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Ultimate Guide to Building Your Own Climbing Gym at Home

With the recent worldwide epidemic throwing entire countries into a state of lockdown, many of us are stuck at home, scratching around attics and basements, searching for any ample replacement for our regular climbing gyms. . While the doors remain closed, and outdoor climbing for many remains restricted, there has never been a better time to keep yourself busy with DIY or bucket list projects – like build a home climbing wall for you and your family!

Here is our comprehensive guide on how to build an indoor or outdoor climbing wall at home, whether it is for your training or a children’s rock climbing wall to keep the kids away from your home office.

Planning how to Build a Home Bouldering Wall - Do it yourself rock walls
Build your own home climbing wall

1. Planning how to Build a Climbing Wall at home

Purpose of the Wall

The first step to consider when building your home climbing wall is to decide what you want to use it for. Are you building a kid’s rock climbing wall for your little ones? Are you looking to knuckle down over lockdown to pump up your finger strength?  Do you want to step up your overhang game? How about your slab footwork? All of this will factor into the design and materials needed to complete the perfect personalized home wall.

Planning how to Build a Home Climbing Wall at Home - baby wall climbing

Where to build

Depending on the desired function of your DIY home climbing wall, you will have to decide in which part of your house to construct it. Remember to factor in space for maneuverability, for safely falling unobstructed, and enough area to make it worthwhile. 

Depending on the size and layout of your house, and how you are using your space, you may want to consider the following options:

  • A garage
  • An attic, if falling isn’t going to disrupt the peace of everything and everyone below you
  • A basement
  • Your garden (possibly paired with a tent, camping chairs and campfire for the authentic dirtbag experience)

Some more creative ideas could be as follows:

  • Set up a traverse in your hallway
  • Drilling holds into supportive ceiling beams, or turning them into cracks (like the basement of the Wide Boyz)
  • Building one under your bed, that becomes a climbing wall when folded up
Outdoor Wall - climbing wall design guide for mini rock climbing wall

Size of your home climbing wall

If you’re building a vertical wall, it should be at least 6 to 8 feet tall, whereas an overhanging wall should be between 8 to 14 feet tall. These masurements refer to the height of the wall in a vertical position, as when you place something that is 14 feet tall at an angle, the top will not be 14 feet above the ground.

If you are designing a wall for your kid crushers, you can still build the wall to the same specifications t, but do consider that everything that goes up, must come down, and to ensure that your kids remain in one piece think about installing the highest holds a little lower to reduce the risk of injury.

DIY Climbing Wall for Kids

When it comes to width, the minimum should be around 8 feet, but the ideal size is 10 or more to allow for more ambitious and creative climbing moves.

These measurements are ideal, however the space in which you have to construct your wall will obviously factor into the size and style that you are able to install.

Size of the home climbing wall - Do it yourself rock walls

If you plan on making a sharply overhanging home wall, remember that it will require more structural support and that this will take up a lot of space. A thorough plan will minimize wasted, materials, and money, so try not to let your excitement rush you through this process.

2. Home Climbing Wall Design Guide

Once you have decided on the purpose of the wall and where you want to build it, it is essential that you thoroughly plan out your design to ensure that you buy the correct amount of materials and to reduce the risk of costly errors later on in the process.

STEP 1

A great way to begin your project is to create some sort of visual aid, such as a scaled model that you can work from. This can either be done in some sort of 3D software, such as Blender, created physically out of cardboard, or just accurately sketched on paper. This step helps you to determine any flaws in your design early on, which can severely reduce the cost later on by avoiding problems and mistakes. 

This step will also demonstrate if building your wall in your desired location is feasible or not. You will also want to keep in mind the angle of your wall (vertical or overhung) during the design process, always keeping in mind your intended use.

Get some input from experienced friends who do interior designing, or from those with experience in architecture or carpentry who can also give professional  advice.

3. Choosing a Wall Material

Wood Options

There are a variety of options that you have when it comes to choosing a rock climbing wall material. The two most popular options are wood or concrete. 

