Sunday, January 29, 2017

Swole Hole (Moonboard Shed)

For quite some time, Allison and I have really wanted a home climbing wall and climbing training area. The problem is, we live in a unit that's part of a quadraplex so we don't have a garage and space is limited. Our first iteration was a build of a small free-standing campus board with removable hangboard that I built in March 2015 in one of our spare bedrooms. While this worked pretty well for Allison, I'm 6'5" so I couldn't campus on it. I was finally able to do hangboard workouts, though, because it did have a pulley system for taking weight off so it certainly did serve a purpose. It was really nice to actually be able to do some home training. 
But in August 2016 we got a bit more serious and decided to have a shed built with the sole purpose of building a small climbing wall in it. We measured our back yard area and determined we could barely fit a 10'x12' shed in the area. That's pretty tiny as far as climbing wall areas are concerned. We knew we wouldn't be able to have a multiple-angles climbing wall in that space. It would have to be a single wall with a single angle. We had seen some information about the Moonboard and decided that would give us the most efficient use of the space. For those not familiar with the Moonboard, you clearly haven't been looking at climbing-related posts on Instagram recently. Shortly after we built our Moonboard in October 2016, they seemingly blew up in the United States and on Instagram despite being around for ages. We'll take credit for the explosion in popularity! Certainly it seems there's some animosity towards the Moonboard and its popularity, for whatever reason, but for maximizing training in a small space, we felt this couldn't be beat. 
To summarize the Moonboard, it's an 8' wide by 12' tall, 40 degree-overhanging wall with three hold sets set in a precise location and orientation allowing users from all over the world to climb the same problems and share them via the Moonboard app. Moon Climbing makes the build specs and instructions available for download from its site. The Moonboard fits in our 10'x12' shed without losing any holds. The fit is tight but it works. The caveat is, though, we can't really go for dynamic top out moves for fear of kicking the walls or flying off into the back wall--so we don't do that. 

The Shed
I knew if I decided to build the shed myself it would take months and likely not come out perfect. Therefore, we decided to bite the bullet and pay for a high quality Tuff Shed Sundance TB-700 build installed by Tuff Shed. This way we'd get a quality shed and it would be built on-site in one day. The TB-700 is a tall barn style shed. Googling the TB-700 doesn't yield a lot because the TB-700 is proprietary to Home Depot, apparently. The TB-700 doesn't show up on Tuff Shed's site but you can configure a custom TB-700 shed at and then order it through Home Depot. We wanted the TB-700 because it has seven-foot sidewalls and a maximum height of 12'10"--just tall enough for a full-size Moonboard. 
Our custom TB-700. The transom windows above the front door and dual skylights, along with the side window, allow plenty of natural light to enter the building. The 12"x12" wall vents on each end at the top of the walls allow for good ventilation. Our custom TB-700 with the two doors, vents, skylight, smart floor and extra windows cost ~$4,000
We also configured our shed with a centered back door so we could access the area behind the Moonboard and use it for storage. There's quite a bit of room back there on account of the 40 degree angle of the Moonboard. We haven't insulated the shed and I don't think we will because the exposed frame makes it feel just a bit more spacious in there. That said, we haven't used it in summer yet and the heat may necessitate some foam insulation to keep it a bit cooler in there. We've been heating the shed in winter with a Mr. Heater propane tank heater and it's worked out well. Also, so long as the sun is out and hits it for a few hours during the day, it warms up quickly in there. 
We did apply for, and obtain, a Los Alamos County Small Shed (120 sq. feet or less) permit. Also, because of the 12'10" height, we had to obtain a Minor Dimensional Deviation From the Code permit since the standard max height in Los Alamos County is 12'. While a somewhat onerous process, it was, in the end, relatively easy with no challenges or difficulties. 
We prepped the area in our backyard by clearing the area and getting it level within four inches (the installers can use shims to get it level within that four inch tolerance.) We did our best to have a two-foot clearing around all sides, as stated by Tuff Shed, but the only area we had for the shed has a chainlink fence on one side and we needed the shed to be built right up against that fence in order for it to fit. On installation day, I quickly removed the chainlink fence fabric and the installers did a fantastic job of getting the shed built right up to the fence posts. 
The installers came in on October 6th, 2016 and cranked out the installation in one long 9-hour day. It was amazing to watch the skill and experience at work. 
We've run an extension cord out to the shed to a five-outlet power puck, with USB ports, and run a single 40W, 3000 lumen LED shop light (mounted to front wall) which is plenty of light in the space. 

