Homewalls and Trends 2021

Homewalls and Trends 2021
Homewalls―of all shapes and sizes―have been around since long before the advent of modern gyms, and hundreds more were built in 2020.

At the outset of the pandemic, Climbing Business Journal made the qualitative observation that the era of home climbing walls had arrived. But questions still remained around the homewall boom which required quantification: Just how many people were building homewalls in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its gym closures? How much were the owners spending on their builds, and on what components exactly? And how would the trend towards at-home climbing impact the gym side of the industry?

To answer these questions and others, CBJ launched the comprehensive Strati Climbing Homewall Survey to power this first ever Homewalls & Trends report. The survey took place from October 4 to October 18 2020, and 402 homewall owners spanning 5 continents and 24 countries took the survey. In addition to being powered by Strati Climbing, the survey was made possible with additional support from Atomik, Chalk Cartel, Kilter and Stoked.

The full results of the Strati Climbing Homewall Survey are listed below.

Garage homewall in Houston
Homewalls are more often put up in garages, but the builds can still be quite elaborate despite limited space, like this 5-panel pre-COVID build in Houston.

The Average Homewall

Based on the answers from this subset of homewallers, the average homewall is located in the U.S. (78%), was built in the last five years (85%) and is located in a garage/workshop and/or yard (70%). The majority of the homewallers were under the age of 36 (59%), already climbing before they built their homewall (93%), and built their homewall in response to the COVID-19 pandemic (57%). Before their build, brand resources were the most popular sources consulted for beta (60%).

 

This survey also shed light on budgets for homewalls. The average homewall owner spent $2,641 on their entire homewall project, which can be broken down into its parts: $1,035 on just the walls, $328 on padding/flooring, $1,142 on holds and volumes, and $136 on additional features like hangboards (65%). However, 48% were still planning to improve their flooring and the vast majority (82%) planned to continue adding holds and volumes, with an average annual budget of $395 for the latter. At the time of this survey, homewallers were typically relying on crash pads for safety in the landing zone (66%), with less than a quarter (23%) having thick and/or thin padding covering the entire area.

In terms of specifications, the average homewall is more often 65-128 square feet in size (41%), 8-10 feet tall (47%), and has 31-45-degree overhangs (57%). Routes are set on them every month or more frequently (61%), in some combination of spraywall style (72%) or specific routes (64%). Climbing on them most commonly takes place 3-4 times each week (42%), with 2-3 people (52%), and the sessions lasting 1-2 hours (57%).

CBJ Homewall of the Week
Outdoor homewalls like this sheltered backyard build in Portland soared during the pandemic, providing climbing during the gym closures and some fresh air.

COVID Builds vs. Non-COVID Builds

Homewalls have been in existence since decades before this survey, but the current boom is worth analyzing in greater detail. The survey also provided a window into the latest trends around homewall construction in response to the COVID-19 pandemic (referred to as COVID builds throughout). When compared to non-COVID builds, on average these homewall owners were slightly younger (66% under the age of 36 vs. 50%), more likely to have someone in the household who is a member of a climbing gym (55% vs. 37%), and more often opted to build their homewall in the yard (35% vs. 16%).

 

These homewallers were also spending less on their homewall projects. The average COVID build cost significantly less than the average non-COVID build ($2,005 vs. $3,485), with lower spending on average across all components ($813 on walls vs. $1,328, $263 on flooring vs. $413, $844 on holds and volumes vs. $1,541, and $85 on additional features vs $203). However, homewall owners of COVID builds had a similar annual budget for new holds and volumes ($383 vs. $411).

The homewalls themselves are also smaller (64% under 129 square feet vs. 37%), slightly shorter (65% under 10 feet tall vs. 59%), and have less variety in terms of angles (1.8 15-degree varieties per build vs. 2.5). Yet even with less space to work with, homewall owners of COVID builds were setting routes more frequently (70% every month or more vs. 49%) and had someone climbing on their homewalls slightly more often (69% three times each week or more vs. 63%). But on average these sessions were shorter (81% under 2 hours vs. 72%) and involved fewer climbers (79% three or fewer climbers vs. 64%).

CBJ Homewall of the Week
For the most part, homewalls supplement rather than replace gyms. Even with an advanced setup, the carpenter owning this New Hampshire masterpiece still returns to the gym.

The Impact of Homewalls on Gyms

As climbers find new ways to climb during the pandemic, one of the lingering questions has been what impact this shift will have on climbing gyms. While much is left to be explored on the topic, the results from the survey are a positive sign for gyms. Since building their homewall, the vast majority of the homewall owners responding to the survey (77%) had visited the gym at some point. Even more telling, among homewallers with a gym member in their household, only 15% had not visited the gym since building their homewall. By and large, homewalls represent an additional climbing option, rather than a substitute for gym climbing (56% built their homewall for additional training space, and 15% had no climbing facility near their home).