Wooden Wall

If you’d like to build a climbing wall out of wood, you can choose between plywood or OSB (oriented strand board). OSB is much stronger and tends to be less expensive than plywood. However, it is about 15% heavier than plywood and has a higher tendency to hold moisture, which can weaken the material (especially when installed in humid conditions). If you wish to build your wall outside or in a damp basement, for example, it is better to use plywood.

Choosing a Wall Material for your home rock climbing wall
How to build a climbing wall from scratch – start with the wood

Aside from plywood or OSB, another option is a pressure-treated board or a composite board. If you are unsure of the sturdiness of the material, speak to the staff at your local builder’s merchants or DIY store and get their opinions after explaining how you are going to use it. 

Though many people choose to leave their wall bare, especially if it’s plywood, many also choose to paint it. It’s very important to use weatherproof paint if you’re planning on building your wall outside, along with treating the wood to make it weather-resistant.

Painting, though not required, is a good way to help your wall have a better appearance and hold up well over time. You can also texture the wall, to make it more like those that you would find in your local climbing gym. 

Concrete Wall

Maybe you just happen to have a concrete wall that is begging to be decorated with climbing holds. There are special anchors called concrete drop-in anchors or concrete hollow set anchors that allow you to directly attach your climbing holds to a concrete surface.

 You should also consider using tapcon screws, which are a corrosion resistant and reliable method for securely attaching your holds to the wall.

4. Tools You Will Need

Once you have chosen your wall material, it’s time to collect the tools necessary to build and set your wall.

Some basic setup tools that you will need are a level or straight edge, a tape measure, a table saw or circular saw (if you’re building the wall out of wood), a drill, and nut drivers.

Depending on your personal design, you may require additional specialist tools to ensure that your wall is safe and secure to use.  Once more, if you are in any doubt, consult a professional or speak to the staff at your local builder’s merchants who likely have more experience in handling construction materials.

Tools You Will Need to build your own rock climbing wall at home

5. Climbing wall design guide – Constructing

When it’s time to start constructing your wall, you’ll want to start by framing your wall, or in other words setting an anchor to the floor and the ceiling.

After setting the anchors, start to construct your frame. Mostly this will consist of a design of wooden beams, held together with screws and t-nuts. Framework is very satisfying as you can quickly see your design begin to take shape, however accuracy is essential so try not to rush. 

Constructing | How to build a climbing wall  from scratch

When you attach the boards, onto which you will screw your climbing holds, ensure that there is a small gap between each section. In different weather conditions and humidity, wood expands and contracts, albeit just a fraction.

6. Safety Precautions

Construction can be dangerous, as can climbing on homemade structures. If at all you are in any doubt, seek out the opinion of somebody more professional and experienced than yourself, especially during the construction phase. 

No loose screws

When using your climbing wall, it is your skin that’s on the line. You may well have experienced the agony of scraping a finger against a sharp piece of rock – well imagine that with the protruding end of a screw. Furthermore, if your screws come loose, you can be making yourself vulnerable to injury by using your wall. Check all your bolts and screws are secure and there are no sharp pieces that can hurt you before using your wall. 

Splinters

Additionally, if you are building your wall out of wood, be sure that there are no splinters that could potentially get stuck in your fingers. Sand off splintered areas with a coarse sandpaper, potentially smoothing it out further with a lighter gradient afterwards to make it gentle to touch. Fall ZoneAnother safety precaution that should be taken into consideration before designing and constructing your wall is the fall zone. You’ll want to be sure that the area around your climbing wall is safe for falling and crash landing. Ensure there is sufficient room to put a sturdy crash pad or a mat, and that there are no objects obstructing the area in which you could land. Keep this also in mind when you are setting your holds, and not just building the wall.

kids rock climbing wall - Safety first for child rock climbing wall

Want to know the key differences between bouldering and the typical climbing?

7. Choosing Climbing Holds

Once your climbing wall is finished, it’s time to choose and pick the best climbing holds and grips to install. Some of these climbing holds are sold as individual pieces, while others come as part of a climbing wall kit.

