Building a permanent home rock climbing wall may seem monumental on the scale of commitment to in-home recreation—requiring an unbelievably cooperative spouse. I am here to tell you that it is—and it does. However, consider
the value of every minute your children aren’t staring listlessly at moving pixels on a smartphone or television. And while there is nothing better than getting outside, sometimes its either just too hot, too dark, or too winter to get out.
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So, timing is everything. Catch your spouse after they’ve settled the tenth argument of the day over who plays the iPad next and you’ll be staring at a green light to convert the master bedroom into a local climbing crag for the kids. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is just for the kids either. The low ceiling height can be wildly deceiving. I’ve seen many healthy adults unexpectedly drop to the ground as if they were drop-kicked in the head by a gratuitous Mortal Kombat finishing move.
So, what does it take? Not much. A small space, a bunch of lumber, rough carpentry skills, climbing holds that you can acquire over time, and a bit of specialty hardware (joist hangers, t-nuts, concrete nails, etc). I don’t believe in rehashing what is already available online, so my intent is to get you started by pointing you in the right direction. Here is a quick list of helpful links to instructions, images, and places I recommend to get climbing holds. Before you break out the bandsaws and nail guns please follow The Recreationalist on Facebook for a constant stream of boredom fighting ideas for your family.
Building a home rock climbing wall? Start here:
Tons of great info on Atomik Climbing Hold’s site:
This is also a great place to get well-priced, quality holds and learn a thing or two about building a wall. Follow them on Facebook to get info their specials—a very generous company that gives away a ton of holds around the holidays.
This PDF alone could be all the information you need to build a sound structure—add your own creativity as needed:
Get used holds at your local rock climbing gym:
Rocky Mountain has some of the least expensive holds I’ve ordered. I bought some and they are alright when mixed in with other brands. Mine felt like well-worn limestone right out of the box.
A real quick video that shows exactly what you need to do to build a wall without the bore of hearing someone go on and on.
Other helpful advice when building a home rock climbing wall
- Live in a wintery climate? Don’t build in your unheated garage expecting to climb all winter. It’s just as cold in there as it is outside and the view is lacking. Yeah, I have an abandoned 16′X8′ wall if anyone wants to part it out.
- Vertical walls get boring fast. The most bang for your buck happens on overhang walls between 25-35 degrees. 45 degrees, and you’ll be shelling out for a lot of large, expensive holds.
- Buy climbing holds slowly over time. Novelty holds shaped like animals, letters, and holiday decor make it easy to instruct your kids verbally.
- A laser pointer makes it fun to point out a route for your kids in real time.
- Stay far away from playground climbing holds made of plastic. They may be a little cheaper and come in an attractive high-quantity pack, but they lack mojo and will remind your kids of the Xbox controller they aren’t playing with.
- Glue a strong magnet out of the way and into the ceiling somewhere. This is where you will stick your t-handle allen wrench for easy access next time a batch of new holds arrives.
- Get on Atomic Climbing Holds email list. They send out amazing deal frequently. Many of the holds you will see in my video were free holiday specials.
- Decide to do it and go all the way. A half-hearted attempt of putting a few holds on the wall in the kids room will likely end up as oddly spaced backpack and coat hangers.
- A lot of instructions recommend using 2×6 lumber, but I primarily used 2x4s and it is bomb proof once the plywood boards are secure.
- You can make your own climbing holds out of wood and other random items bolted to the wall. I’ve prefered to expend my energy looking for good deals on commercial holds, but I am sure it is satisfying to send a hard route of holds made of wooden spoons and cresent wrenches glued to the wall.
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