forget the floor. It is inevitable that you are going to fall, and then fall some more. Do not climb over a concrete floor. Ensure you have a crash pad or similar cushion to prevent damage to your body when you fall.

A home climbing wall can be a great addition to your home and your life. Working out on a climbing wall will improve your climbing abilities and your strength. Remember, climbing is a dangerous sport, and climbing on something you built can increase this danger exponentially. If you have any doubts about the construction or design of your wall, hire an expert to help you.



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