Introduction: Garage Climbing Wall

Picture of Garage Climbing Wall

In this instructable I show how I designed and built a climbing wall in my garage for relatively cheap. To view this project and some other pretty cool ones I haven't had time to transcribe over to instructables visit my site
Of course every garage varies so my design probably couldn't be copied exactly but hopefully showing how I did will show all the basic concepts behind building a wall and give you a good idea on how to go about this large undertaking should you choose to do so. The total cost of the project was under $400 (that includes holds so if you made your own holds it would be ~220$) and is well worth the investment. An added bonus is the wall has a door that can be opened so it doubles as extra storage space. (or if you dont need storage space but have kids (or you're a kid yourself) you could use the inside as a pretty awesome fort). It really is up to your imagination. But without further adieu we will delve into the finer details of climbing wall design & construction.

Step 1: Brainstorm

This is the part that you sit down and decide what you want from your climbing wall and combine that with what you're capable of doing based on space limitations, cost, ability, etc.

After brainstorming I compiled a list of the things I NEEDED my wall to have:
-Large 45 degree overhang for the main climbing area, to be used for strength and endurance training.
-Smaller 90 degree overhang for super intense workouts.
-25 degree lead out from the 90 degree that i could mount a Jacobs ladder to for finger strength training
-A pull up bar
-Access to the inside

And a list of things i WANTED to have:
-A vertical wall just for fun
-A variable angle part
-Some sort of bulge
-Anchors at the top to belay small children

I also instituted a budget of $500 that I didn't want to exceed.

You take all your requirements then go on the the next step DESIGN where you put all this together to make the best wall possible that meets as many of your constraints as possible

Step 2: Design!

Picture of Design!

This step is where it starts to get exciting. Let your imagination run wild.

I went through a lot of different ideas. Although not necessary at all if you have access to 3d design software it can really help visualize your designs. It also comes in handy later when calculating lumber lengths ( it does the trigonometry for you). Make sketches and think about many different designs. Then choose the best things about each design and try to combine them to make the best design possible.

I took measurements of my garage and noted that i had a back corner 12' x 8' x 8' to work with. Make sure you keep the size of your space in mind when designing. It would be horrible to design a great wall only to realize it doesn't fit your space.

I went through many revisions of my design. Also be aware of the materials you will be using to construct your wall. If like me you're using 3/4" plywood you want to avoid curves as much as possible and complicated angles make construction extremely difficult. After considering this I decided to forgo having a bulge and the variable angle part of the wall. Just remember keep it as simple as possible while still meeting your requirements. Every outside feature of the wall has be supported somehow by an inner frame. So trying to keep it to large square faces while still meeting all your design requirements is the easiest way to go.

Eventually I settled on the basic design below. The next step was to figure out the structure of the frame and how the wall was going to be attached to the wall. When designing the frame and developing final dimensions be aware of your building materials. I was using 4 x 8 foot pieces of plywood so i designed my wall to be 12 feet wide (3 sheets of plywood) and also spaced the studs accordingly (4 studs per sheet of plywood, touching pieces of plywood share a common stud) Doing this helps prevent having to waste wood. Can you imagine having to buy an extra sheet of plywood (almost $30 a sheet!) only to cut a small piece out of it because you made the wall a foot too wide.

Thinking ahead can save a lot of time and headaches.

After a while I got to the framework design shown in the last photo. At this point I hadn't designed the door to get inside the wall but I knew that it would be on the vertical wall just above the 90 degree overhang. Having this model of the joists allowed me to get a good estimate of how much wood i would need. This can all be done on paper, I just didn't feel like doing the math.

As you can see in my design basically all the terminating ends of the boards are screwed to a 2 x4 at the very top. This is then bolted through the ceiling to the joists. I wasn't satisfied with this and I'm a big fan of over engineering so I cut the drywall off the ceiling and added braces directly from the studs to the ceiling joists.

The way the climbing holds are attached to the outer plywood "skin" is there are fasteners called 't-nuts' attached to the opposite side of the plywood. Essentially bolt attached to the opposite side of the plywood as the hold. They bite into the wood so that you can bolt the holds to the wall without having someone on the other side holding the bolt with a pair of pliers. They have a 7/16" outside diameter and I arranged them on my plywood in a 8" x 8" grid which gave me a total of 72 t-nuts per sheet of plywood. They are prodigiously expensive if you buy them at a brick and mortar store (think 35 cents a piece) but if gotten off-line they are relatively inexpensive. Mine were 9 cents a piece. I ended up getting somewhere around 500 or so and i had quite a few extra. Mine took over a week to get delivered so if your committed to making a wall now is a good time to order them.

