Building Your Climbing Wall

Looking for info on how to attach a climbing hold to a plywood wall? Find out here!

Step 3: Building Your Wall


Building the Frame

Construct the frame that will be holding the plywood. For framing standards please consult an engineer.

In this picture is a very simple 2.4m x 2.4m vertical climbing wall showing the framing. Generally the spacing between the studs should be 60 cm (to the centre of the stud)

The angle of the wall can be anything you like from vertical to steeper angles like 60 degrees past vertical and completely horizontal.

Steeper walls will require more framing that should be designed specifically to support the wall.Again consult an engineer.

Preparing the Plywood

If you will be texturing or painting your wall, you can do this first and paint every sheet of plywood you think you will need. If you use 17mm plywood it is also possible to paint the wall as the last step. If you use a roller to paint the wall, it is unlikely you will get paint in the t-nut threads if you are careful. The t-nut is only 11mm in depth, which will leave you a buffer of about 5-6mm to the surface of the plywood.

The plywood in the picture to the left has been painted with a white primer coat, then a coat of textured paint. Don't pay extra for textured paint, make your own. Simply add some dry, fine beach sand to a latex paint in whatever colour you choose. A good ratio is for every 4L can of paint add 1-2kg of sand. Apply as normal with a roller.

Cheap Paint? If you are not too set on a particular colour for your wall, head to a hardware store and go to the paint section. Most will have a an assortment of pre-tinted paint that customers have returned or changed their mind about. You can get a 4L tin of paint for 50-70% off!

Plywood Choice? We recommend to use a minimum thickness of 17 mm plywood for your wall. Structural plywood is best and comes in sheets of 2400 x 1200 mm.

TIP: design your wall to utilise full size sheets of plywood and save yourself lots of measuring and cutting!

Drilling Holes in the Plywood for T-nuts

Now that the frame is ready you need to drill holes in the plywood and insert the t-nuts which will allow you to attach the holds to your wall. In the picture below, 4 sheets of plywood have been stacked together and raised off the floor with 4 x 2 according to the spacing of the framing for the wall they are going on. Drilling 4 sheets at a time saves time and you lots of drilling.

TIP: Use a drill bit that is closest to the diameter of the t-nuts, without being exactly the same size to make hammering them in harder. Having a better fit will help to ensure the tnuts go in straight. For all the t-nuts we carry, the best size drill bit is 12mm or 7/16"

TIP: if your wall has uniform framing, mark the studs on one sheet of plywood, then place this sheet on top of your other sheets of plywood and drill as many sheets as your drill bit will accomodate at once and save yourself a lot of drilling.

TIP: when drilling the holes for the t-nuts through multiple sheets,it is very important to keep the drill bit perpendicular to the plywood.

TIP: placement of the holes for the t-nuts can be random or in a grid, (just not where your studs will be) a good ratio is 70-100 tnuts per full sheet of plywood.

Adding T-nuts to the Plywood

The holes are drilled, now it is time to hammer in the t-nuts.

TIP: if you can, lay the plywood flat on the floor, concrete is the best, get some ear plugs, and hammer away.

TIP: Try hard to hammer the t-nuts in straight, as this will reduce cross threading later when you attach holds.

TIP: this is a job for your mates!

TIP: Hammer the t-nuts in until they are flush with the plywood.

TIP: Make sure you get the t-nuts flush with the plywood, the t-nut on the left has not been hammered in fully.

Yes, attaching a hold and tightening it will pull the t-nut flush to the plywood, but it places a lot of stress on the t-nut wher the threaded sleeve joins the base and weakens it enough for it to fail, especially zinc plated t-nuts.

TIP: Over-tightening holds pulls on the t-nut threaded sleeve, and weakens it where it joins the base of the t-nut.

Attaching the Plywood to the Frame

Using at least 10 gauge wood-screws that are twice the thickness of your plywood or more, attach your plywood to your frame from the bottom up. Screw density should be approximately every 20 cm or more along the outside edge of the plywood and along any internal studs.

Add Climbing Holds to your Wall

Second to last step is to attach your climbing holds to the wall. The majority of climbing holds will be attached to your wall using bolts with a 3/8" thread, that come in a variety of lenghts and made of a variety of metals. You will need an Allen key to tighten the holds or a special tool designed specifically for this purpose.

Some holds are attached with only screws and are called, obviously, screw-on holds and all you will need is some screws and the appropriate screwdriver.

There is no proper orienation for a climbing hold. However different orientation will make most holds either more positve and easier to hold onto, or harder. Thus you can change a wall simply by changing the orientation of the hold. Since you went to the trouble of hammering in about 80 t-nuts per sheet of plywood, you can also change your wall by moving the holds around.

TIP: Do not over-tighten holds. It will weaken the t-nut, and it could potentially fail.

What's Next?

Get some Padding for soft landings!