Finished product

The Moonboard Build
Painting the Moonboard. The area to the right of the board is where the shed was placed. The post from the old chainlink fence (seen bottom center) had to be removed before the shed was installed. 
With the shed built, I had a blank canvas inside and three days over the Columbus Day holiday weekend to build the Moonboard. I had ideas in my mind on how I'd do it but truth be told I winged it A LOT and did a lot of engineering-on-the-fly. This means I don't have build plans I can share with you but this time lapse video of me building it should give you an idea of how it went up. I did build shelves in the back with an access hole from the back door up to the shelves. In three days, with multiple trips to the lumber and hardware stores, the Swole Hole was born!  

Because we wanted to be able to do more than just power workouts on the Moonboard, we looked for ideas to add more holds to a typical Moonboard t-nut grid of 6x11 per sheet of plywood. I happened upon this blog post showing a build that added an additional 5x12 grid per sheet of plywood adding 180 t-nuts to the Moonboard's standard 198 t-nuts for a grand total of 378 t-nuts. Lots of additional potential hold locations! Therefore, in addition to the three Moonboard hold sets, we purchased a bunch of holds by Atomik, including some jugs, to add many more options to our board. The additional holds have allowed us to work power endurance and endurance doing some ~30 move circuits on holds that are a lot more generous than most Moonboard holds. 

The gray arrows show the grid pattern for the additional 5x12 t-nuts per sheet in addition to the standard 6x11 Moonboard t-nut pattern (A-K and 1-6)

Our Moonboard with the three complete sets of Moon holds and additional holds on the extra 5x12 t-nut grid (per sheet of plywood) we added. Look closely at the upper corners you can see where I had to use wood glue to add the corners of the board back on after install. The corners had to be cut fit into the narrowing corners of the roof
For the floor, we have four bouldering pads with an Organic blubber pad over the gaps between the pads. 

Adjustable Hangboard
On the front wall above the front door, I've added three 2"x6" horizontal supports across the length of the wall to allow us to hang our hangboard and a removable campus board on. The hangboard is a Trango Rock Prodigy Training Center (RPTC) board setup as removable/adjustable along with a pulley system for taking weight off the climber. I used the RPTC Adjustable Mount 2.0 idea to make the RPTC adjustable and removable. This has been great because it allows both my wife and I to use the same board but adjust it easily for our different body sizes. 

Removable Campus Board
I've also built a removable campus board. The board has two sets of campus rungs on it--medium and large. It's a bit overbuilt and heavy (weighs 67 pounds.) It requires two people and a pulley to put up/take down (plus space to store it when not in use.) It's built upon the same idea of the RPTC removable/adjustable mounts using the same door stop hardware for hanging it up on the 2"x6" supports I put up on the wall. I'd like to whittle down the weight and will see about removing the angled side supports to see how it feels without them. But once in place, it's very solid and effective. Due to space constraints the bottom of the board only juts out from the wall about 16" so you gotta keep your swinging knees in check while getting after it. 
Campus board backside showing the door stop hangers for attaching to supports on wall
Campus board frontside

Removable campus board on pulley system, before campus rungs screwed onto board
Removable campus board in place with rungs screwed onto board. Two sets of rungs--Metolius medium and large rungs--eight inches apart. 

More Media
A few videos to show what it looks like to climb on the Moonboard in the Swole Hole:

Our Moon Problems
The problems we've created on the Moonboard:


Jeff Valliere said...

