outdoor rock climbing wall

How to Build an Outdoor Freestanding Rock Climbing Wall in Your Garden?

Rock climbing walls are great for both fun and exercise. Making your own outdoor climbing wall can be an interesting and rewarding thing to do. If you have children, they can exercise frequently by climbing the wall. In this blog we look at how you can make your own freestanding rock climbing wall in your backyard.

Tools You will Need:

  • Posts: according to the size you want for your climbing wall, e.g. 6" by 6" and 4" by 4" posts.
  • Clay
  • Plywood sheets
  • Cement
  • A primer
  • Sand
  • Carriage bolts
  • Exterior paint
  • Bolts and T-nuts
  • Some 2" by 4"s, 2" by 8"s and 2" by 6"s (these are the dimensions used in this blog, yours may be different).
  • Stakes

Before you start, it is important to plan. You probably want to build this structure only once, so taking some time to think of the design you want properly is beneficial.

You definitely want a rock climbing wall that won't get boring too fast, has great conditioning, can double up as a playground for the small kids to climb and also have some entertainment value. Google SketchUp is a great tool to use for planning. Create a manual for yourself so that you have a clear process to follow.

How to Set up the Posts and Basic Supports

An important consideration is a good location on your garden. Pick an area that is separated from where you have your normal activities. After finding the right spot, dig holes. The depth depends on the posts you're using.

For 6" by 6" posts dig holes that have a depth of 4', and for the 4" by 4" posts have a depth of 3'. It may be quite challenging to get the 6" by 6" posts into the holes therefore, using a sawhorse as a fulcrum, drop an 8' 2" by 4" into the hole. Butt the end of the 6" by 6" posts against the 2" by 4" with the center over the sawhorse.

Afterwards raise the other end such that the front end slides down the 2" by 4" and directly into the hole.

Nail the 2" by 4" into stakes and use this to arrange the posts in a vertical position. Press some clay firmly into the dug hole to offer more support to the posts. You can also use concrete for the bigger posts to make them more solid. As you build your freestanding rock climbing wall, you can get your kids to help out, to make the process fun.

Once your posts are set up, it's time to start framing.

Procedure for Framing 

After setting up the 3 posts and the 2" by 8" cross braces for the major wall, the remaining framing work is really straightforward. You can start with one of the overhangs (left one). Use some metal hangers to join the 2" by 6" to the 2" by 8" supports that are laid horizontally.

You can saw them down to length and chop out a 30° angle to correspond with the 2" by 4" supports on the front part.It can be tasking to cut the notched end of the 2" by 4" so that it stays put on the 2" by 8" cross piece that's underneath.

Try to get the front part arranged in a way that all the 3 supports completely level with the plywood beam. You can tack some 2" by 4"s across the fronts of the three long-angled panels to make the job easier. After the 2" by 4"s are set, it will be easy to add extra bracing.

After you're through with screwing everything into place, go back and strengthen the major joints using carriage bolts. If the frame was wobbly before due to the flex of the elongated vertical posts, the bolts will make it more rigid. The panels are also important in adding rigidity to the structure.

Now, it's time to deal with the surface panels.

Procedure for Installing the Surface Panels

There a lot of different ways in which the surface panels can be treated. You can use some regular exterior paint and mix it with some sand until you acquire the texture you want. Lay out all the plywood panels you need and paint them with primer and the paint you've made, on both sides. The treatment is important for weatherproofing the panels.

Once you're done with painting, drill holes to host the T-nuts. You can use T-nuts made out of zinc, stainless steel or any other material. It is better to choose a material that is durable. Get a spade bit drill that is compatible with your T-nuts and bolts.

Place three painted plywood sheets on 2" by 4"s on the ground. Draw an 8" squares' grid using some chalk, and then drill holes at every corner using your spade bit drill. Don't drill directly on the grid intersections, rather offset every hole some distance from the point to make several pseudo-random shapes.

Cut the plywood sheets on the ground (the cuts are for the posts) and prop up some 2" by 4"s using a skill saw. Once you've cut the spaces for the posts, paint the cut edges prior to screwing the plywood sheets to the wall to weatherproof them. You can now pound in the T-nuts into the drilled holes that are not too near to the cut edges.

Once you're through with the surface panels, you can finish up.

Finishing up

Screw the T-nuts that you pounded onto the panels, to your wall. You may start with the bottom and work your way up. If some T-nuts line up with your braces, you can choose to either remove them, or plan beforehand by holding the plywood in place prior to pounding in the T-nuts.

You can also leave them there, or hang the plywood and utilize the drill to drill through the T-nuts, leaving room for the bolts.

Purchase some holds for the climbing wall from your local shop or online. Bolt them on your rock climbing wall and you can now climb on the wall. Having a lot of holds on your wall will make the activity more enjoyable. If you want to make your climbing wall more fun for your children you can create a playground at the back!

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