HIGH PLACES & SIMPLE LIVING
How to Build a Sweet Climbing Wall
Hi, Steph i would like to know how did you build that wall. What did you did to make it stand without a wall to anchor it. I am from the island of Puerto Rico. I build a wall in my backyard but it doesnt look as good a yours!
My climbing wall was designed and built by my friend Noah Bigwood, an amazing climber and builder. Basically my climbing wall expertise consists of wanting one and knowing the right person to go to….Noah I can’t say enough about how great my wall is, and I also climb a lot on another wall that Noah built, which is equally wonderful. He definitely knows what he is doing.
In the 8 years I’ve had this great wall (and it has lasted perfectly all that time, outdoors) so many people ask me about wall construction, I finally decided to ask Noah for yet another wall favor….to share some of his knowledge! Thanks Noah!!
You asked if I would post something about wall construction, so here it is.
There are some very basic principles which should be employed when building your own climbing wall. Unfortunately, most climbers build their own walls on a very tight budget and this leads to the use of inferior materials, not enough T-nuts and sub par designs. If you are building a climbing wall you should think of it the same way you would think of building a house in that it will be around for a long time and you will (hopefully) use it a lot, so wait to begin until you have the funds to do it right. You can also scale back your ambitions for the size of the initial wall and leave room to expand in the future.
The best home walls that I have climbed on all have a few things in common, they all have very few inside corners (dihedrals), they all are made of thick (3/4 inch plywood or osb) with strong framing behind (2×6 on 16 inch centers or 2×4 on 12 inch centers) and they have a plentiful supply of T-nuts.
With this in mind, figure out where you want to put your wall, inside walls are great and last longer, but outside walls can be a lot of fun too and are generally bigger and less cramped feeling. Inside walls generally have several advantages over outside walls. First, you will have strong walls and ceilings to attach your framing to which gives you the ability to design steep walls with no posts supporting them and second, you don’t need to worry about weather proofing them. Outdoor walls can be
taller and larger, but you need to develop a system to support them and weather proof them and you will need to create a landing area which will be clean and safe.
Generally speaking, you will probably get better training value out of a long single angle wall than a more ambitious multiple angle wall. Don’t feel like you need to design something complicated, try to figure out the simplest design that will fit your space and your needs. For an indoor wall, I recommend using 2×6 douglas fir studs for your framing and 3/4 ac plywood. For outdoor walls use 2×6 pressure treated studs and 3/4 inch exterior grade plywood (acx). Place T-nuts on an 8-12 inch grid (be sure that you locate the framing before laying out the grid so that T-nuts won’t be located on framing). You can place far fewer T-nuts down low for the feet since you will probably use screw on jibs down there.
Outdoor walls will typically require far more planning and preparation than indoor ones since you need to create a structure that can support itself and the force of climbers yanking their way to uber-strength, not to mention snow loads, and high winds. I should also mention that all walls (but especially outdoors) are subject to local building codes and permits are probably required even if nearly all walls are built “under the radar” you can get into trouble if you use this approach.
There are three basic ways to create a solid outdoor wall: First, a self supporting A-frame in which two walls are placed opposite each other, anchored at their bases and “leaning” against one another. Second, a counter balance wall in which the wall is supported from behind by either a solid framing connection to the ground well behind the wall, or often by cables, chains or beams to the ground behind the wall.
Thirdly, a wall like Steph’s where the framing extends via a “bearing beam” through the center of the wall to a safe (from falling or flying climbers) distance and where both ends have diagonal supports attached to long solid base framing. I strongly recommend putting down a gravel base under the entire area before you begin since it will promote good drainage and gives you a clean area for pads and hanging out. Be sure to put some kind of roof on the back and top of your outdoor wall to protect the framing and prevent leakage through the face of the wall.
I could go on and on, but that should get people started. Good luck and remember to keep it strong, simple and put a lot of T-nuts in. then find a group of friends who want to train with you on your sweet new wall.