 Do a little research into the best holds to use for your desired style of climbing. One of the benefits of having your own wall is that you can reset it as often as you want, so you can purchase multiple holds for multiple climbing styles. The possibilities are endless.

Climbing Wall Kit for Children's rock climbing wall - colourful holds

Larger and more colourful holds (mostly jugs) are great for younger climbers. Not only are they easier to grip, but they look fantastic and are easy to see. . For experienced climbers, on the other hand, you can purchase a variety of different holds to refine your training. If you are looking for something moderately priced and of reputable quality, our personal recommendation is the Slackers Rock Climbing Hold Set. Do not be deceived by its packaging that makes it look like it is designed for children; it comes complete with 20 varied hand and footholds including jugs, crimps, and slopers. It is a great starting place for a home climbing wall.

If you are looking for something more cost-effective for adults, or are looking for more technical training,  you should consider purchasing the Atomik Climbing Holds. This set includes more pinches and crimps, which are fantastic for training s trength, especially when installed on an overhang.

Climbing holds can be expensive. You may wish to purchase a few individual pieces, and to gradually stock up your supply over time. Alternatively, climbing gyms often try to sell off their old climbing holds at a severely reduced rate.

Screw-on vs. Bolt-on Climbing Holds

There are two options that you have when it comes to buying climbing holds – screw-on and bolt-on climbing holds.

Screw-on holds

Screw-on holds attach to wood or concrete with small screws while bolt-on holds are attached using an Allen-head bolt and a t-nut. Some brands providing such holds are Atomik, Slothside, and Kandi.

Bolt-on Climbing Holds

With the latter, the bolt passes through the entire wall and attaches to the nut behind the wall. The nuts stay in place behind the wall, making it easier to adjust the position or remove holds. This is more common and you will see brands like Metolius Holds and Atomik offering bolt-on rock climbing holds.

Outdoor climbing wall | Bouldering Gyms in Asia

However, screw-in bolts allow you to put a hold wherever you want, not just where there’s a nut placed. Having a combination of the two is a good option when building your home bouldering wall. Bear in mind, it is extremely difficult to screw holds onto concrete, and bolt-ons are better in this case.

8. Setting Your Climbing Routes

After you have purchased your climbing holds, it’s time to set your wall!  This can be a daunting task, after all, people are paid to do this professionally, and it may take some time to make something that you enjoy climbing. Some climbing hold sets are designed to be set up in a certain order, which can then be used or ignored, depending on the route you are trying to climb. This does take out the creative element of route setting, which can be a positive or negative depending on what you want. 

You can set up your wall to be difficult and technical by using smaller holds, which will improve your climbing techniques like finger strength, grip, and balance. Alternatively, you can set up bigger problems with bigger catches to train your explosive power, dynamic abilities, and coordination. 

If you are setting up a climbing wall for children, keep in mind that your arms and legs are likely to be longer than theirs, so place the holds closer together.

9. DIY Kids Climbing Wall

Children love to climb, and climbing has immense benefits to children from a young age onwards.  Some parents have even integrated a climbing wall into the bedroom of their kids. It not only keeps them entertained, but helps to develop their love of sport and strength early on.

When it comes to building customized and fun indoor rock climbing walls for kids or toddlers, there are a few extra things to think about.

Kids Climbing Wall | Build your DIY Climbing Wall
Build your DIY Climbing Wall

To begin, be sure to purchase kids climbing holds that are the correct size for their small hands, always setting them relatively close together so that they can reach the footholds in their small kids climbing shoes. Additionally,keep the height of your wall or routes lower and appropriate for children, as a fall for them is much larger than the same fall for a taller person.

Children Rock Climbing Wall in the bedroom

While you may set up a climbing wall for your children in the bedroom with the best of intentions, children do have a habit of wanting to have fun and may find creative ways to circumnavigate your well-planned safety precautions. Keep the top holds lower so that if they decide to jump down from the top, they are less likely to break any furniture or themselves while they are at it. Beds are not designed to be jumped on from a great height, however appealing the thought is. 

