Introduction: Freestanding Indoor Rock Climbing Wall for $150

I've recently gotten into rock climbing and while pull-up bars and hangboards are nice, I've really wanted a more realistic training routine. While I wanted to build my own climbing wall, I didn't think my landlord would be too happy with me anchoring it into the wall and ceiling of my apartment. Due to this fact, I had to come up with a slightly different design than most home walls. My basic plan evolved around the outdoor wall I found here - http://www.chockstone.org/techtips/woodie.htm - though I did have to make some modifications due to two constraints:

1 - It had to fit inside my tiny apartment
2 - It had to be freestanding

This is the story of my bouldering wall, it is an epic tale of trial, struggle and triumph.

Step 1: Materials

These are the materials I used. While I'm no engineer, I feel comfortable that they can withstand any load I or my roommates can exert. I didn't use the same materials as the first plan I saw and unless you build the same exact wall, you probably shouldn't either.


Materials:

(1) Case of beer (You may want more, I can't say that it will aid in construction but it'll sure make it more interesting. For instance while hanging the joists we dropped one of the sides and nearly took out our TV)

(2) Sheets of 3/4" Plywood (3/4 RTD SHTG) @ $17.97 = $35.94
(1) Additional 1' by 8' strip of plywood for the top portion (salvaged from scrap bin) - $4.01

(12) 2'x4'x104-5/8" Studs @ $3.12 = $37.44

(1) Box of 2" Drywall Screws - $6.47

(1) Box of 1.25" Drywall Screws - $6.47

(1) Box of 3" Drywall Screws - Leftover from another project

(40) Climbing Holds with Hardware (ideally you would have around 32 per sheet of plywood) I bought mine here as I've bought some holds from him in the past and have been very satisfied with both the price and quality - http://rockymountainclimbinggear.com/id71.html - $40.00

 Extra T-Nuts (typically home walls have a t-nut density of 2.25 per square foot) The holds came with just enough hardware for them so if you want more configuration options you'll need to buy about 100 more t-nuts

(12) Plate Connectors @ $0.76 = $9.12

(4) 90 Degree Connectors (3" Angle) @ $1.23 = $4.92

(8) 2x4 Joist Hangers @ $0.75 = $6.00

Total Materials Cost = $150.37


Tools:

- Electric Drill

- Phillips Head Bit

- 7/16" Wood Boring Bit

- 3/8" Hex Wrench

- Tape Measure

- Protractor (or other angle making aid)

- Saw (preferably a power saw, hand saws are only cool for about 10 minutes)



Step 2: Cut It Up

You'll want to start by cutting all your lumber to size. Note that you'll also want to cut it at the right angles so all joints of your triangle sit flush.

I knew that I wanted my wall to be 4' deep so I could add sides later on by cutting a sheet of plywood in half diagonally. I also knew that it couldn't be taller than 8' (7'11" to be safe) so I decided on roughly a 60 degree overhang so that I would still have about a foot of vertical space on the top so I could mount a hangboard.

I also knew that we would be using two 4' wide sheets of plywood for the surface of the wall so I cut 6 of the studs to a tad longer than 8' to make sure I had room in case anything was off.

Step 3: Assemble Sides

Next you'll want to assemble the sides of your wall. I made sure both the front and back would be resting directly on the ground so there would be less strain on the joint. This is where you'll want to use your plate connectors.

-First pound the connectors the joints
-Second secure with 4 of the 1.25" screws on each plate.
-Repeat first and second step for the other sides of the joints
-Lastly you may want to secure the top joint with 2 additional 3" screws.

You may want to add cross bracing on the inside of the triangles especially if you want the surface of the wall to wrap around the sides. I chose to leave them unbraced and uncovered for now to save on cost. After using it for awhile I don't feel that extra cross bracing is necessary.

Step 4: Hang Horizontal Joists

For this step you'll most likely want one or two helpers to keep everything square as you hang the joists on the back of the wall. This is an important step because if you do it wrong your wall will most likely collapse. Pardon the lack of pictures while actually hanging the joists but we simply did not have enough hands.

-Fist position the 2x4 where you wanted it to go and secure it with 2 two of the 3" screws going straight through the side and into the 2x4 horizontally.
-Once the stud is in place install the joist hangers by first hammering in the stops and then securing it with 1.25" screws into the side and then with 3" screws into the 2x4. Check the pictures for more detail.

