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Building a home climbing gym

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I’m finally getting ready to start on a long time project – building a home climbing gym in my basement. When we moved to Blacksburg from Northern Virginia, we bought a house down here that had a partially finished basement. I now have more space to build a home climbing wall than I actually know what to do with. My current plan is to start small and gradually build it out as a make mistakes and learn more about the process. I’m going to start with two sections as the framing is already there from when the house was built. The first is a nice four foot wide by ten foot long cave underneath the stairs. There’s a lot that can be done here as both sides of the area are framed as well. I’m planning on just doing the 45 degree cave part first and see how it goes. I know its a bit narrow, but it will be better that the basic hangboard I have hanging there now.

The second part is simply going to be a sixteen foot long by nine foot high vertical traverse section. This is not optimal for training, but the framing is already there. My theory is that this will get me started and I can always remove the panels as needed as my project grows. Hopefully, this part of the wall will just stay when I add more to the entire home gym.

If I manage to get all this accomplished successfully, I’m thinking of building an adjustable standalone wall to avoid having to make permanent changes to the basement. Something along the lines of this.

I plan on blogging this project with lots of pictures. I spent a lot of time looking for ideas and examples of home climbing gyms on the web and was disappointed with what I could find. So, hopefully my efforts will help other climbers out there contemplating building a home gym.

Some of the best resources I did find for building a home climbing gym are listed below:

Uncarved Block
Pawn Climbing

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  1. Sounds great Tom! I’ve built two dozen walls of various sizes, maybe 3 or 4 basements. (And of course climbed in many more!) So here’s My $.02, take it as you wish! My bias especially for indoor climbing training is steep with lots of jugs geared toward power-endurance.

    1. First, forget the 4′ under stair area. Keep your hangboard there. Money will be better spent on the other section. 4′ is just too narrow to stay interesting. You’ll see why I suggest saving money below…:)

    2. Basement size vertical walls won’t get used much. 20 to 60 degree overhanging flat walls aren’t hard to build and get used most. Even beginners can climb 20 degrees if the holds are big and close enough.

    2. 9 feet is a great hieght! With 16′ of width you’ll be able to do lots of laps that loop low and high.

    3. Adjusting walls is a pain. In my experience, better to just build your 16′ width with 8′ sections, each a different angle, maybe 25 and 45 degree. You can start with one section and build the other later.

    4. Most important: Don’t forget to budget for many many t-nuts! It might sound like a lot but I’d drill 16-20 holes per square foot in a semi random grid. The more holds you can put on the more variety you have in your routes. You can create 4x the variations if you have 20 holes compared to 5 holes psf. Multiply that by your 4 limbs and the wall size and you have more moves added to your wall than can possibly be counted.

    I learned that tip from none other than Tony Yaniro, who came over and corrected me when I was hacking together a wall for a friend of his. His arms were like drill presses as he bore through sheets of plywood 3 at a time. He was right–it was the best home wall I ever climbed on, despite only being 7 feet high!

    And a practical tip on t-nuts: Drill as straight and clean a hole as possible, and hammer it quite flat into that hole. Practice some holes on a scrap of plywood. Screw some holds into them to see how it seats itself and how crooked t-nuts are a problem.

    5. Yeah, so that means a massive hold budget too of course. (Realistically of course you can’t actually put a hold in every hole, there’s not enough space, but you still need tons of holds for interest and variety)

    Looking forward to the updates.

  2. Thanks for the tips! I will keep them in mind. I started construction yesterday and will try to blog the process as I go.

    I was actually able to find t-nuts pretty cheap on eBay- 500 for $44 shipped. But I can see this project will cost quite a bit as it progresses. I think the end result is only one aspect though. I’m already enjoying the process of building the walls, especially after working with computers all day!

  3. The one thing I have always struggled with is the commitment of building something that would be permanent. Any ideas for good portable walls?

  4. Good question Ryan and I’ve wondered the same. Anything portable (ie. not attached to the walls or an another framed structure) would have to be really well thought out. I’d love to see plans, picture, or diagrams for anyone who has done this.

  5. Tyler, I built a small, crappy one while living in Blacksburg, but then tore it down when I moved to Boulder. With four gyms here I have little need to build one of my own again.

  6. Hey im looking for something to build for my goat. I needed something in there for him to climb on but i cant seem to find anything that would work. do you have any suggestions?

  7. anyone can you please help. i live in a house with solid concreat walls and i have bought some bolt on holds can i use 3/4 inch lag bolts and just bolt the holds directly into the wall