• Home
  • /
  • Ice Climbing
  • /
  • Tutorial: How I Built My Woody – DIY Outdoor Rock Climbing Wall

Tutorial: How I Built My Woody – DIY Outdoor Rock Climbing Wall

With ice climbing season fast approaching here in the North East I’ve been focusing on training to get my strength where it needs to be. I haven’t climbed as much rock as I hoped this summer mainly due to focusing on trail running goals and a busy family / work schedule. It’s been hard to find time to get to the rock gym as well. The gym also doesn’t allow me to use my ice tools on their holds (for good reason!). I’ve been telling my wife for months that I wanted to build a climbing wall to train on in the back yard. It would also double as a fun outdoor activity for my two boys and I to bond over!


The initial plan was to build something simple and inexpensive (Under $400) that both my kids, and I could enjoy. I wanted something that would offer a higher level of difficulty for me, but also be easy enough for my boys (4 and 1) to play on safely. I also wanted it to be somewhat attractive looking so it wouldn’t be a huge eyesore in the back yard.


3D Design of the Climbing Wall created in SolidWorks

The core intention for my design was to reduce the amount of wood I’d have to cut in order to speed up the assembly process. Utilizing full length pieces rather than lots of cut pieces. I’d be building this thing completely alone so minimizing “two man lifts” was important. I am fortunate enough to work in the Mechanical Design Engineering industry and have access to tools that greatly helped me come up with a concept. I decided that I’d create a wall that was around 12 feet tall, and 8 feet wide. The main reason for this was because standard plywood comes in 4’x8′ sheets and I planned to split these lengthwise in order to make them a more manageable weight. I was going to build it a bit taller than I needed because I wanted the extra reach for ice tools. The wall would have a 20 degree overhang to add difficulty, while still being modest enough for my kids to climb on.

Tools You’ll Need

Bill of Materials

Layout – Bubble Numbers are referencing Bill of Material Items

Step 1 – Dig the Footings and Pour Cement

Plan view of the footings spacing.

An arduous task! Since I wanted my wall to be approximately 12′ tall, I purchased 16′ 4×4 posts to support the top of the structure. I’d bury these 16 foot posts 4 feet in the ground. The rear 8′ posts would also be buried 4′ in the ground in the same way.

Posts loosely set in their pits.

After digging the holes and locating the posts in the pits I nailed the posts together using scrap 2×4 wood. This created a temporary frame so that I could plumb and level each post individually. Once all of the posts were standing straight and pretty, I filled each pit with cement. I used “Quikrete Fast Setting Concrete” that came in 50 pound bags. The nice thing about this “Fast Set” concrete is that you can dump it in the hole dry, then add water. Much cleaner than the messy process of pre-mixing! I assumed 4 bags per post would be sufficient by using Quikcrete’s online calculator.  This may seem like overkill but I wanted to add some structural integrity to the wall. We can get some severe winds, and huge snowfalls during a storm and I wanted to be sure this sucker wouldn’t blow over or get crushed!

Posts squared up and set in concrete with temporary bracing

By the time I had finished pouring the concrete it was getting dark out. I decided to let the concrete dry overnight and pick up where I left off the next day.

Step 2 – Plywood Paint

Plywood panels ready to go!

The next morning I got an early start and switched gears to start working on the plywood panels since it would need paint and time to dry. I checked the weather since I’d be doing all of this painting outside, I didn’t want to get rained on! I was painting the plywood for two reasons. To preserve the wood from rot, and to make it more eye pleasing. I used Rustoleum “Painters Touch” paint. I’ve had good luck with this product in the past on things like cornhole sets and tables. It’s cheap, comes in small cans and durable.

I laid out all 6 pre-cut panels of plywood on my lawn side-by-side. I went over each panel with sand paper and a putty knife to remove any sharp splinters that might cut a climbers hand. My 4 year old son Cash helped with this process and painted the edges of each panel with a small paintbrush while I rolled the larger surfaces. In order to speed things up I decided we’d only do one coat of paint.

We let the paint dry for about 2 hours before moving on to the next step.

Step 3 – Plywood T-Nut Placement

I decided to use “Bolt On” holds which rely on a single heavy duty 3/8″ bolt to secure them to the wall. This is nice because I can remove/add and relocate holds on the fly to create various routes and tweak stuff easily. The bolt on holds require a “T-Nut” which is a small barbed nut that bites into the back side of the wood. These T-Nut’s are installed on the ground before hanging up the plywood panels.