Step 3: Gather Supplies

At this point you will have pretty good plans for what your going to do. So now you need to go get your supplies and start building.

I used

-Circular Saw
-Tape Measure
-Drill with Phillips head driver, 7/16" drill bit for the t-nuts, drill bits to match my lug nuts and lag bolts
-Chalk line
-Socket wrench
-Work light

10 - 2" x 6" x 12' pine boards
~33 - 2" x 4" x 8' pine boards
5 sheets - 4' x 8' x 3/4" pine plywood

Building Supplies
-5lb 2" deck screws to attach plywood to wall
-535 t-nuts
-2lb 3 1/2" galvanized nails
-2lb 4 1/2" galvanized nails
-1lb 4" deck screws
-Assorted washers
-2 heavy duty hinges
- about 25 -1/2 x 5" lag bolts
-about 25 - 1/2 x 4" hex bolts
-bolt hangers (used in sport climbing)
-Aluminum strips (to reinforce pull up bar)

Step 4: Construct

Picture of Construct

I'm not going to go into an exhaustive explanation of my entire build process - it will vary a great deal depending on the design of your wall and the location you decide to put it. And a project like this shouldn't be attempted without basic construction knowledge. However there are a few important things.

First anything load bearing should be bolted - not screwed or nailed. In the pictures you can see that the 2 x 6 joists are attached to a 2 x 4, there is a bolt doing down through the top of the 2 x 4 into the 2 x6 then the 2 x 4 is bolted to the ceiling. Nails come loose with vibration, screws tend to snap. Anything load bearing gets bolts. No exceptions. (well of course the plywood is screwed onto the frame but I'm talking about when constructing the frame)

After constructing the frame it was time to prepare the plywood for attaching to the wall. The general rule for t-nuts is 72 per sheet of plywood. This means that there is a rectangular pattern of one t-nut every 8 inches in both directions. I marked the plywood using a chalk line then drilled the hole where the two lines intersect. Here is some more information about this process. (Morganic has very good hold prices, I bought a number of my holds from them)

When you drill the holes for the t-nuts drill from the side that is going to be facing outward that way any splinters wont be seen. I find it easiest to do one sheet at a time
1. Drill holes
2. Flip over
3. Set aside and do next sheet.

You don't want to hammer the t-nuts in just yet because you'll probably be cutting the plywood and not only will a t-nut ruin a saw blade but theres no need to waste t-nuts on waste parts of the plywood that won't be used.

You could probably use a piece that was already drilled as drilling template.

The next step is to mount the plywood

Step 5: Mount Plywood & Make Door

Picture of Mount Plywood & Make Door

When mounting your plywood at least 2 people are required. The sheets weigh at least 20 poinds a piece and they are very awkward to hold. If the plywood has to be cut make sure that you measure 5 times and cut once. There's nothing worse than loosing $30 (and a lot of work drilling and hammering t-nuts) because you rushed and cut a piece too short. I had someone help me hold the plywood in position and put 2" deck screws in all four corners then a couple near the middle then my assistant could let go. The rule of thumb I utilized was 1 screw every 8 inches. Which is more than enough.

For the pieces that need to be cut to special shapes I made very careful measurements of lengths and angles checking many times before making a cut. After cutting the piece i would hammer in the t-nuts then screw it to the frame. I left the side where the door would be "un-skinned" because I didn't have a design for the door yet. I need a door that was strong enough to be climbed on.

In the end I made the door hinged from above with a small latch at the bottom that keeps it closed.

The next step is to mount the holds!

Step 6: Mount Holds and Finishing Touches

Hopefully you've got your hands on some holds or at least ordered some by this point. Setting routes is an artform and I wont go into it in this instructable (another day). There is no set way to do it, and it varys from wall to wall but the best way to break in a new wall (in my opinion) is to evenly distribute the holds all over the wall then start climibing, moving the holds around one at a time to work certain moves into the wall etc. Mess around with it for a while until you get tired of it then change them around. The hold configurations are essentially endless. If you somehow managed to run out of hold configurations you can always buy more holds or make your own! Which would make another great instructable.

At this point I also mounted the belay points. I bolted 3 bolt hangers to my ceiling joists about the wall just to belay my small brother and to help aid in teaching people to belay.

As for the pullup bar. I had already mounted it at this point but basically it is just a square frame made from 2 x 4's that is bolted to the ceiling joists.

