Homebrew: Build a Cheap Basement Climbing Ladder
I would love to build a full home bouldering wall but sadly I rent my place and don’t want to spend the money to build a wall that I will need to take down in a year. Instead I spent a Sunday afternoon building a climbable ladder that cost about 60 bucks and is more or less entirely supported by the exposed house support beam in my basement.
The Parameters of my build: Our relatively small basement serves a number of purposes, including home gym empty space, laundry machines, storage and work table, so the climbing ladder really couldn’t take up more than a few feet aross. I also couldn’t secure anything into the cement walls due to the conditions of my lease, so I could only attach the ladder to the exposed wood of the basement.
Our basement ceiling is 8 feet high, so not alot of room to gain vertical.
Also I only weigh about 135 lbs, so you may want to use thicker rungs / double up the wood on the rungs if you are substantially heavier than me.
Building time approx 4-5 hours
Four 2x6x16 boards (about 6 bucks a board at RONA)
A whole lot of 3″ deck screws for structure building (about 15 bucks worth)
Some 1/2″ screws to secure carpet and lino to rungs (a few bucks)
Some scrap carpet and lino for wrapping the ladder rungs (free as I had it lying around)
Circular Saw (I borrowed this from a friend. If you have a mitre or chop saw your cuts will be alot squarer than mine!)
Cordless Drill + Robertson Screw Bit
Utility Knife (for cutting carpet and lino)
Coffee + French Press
Used but not shown: ear protection, eye protection and work gloves
Time to build: An Afternoon
STEP 1: Measure / Cut and Install the Ladder Side Rails
The weight from the ladder is entirely supported by the house beam, screws are only used to keep it from moving.
Using a measuring tape figure out how far it is from the wall to whatever support you are going to be leaning the top of the ladder on. Cut your two rails about 6″ less than that distance, as you need some clearance to be able to wedge it in. Don’t stress too much about exact distances, as long as the rails are the same length you can’t really mess this up! Secure the rails in place at the top using a few screws to keep them from moving around
Once the rails were in place I snugged a couple pieces of 2 x 6 up against the wall at the base and secured them to the bottom of the rails, preventing it from sliding backwards.
Your goal is to make sure that all the weight of the structure and climber is being supported by the actual supports of the house, not by the screws.
Step 2: Cut and Install Ladder Rungs and Install protective Wrapping
Don’t stress too much about the exact measurements of the rungs, they just need to be long enough!
The space I have to work with means the ladder is about 3 feet across. I cut six sections of 2×6 about 3 feet each, and installed them on the topside of the ladder rails using two screws on either side. Make sure you put the rungs on the top not the bottom side of the rails. I then cut some random squares of scrap lino and carpet to wrap the tops of the rungs for some protection against the teeth of the icetool pick. You don’t have to do this, but if you put something to protect the wood it means that you don’t have a bunch of splinters on the floor after your training sesh, and will help the lifespan of the rungs last longer.
I ended up with enough room for 6 rungs, and I put my rungs 1 foot apart. This seems to be useable training distance.
Step 3: Cut a bunch of smaller pieces of wood and install foot holds
The foot holds are also spaced about a foot apart, offset from the rungs.
Using the remaining scraps of 2×6 I cut a bunch of smaller chunks to install on the inside edge of the side rails to use as foot holds. I simply spaced them at roughly the midpoint of the space between the rungs, and attached them using 2 screws apiece. No measuring required.
Step 4: Clean up and get Training!
After sweeping up the sawdust and vacuuming, you are good to go! I put down a foam gym mat for protection as I don’t own a bouldering mat, but if you have one of those or an extra mattress you are in even better shape!
While it’s not the training apparatus of the century, it’s super nice to have something at home to get a few burns on when I have a day that I can’t get out climbing. It is also nice that it didn’t cost very much, so if / when I move again I am not losing a bunch of money if I have to scrap it. It was also super fun to build as you don’t have to be very precise in your measurements and cuts, which takes alot of the stress out of framing and makes it a quick build.
Do you have a climbing structure at home? If so, please share a photo or description below in the comments! I’m always looking for new ideas!