I decided to go with an 8″ spaced grid working from centerline out. This is a standard I stole from the “Moon Board” design and it seemed to make sense. By doing 8″ even spacing grid I’d end up with 33 T-Nuts on each sheet of plywood for a total of 198 possible hold locations (33 x 6 = 198).

I laid out all of the plywood panels and began to measure and mark each hole location with a pencil. After I completed marking 1 panel I began drilling. I use a 7/16″ drill bit in order to bore the holes large enough for the T-Nut to fit tightly into. After drilling one panel, I simply laid it on top of the next panel to use it as a template for the next panel.

Drilling 7/16″ holes for T-Nuts

Once all the holes were drilled and cleaned I began the T-Nut installation. There’s two ways to install a T-Nut: You can tap them in with a hammer gently, or you can use a 3/8″ bolt from the opposite side to pull them in (recommended). I opted to tap mine in with a hammer because it was much quicker.

T-Nuts Installed

Once all of the T-Nuts were installed I set completed the panels aside to move on to the next step.

Step 3 – Framing

Profile Dimensions of the overhang and height.

Spacing of the Vertical Members

With the panels complete I removed the temporary wood from setting up the concrete in Step 1. Then I started adding the horizontal members to the rear shorter posts. One 2×4 at the bottom to tie them together and create a surface to mount the “kick panel” to. and a 4×4 above that. I loosely attached the 4×4 between the posts and tweaked the angle, this would determine the overhanging angle of the upper wall. I set a temporary vertical 2×4 to simulate the wall angle and adjusted until I was happy with it.

Setting the angle of the wall with a temporary tie at the top.

After setting the lower members I got on a ladder and attached a temporary piece of lumber across the front of the two taller post. This way I’d be able to lay in my (5) vertical wall supports. I set each vertical support about 23-1/2″ apart

Vertical members installed, almost ready for plywood!

After all of the structural members were screwed in place with decking screws. I used the 4 lag bolts, and two 3/8-16 bolts to secure the 4×4 vertical posts to the walls outer frame. I pre-drilled all of the holes with pilots in order not to split the wood. This heavy duty hardware serves as protection from high winds, heavy snow-loads, and heavier climbers.

Step 4 – Plywood Panel Installation

Home stretch! Time to hang up the plywood panels. Sounds easy right? Well, it’s easy to forget that each of these panels weighs about 40 pounds and really awkward to hold by yourself… Particularly on a ladder! I started with the kick panel first working my way from bottom to top. I used about 15 screws per sheet of plywood to secure it to the wall members behind it. Making sure that all T-Nut holes were unobstructed by the supporting structure.

Lower kick panel in place

I worked my way up, panel after panel. After about the 3rd panel I decided to attach the plywood sheets to a rope draped over the top of the structure to assist in getting them in the right spot. This helped a lot! Particularly for the very top panel. That top panel was tricky!

Installing the last panel using a rope for assistance.  This was no easy task for one person.

Step 5 – Installing Holds, Setting Routes!

Now the fun part, Route setting! My son was so excited to get the first holds on the wall. I hung some lower juggy holds for him to play on while we worked on setting the higher routes.

Cash testing out the new holds

I was on a budget and decided to go with cheap holds. I wanted to save a few bucks, and I didn’t want to destroy nice expensive holds with my ice tools. I purchased a set of 50 from Rocky Mountain Climbing Gear. Rock Mountain was great to work with! I spoke with them via email and explained what I was looking for. They put together a “starter kit” that featured some big jugs, foot jibs, pinches, and mini-jugs that were all bolt on! I’m really happy with these holds, they’re a great value. I may buy some other holds in the future for a little diversity but for now these are great.

Assorted holds from Rocky Mountain Climbing Gear

Extra Credit

I added a couple of other things that may not be totally necessary depending on where you live.

Tarp Roof: I wanted to protect the back side of the wall from rain and snow. I was afraid that snow may build up and cause the wood joints to separate when it freezes. To do this, I bought a “heavy duty” 8×10 tarp from the local hardware store. I simply tacked this to the wood using hammer-in staples.

Tarp Roof – Better than nothing!

Solar Lights: I also liked the idea of climbing at night on occasion. We had no electrical drops near the wall so I purchased some cheap Solar Spot Lights from Amazon. These are awesome! And they were around $20.

Solar Powered lights for Night Climbing!

Now Get Climbing!

All in all the wall cost me under $400 and took two days to construct. It was totally worth it!

