The first component of our indoor playground is this incredible, indoor, DIY climbing wall for kids! When designing our kids’ shared bedroom, we knew we wanted a DIY climbing wall to give them something active to play on during our long winters. North Dakota winters are pretty isolating, and when you add COVID on top of that, we’ll need all the indoor entertainment we can get.
This DIY climbing wall is incredibly simple and can easily be completed in a day. Since we decided to spray paint our hand and food holds, and had to wait for those to cure, it took us 2 days.
The best part of a DIY climbing wall is that you can customize it to fit your space and your kids’ abilities. Our kids are 2 and 4, so we knew we needed the handholds pretty close together. Each row is separated by about 8 inches. We also didn’t want them to be able to climb too high without supervision, so our plywood is only 5.5 feet tall. It’s hung about 9 inches off the ground, so the total height is just under 6 feet. If our kids were older, we would’ve made it taller and spread out the handholds in a more random, difficult pattern.
This structure does have increased risk for injuries. You know your kids, their abilities, and your tolerance for risk. So, think carefully about whether or not this playground element is right for your family.
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How To Build A DIY Climbing Wall
- 4′ x 8′ x 3/4″ Plywood Sheet
- Rock climbing holds
- Tape measure
- Carpenter’s pencil
- 2″ x 4″ common board
- 3 1/2″ wood screws
- 2 1/2″ wood screws
- Pre-stain wood conditioner
- Stain (MINWAX Early American)
- Polycrylic wood sealer
- 120-grit sandpaper
- Circular saw (and this saw guide)
- Stud finder
Step 1: Spray paint your hand holds (optional)
The handholds come in fun, bright colors. If that isn’t your style, spray them with 2-3 light coats of spray paint. Top them with 3-4 coats of spray polycrylic. We used a satin finish.
Step 2: Mark your studs
Use a stud finder to mark the studs on your wall. You’ll want to hit at least 2, but preferably 3, studs. Our DIY climbing wall was 48 inches wide and hit 3 studs.
Step 3: Cut 2×4 supports
Cut (3) 2x4s to the width of your climbing wall. Since our wall was 48 inches wide, our 2x4s were also 48 inches long. If you know the location of your studs, you can also pre-drill your screws to make them easier to install.
Step 4: Install your 2×4 supports
Screw your 2x4s into the studs using 3 1/2 inch screws. Use a level to make sure each 2×4 is straight and use an extra board to make sure the boards are vertically aligned.
Step 5: Trace your hand holds
Layout the handholds on your sheet of 3/4″ plywood. Use a pencil to trace where each hole is located. Take a picture of your layout and then remove the handholds.
Step 6: Cut holes for bolts
Use a 1/2″ spade bit to cut out each of the holes you traced. Start your cut on the front side of the plywood, because the backside will get slightly torn up.
Step 7: Install t-nuts
Install the t-nuts that came with your handholds. Hammer them into the back side of your plywood.
Step 8: Sand, condition, and stain plywood
Sand the plywood with 120-grit sandpaper. Use a tack cloth to remove all the dust. Apply wood conditioner and let it sit for up to 2 hours. Apply stain to your plywood and let it dry for a couple of hours. We used “Early American” by Varathane. At this point, you could also apply polycrylic to the plywood, but we were in a time crunch and skipped that step for now.
Step 9: Install handholds
Screw the included bolts into the t-nuts. The kit includes an allen wrench, but it was taking a long time to manually screw in each bolt. So, we used a grinder to cut off the end of the wrench and turn it into a drill bit. With the drill, we were able to install all of the hand holds in just a couple of minutes.
Step 10: Hang the DIY climbing wall
Screw the plywood into the 2x4s using 2-inch screws. We used 3 screws on each 2×4. One on each side and one on the center. Our brass screws blended nicely with our stain, but you could also use stainable wood filler to cover the screw holes.
That is it! If you can use a drill, you can do this project! If you decided to tackle this one, tag us (@thebuildits) so we can cheer you on!
Head over to the One Room Challenge blog to check out the other participant’s projects!