For the top two joists simply screw the connector into the side then up into the 2x4. I also used two of the 3" screws going horizontally through the side and into the joists.

I chose to use 4 horizontal joists for the overhang and 2 joists on top which the plywood sheeting would then be screwed into.

Step 5: Drill Bolt Holes

Before you mount your plywood, you'll want to drill holes for the holds to bolt into (note: if you are using screw on holds this isn't necessary). You'll also want to be careful that the joists won't block your holes. I messed up and didn't check this and now I can't use some of the holes. You'll also want to determine which side of the plywood will be the front and drill from the front to the back so that it looks pretty and doesn't give you splinters.

I copied the hole pattern found here: http://www.atomikclimbingholds.com/walldone.jpg

Step 6: Hang the Plywood

Once you have all of your joists hung on the back and the holes drilled in the plywood, you can hang the plywood on the wall. It's also nice to have a helper for this step.

-First push the bottom of the plywood as far back as it will go against the bottom joists.
-Next have your helper (or large set of clamps) hold the sheet of plywood so that it presses on the top joist.
-Then make sure the sheet of plywood is pressed firmly against the side of the wall
-Finally, making sure all parts of the plywood are flush against the joists, secure the panel with at least 5 of your 2" screws per joist.
-Repeat for second sheet of plywood

-Hang top strip of plywood in similar fashion

This was a momentous occasion for us as the pictures clearly show.

Step 7: Install T-Nuts and Holds

Install holds by pounding the t-nuts into the back of the plywood then threading the bolt through the bolt and into the t-nut.

This picture shows the correct orientation: http://www.atomikclimbingholds.com/images/ProfileBolton.jpg

Now put on your climbing shoes and chalk up, you're done!

Comments

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Lovely Phil made it! (author)2016-05-16

Here you go miaddrums- I've attached my sketches as well (not that they are of any consequence) but also the website I used to calculate the angle and length of sides of the wall for the space I had- hope they help!

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miaddrums made it! (author)miaddrums2016-05-16

Oh ok! thanks! I think you're is a bit taller than the one i created. I'm assuming the units on yours are meters, correct? Thanks again! I'll post a photo of mine once it's done

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Lovely Phil made it! (author)2016-04-09

I did it! Albeit on a much smaller scale and this one really isn't anywhere near as attractive as yours! It's not quite finished - needs painting to cover the watermarks and holds are still missing but I got excited so posted early.,. Only cost me £50 so far as I 'acquired' the ply. Just waiting for t nuts and then need to source some holds cheap. Anyways, thanks for taking the time to post your build- it was invaluable!

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NataliaB23 made it! (author)NataliaB232016-05-03

Hi Phil!! It looks great! Did you attached it to the wall? Or it stands alone? I'm planning to do one your size.

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Lovely Phil made it! (author)Lovely Phil 2016-05-03

Hi Natalia, thanks! It's been more than enough to keep me ticking over. It's free standing but is against a wall which counters any sway if I get over excited but it's pretty solid. If you need and more pictures and/or measurements, let me know.

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miaddrums made it! (author)miaddrums2016-05-16

Hi Phil, if you have more photos I'd love to see them! What's the width you have on your stand? 4 feet?

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Lovely Phil made it! (author)Lovely Phil 2016-05-16

I'll head out to the garage shortly and take some more photos but yes it's 4ft wide. I'm a very average climber so this has been more than enough for training so far- Id like to extend but space limited so will need to move house first.

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miaddrums made it! (author)miaddrums2016-05-16

No worries. I built mine this weekend, but it's 6 foot long and 4 foot deep. I'm placing the plywood on this coming weekend. :)!

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Lovely Phil made it! (author)2016-04-12

Now with some holds!

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JeremyS80 made it! (author)2016-02-15

I've been lurking on this instructable for about a year plus and I finally got to build it today, it was definitely over $150 but definitely worth it. I can't wait to finally get some routes set and add some finishing touches to it :)

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starthorn made it! (author)2016-01-15

Ok, very cool concept, but a few big concerns. Chief among them in the materials.

Drywall screws are among the more brittle screws available. They should not be used for any kind of load-bearing purposes, especially when the load is you. They’re used frequently because they’re cheap and easily available, but you really shouldn’t be using them for anything but drywall. Just because you have some handy doesn’t mean they’re a good choice.

