The COVID pandemic was the final push for Jeremy and Nicole Jennings to start building their 8-foot by 16-foot, 45-degree masterpiece in Chattanooga, TN. They created the perfect wall under their carport to prepare them for the moist conditions that go hand in hand with southeast bouldering. Check out past HWOW here.
When did you build your wall? Was it a COVID baby?
We built our wall in May of this year. In March, we were supposed to go sport climbing in Spain with some friends but had to get off our flight at JFK because the travel ban was announced right before we were supposed to take off. We felt pretty defeated and shortly after getting home, the climbing gyms closed. I started dreaming of building a home wall in our carport and drew up a sketch. Once my wife, Nicole, told me she was on board, we started planning.
How long did it take you to build and what did that time look like?
Initially, I went out to our carport to see if we could actually build a wall in that space. Unfortunately, we uncovered some pretty serious water damage and wood rot on a load bearing beams and joists that needed immediate attention. We spent about three weeks repairing the carport. We started building our climbing wall as soon as the repairs were done.
I reached out to a few friends with home walls, as well as my dad, who is an engineer. We started making trips to Lowe’s for lumber and hardware. A few friends (shout out to Mitch, Erin, James, Jeremiah, Ty, and Kit) helped us with the labor and provided some tools we were lacking. Construction on the 45-degree wall took us a week from start to finish, including a few pesky breaks for our full-time, essential worker jobs.
About six weeks later, we built a vertical sidewall and a roof section. If COVID hadn’t been around, we probably would have had a big building party and gotten it done in a few days. But then again, had it not been for COVID and closed gyms, we probably wouldn’t have taken the plunge to build our own home wall.
Not including holds and padding, how much did it cost you to build? Any surprises there? Most/Least expensive part?
I think we spent around $2,000 on lumber and hardware. We had a pretty good idea on how much it was going to cost before building. The major surprise expense was the existing damage to the carport that needed fixing before we could start building. We refinanced our house when the Federal Reserve dropped interest rates and that provided us with the financial flexibility to build the home wall. Although it’s covered by our roof, the wall is outdoors so we used all pressure treated lumber and plywood that we stained and sealed.
What are you doing for padding?
We have our four crash pads and pads from a couple friends who are storing them at our house because they climb regularly on our wall. We also made two pads by filling outdoor, moisture-resistant futon mattress covers with some free foam we acquired.
What was your primary incentive for the wall? Did anything in particular inspire your wall design?
With COVID we were not sure how long it would be before gyms reopened. I’m a nurse and thought it would be better for me to stay away from the climbing gym since I have higher exposure. I’ve always been interested in building a home wall, but it never felt justified until now. My friend, Adam, has the ultimate home gym in his basement in Clemson, SC, so I asked for his advice when I was designing our wall.
What was the most difficult aspect of the design and build?
The hardest part about building was dealing with an existing structure. The carport has a concrete foundation, walls, and a roof, which is great, but the ceiling joists are incredibly crooked. It took a lot of thinking to figure out how to make the wall straight. Once we started building it went pretty smoothly, though it really helped to have a few different people here from time to time to see things with a different perspective.
What would you do differently?
We stained all the wood but painting a design on it would have been cool. I’ve come across a lot of walls with awesome paint jobs, but we were too impatient and didn’t want to wait for the paint to dry before attaching holds. I also should have started with stainless steel bolts. The humidity in the Southeast is enough on its own to rust bolts, so I’m slowly replacing them as needed.
Did you make any mistakes along the way or choose to re-do any aspects? If so, what?
I made the kicker before deciding what t-nut spacing I was going to use on the wall. My spacing on the kicker ended up not matching the spacing on the wall and it bothered me enough to take the kicker down and redo it. It was probably unnecessary, but it satisfied my inner perfectionist.
What is your favorite aspect?
I really like that we went with a single angle wall. We have a 16-foot-wide, 45-degree wall with about ten and a half feet of climbing. I went back and forth with the idea of doing two side-by-side eight-foot-wide walls at different angles. But the walls I was most drawn to in pictures were big, clean, single angle walls. It gives us lots of room to do long problems that traverse across the board. The roof over our carport is low so we knew the steeper the wall, the more climbing we’d get.
How often do you use the wall? Do you think you’ll still use it as much when all of the gyms open back up?
We use it two to three times per week right now. Our gyms opened back up in June, but we went all in on this wall and are committed to this being our gym from now on.
It’s really nice having an atmosphere where friends can come over and hang out and climb if they want. It reminds me of the early days in my climbing career at the Zion Climbing Center in Arkansas. We have a covered deck next to the climbing wall that gives people space to hang out, eat, and watch (spray beta).
It takes very little motivation to climb when all you have to do is walk out your front door. Our wall perfectly mimics the conditions outside, (since it is outside), so climbing in the heat is not ideal but we just keep telling ourselves it’ll make us stronger. A big fan helps a lot, but we are definitely looking forward to the weather cooling down.
Any words of wisdom to aspiring homewallers?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends. It’s amazing how many people stepped up to help us when all we could give them was a free meal or our inadequate but profuse thanks. Spend the time on the front end designing and figure out what you want out of your wall. Join the Facebook Home Climbing Wall group. Listen to advice but take it with a grain of salt because after all, you are the one who has to live with your wall.
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