HWOW 13 – Back to the Basics: Large Canvas with Room to Grow

CBJ Homewall of the Week

This week’s HWOW resides in Taylors, South Carolina. Josh D. took a simple, yet well thought-out approach to his backyard homewall – it’s 12×12 complete with a bunch of homemade wood holds. Check out past HWOW here.

CBJ Homewall of the Week

When did you build your wall? Was it a COVID baby?

April 2020. I have had two home builds previously that I didn’t use as much as I thought I would. this was when gyms were still around. Our local gym closed down so I built a garage wall. Then I had twin girls and added a room there so had to take it down. What is crazy is I sold the wall and gave all the holds away to friends who were starting their build, thinking that I would never have time to build another wall with my kids. So, it happened to fall during the quarantine, but I wouldn’t necessarily say it was because of it. I have twin girls that are 2, my son is 1 and my wife is pregnant with our 4th girl due in October, so quarantine did not leave me very much idle time. But at least now, when I do have idle time, it is spent on the wall!

How long did it take you to build and what did that time look like?

Two days total. I run a few departments for a local builder, Rosewood Communities, so I have a massive problem with starting and stopping work. Once I get going on something, it’s pretty much full throttle until it is done. I actually took a long weekend and completed the whole thing probably working 6-8 hours a day while the kids played in the back yard.

Not including holds and padding, how much did it cost you to build? Any surprises there?

$750. Working in the building industry I was pretty aware of the outrageous price of lumber these days. I didn’t necessarily “budget” for it but I sacrificed a few other expenditures to make sure I did it the way I wanted and the size I wanted. I did, however, forget how expensive and addicting hold purchasing is. I love so many shapes by so many awesome shapers and production companies that I have a real problem with wanting to buy constantly. Most expensive part would have been the overall structure and material, but working for a builder, I was able to pull most of the materials off of job sites so that was super helpful. I highly recommend going to a local builders site and asking if you can load up scrap material near you. They are throwing most of it away anyway.

What was your primary incentive for the wall? Did anything in particular inspire your wall design?

I really just wanted a lot of climbing space and to be able to enclose the sides later when my 3 kids are a little older to enjoy!

I looked at the home climbing wall forum page on Facebook for a while before deciding exactly what I wanted to build. I could have chosen any of them, they are all so solid. I also know that my best training and most enjoyable climbing comes at a steeper angle. I love that style and think that the bigger the canvas, the more intricate and creative the problems can become. So really I just took a little from all the builds and decided the most practical thing for me was the overhang with plans to add a roof section and a flat/slightly overhung section for the kids when they are a little older.

CBJ Homewall of the Week

What did your initial plan look like? Did you have one?

I honestly didn’t have much plan other than going over things in my head. I typically think things out and build them in my head all the time before i purchase material or begin the process. I did make a list of everything i needed and before i went to the store. Once i had anything, its just a matter of laying it all out and making double checking to make sure you don’t skip any steps. In hindsight, writing that kind of stuff down is probably a lot smarter than not.

What was the most difficult aspect of the design and build?

Digging 4 ft holes and filling with concrete and doing it all solo. My wife helped me hang the middle 4×8 piece though which was cool. The overall structure was designed based on the posts being concreted into the ground. I mainly did this so that in the future, adding onto, and using the existing posts that are buried in concrete, would be easier than adding 4 new posts. I definitely went overkill on the hole size and the amount of concrete that was poured in each, but i guess better safe than sorry in that regard. That way, i knew that I never had anything to worry about as far as movement or anything goes with those structural posts.

What would you do differently?

I would have used 2×6 vertices to try to eliminate a little flex in the middle. I’ll probably add another roof and 45 degree on each side to get more overhang.

What is your favorite aspect?

The extra 4 feet wide gives so much depth for longer routes without feeling claustrophobic.

What does your padding situation look like?

My padding situation is my biggest worry so far. A lot of my climbing revolves around “therapeutic movement” for my lower back issues. I still climb hard but i do use climbing as a therapy for strengthening weakened muscles and ongoing paint in the spine. So, in a perfect world I want to get one of the large 12” thick high jump mats or something comparable. The padding helps me find comfort ability trying really hard bouldering moves that I normally wouldn’t put 100 percent effort into outside of a gym or without exceptional spotting. However, being as cost efficient as a dad of 4 can be, I use a couple of crash pads right now that I borrow from a friend during the warmer months and just move them around. During the winters he will take them for outdoor climbing most weekends.

CBJ Homewall of the Week

What are your final dimensions?

The final dimensions are around 12 feet wide by 12 feet of climbing space from the top of the kicker to the top of the plywood of the wall. The kicker is 2 feet tall, which I don’t think is necessary, but I do feel it adds a dynamic for better circuit training and overall sit start options.

Any words of wisdom to aspiring homewallers?

Measure twice and ask a friend for help!

Do you have any connection to climbing brands or gyms?

I used to do a lot of volunteer work for our local gym until they closed their doors for good.

What kind of volunteer work did you do? Do you have any prior experience building walls?

I did a lot of random stuff for the local gym. It was called The Mountain Goat and was really structured around funding the non-profit “GOAT” (Great Outdoor Adventure Trips). They basically funded outdoor programs for local inner-city kids that wouldn’t normally be able to go do these types of things. They took them climbing, bouldering, white water rafting, mountain biking, camping and all types of cool places. So, I would set routes occasionally, wash holds, help with some of the high school climbing teams if they needed me, cut the gyms grass and landscaping and stuff like that. The building they were in did not have an adequate HVAC system so one of the worst things I would do is come in every other day or so and spend an hour emptying the HVAC overflow tray of water to make the air work. What was so bad was it was suspended above and behind the 45-degree wall, so I had to siphon it by sucking a hose and carrying out 5-gallon buckets at a time behind the wall in the dead of summer. Needless to say, it would get quite warm in there. But it added to the character and definitely helped us work on grip strength. When they shut down to open a coffee shop as the gym was just too much upkeep for their mission, that is when I built my first home wall. I did build custom cabinets for a local builder for a few years, so I had the know-how and the woodworking ability from a construction background, but previous to my home wall, I had never built a wall before.

CBJ Homewall of the Week

Can you give me a brief description of your homemade holds? How’d you make them?

I had some old cedar 4x4s and just did minimal shaping work to turn them into big sloped pinch rails. They are pretty cool, but nothing compared to the wooded holds some of these guys are making out here.  My favorite holds so far are honestly straight out of dumpsters at my job sites. I pull out old cut offs from oak stair railings and they are incredibly comfortable pinches. All I had to do was sand them, drill bolt holes, put washers in and pre-drill some set screws into them. They have some diversity too which is super cool. They are great as straight up pinches, but you can also cut the backs off and make some really cool sloped crimps. The crimps can range from full pad to pretty much non-existent.

How do you protect your wall from rain/weather?

I have a tarp system on the back that works wonders. What is crazy, is I built my wall in this location for sole purpose of having a little shade. I didn’t take into consideration the tree canopy above would block the rain too. So, where mine sits, not a drop of water gets under the wall or on the front of the wall at all. Even the tarp in the back stays relatively dry. So, I can climb in absolute downpour, rain blowing sideways conditions, which is super ideal!

Want us to consider your woodie for a future Homewall of the Week? Submit your homewall here to be considered. If yours is chosen you’ll win a prize pack like this (varied prizes each week):

CBJ Homewall of the Week