Introduction: Rock Climbing Wall Murphy Bed & Vertical Bike Storage
Hola, everyone! My husband and I LOVE rock climbing but the nearest indoor rock climbing gym is about 1.5 hours away. We thought, “Let’s build our own rock climbing wall.” It became clear that the only place we could build such a wall would be in our guest bedroom.
Space is an issue for us since we live in a 2 bedroom apartment. We love hosting guests and decided that we needed to make a rock climbing wall that included a Murphy bed for when our guests stay over. The bed mattress doubles as the rock wall crash pad, and the bed can fold up and out of the way if we’re not climbing or hosting and need a lot of floor space for other projects. We also store our bikes in the guest bedroom, so we integrated a vertical bike rack into our design that would help us save even more space. We cannot put any holes in the walls of our apartment, so we built this entire project to be free-standing. We built this rock wall at a 15-degree backward slant, a good angle for us as amateur climbers interested in building our strength and technique.
Customization: If you’re only interested in building the rock wall without the Murphy bed (and adding your own crash pad), or you don’t need the integrated bike rack, this design is modular and easy to customize. We used a queen-sized bed, but this design could also easily be scaled up or down to other bed sizes or different ceiling heights, or the bed could be turned at 90 degrees to get a wider wall as long as the crash pad coverage away from the wall is safe. If you scale the design, the width of the wall was chosen to give a 2” gap between each side of the bed and the free-standing rock wall frame. The height of this design is 2” below an 8’ ceiling.
Also note that the wall studs are positioned so that the seam between side-by-side plywood panels split the stud and allow for both panels to attach to that stud. The angle of the wall could be varied to suit your skill level.
The storage shelf above our bike rack needed a hinged portion since it extended very near to the door of our closet and we want to still be able to access the top of the closet when needed. If your closet is far from the rock wall, you might not benefit from the hinged shelf. If you have enough space in your room to widen the bike rack a little greater than the width of both bike handlebars combined, you can store both bikes with the front wheels up; it is a little easier to load and unload the bike with the front wheel up than the one with the front wheel down.
(2) 4’ x 8’ x ¾” ACX plywood sheets
(29) 2x4 x 8’ boards
(11) 2x6 x 8’ boards
(3) door hinges for murphy bed
(220) ½” wood screws (we used sharp point lath screws, since they have a large, flat head)
(~140) 2” decking screws (buy tan colored screws if you want them to blend better with the plywood)
(~120) 2 ½” decking screws
(~170) 3 ½” decking screws
(1) queen foam mattress
(4) heavy duty eye screws (we used some 1.5” diameter, 5/16” cross-section, with ~1” of thread)
(2) 27”+ lengths of ⅛” vinyl coated steel cable (340-lb load)
(4) thimbles for ⅛” coated steel cable
(12) wire rope clips for ⅛” cable
(2) strong carabiners (we used some 5/16” cross-section, about 3” long)
(2) 5’ long sections of split pipe insulation for 1” pipes double-sided tape
(4) 20” lengths of wide ribbon of webbing (we used black to match pipe insulation)
(2) rubberized bike hooks
(2) small hooks for hanging helmets
(2) additional door hinges (if you want the hinged shelf)
(2) ⅛” thick metal plates (if hinge shelf) (size is not critical, but we used bars ~1” wide by a couple inches long)
*For all plywood attachments, we used 2” decking screws. For assembly between two pieces each being 1 ½” thick, we used 2 ½” decking screws. All other cases had enough wood depth that we used 3 ½” decking screws.
**See cut lists and drawings for each assembly
Drill (w/ driver bits appropriate for your screw heads)
(7/16” or ½”) Forstner drill bit
Drill bits (for making pilot holes of screws near the ends of boards)
Drill driver bit extension (optional, sometimes helps with screws in tight places)
Circular Saw (we used a saw with a 7 ½” blade)
Long metal straight edge (for making long cuts on plywood)
Combination square (angle adjustable) and/or speed square
Hammer Tape measure
Bar Clamps (up to 18” span )
Kreg Jig (optional - helpful for making some of the bed frame joints look nicer, or otherwise, screws can be toe-nailed in)
The Design: My hubby used Fusion 360 to create a design using plywood, 2x4s, and 2x6 construction lumber. We used Fusion 360 because it is free to hobbyists.
Step 1: Cut List
Step 2: The Beginning
Cut pairs of each board number listed below in order to construct the side frames of the free-standing wall. The two sides will be mirrors of each other. Refer to the table for cut lengths. Where two 2x4s create an “L” (board #2 and #3, for example) we used 2 screws to attach, and where 2x6s are added (#5 to #3, for example) we used 3 screws. Along the length of the edge between boards #4 and #5, a screw was added roughly every 12”.