Safety first for child rock climbing wall

Finally, be sure that there are no sharp or rough edges that they could potentially hurt themselves on. Check and double check everything, as your little ones will likely not think to do this.

Wall Home - Children Rock Climbing Wall in the bedroom

Time to Start Building your  Wall

So we hope this comprehensive guide on how to build a climbing wall will inspire you and provide some relevant information. 

Take advantage of the extra time you have due to quarantine or restrictions to become more independent of the climbing gym, and to train hard for when you can climb with your friends again.. You can expand on your climbing setup by installing a hangboard, pull up bars, and setting aside an area at home to train antagonist muscles and flexibility. There are numerous ways to condition your body for climbing without ever touching a climbing wall. This can range from using finger grip strengtheners, even while watching TV, to regular yoga exercises. 

If you intend to build your wall outdoors, be sure to consider all weather conditions that the wall might be exposed to as well as moisture from the ground. Likewise, if you are building your wall indoors instead, be sure to keep enough space clear for falling and carefully plan your layout with your restricted space. We look forward to hearing about and seeing you design your creative climbing rock wall. If you feel adventurous and have space to spare, why not add a mini ninja warrior course, or even create a slacklining corner. Get creative and enjoy the process!

FAQs

  1. How much does it cost to make a rock climbing wall?

    Building a climbing wall can get fairly expensive depending on how complex or large your structure is. The cost can add up to between US$30 – $40 per square feet. To manage the cost better, you should make a proper plan out and list the material costs and quantities.

  2. What kind of plywood is used for climbing walls?

    The most common wood is structural plywood. They are sold in sheets of 2,400 mm by 1,200 mm. The recommended and safe wood panel thickness is 17mm.

  3. How do you make a homemade climbing wall?

    If you want do it yourself rock walls, it starts with knowing how intricate or large scale a climing wall area you need. The key ingredient is the wooden panels and crash mats. Make a list of equipment to buy and work out the budget needed.

  4. How tall should a home climbing wall be?

    The height of your climbing wall largely depends on the space that you have available and the type of wall you are planning to build. If you have the space and desire to build a full on roped climbing wall in your garden, go for it, however most people only have the capacity to have a small bouldering setup in their homes. As previously mentioned, a bouldering setup tends to be between 6 and 14 pof vertical distance, between the bottom of the wall and the top, although the actual height from the floor depends largely on how overhanging the route is. 
    The main thing to bear in mind is that however high your wall is, you should always be able to fall safely from it, either by landing on a crash pad from a low height or by protecting your fall with standard rock climbing equipment.

  5. How thick should Plywood be for a climbing wall?

    There are many different answers on the internet to this question, but the bottom line is that it has to be strong enough to support your weight from a single point. We recommend using plywood which is no thinner than 17mm.

  6. What is the best wood for an outdoor climbing wall?

    If your climbing wall is outside, it is going to be exposed to nature’s wrath. Water can make the wood swell, rot, and mould, and as a result, you should make sure that any wood is covered in a protective paint or coating. Out of the two standard options, plywood is a better choice than OSB as it retains less moisture, but you should certainly think about treating it to maximize its lifespan.

  7. How to weatherproof your outdoor climbing wall?

    One option would be to make your wall modular and so you can take it down, or remove vulnerable sections and store them somewhere dry during downpours. Alternatively, think about coating your plywood in a protective paint. Wood paint can be acquired from any builder’s merchants or DIY store and come in a variety of styles and colors.

  8. What angle should a home climbing wall be?

    This largely depends on what you want to train. If you are looking to develop your footwork, think about a more vertical, slab like structure. If you want to build up some muscles, think about making an overhang. If you can’t decide, make a dynamic wall that can support a number of different angles. A popular angle for training strength amongst professionals is 45 degrees, but be aware this will wear you out quickly if you are not used to it.

  9. How much does it cost to build an outdoor climbing wall?

    Climbing walls are not cheap, even when self-constructed. You should expect to spend up to $500 (USD) per a square meter. If you compromise on price, you may well also compromise your safety, so be prepared to invest.

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