Step 7: CLIMB!

Picture of CLIMB!

At this point you enjoy your wall! Take some artistic climbing pictures, whatever your into just do it!

(you can see some home-made wooden holds, thats another whole instructable in its self.

Step 8: Closing Remarks

If your really into climbing and would utilize a home climbing wall, this is a very fulfilling project to undertake. It is somewhat difficult but anyone with basic carpentry skills and a little bit of math can make their own design and build it.

Something I learned is that although they are fun for a while vertical portions of the wall really are rather useless when it comes to training (for me at least) in fact most of my holds are on the overhang parts of the wall and I'm using the vertical bits as convenient tool holders. The point is make sure that you think about all the components of the wall before you build it and make sure that it meets all your requirements. You want it to be a wall you have fun on and enjoy not a wall that you say "if i would have only built (blank) it would be perfect"

I forgot to mention that you will also need to acquire some sort of something to cushion your falls, i have carpet padding, 2 mattresses and actually some rolled up carpet. The carpet rolls are dense but are better than falling onto concrete.

If your pulling some tricky moves (feet above head) make sure you always use a spotter because your neck is like a toothpick just waiting to be broken and if you break your neck what is the point of having a climbing wall? So make sure you use a spot!

My instructable is meant only to inspire and give an example as to what can be done relatively easy. I'm not posting it to be copied exactly (you can if you want) but let your imaginations run wild, get out there and design. If you're going to do this make it your own and learn something (or somethings) while doing it. Have fun and be safe! (and don't break your neck!)


AronS2 (author)2016-01-05

I like your detailed description of the design and construction process! I am going to expose the rafters in my garage the same way you did. Its a bummer about cutting the ceiling open though... I'm going for a 2.5 sheet, 8x10 wall overhung about 35 degrees. I think I'll keep it simple and make it a flat wall, and then just add some volumes to spice it up.

Aron Stockhausen

PS: Check out our Gear Closet Chronicles for rock climbing gear reviews and to see the process of building my home wall in a few weeks!

suckrpnch (author)2011-06-21

I love the idea. And it illustrates how doable it is to build a climbing wall at home, but at 6' 4", I would be hard to get anything out of this in a 10' space.

Nice idea.

wilgubeast (author)suckrpnch2011-10-13

Climb laterally and save cash on ropes.

Ropes can be expensive tho...

micah.sorensen1 (author)2015-12-10

I would like to build something like this. A cheap, vertical, and horizontal wall to climb, I too am a fellow rock climber, but I have one question...can you Dino on this wall you made without the holds coming loose????

Plz respond this is a big priority for me I like doing dinos they are a lot of fun and strech your body to the limit.

JosesinD (author)2015-12-10

Good afternoon, I 'm starting to build my Escarla wall in my house, and I would like to know what the program was used to design the wall to know the internal structure

Thank you.

Lolman4000 (author)2015-04-22

I can't find any cheap holds anywhere...

Mave_Rick (author)2013-04-14

I was doing all my design work in photoshop cs6 3d animator. What software did you use in these pictures? It will sure come in handy when we begin designing volumes and our garage bouldering cave this fall.

mAjc0 (author)2011-11-29

Hey, I'm just wonder which program are you using for computer design of climbing wall?, Thank's! Have a nice day:),

ewilhelm (author)2008-02-22

Nice work! Did you consider finishing the surface of the plywood in any way?

bazookazuz (author)ewilhelm2008-04-25

I would not recommend worrying about surface roughness. You will find that home gyms work best with steeper walls (i.e. 30 degrees from vertical or more), and the texture is useless on walls that steep (unless you are Spider Man). Anyways, sticking to the route and not smearing will make you a stronger climber. Save the smearing for outdoors.

jusdisgi (author)bazookazuz2010-01-22

I agree that there's no need for texture as far as smearing goes. But I'm about to texture-paint my wall (much less extensive an operation than yours) because I keep spinning the holds. Mostly it's big buckets that have the problem...if I do a big reach sometimes I'll just spin them 180 degrees. I can't make them any tighter without pulling the t-nuts through the wall...