Step 3: Framing
Assemble board #7 to one of board #6 to create the bottom kick board. Install board #6 and #8 to the wall as shown in the diagram below. Where boards are added with the wide faces touching (#6 to #2, for example) we used 4 screws in a rectangular pattern.
Step 4: More Framing
Install boards #9 and #10 on both sides of the frame.
Step 5: Plywood Panel Studs
Create the following assembly by attaching boards #12 onto board #11, with 3 screws into the end of each #12.
Create the following assembly by attaching boards #14 onto board #13.
Attach the assemblies from 4a and 4b together as seen below. We found it extremely helpful to use clamps in this step to help straighten with the warped wood we had while screwing.
Step 6: Plwood Panel Stud Assembly
Attach the assembly from step 4c to the frame from step 3. Clamping each end board #14 to each board #9 is very helpful during this step. The bottom points of boards #12 are able to rest on the exposed edge of the kick plate, board #7. Into each board #12 through the back of the upper board #6, three 3.5” screws were added. Into each board #12 through the lower board #6, two 2.5” screws were added, since the 15-degree angle at the bottom end of the boards #12 has much less wood depth. Three screws were added into each end of board #11 through each board #9, ensuring all of the boards #12 and #9 are in line, creating a flat plane. Four screws were added through the inside face of each end board #14 into each board #9. Then add board #W1 to the frame, offset from the center diagonal wall stud, for screw accessibility.
Step 7: T-nut Holes
After you have cut out the plywood panels, measure and mark where the t-nuts will go on the back of the plywood panels. Be sure to mark out where the studs will attach to the plywood panels, so that you avoid creating t-nuts holes in those locations. As far as a pattern for t-nuts, we used the following article for reference except we made a few adjustments because our wall studs weren’t exactly 16” on center
On the back side of the panels, drill pilot holes where each of the t-nut holes will go using a 1/16” bit (to minimize splintering blow-out of the holes on the front side). We marked and drilled the pilot holes from the back side to keep the front side (presentation side) of the panels clean and nice. Then, from the front side of the panels, we recommend using a Forstner bit to drill out the holes for the t-nuts where each pilot hole comes through. Positioning a scrap piece of wood behind your drilling location will further reduce splintering of the back side of the hole. Using the Forstner bit will create cleaner holes for the t-nuts. In the photo below, we compared the quality of the holes using a Forstner bit and regular twist bit on a test piece to see which tool worked better.
Step 8: T-nut Install
After all the holes for the t-nuts are drilled out, hammer in the 3 prong t-nuts from the back side of the plywood panels. We chose to use 3 prong t-nuts because they were less expensive. To help prevent the t-nuts from loosening or falling out over time, we added two ½” screws to each t-nut on either side of the flange.
Step 9: Climbing Wall Panels
Install the panels of plywood onto the frame. During this step, we found it helpful to use clamps to hold the panels in place while we added the 2” deck screws. We drilled pilot holes from the back side for all of these holes, as well, since we didn’t want to split the plywood with screws near the edges, and to position the screws into the centers of the wall studs. Panels #15 & 16 are mainly only attached to the diagonal wall stud boards #9 and #12, with a screw roughly every 8”. In order to prevent possible bowing of the boards outwards over time between the studs due to the climber’s weight, one additional 3.5” screw was added near the top of each gap between studs, centered between each adjacent stud pair, through the panel and into board #11 at an angle.
Step 10: Hand Holds
Install hand holds to the panels, be sure to put down a crash pad below you and go have fun! We had issues with some of our hand holds spinning, so we put textured tread tape on the back face of some of the hand holds. Alternatively, you could paint the wall with a textured paint. For building the Murphy bed/crash pad continue to step 10, or for bike rack storage skip to step 13.
Step 11: Murphy Bed Frame
After assembling this step, we decided to chamfer the corners around the bed frame in order to reduce the likelihood of a guest stubbing their toe when walking around the bed, and to remove sharp corners for potential fall safety (see the cut corners lined in red in the first assembly photograph below). Cutting those corners on boards #19 and #21 prior to assembly will be easier.
To assemble the bed frame, attach boards #20 to board #19. Using a kreg jig here will help with creating nice-looking bed frame joints, where the screw holes are on the top of the bed platform (hidden by the mattress). If you don’t have a Kreg jig, you may toenail screw the boards together. Then attach board #21.
