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Home Climbing Wall

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Standard Disclaimer:

Please bear in mind that I in no way proclaim myself to be a structural engineer nor adept at building solid climbing walls! Below is merely an outline of how I did it as a complete novice, in the hopes that it might benefit someone else. I cannot be held responsible if you follow any of my tips and they don’t work for you, cause you bodily harm, or put a nice little hole in the space-time continuum.

Garage Wall

Having received a box of climbing holds for Christmas from my beautiful wife, it was time to get cracking on this project.

We discussed a few options – outdoor vs indoor, simple vs complex, etc.

In the end, we opted for using the garage, as it already had exposed beams on all sides except the wall shared with the house. In addition, it had a higher ceiling and was a better place to house something that could easily become unsightly, not to mention the amount of space it would take up.

We liked having it under a roof for rainy days and I loved being able to tie into existing structure, rather than having to provide my own.

I used 2×8’s for all the beams, 3/4″ birch plywood for the panels, and a mix of 2×6, 2×8, and 2×4 for cross beams and stabilizers.

Here is a rough list of materials I used, excluding hardware, tools, and materials already on hand:





 $25.95 T-Nuts 250 Element Climbing Threaded hardware to mount climbing holds to plywood
 Gorilla Super Glue .71 oz bottle Home Depot Added to T-Nuts as I inserted them into the plywood
 $7.97 7/16″ drill bit 1 Home Depot
 Required for the T-Nuts
 #14×3.5″ Wood Screw 40 Home Depot Frame Assembly
 $19.00 #12×3″ Wood Screw


 75 Home Depot Frame Assembly
 $60 3/4″ plywood
 2 Friends Climbing surfaces
 $56.47 2×8 lumber 70 LF Howe Lumber Vertical framing
 $8.55 2×4 lumber 24 LF Howe Lumber Cross beams
 Additional holds 16 Element Climbing Augment initial gift of assorted holds for more route options
 Non-skid paint additive 1 bag Home Depot Added to paint for additional texture
 $10.48 Primer 1 Qt Home Depot Paint primer

So the wall itself ran us a little over $200, and at least that much again for the holds.

Online Resources

Here are some great resources I found online and used for guidance in my wall:

Metolius – Excellent PDF resource!

Atomik – Another good resource with LOTS of information

RockClimbing.com – Search in the forums for a wealth of information and experience

IndoorClimbing.com – the building how-to is a little slim, but never-the-less a good read

AndyLibrande – Blogger with good information to share

Instructables.com – a tutorial

WikiHow – very generic 

YouTube – a neat design for use in a room.


Our goal in doing this together was to give ourselves the opportunity to do some quick climbs for fun at home, but also to improve our strength and skills.

Therefore, I went with the design I did because I wanted to create a 3-angle face for variety and challenge, hopefully addressing both goals of fun and skill building.  This has an incidental advantage of also increasing square footage of climbing space when capped by a ceiling.

I chose the corner of the garage to keep the wall out of the way as much as possible, and providing me with the option of expanding on that second wall if we decide to add more square footage in the future.  I used the first four ceiling joists, with the intent of not having to cut down the width of a sheet of plywood at all.  This means that I now have enough of a gap between my climbing wall and the wall of the house to later add more (strictly vertical) climbing area against the house wall if we so desire.  It I do go that route (no pun intended), then I intend to screw 2x4s on the outside of that (finished) house wall.  Think of it as a second set of studs attached through the drywall to the first set.  That will give me a bare wood frame to attach the plywood climbing wall surface to, as well as a gap between that plywood and the drywall (needed for where the handhold bolts will protrude through the back of the plywood).


