With the recent worldwide epidemic causing so many countries to issue lockdown, there are many of us are stuck at home. With climbing gyms closed and outdoor climbing prohibited in many parts of the world, there have 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’s sharing an ultimate comprehensive guide on how to build an indoor or outdoor climbing wall in your home, whether it is for your personal training or a children rock climbing wall to keep your children entertained.
1. Planning how to Build a Climbing Wall at home
Purpose of the Wall
The first step to actually building a your own home climbing wall is planning the clear objectives of why and what you intend to use it for. Are you building a kids rock climbing wall for your kids? To train for bouldering?
To train for overhang routes? These will affect the thought process of how you proceed from there in terms of wall layout, specifications, materials and more.
Where to build
Depending on the desired function of your DIY home climbing wall, you will have to decide which part of your house to have it constructed. A climbing wall requires enough room and the proper space for the climber(s) to maneuver.
Some good options are a garage, an unused basement, or an attic, depending on the layout and size of your house. If your house isn’t big enough, an outdoor wall at your backyard or garden can be a great option, space and climate permitting. Set up a tent, comfy camping chair and small campfire and you’ve got a little adventure going, right in your backyard!
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. If its more for your climbing children, you can still build the wall at that height, but the climbing holds are to be installed till a maximum height from the ground so that the child cannot climb higher than that and injure himself/ herself when she falls.
When it comes to width, the minimum would be about 8 feet, but the ideal size is 10 or more to have a bit more maneuvering space.
It’s very important to keep in mind the size of the space that you have before building your wall, as you may have to adjust the type of wall that you want to build according to the size of your space.
Also, do think if you would like to focus on more overhang routes and installing big jugs for these overhang holds, then your wall design and ceiling will also change drastically. Long story short, always make a clear plan and have a good understanding of your space to see if the type of climbing wall features you want to create is do-able.
2. Home Climbing Wall Design Guide
Once you decided the purpose of the wall and where you want to build it, you’ll have to get to plan, layout and do up your climbing wall design guide.
Your first step is to make a model of your desired climbing wall – come up and create a climbing wall design guide. You will first have to take measurements of the area where you plan on building your climbing wall so that you can draw up a scale model on paper before beginning the building process.
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, architecture or carpentry who can also give some good advice.
3. Choosing a Wall Material
There are a variety of options that you have when it comes to choosing a rock climbing wall material. There are usually mainly 2 most popular options that are sustainable and safe – wood and concrete.
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 so in humid conditions).
Hence this makes it an unwise choice for a wall that will be built outside or in a moist area.
Aside from plywood or OSB, another option is a pressure treated board or a composite board.
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 a 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.
If you are not looking to build the wall from scratch with wood, another option is to attach the holds directly to a concrete wall. There are special anchors called concrete drop-in anchors or concrete hollow set anchors that you will have to purchase for mounting your climbing holds directly onto a concrete wall.
Some additional things to also learn is how to install a tapcon screw properly. These screws are corrosion resistant and very reliable.
4. Tools You Will Need
Once you have chosen your wood material, it’s time to collect the tools necessary to build and set your wall.
Some basic setup tools that you will definitely 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 specific situation, it’s possible that you might need additional advance level tools to further aid your progress.
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.
Next, you’ll have to focus on building the framework of the wall, screwing together the blanks of wood that will provide the frame onto which you will screw the various sections of your wall with t-nuts.
It’s important to be sure to leave a small gap between the wooden sections that you attach to your frame, as the wood will expand and contract with seasons/ weather changes and humidity.
6. Safety Precautions
There are some very important safety precautions that you should take into consideration when building and constructing your wall.
No loose screws
First off, be sure that there are no loose screws or screws sticking out of your wall after the fixes, which could seriously injure you as you climb or boulder. This is especially important if you are building a child rock climbing wall for children or toddlers.
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 these splinty areas with sandpaper and smoothen it out.
Another safety precaution that should be taken into consideration before designing and constructing the 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.
Finally, you’ll want to keep in mind how high you should build your wall, especially if you are building a toddlers or kids rock climbing wall, and would like to keep it safe for them.
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 from here. Some of these climbing holds are sold loose pieces, while others come as part of a climbing wall kit.
Depending on the usage of your wall and its purpose and main users, you’ll want to purchase different types of climbing holds and grips that fits that need.
Larger and more colourful holds (mostly jugs) are great for children’s rock climbing wall given they look more fun and less daunting for kids. For adult experienced climbers on the other hand, more varied holds are suited for harder technical training. If you are looking for something mid-pricing and good quality, our personal recommendation that might still be in stock at the moment is the Slackers Rock Climbing Hold Set. Do not be deceived by its packaging that makes it looks like its for children, it gives you 20 varied hand and footholds from jugs to crimps to slopers that are a great start to any home wall.
If you are looking for something more cost-effective for adults and more technical climbing, you can consider the Atomik Climbing Holds, which are more pinchy and trains grip strength much better. However, it might be currently out of stock so save this site and come back to check on it occasionally.
Climbing holds can actually get costly, so your best bet is to buy them bit by bit so you can get a good feel for the specific type of holds that you like and stock up more on those.
Screw-on vs. Bolt-on Climbing Holds
There are two options that you have when it comes to buying your climbing holds – screw-on and bolt-on.
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. Examples of such screw-on holds will be
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 that offer bolt-on rock climbing holds.
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.
8. Setting Your Climbing Routes
After you have purchased your climbing holds, it’s time to set your wall! If you’re most interested in training bouldering, set specific boulder problems that can train your techniques ( like balance, grip and control) or long, explosive moves on small more crimpy holds.
And if you’re setting the rock climb wall for your kids/ children, you’ll want to buy colourful big juggy holds and keep them closer together, taking into consideration the child’s height and abilities.
9. DIY Kids Climbing Wall
Children love to climb, and climbing has immense benefits to children from a young age onwards. I have even heard of some parents designing the kids bedroom to be a rock wall bedroom, where the kids literally climb into bed. How fun is that?
When it comes to building customized and fun indoor rock climbing walls for kids or toddlers, there are a few special pointers that you should consider.
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 tiny kids climbing shoes. Additionally, for a climbing wall for kids, you want to keep the height of your wall or routes not too high and appropriate for children, as a fall for them is much farther than a fall for you.
Children Rock Climbing Wall in the bedroom
This is especially important when you are designing a bedroom climbing wall, where the kids in their earlier years might play games and try to be naughty by climbing high before jumping on the bed as a final landing point. If the holds are too high up, the kids might risk breaking the bed while landing, or worse, missing the bed all together and crashing to the ground without a crash mat there. Hence, take into consideration all the safety precautions to building and designing a child rock climbing wall
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 the kids rock climbing wall.
Time to Start Building your Outdoor Wall
So I hope this comprehensive guide on how to build a climbing wall from scratch DIY Style can help spark some ideas.
Take advantage of your newfound time at home or on quarantined to embark on this dream project you’ve always wanted but never had the time to. Remember to expand on it further with additional trainings like finger grip strengtheners and hangboards. I am still trying to figure out if there are any home climbing walls out there that can train trad climbing!
It will be a great investment not only for the current situation but also for the long-term for your climbing (or your kids climbing)! Building a DIY home climbing wall doesn’t have to be as daunting and overwhelming as you think, if you plan it out well and simply follow the right approach and correct steps.
We look forward to hearing about and seeing you design your creative climbing rock wall. If you do get adventurous and have more space, expand on it further with a mini ninja warrior course or even create a slacklining corner. Get creative and enjoy the process!
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.
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.
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..