Cash working hard on his project!

So far we love having this wall! It’s great to be able to get a quick workout in before and after work. It’s also great for friends and family gatherings to have something fun to do with the kids. Having a crash pad and teaching the kids how to properly use it has been a good learning experience for them. In the future I plan to rig up an anchor at the top of the wall so I can teach the boys about belaying and using harnesses.

Working with the Ice Tools.

Show us Your Home Built Wall!

Have you built a wall of your own? I’d love to see it! Post a link in the comments or shoot me an email from the contact page!


  • Felix Obrascovs

    December 23, 2020 at 9:31 pm

    Hi Dave, really insightful post.

    I saw you mentioned that the wall survived through New England winters and was curious if it was still usable during those times? Did you have any kind of protection from the snow? I was planning on building something since lockdown is shutting down gyms again but I’m in Canada, near Toronto, and we get a fair amount of snow.


  • Andrew

    October 23, 2020 at 2:22 pm

    Looks great! I am going to start building mine this weekend. Just to clarify, you only used 4×4’s for the 4 posts, and the 2 kicker boards/bottom of the frame?

  • Brett K

    October 9, 2020 at 6:52 pm

    Hi Dave. Really cool wall and guide – am using it for inspiration for one I’m starting work on. What was the reason you anchored the 4x4s vertically? I was thinking of setting the two back 4x4s at the angle of the climbing wall and then the two front 4x4s symmetrically at the same angle, like a swing set. If I add some braces to extend the footprint or maybe just bury each 4×4 a few feet, I’m thinking I can skip the 4′ excavation and concrete footer.

  • Kevin

    September 2, 2020 at 1:38 am

    Thanks for posting this. After a lot of thought, I’m finally going to do this for the kids (any perhaps me 🙂 ).

    On the materials list there are 200 t-nuts and 100 cap screws. Do you need to have cap screws for each t-nut regardless if a hold is present or not?

  • Painters West Auckland

    August 28, 2020 at 3:21 am

    In this article you will get to know about the how to build woody diy outdoor rock climbing wall. This article is attracting mostly everyone in the world. I am sure many people will come to read this in future. Great blog indeed, will visit again future to read more!! Come across hdpaintingservices.co.nz/ and hope you can visit this too to get more information.

  • robin SANDERS

    August 19, 2020 at 3:18 pm

    I am beginning my 20 degree build 12ft wide 12 ft high. 4 post holes along the back each 4 ft deep with concrete in really sandy soil (I am actually able to vacuum the holes out to get deeper). Each post will be 6×6. My kids REALLy\Y dont want the front support arms so considering making the arms like yours but 8ft up up the wall. Do you think tht would provide more support and less nuisance while climbing? My othe option would be legs going off diagonal off the top and kicking out 10ft. Would love an opinion Thanks

  • Ken P

    July 23, 2020 at 2:54 pm

    Dave, this is great, thank you. When you hoisted that top panel with rope, can you describe how you attached the panel to the rope? It looks like you probably screwed in eyelet screws of some sort into a couple of the t-nuts, and then attached the rope to the eyelets. Do I have that right? Did you do anything specific to ensure those eyelet screws didn’t come out? Any specifics you can give would be greatly appreciated!

  • Dave Hannah

    July 2, 2020 at 12:28 pm

    Thanks so much for this tutorial! For a guy with a high dad-quotient but low carpentry skills your instructions were a lifeline. The best part was building with my 12 year-old daughter who discovered climbing last year and immediately was bit by the bug. Great memories there and a great addition to our back yard full of fun stuff!

  • Laurel

    May 11, 2020 at 4:46 pm

    Hi Dave,

    Thanks for posting this! I’m a new-ish climber with next to no handy experience, but I would really like to build something like this in my backyard. I have a couple questions for you, if you have a few moments to answer them.
    1. I would like to put the posts in the ground, as you did, but without concrete. Do you this is feasible/safe enough?
    2. As a pretty new climber, I would rather give my wall only a slight angle, maybe around 10 degrees. Do you have any tips on how to modify the design to do this? And would I still need the kickboard at the bottom?

    Thank you so much! This is by far the best how-to I’ve found out there at this point.

  • Justin Menestrina

    May 8, 2020 at 2:21 am

    Great post!!

    I’ve also been planning on building a wall in my yard. I intent to build a moonboard, but the general outline of this build would work, just with modified measurements to fit moonboard dimensions.

