Building a Climbing Wall at the Top of the Stairs

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Introduction: Building a Climbing Wall at the Top of the Stairs

About: Eric J. Wilhelm is the founder of Instructables. He has a Ph.D. from MIT in Mechanical Engineering. Eric believes in making technology accessible through understanding, and strives to inspire others to lear...

When Christy and I lived in Somerville, just outside of Boston, our house had this great big open area on the third floor over the stairs. I just couldn't stop imagining an indoor climbing wall in this space; considering that in Boston you can only climb outdoors half the year, once winter came, I just started building. It took a couple of years to actually finish because a number of things got in the way (learning to kitesurf, getting a Ph.D. etc..), but once done, I absolutely loved being able to climb for 20-30 minutes everyday with almost no setup time.

I obviously didn't take as many pictures as I should have, but you can get some sense of the project and how over-engineered it was. Before I attached the plywood panels, friends who came over would joke that if the house fell down, my climbing wall would be the last thing standing.

We framed it out with 2x4s and 2x6s lag-bolted into the studs, and made a floating arch to avoid actually tapping into the joists. The panels are 3/4" plywood, sanded and polyurethaned, with T-nuts embedded in a 4-inch grid across each face. The panels were screwed into the framework with 3-inch screws.

We bought lots of holds off eBay (much cheaper than buying them new) and had plans to make more of our own, but never got around to it.

When we moved out of that house, the new owners insisted that the climbing wall be removed. "Ridiculous!," I said, but it just wasn't a selling point for them. So, we removed the panels and stored them for later use, and ripped out the support frame, and set it out for reuse. Removing the entire climbing wall only took about three days, and I laughed that it was one day of removal per year of build. We still have the plywood panels and climbing holds, and are just waiting to find the perfect space to rebuild.

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    44 Discussions

    awesome. i am a climber and am trying to build a back- porch climbing wall. we do make our own holds and its really fun.

    I wonder if we have enough old photos to do a Catch of this space.

    this is awesome! Hopefully you arent going to eventually sell the house...

    The idea is fun, but is it really worth? I mean how tall is your wall? 4m? Isn't that a lot of work for not so much climbing? Why not building such wall outside on a wall of your house?

    1 reply

    Nice... When I get a house im putting a room with a trampoline as the floor and velcrow walls (Spider Man!)

    1 reply

    Ah - Eric, now I know what you were talking about. Pretty impressive work & setting the bar fairly high for the new office.

    1 reply

    That is so many holds, bet you get some sweet problems going though

    I can imagine you trying to sell your house okay if you want to see the second floor then go ahead and strap in and il meet you up top. I would never go this far, but i could see how much fun it would be to repel down your loft from your bedroom on the 3rd floor into your living room

    Great! I fantasized about that once, but glad to see the reality. And when it is time to move, you can market cleverly: "House for sale, perfect for rock climbers." You'd get people in there just to have a look -- did it work that way?

    1 reply

    I actually did just that -- it was a highlight of the house listing -- but in the end, it wasn't a selling point.

    It's not a Little Giant Ladder. It's called an articulated ladder. You can buy them at any home center.

    OK, there's never really a bad place for a climbing wall (except, perhaps, on actual rock) but it seems like this pretty much totally eliminates bouldering because the landing area is so bumpy. To me, that's the best part of a climbing wall -- being able to hop on and try something tricky about 3 inches off the floor. Love the construction though -- good solid work.