Introduction: Freestanding Indoor Rock Climbing Wall for $150

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

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 - - 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.


(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 - - $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


- 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:

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:

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

Survival Skills Challenge

Finalist in the
Survival Skills Challenge