Awesome Jason! That is a lot of work for a climbing wall, but I know you will get tons of use out of it. You should charge admission to recoup some costs ;)

Hard to tell from the video and I don't remember your yard well enough, but does the height of the shed interfere with any views or cast unwanted shadows?

Jason Halladay said...

Thanks Jeff. It was a lot of work and expense but it's been really nice to have such a convenient training area ten steps out the back door.
We were worried about the viewshed and shade, mostly for our neighbors, but it really only impacts the view out our kitchen window and hasn't seemed too annoying for neighbors. It makes the back patio feel a bit more private so I think it helped in that regard. We have to be more diligent about snow removal on the patio in winter since this casts a large north-facing shadow on the patio in winter.

dave dogruel said...

Nice job on the build! I would donate to climb there.

Jason Halladay said...

We'll have our annual membership drive soon, Dave. :-)

daustin said...

Very cool! Now that you've had it for a few months, is there anything you wish you'd done differently?

Jason Halladay said...

Thanks Daustin. I want to add a very short section of things I'd do differently. Ideally, a larger shed would be great (12' x 12' or 12'x16' would be awesome). But our budget and space constraints didn't allow for that.
I'd also get the front door setup with double doors allowing for more ventilation and open space for our legs when campusing on the removable campus board.
But internally, we're super happy with the Moonboard with extra grid t-nuts and the hangboard setup. It worked out perfectly.

Unknown said...

Hey Jason.
Your wall and training shed look awesome, well done on the build. I am in the process of building one and have a question regarding the vertical spacing of the T-Nut rows. Did you end up with a 22cm spacing between rows 6/7 and 12/13 as based on the online moonboard instructions or a uniform 20cm between all rows? Thanks, Rowan

Jason Halladay said...

Hey Rowan, I understand your question but never considered it. I will measure but we must have ended up with 22cm between 6/7 and 12/13 because we just laid all three sheets of plywood on each other and drilled through all three at once. Given that it's 10cm from the bottom and 12cm to the top, it must be 22cm. I'll measure later.

Unknown said...

Like others have said, this is super cool - thanks for sharing! I'm currently in the process of planning/building something similar but in a slightly larger shed, so I might add a few other features (I'm thinking about a combo of a Moonboard and system wall that are facing each other). One thing I'm trying to figure out is if/how you have access to the back of the wall - it looks like your shed only has the one door. Both for maintenance (i.e. stripped t-nuts) and storage, I'd like to make sure I can get behind the wall. Have you figured this part out? Thanks!

Jason Halladay said...

Hey Chris. We did have a second door put in the back for easy access to that area. There's a lot of storage room so it was worth the added expense of a second door. Also, there's about a foot of space on the sides of the board so a skinny person can squeeze through to access the space but that's not helpful for getting most stuff back there.

Refugia Stein said...

This is fantastic! My partner and I have been doing lots of research to see how feasible it would be to build our own climbing wall in our backyard. We have seen lots and lots of examples online with walls inside and outside sheds and even standing on their own. This is perfect to protect from the weather. Great idea!

Refugia Stein @ Container Domes

daustin said...

Hey Jason,

I'm following up on my same question as before, with an extra 6 months or so of time: any other key lessons learned or things you'd do differently (other than larger shed with double door) now that you've had even more time spent in the Swole Hole?

FWIW, I'm likely going to use your build as a template for my own home wall project, hence my interest in how it's gone for you. Do you find that the walls get in the way of flagging off the side of the board? Do you worry about swinging into the walls on dynamic moves? You mentioned you have 4 crash pads plus the blubber -- just 4 of the Organic full size pads, 36"x48"? How's the coverage from those?

Jason Halladay said...