    One question I do have is thoughts on building this freestanding on a patio. Ideally, I’d prefer to not dig into the yard and instead build a stable base on a level patio. Do you have thoughts on that or has anyone else done it that way?
    I’m trying to weigh the pros/cons of that approach.


  • Karen Peabody

    May 3, 2020 at 7:41 pm

    In your bill of materials diagram you show the main portion is supported by a checker board grid however in your actual project it only shows you using vertical 2x4s to build the support system. Did you go back and add the smaller 2×4 to support the wall horizontally?

  • Flavio Maqellari

    May 3, 2020 at 1:13 pm

    Hey, is there anyway I could make a wall similar to this design but freestanding instead of being buried in the ground?

    • Dave Dillon

      May 3, 2020 at 1:26 pm

      Probably if you attached the front supports to the rear angled supports to create a sort of “foot”. I’d probably still tie it down or anchor it in some way so it doesn’t flip when someone is climbing on it! Good luck!

  • Justinth

    April 30, 2020 at 8:37 pm

    Thanks for sharing! With COVID, thinking of pulling the trigger and doing something similar. My question, do you think using 3 14′ 5″x5″ support beams burried 4 feet deep would allow to bypass the top beams you are using? I would like to build something around 25 degrees without the front supporting beams.

    • Dave Dillon

      April 20, 2020 at 11:50 pm

      Hey Matt. I used a typical outdoor paint designed for decking. Nothing fancy. It has held up well in the weather. I think the overhanging nature of it protects it a bit as well. Hope this helps!

  • Nikki Ummel

    April 18, 2020 at 2:43 am

    I’ve been meaning to build a backyard wall for months now, but COVID has given me a lot of time to do it, so I figured, why the heck not! I don’t have kids, though, and am looking for wall that can sustain me between sport climbing trips. I feel like the best way to do that would be an overhang– would that be compatible with your model? How would you recommend doing that? Thanks for your help 🙂


  • Travis Hesson

    April 16, 2020 at 6:45 pm

    This plan looks awesome and simple. I’m having an issue finding the cap screws though. The link you provide states interior use only.

    • Dave Dillon

      April 16, 2020 at 3:18 pm

      Hey Matt, thanks for stopping by! Absolutely zero wobble in the wall. It’s rock solid! It’s survived through two new england winters and a few high wind storms. Pretty happy with it so far! Your wall looks great! quite similar.

      • Matt Makris

        April 16, 2020 at 6:54 pm

        Awesome. I adjusted my design to be more like yours. I realized I over-engineered mine a bit. One more question – do you find the main vertical support posts get in the way if you’re doing a dynamic move or need to lean close to the edge of the wall area?

    • Zachery Williams

      April 15, 2020 at 6:19 pm

      so i am currently building this wall at your specifications. I have a few questions that is not clear. Where are the lag screws and nut and bolts supposed to be screwed in do you have a diagram for this? Also did you use an angle finder to get a 20 degree angle or was it eyed out

      • Dave Dillon

        April 16, 2020 at 3:20 pm

        Hey Zach! Thanks for stopping by. My wall is “around 20 degrees” based on the CAD model I designed. I did not use an angle finder, just kinda swagged it. I actually ended up using 1/2″ thru-bolts instead of lag bolts to connect the verticals to the angled bits. Hope that helps!

  • Noah Lorbach

    April 10, 2020 at 5:59 pm

    Great wall Dave. Just wondering how you attached the wall at the top of the 12 foot posts. I see in a few pictures you have just a 2×4 connecting it but in the final pictures, you have a 4x4x8 across.

    • Dave Dillon

      April 10, 2020 at 6:06 pm

      Hey Noah! The 2×4 in the picture was a temporary support I needed to hoist the plywood panels up with a rope. It was a precarious job by myself! I replaced it with a spare 4×4 after. I had a thought that I might want to sling an anchor over it and let my kids climb with a harness so I went 4×4 for added strength. We’ve never actually done that though. The top member is actually not super important as it’s not directly tied to the wall at all. The wall itself was bolted to the vertical 4x4x16’s with 1/2″ stainless steel bolts. I doubled up the 2×4’s of the frame in this mounting area just to add a bit more strength. Hope this helps! Thanks for checking out the blog.