I purchased the 2×8’s in 12′ lengths, knowing that was more than I needed, but wanting to have some options if I decided to increase the angle of the wall.  Cutting these down also gave me the scrap pieces I could use to further brace beams against movement (putting cross pieces between joists, for example).  I attached the 2×8’s with the #14 screws, per recommendation from the building guides listed above.  In my internet wanderings, I found at least one home builder who wouldn’t attach support beams with anything other than bolts for strength over screws.  I could have saved myself some serious effort, frustration, and foul language if I had seen that post prior to starting my wall!!  I found that the last ceiling joist was a right PITA to work with because it rests only inches from the wall, making it impossible to run screws into it from that side.  I think a bolt might well have saved me some pain there.  In addition, bolts will follow in drilled holes, rather than trying to tap screws.  Even with pre-drilled pilot holes, running long screws in from the top of a (wobbly!) ladder and unable to get much force against the drill was trying, at best.  

That brings me to another point – In the interest of time (I’m not very patient and wanted to be climbing it, not building it!) I tried to crank through as much of the construction as I could each time I had opportunity to work on it.  I might have been better off taking more breaks and dragging it over more days/weeks (I was done in 10 days, rough guess of maybe 30 hours on it?).  After a few hours I was fatigued, often frustrated, and probably much more prone to injury and/or mistakes.  Me tired + power tools + working fast + wobbly ladder = recipe for disaster.  Fortunately I escaped with all my limbs and most of my skin intact, but it could have been bad — just some friendly advice!

I monkeyed around with the angle for a while, placing one vertical beam against the footer and lashing the top with bungee cords to hold it in place while I eyeballed it.  I had a rough idea of the angle I wanted, but seeing it is different (for me) than putting it on paper.  This also gave me to ability to have the love of my life see it and for us to discuss it before fixing it in place for good.  We made a few adjustments (easy to do with bungee cords holding it) until we liked what we saw and I started marking and measuring it.  Knowing that NOTHING in houses ever seems to be truly level and/or consistent and/or easy, I basically had to repeat this task for each of the four main vertical supports.  Luckily, I had a 4 foot board (a shelf) that was flat, lightweight and a good straight-edge.  I used this board repeatedly for checking the beams against each other to ensure the correct angles of each before I screwed them into place.  I wanted to be sure the plywood would lie perfectly flat against the beams when it was all done.

I was screwing the foot of the 2×8 beams to the 2×4 wall studs, toeing them into the footer board, and wedging 2x4s between each 28x and 2×4 wall stud to eliminate sideways movement and stress.  At the top of the beams, I was attaching them to the ceiling joists with the #14 screws.   

I cut the remaining 2×8’s down to 5 foot sections and mounted them between the first supports and the ceiling joists to create a steeper angle.  This gave me somewhere shy of 6 feet of wall height, then another (almost) 4 feet of upper/steeper wall section.  Lastly, I screwed the remainder (appx 4′) of plywood directly to the ceiling joists as a horizontal roof section.  

When the framing was complete, I added a few 2x4s and 2x8s between vertical beams, holding them together for less beam sideways flex and giving me additional points to anchor the plywood into.

When it came time to attach the plywood, I would measure it, cut the plywood to fit, then hold it against the framework.  I used a ladder to hold the plywood in place when working on the lower section, and a couple of quick nails to hold the upper one for me.  With the plywood in place, I would mark where all the support framework pieces ran on the plywood, so that when I pulled it back down to drill it, I could avoid drilling holes for handholds wherever there would be framework on the backside.  I ended up with just over 100 holes in the lower section, almost 70 in the upper, and about 40 in the ceiling panel.  I opted to go relatively random on the holes, but it sort of holds to a hex type pattern to give me good coverage.



I followed advice from other sites when attaching the T-Nuts to the plywood.  I had to knock off the splinters from drilling the 5/16″ holes through the plywood.  I tried a combination of files/rasps, sandpaper, etc and found it to be a tedious job that I had little patience for.  I ended up clearing the holes in a very haphazard way, eager to move on.  

Out of the 200+ T-Nuts I installed, maybe about 10 or so didn’t take a bolt easily and for the low cost of them, I preferred to throw them away rather than take a chance of stripping them.  That’s another advantage of using this method to install them – you’ll know BEFORE the t-nut is in place if it threads correctly or not. 

After a while, I wrapped a glove around the allen wrench for a little more comfort but even that could be hard on the hands after so many.  Fortunately, I happened to have a broken wooden handle that I was able to drill out and slide over the allen wrench.  

