Introduction: How to Build a Garage Bouldering Wall With Inside Storage Shelves
Hello again everyone! In this instructable, I will be showing you how to build a home bouldering wall in your garage or other similar space. This project came about when one of my neighbors posted on a neighborhood website asking if anyone knew someone who could build their daughter a climbing wall. I thought it would be a fun project (which it was), and as a result, I bring you this instructable! The wall I built turned out to be a pretty big one as home walls go because the garage I built it in was 12' tall, but it is easy to downsize if your space isn't as tall. Note that since every wall is going to be different, I haven't specified dimensions and cut lengths like I usually do. You'll need to figure out your wall dimensions yourself. Now, let's get started!
Here are the tools and materials you will need to complete this project...
- Miter saw
- Circular saw
- Table saw (optional)
- Rotary hammer (if you have a concrete garage floor)
- Impact driver
- Sander (or sandpaper and extra time)
- Stud Finder (optional)
- Tape measure
- Clamps (optional but helpful)
- Rafter square or other angle-measuring tool
(Note that amounts of each will vary based on the size of your wall)
- 2x4s (various lengths, I used 8', 10', and 12' for this wall)
- 2x3s (8' lengths)
- 3/4" ACX or sanded plywood
- Construction screws (I used 2", 2 1/2", and 3 1/2")
- Screw-in T nuts (you'll need a lot of these, I used almost 1,000)
- 5/8" wedge anchors
- You'll also need an assortment of climbing holds and mounting hardware in order to actually use your wall!
Step 1: Designing the Wall
Before we start building, it's important to create a design that will work for you and your space. Since my wall is on the large side, we could afford to include a vertical section, 20 and 30 degree sections, and a 70 degree overhang section. If you don't have room for all that, I would suggest deleting the vertical and 70 degree sections, as they are the least useful. Other than that, the angles and features are really a matter of personal preference. I presented several designs using google sketchup to help visualize things and the customer picked the configuration that they liked the best. I would recommend designing each section to be either 4' or 8' wide to minimize the number of long cuts you have to make in the plywood surfaces. The floor space I had to work with was roughly 12' by 8', so it ended up working out perfectly for 4' sections.
Step 2: Anchoring the Base Plates
I chose to anchor the wall to the concrete floor via 5/8" diameter wedge anchors. When drilling the holes for the wedge anchors, it is important to remember that you do not want a wedge anchor directly underneath any of your vertical stud locations, so be sure to measure so that none of the holes falls on the 16" stud centers. Use at least 6" wedge anchors to ensure that you have enough thread sticking out to start the nuts. To mark the hole locations on the 2x4 base plate, place the 2x4 on top of the wedge anchors, position it correctly, and whack it hard in several places with a hammer. This will cause the tops of the bolts to make little dents in the bottom of the 2x4 where you need to drill holes, without having to accurately transfer measurements.
Step 3: Construct a Vertical Anchor Point
Now you need to make a vertical stud wall and attach the bottom to the floor. The height of the wall (including the top plate and base plate) should be 3" less than the height of your space. This will translate to a 1 1/2" gap at the top once you place it on the first base plate. This is important because you must assemble the stud wall on the ground and tilt it into place, and you need a little extra clearance to be able to do this. Attach the stud wall to the first base plate using lots of 2 1/2" screws.
Step 4: Attach More Anchor Points to Ceiling
Next, use a stud finder (or drill a bunch of holes in your ceiling to find the studs) and mark the locations of the joists running across your ceiling. Attach 2x4s running perpendicular to the joists using 1/2" lag screws or equivalent fastners (I used LedgerLock bolts) as shown in the pictures.
Step 5: Build the Wall Sections
Use 2x4s and plywood gussets to construct a wall profile of your desired angles and dimensions. Cut the gussets out of 3/4" plywood, and attach them to the 2x4s using 2" screws. Make 4 profiles for each section, then add a 4' top and bottom plate and any necessary braces to tie them together spaced 16" on center. Note that the first and last profiles must be adjusted slightly inward so that they do not hang off the edges of the base/top plates. Another thing to be aware of is that the gussets need to be facing the right side on 2 pieces and the left side on the other 2, otherwise they will stick out over the edges of the wall section. Look at the images if you need help understanding what I mean. If you don't have enough room to build all the sections at once, go to the next step after building the first one, and then come back to this one.
Step 6: Raise Wall Sections
Starting with any corner pieces, tilt the wall sections into place and attach them to the ceiling and floor as shown in the images. This is nearly impossible to do with tall sections and one person, so a helper is strongly recommended for this step.
Step 7: Drill Holes in Plywood
Take a rough estimate of how many sheets of plywood you'll need to surface the wall. Mark a rectangle grid with sections 3" by 6" on the plywood using a straightedge or chalk line. Stack several pieces of plywood on top of each other and use a 1/2" spade bit to drill holes in all of them at once using the pattern shown in the images.
Step 8: Test Fit Plywood Pieces
Cut out the various shapes of plywood needed to fill in your wall, and temporarily place them with a few screws each, just to test the fit. Add any blocking needed to securely attach the pieces. Once you're happy with your fit, take them all off again. Be sure to label them and take pictures so you can figure out which one goes where later.
Step 9: Add Storage Shelves
This step is purely optional, but if you don't do it you'll have a lot of wasted space inside your wall. I chose to build in storage shelves inside the wall, and place an access door in the side of the overhang. I actually built the shelves partway through the test fitting of the plywood to give my arms a break from lifting sheets into place, which is why there's still plywood on some of the surfaces in the images. I would recommend waiting till you finish test fitting though, that way you'll be able to use scrap plywood for some of the shelves.
Step 10: Add T-Nuts to Plywood
This is by far the most boring and tedious step in the entire process. For my wall, it took a total of 13 hours to put all the T-nuts in. Place each T-nut in its hole, tap it into place with a hammer, and put the 3 screws in. Repeat. And repeat. And repeat. Literally 1000 times for this wall.
Step 11: Replace Plywood and Add More Screws
Put all the plywood pieces back on the wall, but this time use 2" screws spaced 8" apart into every stud and blocking piece. I also added the storage access door hardware and sanded the exposed edges of the plywood at this time.
Step 12: Finished!
Now all that's left to do is get some climbing holds and a safety pad, attach the holds to the wall, and start practicing your moves! I'll add some more pictures of this part when the mounting hardware for the holds gets here. Enjoy your new climbing wall!
Step 13: BONUS STEP! Scrap Volume
I had some extra plywood and bits of 2x left over, so I decided to make a little volume feature out of them. If you make the surfaces 45-45-90 triangles, then the angles at the edges end up being 90 degrees, and if you make them 60-60-60 triangles, the angles end up 60 degrees. The base angles can be guesstimated and fudged a bit. Other than that, you have to do some trig to figure out the angles, and explaining that is a bit beyond me. You can attach the volume to the wall wherever you like using 2" screws.
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