  • Warren Carswell

    April 8, 2020 at 10:22 am

    Lol. Actually was looking at this prior to COVID-19. I was wanting to build a free standing wall. I didn’t want to dig holes:) . I’m not an engineer nor construction guy. Anyway, long story short, I’m coming back to this one. Did you put small braces in between the vertical 2x4s? I see on your drawing it indicates such and the “#5” item description isn’t in the bill of goods. Thanks for posting all the details. Makes it easy for a newbie to build.

    • Dave Dillon

      April 8, 2020 at 11:51 am

      Hey Warren. Good eye, I actually skipped installing these little blocks. It turned out to be overkill in the grand scheme of things. The wall has held up great over the past couple of years so it seems like it wasn’t necessary. I’m considering making a YouTube video about the wall because I seem to get so many questions about it!

      • Warren Carswell

        May 3, 2020 at 9:57 am

        Finished the project and thanks for your help. Setting those corner posts! Gezzzzzz! We actually built the wall frame on the ground and installed all panels. Then secured the bottom to the horizontal 4×4. My son has a winch and hilift jack. Bammmmm, just winched that baby up there and secured it. Set 3 routes on it yesterday. My wife is glad it’s finally done. Been talking about it for over a year but it took a quarantine to make it happen:)

  • Tara Hills

    April 8, 2020 at 6:56 am

    Awesome instructions thanks:) I went with a 1.5m width, about 30 degrees, and 3m high (as high as we can build without consent in Nz). A heads up to people that this took me about 10 days part time to build… no one else will probably be any slower than that, but 2 days is good going 🙂 I see you can diy climbing holds out of plastic too, which I’ll have to try now as we are in lockdown and could do with a few extra holds.

  • Kevin

    April 5, 2020 at 3:12 pm

    Great wall, Dave!

    Can you go into a bit more detail as to your attachment methods. More specifically, how were the horizontal 4x4s attached to the vertical 4x4s. Also, how were the angled 2x4s attached to the horizontal 4×4?

    The wall still holding up well?

    • Dave Dillon

      April 5, 2020 at 3:17 pm

      Hey Kevin! I used 1/2″ stainless steel bolts at the connection points and doubled up the 2×4’s that meet with the 4×4’s in those corners. The wall is still standing strong! Its been through rough weather, winters, high winds, and it still looks great. Thanks for visiting!

      • Sam

        May 24, 2020 at 4:22 am

        Quick questions: what exactly do you mean when you say you doubled up the 2×4? Did you attach a second 2×4 , full 10 ft or just a short portion? Also, was the height ok for your kids to use? (12ft ish? No bad falls?) Thanks!! How funny that the world is finding your article a few years late; seems like everyone want to build a climbing wall…

  • Brian Sparks

    March 23, 2020 at 4:11 am

    Hey Dave, great post! Now that we’re in COVID quarantine, I can’t be the only one looking at making a home wall.

    I see you put a tarp on the backside; do you find the wall angle keeps rainwater off the climbing surface? Or do you need to cover the front ever?

    Thanks for any feedback.


  • Alex McCarron

    August 3, 2019 at 6:08 am

    Just been checking this fantastic build out, great read and really useful information. Hope the walls still going strong.

    • Dave Dillon

      December 28, 2018 at 7:39 pm

      Hey Ken! It’s been a while but as I recall I purchased the lumber from a local lumber yard rather than from a Home Depot. This saved a considerable amount of money and they even delivered it for free. I cheaped out on a lot of the hardware including the Zinc T-Nuts rather than stainless. However, I’ve since had to replace my bolts with stainless bolts because they were getting reaaaallly rusted out. The wall is still going strong even through some rough storms and winters! Thanks for reading the blog!

      • Jason

        May 14, 2019 at 1:12 am

        Hey Dave, are you still using zinc t nuts with your new stainless bolts? Just a heads up if you don’t already know, something called galvanic corrosion can occur and destroy both of them – may be a bit awkward if you don’t see it coming with axes.


        • Dave Dillon

          May 14, 2019 at 2:16 pm

          Hey Jason, I knew about the galvanic reaction between the two when I installed. I originally used black oxide screws but they quickly rusted out. So I decided to replace them with stainless and deal with the consequences down the road! Fortunately so far they’re holding up fine with little to no corrosion noticeable. I’ll eventually replace the T-Nuts with stainless when they rot out. At the time it was the budget option. Thanks for reading!

  • Patrick Beitz

    November 7, 2018 at 4:08 pm

    This is super awesome! I’ve been looking for a DIY climbing wall like this for awhile. Thank you very much for sharing and providing your plans!


Leave a Reply to Warren Carswell Cancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.