Use proper wood screws, construction screws, or even better, deck screws. These will be much tougher and much safer. They may cost a few dollars more, but it won’t break the bank.

Secondly, I’d use 1" plywood, not 3/4". Here again, it’s a fairly inexpensive way to beef up the construction a little. Better safe than sorry.

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moosejaw23 made it! (author)2016-01-04

This looks great! Well done completing such an adventurous build in your apartment!

One addition I would recommend, having built a very similar wall in my garage. I would highly recommend using Liquid Nails or something similar to hold the T-nuts in place on the back of the wall. I had a number of them that would become unseated as I was threading the bolt into them. Then the T-nut falls off, and you have to circle that hole location with a Sharpie as being unusable. Then your friends ask why you have these weird Sharpie circles all over your rad wall. Then your friends go looking for a rad wall with no circles on it. Then you're climbing over on some other dude's wall, and you feel like you're neglecting yours.

So, just use some Liquid Nails and avoid the problem altogether.

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Stanley The Snake Handler made it! (author)2012-03-21

Would 12mm mdf be ok for something like this?

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moosejaw23 made it! (author)moosejaw232016-01-04

MDF would not work for a climbing wall. It's essentially sawdust mixed with glue that's pressed into a board. The T-nuts would likely just tear right through the MDF. Besides, OSB is usually cheaper, and it's MUCH stronger (usually used for sub-floor in housing construction). So, OSB: yes; MDF: no.

I just noticed that I'm posting a reply to a 4-year-old question, but maybe it will help someone else. :)

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mga12 made it! (author)mga122012-03-21

I couldn't tell you for sure. My buddy built an identical wall a few months ago using OSB and hasn't had any problems so far.

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JohnW177 made it! (author)2015-10-31

How long did this take you?

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PawelK1 made it! (author)2015-05-03

Hi there I'm in the middle of making a bit of a copy of this plan. Unfortunately i can't get the plywood sheets up to the attic in the whole and have to cut them in halves. Also mine is a bit larger (just over 3 sheets). Does any of you think i need any reinforcements for where the plywood is cut? Or it doesn't really matter? I'm not sure how much structure the plywood is adding to it. Cheers

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snowbirdling made it! (author)2013-12-02

This is amazing! I am going to have to encourage my husband to build this for himself in our apartment. Thank you so much for this tutorial, and great job!

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SpectrumSports made it! (author)2013-02-28

Major props on this build, man. I work for www.spectrumsports.com and we specialize in building and renting mobile rock walls. I must say this is a brilliant idea and so cheap! What an awesome way to spend $150.

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mga12 made it! (author)mga122013-03-18

Thanks, it's much appreciated!

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fireblast_1212 made it! (author)2013-03-18

I was wondering how you got your plywood so cheap. A 4ft x 8ft sheet costs around $35 from where I've looked. Is your's a slightly smaller dimension or did you get it from a cheaper store? I'm trying to cut costs on my wall. Thanks!

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mga12 made it! (author)mga122013-03-18

I remember when I bought the materials my dad thought it odd that I got the plywood for so cheap. I'm not sure of the reason for the price difference. For what it's worth, a friend of mine built his wall with 1/2 inch OSB and it has fared well for over a year.

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psheehy made it! (author)2012-09-23

is that a bamboo bike frame in the corner?

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mga12 made it! (author)mga122012-09-25

Yup!

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timothy.j.neill made it! (author)2012-05-06

Have you had any trouble with it falling forward if you get your momentum going to strong back, like on a final top out? I am making plans to build one and was wondering if maybe I should make the supports a bit angled and not straight down, just wanted to see if you have had any problems yet? Thanks!! Love the wall all the same!

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mga12 made it! (author)mga122012-05-06

I have had the back come off the ground with more powerful dynos to the top but haven't had any problems with it actually tipping over. A buddy of mine who built the wall extended the sides to come out further and prevent this. If I were to build it again I would consider doing that as well but I think I'd have to have to work on my dynos a lot more for this to become a serious issue.

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ernestmac13 made it! (author)2012-02-11

I would like to build a wall that I could have in my back yard, I would like to make it so, it could unfold & be like 12feet, & when closed, it would a. be protected from the environment, & b. could act as an 8ft climbing wall, like those used in boot camp. Unfortunately, 8 ft is probably the height limit, as the co op& city I live in wont allow fences etc over 8 ft. I'm sure paining the outside of the wall could protect it from the elements.

