At around June or July we got some candy colored climbing holds and wondered if 2020 would be the year we finally built a climbing wall.
The gym was closed at the time and we felt our bones growing old. By October I was procuring some wood-to-concrete screws from the US. Come a large storm in November (Ulysses) I realized that maybe bolting a wall to a 400psi CHB (concrete hollow block) wall was not a great idea. The wall would therefore have to be a freestanding interior climbing wall. We built the wall in around 12 weekends spread out from November to April 2021 (we stopped for the holiday season). Climbing on it has been very pleasant.
Parts of a Climbing Wall
- Frame (& Posts)
- Holds the panel and is the foundation of the wall.
- Composed of studs (vertical) and blocking (horizontal)
- Runners may be employed to hold a climbing wall’s shape together.
- Frame, 2×4 or 2×6 kiln-dried lumber (we got Malaysian Red Meranti 2×4); alternatively gluelam or steel
- Use 3″ or 80mm deck screws, partially threaded, to connect pieces of the frame together.
- wood connectors / angle braces / angle brackets (optional)
- The surface on which the climbing holds are attached.
- Coarse (by painting with texture) or left as is. Painting without texture results in the paint chipping off with the holds when the holds are reset.
- Plywood, marine ply or ordinary. Get the good stuff — marine ply, of grade B if available.
- Tee nuts, four prong (good) or screw-on (best, recommended).
- 2.25″ or 60mm deck screws, partially threaded to connect the panel to the frame
- Climbing Holds & Volumes
- What you are climbing on.
- Can use either bolts or screws. I’d recommend using mostly bolt-on holds.
- Local sellers: Astro, Joods, Proxtone
Material Notes & Others
Plywood is rated A, B, or C. We got “C.” Marine plywood has 5 layers of wood pressed together; regular ply has 3. The Philippines’s planing equipment still uses imperial (US), so “isang buo” is really 4x8ft. For 3/4th inch plywood, use a local brand to avoid random stuffing (i.e. woodchips) inside the plywood from imported stuff. Do not use any plywood thinner than 3/4ths.
Lumber (kahoy) will usually be sold as “makinis” which is not an indication of the specie used but of the method of drying (kiln-dry). You’ll have to ask what the lumber is. Gluelam (glue-laminated) wood is a “wood product” that uses glue to make it both light and strong; it is rated to be as strong if not stronger than steel. We used 2×4 nominal lumber, which is acceptable but 2×6 is better because it offers more surface upon which a fastener may be installed.
Tee nuts are zinc plated/galvanized (sometimes called ordinary) OR stainless steel. Stainless steel is 3x the price of “ordinary”. You can also get gym-standard tee nuts which are installed by using 2 screws.
Bolts are usually black (high tensile) or stainless steel. High tensile bolts are not zinc plated. It’s not recommended to use them outside, though I’m sure people do anyway. Stainless steel is again about 3x the price of ordinary in a local hardware. Prefer partially-threaded bolts but full-threaded bolts are fine too.
I know nothing about local screws because I used German/US screws (Spax) and China screws (Ruitool – they are GRK Caliburn knock-offs). Where possible get partially-threaded screws. They are stronger than fully-threaded. Ruitool screws sheared off despite fully pre-drilling them.
Other bits and pieces: we used spade and brad-point bits as well as countersinking bits too so that the panels would be smooth and we used a guide jig to ensure a 90deg angle when drilling perpendicular to the wood. It is best to buy additional 3mm/4mm wood bits as they snap off easily. Most wood bits on lazada/shopee are actually metric; thankfully this doesn’t really affect imperial screws, since you’re using them for pre-drilling.
- Never mix a PLATED or ORDINARY nut or screw with a STAINLESS STEEL nut or screw. Please see the photo below to find out what material can interact safely.
- Avoid building anything structural with a black screw, also known as a gypsum or drywall screw.
- Predrill all holes, even though your screw’s packaging says you don’t have to. That may work out fine in less dense woods (like Douglas Fir, of which light colored gluelam is made) but dark red Meranti will resist as it is too dense and the screw takes up space inside the wood.
Is it hard to build a wall?
The pleasantness of your labor will depend on, frankly, your size, your tools, project scope, team members, workshop space, and your level of strength.
Speaking as a lady, the safety lock on the circular saw can feel very hard to press as well as the trigger and the slightest change in pressure means the saw runs slower, which can lead to binding and kickback. With larger hands pressing the safety lock and trigger would be easier.
Building a wall in a tiny house also means cutting up plywood into more manageable chunks, a step most builders don’t worry about. We had to reorganize two spaces in the house (a tiny garage and the final location of the wall) depending on what we were doing.
Industrial strength drills and circular saws make a huge difference in the effort to cut dense wood and long plywood. We used a consumer-line Makita and drill recoil did occur occasionally. Table saws also help with cutting (we didn’t have one.)
It’s best not to build a wall alone, so I’d say the absolute team size minimum is two, because at least someone can spot.
De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis can set in after long sessions.
That being said, even with basic shop tools and enough space, it is doable to build a wall.
Interior or exterior?
For safety reasons, building an exterior wood wall is not cheap unless you have access to:
- pressure-treated lumber,
- the right kind of sealer,
- and the right kind of fasteners (screws) — they will either be rated explicitly as exterior screws or will be stainless steel.
At this point you may wish to get a contractor or consult with an engineer.
Walls can either be attached to rafters or beams through the use of angle bars or joist hangers (this sets the angle in place) or a freestanding wall through the use of carriage bolts. The freestanding design has the additional value of being “adjustable” with the use of runners, which will hold the posts in place to a desired angle. We used carriage bolts but also locked the wall in place with an additional spax screw — we’d have to take out that screw to change the wall into another angle.
|Material and Attributes||Cost in PHP|
|Grade C Marine Plywood 3/4th” x3pcs||4080|
|2x4x8 Red Meranti Kiln-Dry Lumber x13pcs||6734|
|2x4x12 Red Meranti Kiln-Dry Lumber x 2pcs||1552|
|Spax #14 Exterior Decking Screws||around 600|
|Spax #10 Interior Structural Screws||around 700|
|5 & 1/2″ GI (galvanized iron) carriage bolt x 5pcs||500|
|4-prong GI (galvanized iron) Tee nuts x 270pcs||around 1350|
|3″-5″ Bolts x 50pcs||350-500|
|Bosny “Rubberized” Paint x 2||400|
|Various bits||around 700|
|Holds x 50 + 2 free pcs||5500|