For the protruding edge of board #21 that supports the end of the mattress when the Murphy bed is raised, we attached two layers of pipe insulation to cushion the top edge as an extra precaution in case of a climbing fall near the bottom of the wall. Double-sided tape was added to the exposed upper edges of board #21 to adhere the pipe insulation, then to adhere the second layer of pipe insulation on top of the first. Four holes were drilled in board #21 below the level of the pipe insulation and wide ribbon/webbing was used to tie down the cushioning.
Step 12: Murphy Bed Frame Hinge Install
The next step is to attach board #A1 to the frame. Then attach the bed frame to the #A1 board via three hinges. We spaced the hinges about 3.5” from each end, and the middle hinge centered on the bed frame.
The foam mattress guest bed we purchased is 10” thick and like most foam mattresses, is made from open-cell foam. We read a couple places that for a crash pad, a 2” topper layer of higher density (~2.2-lb) closed cell foam should be added on the open-cell foam beneath to reduce the likelihood of rolling an ankle, however we found the mattress we used is firm enough that we’re not concerned about adding the extra layer to increase stability of the top surface of the pad. If you get a softer foam mattress, you’ll likely want to add that layer of high density closed cell foam when using this as a crash pad and slide that layer off to the side to expose the mattress for use as a guest bed.
Step 13: Murphy Bed Locking Mechanism
Mount one eye screw to the moving end of the bed frame near the top between the vertical boards as seen in the picture below. Ensure that the eye hook does not protrude below the boards and hit the floor when the bed is lowered. Mount the second eye screw to the backside of the vertical wall frame post.
Next, cut steel cable to length appropriate to hold the bed in the upright position. Attach a carabiner to the end of the steel cable. Do the same for the other side of the bed frame. Our steel cables were about 27” long before doubling them back on themselves and clamping them around the thimbles on each end. Each cable assembly from end-to-end of each thimble is about 15” long. After this step, you should be able to lock the bed in the upright position. Alternatively, you could use steel chain or ropes with sufficient load ratings for safety. With this design, we like that when the bed is lowered, the cables hang hidden behind the vertical wall frame posts and leave a clean look to the wall.
We did not see issues with the mattress buckling or sliding when the bed is raised, but if you’re concerned about securing the mattress, you could use velcro, heavy duty double-sided tape, sewed straps, or similar to attach the mattress to the bed platform.
Step 14: Vertical Bike Rack Storage
Attach boards (2) #22 and (2) #23 together to make a square. Then attach the final board #23 20” from the left side of the square.
Attach boards (3) #24 and (3) #25 to the assembly in step 13a. Note that the placement of these boards was based upon the lengths and wheelbases of our bikes, so the position of these boards could vary per bike. The bottom two of each set of three are spaced to the distance between your bike axles. For our design, the left bike has its bottom wheel touching the floor and the right bike was staggered higher, off the floor so that boards #25 could all be screwed into the ends from the outer faces of the boards #23 on either side. If you choose instead to toenail screw the boards #25, you wouldn’t need to stagger these bike heights.
Next, install a rubberized bike hook on the top boards of #24 and #25 at a slight angle downward for each of the bikes. Then install two #25 board/block pieces around the position of the lower bike wheel for both the bottom #24 and #25 boards.
Step 15: Plywood Panel Assembly Part 1
Assemble boards #27 and #28 together. Then install the #29 plywood panel onto this assembly. Ensure that there is a ½” gap on the right side of the assembly where the panel lays to leave space for the hinges that will be installed in the upcoming steps, additionally the gap is important for clearance for when the other half of the platform is folded up. The panel overhangs the back of the 2x4 frame by 1.5”.
Step 16: Plywood Panel Assembly Part 2
Assemble boards #30 and #31 together. Then install the #32 plywood panel onto this assembly. Ensure that there is a ½” gap on the left side of the assembly.
Step 17: Hinge Install
Install hinges to the assemblies from steps 14 & 15 roughly 2-3” away from each end of the interface. The edge of each assembly with the ½” plywood gap will be the hinged edge. Add an ⅛” thick stop plate to the inside face of each assembly opposite to each other, near the hinged end that is cantilevered away from the vertical bike rack wall (further from the 1.5” plywood overhangs). The shelf near that hinge will be better supported in step 18, but the stop plates will improve load support of the cantilevered corner of the hinged shelf.
Step 18: Storage Assembly
Attach the hinge assembly to the wall frame and bike rack assembly.
Step 19: Hinged Shelf
Attach board #33 to the assembly.
Step 20: Bike Helmet Hooks
Attach small hooks to free spaces in the bike assembly so that helmets can be stored as well...and that’s it!
Step 21: The Result
Participated in the