Hey Daustin,
If we could have gotten away with a 12'x14' shed that would have been better but overall, the side walls and back wall aren't a major restriction. I haven't really had any issues with the clearance on the sides of the wall. It's a bit of a mental barrier, though, where I worry about making a specific move with the wall so close but once I make the move, it's not so bad. The back wall is a bit close for going all out dynamic on finishing moves, though. We definitely utilize a spotter on those types of moves and that works well. Also, I suppose you could argue this forces us to get stronger to make the moves more statically so actually it's a benefit! :-)
The pads have worked out well. We have two Organic Big Pads, a Madrock triple and an Organic Full. The Organic Big pads fit perfectly side by side, lengthwise, for wall to wall coverage. Full pads would leave gutters on the edges and would likely shift unless you put something in that gutter area to keep the pads in place. But then I'd worry about rolling an ankle on the edge....
One thing I would do better is better ventilation up high. We have a couple of vents on the side of the shed up high on the ends of the building but on sunny summer days, it gets prohibitively warm up in there. Some sort of fan or vent fan would be great. As it is, we put a large box fan up there near the vent to circulate the air. I'd love to hear about your home wall once you get it going.

daustin said...

Thanks man, super helpful. I'm probably going to be stuck with 10'x12' as well due to space constraints, but will re-measure to see if there's any chance of slightly bigger.

Good to know about the clearance. I prefer not going all out dynamic on finishing moves anyway, so hopefully the back wall won't matter much in that regard :)

Re: ventilation - I haven't been as worried about this, since where I live it never gets too hot (rarely above 70, most days are more like 60-65 and often overcast/foggy).

How have you liked the MB overall? I'm also planning on doing MB + offset t-nut grid for endurance holds. I'm a little concerned that 40deg will be too steep an angle for endurance training, short of adding nothing but huge handle jugs.

Jason Halladay said...

Cool, daustin! Overall we've been very psyched with the Moonboard (MB). My wife uses it a lot more than I do and her power has really improved. She's been doing some MB V7s recently (meanwhile, I'm still working benchmark V4s on the MB.)
Even with massive jugs on the offset t-nut pattern, 40 degrees really is too steep for me to effectively train endurance. Still, I try. But I figure I'll continue to hit the local gym and climb outside to work endurance. I think it would suck bad to train endurance in a 10'x12' shed anyway!

Lex said...

Hey Jason, thanks for this great overview. I was wondering about your thoughts on the structural integrity of the shed itself for holding the weight of the moonboard plus dynamic body weight. I've been worried that a lot of the prefab shed options won't be designed for that kind of weight. It looks like your moonboard is not freestanding and that therefore this isn't a problem with the Tuff Shed you chose. Was that something you considered in advance? Did you pick the Tuff Shed over other options for this reason or do you think most shed options would be good enough to hold that kind of weight?

Anonymous said...

Did you all ever solve the mystery of the hole spacing between 6/7 and 12/13?

Jason Halladay said...

Hey Lex, sorry I didn't reply to your comment nearly a year ago! The Tuff Shed is bomber and we don't worry about the structural integrity of it at all. Other manufacturer's sheds do look too light duty for a Moonboard. For instance, the main brand at Lowe's home improvement stores rips 2x4s lengthwise to essentially make a 1x2 board. Super cheap and flimsy. I'd think if you find another pre-fab company that uses 2x4s with standard stud spacing and good materials, it'll be fine.

Anonymous and Rowan, I did some measuring and it's close enough to 20cm between 6/7 and 12/13 that it's not noticeable if at all different. I'm measuring now with the holds on so I can't be super accurate.

Anonymous said...

4 years later, how do you like it? Do anything different if you moved? Tx!

Jason Halladay said...

Anonymous, We've really been thankful to have this wall and space for five years. The biggest thing we'd have like to have done differently (but couldn't have anyway), was a slightly larger shed. 10'x12' is the bare minimum and it works but any swinging moves near the top or side of the board are impossible with the tight fit.
Second, we didn't add sand texture to the paint on the wood nor did we use a urethane coating. This results in the holds sticking to the paint so bad it often requires a hammer to knock the holds off.
Other than that, it has been great. The extra t-nut grid pattern has absolutely been the best and highly recommended for anyone building a moonboard--there's just so much wasted space on a moonboard.

Anonymous said...

Any chance you guys could post a video to youtube or vimeo of a climbing session in it? Really curious to see how it climbs!

Jason said...

Hey you bet. We've got an Instagram account full of them 😉. Here's an example,