What a difference!  Wish I would’ve discovered that little trick on the first t-nut, not the hundredth!!    

Paint and Texture

I did some monkeying around on it and was fairly happy, but found that the smooth texture of the wall was definitely a disadvantage, especially being a novice climber!

So I read a good deal of (conflicting!) information about painting/texturing your wall.  

It seems that most people agree that sand in the paint is not good – at least not regular sand.  It sounds like it essentially turns your wall into a giant piece of sandpaper and is very adept at removing skin if you should rub against it in a fall.  Some said that the super fine sandbox sand worked ok though. 

I decided to start with a primer to make sure the paint stuck well and didn’t chip off.  I used the Home Depot Behr brand and I liked it a lot.  

If I were to do it over again, I think I’d ask them to tint it though – maybe a medium gray instead of the stock white.  I slapped that base coat up with very sloppy and random swipes of a 3″ brush to make it very uneven and full of brush marks, adding a slight initial texture.  I was careful not to get paint in the holes, and often held an inverted golf tee in the holes so I could be more careless with the paint brush.  I also found that using less paint on the brush and always crossing holes on the upstroke helped, because any paint that did enter a hole would tend to drip back out easier (easier to drip being at the top of the hole than pooled at the bottom of it).  

I used a combination of random strokes when applying paint, but tended to favor more swirled motions as they seemed more natural.  If I were imitating natural rock strata, I might have instead gone on a consistent low diagonal angle.  

I let the primer coat dry (it dries fast) and added some additional slaps of primer (not a full second coat) for more texture and random brush patterns. 

For the paint, I used a gray Glidden Porch & Floor paint, only because I happened to have a gallon on hand.  If I had not had some, I would have checked the “seconds” counter in the paint department.  Sometimes you can get paint that customers did not want (wrong color, etc) at a third of the cost or even less.  

I mixed the Behr non-skid additive in for additional texture.  It pours in as a super fine powder but adds a surprising amount of texture to the paint once dry!  I mixed it at double the recommended rate, adding the whole pouch to a half gallon of paint.

Again I painted with very random strokes of the brush, stirring often but it seems that the additive remained suspended in the paint ok on its own.

Finally, I added a few swipes from a can of generic black spray paint to add some color variation.

Then a light coating from a can of textured spray paint (I used a more silver-ish version than the can shown here).

Finished Look


I’ve seen a lot of different opinions on the crash mats.  You can purchase floor mats and crash pads for gymnastics, bouldering, and climbing.  They are a little steep in price, but I suppose it’s a pittance to pay when compared to winding up with a broken leg (or much worse!).

Fortunately, I have a couple of spare mattresses (combined height of about 8″) and a gymnastics floor mat.  The floor mat has a stiffer foam core to help distribute the force of a fall over a wider area, while the softer foam of the mattresses add the cushioning.  

If you want to build your own mat, you can try these links to get started:

ThomasNet.com – type “foam” in the search bar under suppliers, and see if there is a company near you.

TheFoamFactory.com – here is an article from them describing the types of foam to use and why.

RockClimbing.com – has many forum discussions on padding

Metrolius – offers a selection of bouldering pads — has the advantage of taking it with you when you head outside!

Asana – Another climbing supplier.  I’m only listing a couple here, be sure to shop around, there are plenty of options!


I haven’t looked into this too much yet, as I’ve only just made my first purchase (in addition to her gift).

Here are some of the places I was shopping before deciding to go with Element Climbing.  Be sure to look around for “seconds” and specials, most of these sites offer them.

CraigsList.org – Check here just to see if anyone is getting rid of a wall and/or holds.  

CheapHolds.com – This website has the same registrar as ElementClimbing.com, so I believe it is the same company with two web storefronts. 

ElementClimbing.com – I opted to go with them because I could easily compare the pictures of the holds and they offered free shipping for orders over $100 (plus running a 15% discount at the time) – in the end it was cheaper than my second pick, which was Atomik

Atomik – I guess a bunch of rock gyms use these and I can see why – I liked the site and their many options.

Synrock – A very interesting material alternative