Anyway, ewilhelm, if you're looking to texture it the easy way is just to mix paint and sand.

bazookazuz (author)jusdisgi2010-01-22

If you are only having trouble with a couple of large holds spinning, I would suggest putting small screws in the wall to stop them from rotating. Some large holds have pre-allocated spaces for these screws. Adding a couple of screws is much easier than painting an entire wall. Of course, if your wall is only a couple of panels, the paint may be the easy way to go.

finton (author)bazookazuz2011-10-22

I used small ball-bearings to stop our bathroom cupboard handles from rotating. Being only held in by a (usually too-short) screw, they tend to unwind slightly thus allowing the screw to pull out. A bearing about midway between the screw and one corner sinks into both the handle and the door; tighten up the screw, and the handle no longer moves. Better than glue, 'cos you can still remove the handle.

apenjong-31295 (author)2011-06-07

what i like to do is first place 3 holds. after that i hang in it and make a movement. wherever my hand ends (or just doesn't :p), i place a hold.

james1214 (author)2011-06-06

Great intro to climbing comic book for kids is
Betty and the Silver Spider

And when im traveling I search for gyms on

TangerineBadger (author)2011-06-06

This is so awesome! Earmarked for when I have a garage! :-)

Biggsy (author)2011-06-06

I would LOVE to build one of these in my scout hut... but alas we don't have the space... welldone matey I love it

One of my coveted high fives for you

Honeynbennkids (author)2011-04-02

As a momma I'm glad to see concerns about safety!

Do you recommend a book or site that teaches how to climb? My children are interested but we're in Ohio and....our "rock wall" was in the mall and they practically pulled the kids up instead of letting them climb. They love to climb trees and such so I was thinking this in our garage...

Thank you for sharing. This was a lovely instructible.

static (author)2010-06-09

I have seen video of one home in the State of LA, who's owners put in a "climbing wall" instead of a stairway to get to the second floor. The entire house is an out of the box off grid home.

damurdock (author)static2010-06-19

I now know where I will live after my eventual graduation.

abcparkour (author)2008-06-15

good job i wud luv to make a wall like this do u know much about the concret walls my local center has all concret there are only like 4 screw on handholds in the hole place..

lasersage (author)abcparkour2010-02-26

that's weird. as concrete can't be removed for cleaning (pressure washing out the old chalk and rubber) then they usually become glazed/polished pretty fast.

willywoozle (author)lasersage2010-02-27

Makes it just like French limestone then !

abcparkour (author)lasersage2010-02-26

yea one or two holds at the bottom are a bit slippy but it stays pretty rough i think they put sand in it or somthing i dono...but its scheduled for demolition which is a shame it was a rly good wall and ive never seen one like it.

quesoman (author)2010-02-26

When i get out of college im gonna build a house thats gonna have one central "tower" and two "wings" coming off. in the tower im gonna build a wall like this. GREAT IDEA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

fancypenguin845 (author)2008-02-24

cool! i had a friend with a treehouse, but instead of a ladder they had a full climbing wall with climbing apparatus to get to the top, then a zipline to another platform across the yard. now i can have one, since i moved, but it will be costly. do u have any tips to lower the cost?

swighton (author)fancypenguin8452008-03-07

If you wanted to lower the cost you could -make your own holds -scavenge wood from dumpsters at construction sites (great source of 2x4's) -use less t-nuts or no t-nuts as well if your not planning on changing your holds around -My wall was a bit over designed, if you know what your doing you could get away with less support, and if you don't have an extreme overhang you can use 2x4's throughout which are much cheaper than the 2x6's i used for the overhang -buy wood from a lumber yard or wholesaler instead of home depot like I did (much cheaper I found out after I had bought my wood) -The biggest cost in building the wall was the plywood which cost about 120$ if you could get cheaper plywood or use lower quality you could cut costs ALOT -I calculated the costs of little things like nails and screws into my total cost and they really add up, so if you already have nails and screws for your treehouse that would save you about 20$ All in all if you really wanted to a wall similar to mine could be built for 120-150$ possibly even less. Mine was expensive because I didn't want to cut any corners and regret it later so i got the best of everything.

bazookazuz (author)swighton2008-04-25

If you want to save money, DO NOT buy nuts/bolts/screws from a hardware store!! Go to an industrial nut and bolt supplier (search nut and bolt supply in the phone book) and buy everything in one trip. They will sometime give you %10 discount for buying $100, $200, whatever. I also don't suggest buying super-cheap or super-expensive T-nuts. I saw prices from 6-45 cents a piece when buying 1000. I bought some 6 cent units that had super shallow threads and tended to mess up the threads on the hold bolts if torqued too tightly. After messing up a dozen bolts (@ .50 ea.) I realized that these t-nuts were costing me more than i saved. I went to a different supplier and got some better T-nuts @ 0.12 ea that were great quality! Moral of the story is, expect to pay 0.15 ea for good T-nuts and make sure you get to inspect the product before laying down $150. I use Mack Nut and Bolt in Bryan, TX. They are worth a couple hour drive if you live close to them.

