The Wall/ Structure
Once you’ve created a detailed, concrete design for your gym, it’s time to figure out the logistics of building the wall: what supplies you’ll need, and how the pieces will all fit together. You’ll need to consider:
- how much (and what kind of) lumber you’ll need
- whether you’ll use plywood or pre-made wall panels
- what tools you’ll have access to for cutting, etc…
- what other materials you’ll need for construction—wood screws, drill bits, t-nuts, and miscellaneous hardware like metal wood connectors
Regarding specific materials and amounts, you’re on your own; each wall and parent structure will require its own “ingredients” and proportions. However, a good rule of thumb is to not skimp when buying items such as plywood; thin and/or cheap plywood flex excessively during use, causing the t-nuts to loosen and dislodge long before they should.
Regarding plywood: remember the distance between the centers of your wall’s frame studs? Make sure the plywood you select for your wall has dimensions such that the seams between the plywood sheets can occur directly over the frame studs.
The odds are strongly against you picking up everything you need in one shopping trip. However, if you carefully draw up and examine a detailed design, you should be able to pick up a majority of your necessary supplies in one or two trips.
Before gathering materials, you’ll first need to consider the climate in which you live—as well as the volume of climbers (and number of setters) your wall will see—particularly with respect to metal hardware items, such as t-nuts and screws.
If you live in a dry climate and plan to build your wall indoors, you’re probably safe purchasing zinc-plated or steel hardware. However, if you live in a humid climate or plan to build your wall outside, you should spend the extra money to purchase stainless steel hardware if you want your wall to last.
If your wall will endure heavy climber use and/or multiple setters, you should strongly consider buying screw-on t-nuts; these are much less likely to pop out and/or cause spinners than standard t-nuts. However, if you will be the only setter on your wall (and you’re good about not creating spinners), you’re probably safe with standard t-nuts.
Regarding screws: if you plan to buy screw-on holds of any kind, you’ll need to purchase self-tapping screws. Screw-on holds actually have no screw holes when brand-new; self-tapping screws are able to bore through holds without cracking them, whereas standard wood screws are guaranteed to split holds without screw holes. (Wood screws work just fine once screw-on holds have holes.)
Climbing Holds ‘n’ Such
Once you have gathered the materials you need to build the wall, you must now consider the fun part: when your wall actually becomes a climbing wall. Transforming a plywood wall into a climbing wall requires little more than holds, t-nuts and bolts.
It’s hard to guess how many holds and t-nuts you’ll need for your wall. A good method for doing this is to go to an actual climbing gym (or look at photos online); select a random sample of wall space (say 3’x3’) and count the number of holds and t-nuts within that space.
Use that data to calculate the number of t-nuts and holds per square foot on that wall. Say that wall has a density of 4.3 t-nuts/ ft2, and 0.4 holds/ ft2.
Then calculate the (approximate) surface area of your wall (say 100 ft2), and multiply that number by the t-nut concentration of the example wall (100 ft2 x 4.3 = 430 t-nuts) and the hold concentration of that wall (100ft2 x 0.4 = 40 holds) to find the rough number of t-nuts and holds you’ll need. If you’d like to have a denser or thinner concentration, adjust the figure accordingly.
When considering your future gym’s padding, you have a nearly infinite range of possibilities. Of course, the nicest, safest and best-looking pads are custom pads created specifically for your gym’s size and purpose. However, if you don’t have room in your budget for custom padding, you can consider a number of other options (and combinations thereof):
- old mattresses
- foam scraps (such as upholsterers', backpack companies', etc…factory remnants )
- carpeting (to level the surface)
- bouldering pads
If you managed to purchase all of your wall’s components in one trip to the hardware store, you’d be the first person in the history of the world to accomplish such a task. However, with some thoughtful planning, you should be able to minimize your shopping trips—and therefore cut down on the interruptions to your construction project.
OK, time to build it! Create
Habit Climbing recommends consulting with an engineer whenever building a home gym. Our ideas are for consideration only, and should not replace advice of an expert.