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mga12 made it! (author)mga122012-02-27

It sure would be nice to have a taller wall but I find that running laps on an 8 foot wall gives a pretty good workout.

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ernestmac13 made it! (author)ernestmac132012-03-03

I'm thinking of building a shack for my back yard, finding someway to incorporate a climbing wall on one side might be a possibility. If I make the roof slanted rather than pitched, I could take the higher side & extend it further, in order to cover a climbing wall & make it possible to climb horizontally as well as vertically.

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primobiker424 made it! (author)2012-01-29

Hey man really love this wall. I want to build the exact one you have here. Do you happen to have the exact mesurments you used? I want to build this wall exactly the way you have shown. So exact mesurements would be greatly appreciate! Thanks!

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mga12 made it! (author)mga122012-02-27

Sorry it took me so long to get back to you. I kinda just winged it but the bottom 2x4 of the triangle sides measures 4 feet long on the top and 50 inches on the bottom. I cut the vertical 2x4 an inch lower than my ceiling so that I could move it around without scraping the ceiling. I then lined up the two at a 90 degree angle and eyeballed the angles on the third 2x4 (the hypotenuse). I hope this helps!

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Scratchthejeepguy made it! (author)2011-10-16

Nice wall! I love that it's moveable. I built one in my basement about 6 or 7 years ago, and back then, it was hard to find info like this on the web. Thanks for posting. Here's a pic of my wall, I lost about a foot of height when I put in the drop tile ceiling though. (my girls have now taken over the room as a "hang out" room for them) but the wall is still there.
http://a5.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash4/313827_2437495492021_1090746934_32850530_728927533_n.jpg

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mga12 made it! (author)mga122011-10-17

Wow, great wall! I bet your girls don't know they have some world class bouldering right above their heads!

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80$man made it! (author)2011-10-11

mga12 (read below!)
Very nice! Might attempt one myself, finger boards just don't do it anymore...

One thing, I am concerned for your safety:
[ it might just be the perspective, but the uprights look a bit thin, you used rigid connections, the plans used pinned connection (bolted), the plans wall incline angle looks less steep] ... but I will elaborate:

Buckling might become an issue, especially if your timbers are slightly bent or the ridig end connections are displaced relative to each other: the uprights become prone to buckling failure! The loading of the wall’s weight causes issues in your timber straightness. Knowing that as you progress in climbing, you will be doing more extreme/dynamic movements like dynos/leaps/jumps (jargon varies), thus the forces on your structure might become critical. Even if you weight very little, the dynamic forces you can generate may exceed the critical buckling load, especially if the structure skews with age. Rather adjust the structure now, than hurt yourself later. If the uprights show any sights of flexture/ bending, I would thicken them immediately.

Enjoy and remember to warm up!

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mga12 made it! (author)mga122011-10-14

Thanks for the concern. I definitely understand where you're coming from but it seems to be holding fine. We've been climbing on it for close to a month now with no noticeable deformation of the uprights though we do tend to get a bit dyno-happy from time to time. I've periodically run a level along them and they are still as straight and vertical as ever. I will continue to keep an eye on them though and will certainly beef them up if I see any signs of warping.

Thanks!

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80$man made it! (author)80$man2011-10-14

Good good, just want you to be on the safe side! I have hurt myself on badly built climbing walls: grips breaking/turning, dodgy pading, splinters and cracked panels ect. So stay safe, warm up, get strong & enjoy! Cheers!

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zazenergy made it! (author)2011-10-11

what a great idea! How long did it take to put this together?

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mga12 made it! (author)mga122011-10-14

Thanks, it's hard to say exactly how long it took. We worked on free nights over the course of two weeks or so.

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foobear made it! (author)2011-10-13

cool. I have long thought about doing something like this, but I was going to put the climbing bits straight into the wall of the bedroom, so you could let go and fall down onto the mattress for lolz. This is even better because you can take it apart and put it away and still have a nice smooth wall. I will very likely try doing something much like this. thank you for this good idea.

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Swishercutter made it! (author)2011-10-11

How cool...My friend is the one who makes those climbing holds. I remember when he started that company.

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siafulinux made it! (author)2011-10-11

This is pretty cool. Don't have space inside my home for this, but maybe up one of my outside walls.

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Bio: I'm Mike and I do what I like. Things I like include pretty much anything outside, beer and economics.
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