lasersage (author)bazookazuz2010-02-26

when searching nut and suppliers I've had more luck in the past searching fasteners. When I lived with my parents Suffolk Fasteners sold me all the bolts I ever needed for car and motorbike restoration and climbing stuff. Now my local one is Paramount Fasteners. Maybe this is just an English naming convention but thought it might help on your hunt for quality bolts for less  :)

calvindo (author)2009-11-27

 Very cool project.  Great use of space.  Very useful, especially taking the sheetrock out of the ceiling to expose the studs makes it easy.  I'm inspired to get started!

gingertech (author)2008-08-19

that is the most awesome thing i have seen in ages:) top banana! shame i dont own my own garage being 15 and all but when i get my own house this is what i shall do:)

swighton (author)gingertech2008-08-19

Thank you! I don't own my own garage either, I had to pay to have the camper that was stored on that side of the garage stored at a different location. Also never rule it out simply because your only 15. I built this wall when I was barely 16. :)

rck_mtn_climber (author)swighton2009-08-17

and i made mine when I was 12 : )

BigBearHostel (author)2008-08-27

Not bad. I built a 20ft tall A-frame wall above the deep end of my pool a few years ago. No belay needed if you can swim. Great spectator sport watching people lose it and fall into the pool. Anyway, I just wanted to say that I easily built some nice holds out of TREX 2x6 decking scraps. Just saw or grind them into hold shapes and you can bolt them up and them feel nice and soft.

A good name (author)2008-07-15

Just a tip, it should be "Or if you're a kid"

swighton (author)A good name2008-07-17

I appreciate your grammatical prowess, but I have to ask - was that "tip" really necessary? Its not as if it detracts from the clarity of the instructable... I also have several missed commas and plenty of run on sentances. I think that 'negligible' describes these errors very well. The end.

A good name (author)swighton2008-07-25

Lol sowwy :(

bazookazuz (author)2008-04-25

Using OSB (the cheaper ply wood) is great, but the T-nuts will fall out all the time unless you glue them in with something like Liquid Nails. Not a big deal if the back is accessible, but a huge pain on a roof section.

PyroMaster007 (author)2008-02-22

Waaayyyyyy tooo expensive! It looks awsome but sure is costly!

tommyh (author)PyroMaster0072008-02-22

While this wall is very cool and inspires creativity in your climbing, it is possible to build a pretty functional wall for less than $200. I've got a bare bones 45 degree woody that cost me $120 (without holds) and took me 7 hours to build, including the trip to the hardware store.

PyroMaster007 (author)tommyh2008-02-22

Still too expensive...

swighton (author)PyroMaster0072008-02-22

the 400 included the holds too btw and i have a goodly amount

swighton (author)swighton2008-02-22

also, this is my main work out tool. I use it daily, it could be done for less certainly, but i wanted a very good solid wall that would hold up to for years. also if you think about it its a good investment because this is how i work out my entire upper body - a treadmill alone is >$400 it is expensive to build on a whim but for me its well worth it

SkullSauceTM (author)swighton2008-02-23

It's definitely a good investment especially when you afford yourself the convenience of being able to work out at home and not have a monthly membership fee at a gym. Taking into consideration the cost of getting to the gym, time in transit, my monthly dues I'd recover my $400 in about 6 or 7 months.

bazookazuz (author)SkullSauceTM2008-04-25

Also take into account that you can now throw awesome climbing parties!

j_man51 (author)swighton2008-03-01

As an avid climber, I have to agree with you. I would drop 400 bucks on a personal wall in a second, especially considering a daily bouldering pass at the local rock gym is a good $20. Kudos on the wonderful build! I've made a much smaller "campus" board, but I painted it with a sand- paint mixture to give it the authentic rock look.

toolgal29 (author)2008-04-03

just u do any other upper body workouts? or did only climbing give u such buff muscles? lol, i really like ur instructable!

xcoastie (author)2008-03-01

Not a climber myself, but this is one of the best Instructables I have seen, and a very cool idea for a workout. As far as spending $400, that is a bargain for having a "gym" in your garage and all the experience you got from the build. Thanks for taking the time to share your project with us.

alvincredible (author)2008-02-22

whoa. you're buff. nice instructable ahah

About This Instructable




Bio: I am a mechanical engineering/computer science student. I currently am very interested in engine design and just about anything else. A look at my ... More »
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