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I'm building a freestanding climbing wall that will sit in my garage. My design is two triangle frames built from 2x6 (green) with plywood panels (red) attached to the frame with 2x4 studs on the back (blue). The climbing wall is 40 degrees overhanging. enter image description here My main concern with the design is that all of the weight of the panels (~300lb) and climber (up to 200lb) goes onto the triangle frames, so they must be built absolutely solid. The small vertical panel at the bottom is not directly supporting any of the weight. Basically it is a giant table with an angled top which will have a dynamic weight hanging from it.

Questions:

  1. Does this design look structurally sound, or are there any obvious things you would change?
  2. The support legs will be mitered on the top, to attach to the angled frame. What is the best way to join the legs to the frame? Would pocket screws be sufficient? enter image description here
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    what is keeping it from collapsing sideways? – jsotola Dec 27 '20 at 4:19
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    Cross bracing. And turn every green member 90 degrees except the ones on the floor. Once everything is facing the way it's supposed to, use nail plates like pre-made trusses do. - You're building a piece of playground equipment. IMO, two 300lb drunk idiots should be able to not die on it. – Mazura Dec 27 '20 at 4:48
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    the underside is the climbing wall. "The climbing wall is 40 degrees overhanging." paragraph 1 – Jasen Dec 27 '20 at 7:15
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    Yes, the underside is the climbing wall. Climbing the back like stairs is not the intended use. – prav Dec 27 '20 at 21:42
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    Put your specs in your question, please. – isherwood Dec 29 '20 at 19:18
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the bottom wall needs a diagonal brace to its top from the bottom of the middle stud.

I'd put the top blue bearer as close to the top as practical, and use a double one there.

I'd put something across between the bottom plates to stop them from splaying, could just be another 2x6 and it could go in the bottom corner if it's well attached (glue and screw).

Attaching the tops of the verticals, end nail or screw from above is easiest.

2x4" for the joists seems undersized.

treating it as a floor it wants 2x6 but 7 of them would be enough.

The slope helps as the plywood will be able to carry half of the load. so maybe the 2x4 is actually strong enough (at what I assume is intended to be 16" spacing in your drawing)

The top plates sloped green ones) should probably be double or you could notch the studs (vertical green ones) and install the top 2x6 with the narrow side up, that would simplift fixing at the top as you can just screw or nail straight through the side.

by notching you get the option to run the studs past the top plate to connect to the joists, this will help strengthen the sides against splaying apart.

you probably need more studs (vertical green bits) one for every two joists at-least.

This should go under the plywood. (so the plywood goes between the green and the blue)

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  • Thanks. Do you mean there should be diagonal braces from the bottom piece of the triangle to the angled piece? – prav Dec 27 '20 at 21:59
  • no, I mean the short vertical part needs to be braced – Jasen Dec 29 '20 at 7:06
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The design is fine, except 1) the green members need a member near the bottom to connect the end frames from splaying apart under load, 2) provide bigger center vertical support in each frame (each will carry one fourth of total load), 3) I’d use a Simpson clip to connect the vertical member to the sloped member at the very top.

To determine its maximum carrying capacity we’d need to know the size of the unit, thickness of plywood, and spacing of 2x4’s.

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  • Thanks. The wall would be 3 4x8 0.75” plywood boards to make a 12x8’ wall. The 2x4s are spaced 16” apart, 3 for each board. – prav Dec 27 '20 at 21:55
  • When you say bigger center vertical support, do you mean add another vertical support column in each triangle frame? – prav Dec 27 '20 at 21:58
  • If your climbing gear is connected into the 2x4’s (and not just the plywood) it will support about 56 lbs. per linear foot (psf) or about 450 lbs. per 2x4 board. Yes, I’d install another vertical 2x6 at 90 degrees to the other for support and bracing. – Lee Sam Dec 28 '20 at 5:21
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It isn't an issue of the timbers being able to bear the weight, rather it's an issue of lateral forces. Have a look at your drawing and consider that as you use this device you'll be imparting horizontal forces (angles, shaking, etc.) But those vertical 2x6's won't resist horizontal load. The only thing resisting horizontal load in your design is the pullout strength of your fasteners.

I would make three modifications to your design:

  1. add an additional vertical 2x6 on each side. These are cheap and will eliminate any doubts in the vertical support.
  2. attach 1/2" plywood to the sides of the 2x6's to essentially enclosure the box. Attach the plywood to all timbers on its perimeter and the two in it's field. This will resist any racking or shearing. You could probably even get away with 3/8 ply if you wanted. Ply is incredibly strong to shear forces when properly attached.
  3. finally, your design shows the red plywood butting against the green 2x6's. Instead of butting it, attached the ply to the 2x6's and then when you are attaching the blue 2x4's your fasteners will go through the plywood which is sandwiched between the timbers.

These modifications will make for a tremendously stronger climbing wall at the cost of two more 2x6 and some inexpensive plywood.

If you want to make it "next level" you could even use basic wood glue at all fastened surfaces. You gain huge strength at the cost of never being able to disassemble it.

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  • Boxing in the wall on the sides is usually a non-starter because on these boards climbers need to swing their legs out into the side space for some maneuvers like flags/reverse flags. – TylerH Dec 29 '20 at 22:56
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I imagine you're aware that most indoor home climbing walls are built into the existing framing. See https://www.rei.com/blog/climb/build-home-climbing-wall

Given that one of your requirements is free standing, I recommend at least using scrap plywood to reinforce your joints, especially the top mitered corner. Functionally, this is the same as using nail plates, most likely cheaper.

Here's an example of a free standing climbing wall - you'll note that it uses metal instead of wood as structural support - also, the supports appear to be sunk into the ground, most likely into concrete.

screen shot from 'The Orb'

Best of luck.

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