In bouldering, as with most things in life, the more you practice, the more you climb, the faster you’ll improve. But if you’re one of the many climbers who don’t have ready access to crags and boulders nearby, and you don’t want to pony up the money for a climbing gym membership, your only recourse might be to build your own bouldering wall at home (or convince your buddy to build one). Read on for a primer in building your own homemade place to crank.

In bouldering, as with most things in life, the more you practice, the more you climb, the faster you’ll improve. But if you’re one of the many climbers who don’t have ready access to crags and boulders nearby, and you don’t want to pony up the money for a climbing gym membership, your only recourse might be to build your own bouldering wall at home (or convince your buddy to build one). Read on for a primer in building your own homemade place to crank.

How to Build a Home Bouldering Wall: Materials and Basics

  • 1. I Need Space

  • 2. Give Me Structure

  • 3. Wood is Good

  • 4. Get Anchored and Screwed

  • 5. Hold on to Your T-nuts

  • 6. Just Hold On

 

Building Your Home Bouldering Wall: Construction Techniques

Once you’ve got your design, the space to put it, and the materials to build your bouldering wall, it’s time to get constructing.

The frames are built first, following standard house framing techniques (top plate studs at the top and bottom, and vertical studs connecting the two on 16-inch centers), and then anchored to the house wall (if you’re building an overhanging wall, be sure to account for how you’ll attach the top of the bouldering wall to the existing structure).

Next, you’ll need to mark out and drill all the holes for the T-nuts in the plywood (either on a grid pattern, or totally randomly, if you like). Be sure to take into account where the supporting studs will lie, as you won’t want to install any T-nuts in those places. Use a spade bit (Forstner bit, for you tool lovers) to drill the holes, and take care to get them straight and clean. Working from the back of the sheet, press the T-nuts into every hole, seating them firmly with a mallet or hammer. At the bottom of the wall, you can skip the T-nuts and screw on small footholds later, as the placement and size of those tend to be less critical than farther up the wall.

Attach the plywood sheets to the frame (which should already be securely fastened to the house frame) using plenty of deck screws (recommended distance is 6 inches apart), and if you’ve got multiple sheets, make sure that the edge of each is butted tightly against the next, and screwed tightly to the frame.

Once your bouldering wall is securely attached to the frame, you can go ahead and install your climbing holds. However, if you want a more realistic climbing experience, or it’s going to be installed outdoors (or you want it to match the color of your favorite climbing shoes), paint it before you install the holds. You can either go with a specialized textured paint, or try a DIY solution, such as a thin coating of a mixture of latex paint, wood glue, and fine sand.

Once the paint is dry, install your climbing holds for your first boulder problems, or put them up randomly to begin with and then change them to suit you. Make sure that their backs are flush to the wall and the bolts are tight before putting any weight on them.

Now it’s time to throw your crash pad down underneath the wall (or steal the futon off of the couch), squeeze your feet into your climbing shoes, chalk up your hands, and give it a go!

Got any other good tips for building a home bouldering wall? Leave me a comment below!

Image: vauvau at Flickr

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