 

This was also the overwhelming takeaway when scanning the write-in responses on the best things about homewalls. Homewall owners commented on the supplemental “freedom, flexibility, safety” that homewalls can provide, as one owner had summarized: the freedom to climb whenever it’s convenient and without traveling from the home; the flexibility to set one’s own routes, train for personal climbing weaknesses, and practice routesetting; and the safety during COVID-19 to climb within one’s own bubble (and outdoors for yard builds), and socially with one’s family/friends in that bubble (or when the gym is closed).

Additionally, homewall climbing and gym climbing are very different experiences, and the differences were highlighted in the write-in responses on the biggest challenges of homewalls. Besides the expense of the builds, homewall owners commented on several challenges: limited space, height and variety (“space is always a challenge,” said one owner); know-how at the start when constructing the homewall; keeping routes interesting and updating them regularly; t-nut maintenance, spinners and hold washing; handling weather challenges like rain (for yard builds), heat and humidity; and constantly having to clean the area of chalk.

 

Survey Results

Where are you located?

Where are you located?
The 402 survey respondents spanned 5 continents, 24 countries, 45 U.S. states and 6 Canadian provinces. 78% built their homewall in the United States.

When did you build your homewall?

When did you build your homewall?
95% built their homewall in the last 10 years (2011-2020), and 85% in the last 5 years (2016-2020).

Why did you build your homewall?

Why Did You Build Your Homewall?
The majority (57%) built their homewall in response to the COVID-19 pandemic (gym closures, etc.), referred to as COVID builds throughout.

How long have you been climbing?

How Long Have You Been Climbing?
Among COVID builds, 91% were already climbing before they built their homewall.

How old are you?

How Old Are You?
Among COVID builds, 66% were under the age of 36 (50% among non-COVID builds).

Where is your homewall located?

Where Is Your Homewall Located?
Among COVID builds, 35% had a homewall located in the yard/outdoors and 39% in garages/workshops (16% in the yard/outdoors and 52% in garages/workshops among non-COVID builds).

What sources did you consult before building?

What Sources Did You Consult Before Building?
Resources from brands (60%) were the most popular source consulted before homewall builds. 13% wrote-in that they consulted YouTube videos, and general Google/Internet/Web searches were also frequently cited. 7% wrote-in that they consulted construction professionals (designers/architects/general contractors) or had prior construction and/or homewall building experience.

What safety equipment do you have?

What Safety Equipment Do You Have?
The majority (66%) were using crash pads with their homewalls, about the same for COVID builds (68%). 23% had padding (either thick and/or thin) covering the entire landing area of their homewalls. 35% were using mattresses as safety equipment, about the same for COVID builds (32%).

What additional features does your homewall have?

What Additional Features Does Your Homewall Have?
Hangboards (65%) were the most common additional feature to have with homewalls. 6% wrote-in that they had some form of rings with their homewalls. Of the popular training boards, the MoonBoard was most popular among homewallers (8%).

How much did you spend in total?

How Much Did You Spend In Total?
The average homewall owner spent $2,641 on their entire homewall project. On average, COVID builds ($2,005) were cheaper than non-COVID builds ($3,485). The most expensive homewall build cost $32,000 for the entire project.

How much did you spend on walls?

How Much Did You Spend On Walls?
The average homewall owner spent $1,035 on just the walls. The most expensive walls spend cost $25,000.

How much did you spend on padding/flooring?

How Much Did You Spend On Padding/Flooring?
The average homewall owner spent $328 on padding/flooring. The most expensive padding/flooring spend was $8000.

How much did you spend on holds and volumes?

How Much Did You Spend On Holds and Volumes?
The average homewall owner spent $1,142 on holds and volumes. The most expensive holds and volumes spend was $15,000.

How much did you spend on additional features?

The average homewall owner spent $136 on additional features. The most expensive additional features spend was $10,000.

Do you plan to make significant improvements?

Do You Plan To Make Significant Improvements?
82% planned to add more holds and volumes, and 48% planned to improve their flooring/safety, about the same for COVID builds (85% and 46%).

Annual future budget for holds and volumes?

Annual Future Budget For Holds And Volumes?
Homewall owners of both COVID ($383) and non-COVID ($411) builds anticipated spending more than $350 on new holds and volumes every year, on average.

What’s most important for holds/volumes?

What’s Most Important For Holds/Volumes?
Of the options provided, (1) interesting shapes, (2) manufacturing quality and (3) low prices were the most important factors when investing in holds/volumes, whereas (7) fast shipping was least important.

What is your total climbing surface area?

hat Is Your Total Climbing Surface Area?
It was most common for the climbing surface area to be 65-128 square feet in size (41%), 8-10 feet tall (47%), and having 31-45 degree overhangs (57%). Among COVID builds, 64% had under 129 square feet of climbing surface (37% among non-COVID builds).

What is your maximum wall height?

What Is Your Maximum Wall Height?
Among COVID builds, 65% had walls under 10 feet tall (59% among non-COVID builds).

What angles do you have?

COVID builds averaged 1.8 of the 15-degree varieties provided per wall (2.5 among non-COVID builds).

How often do you set routes?

How Often Do You Set Routes?
Among COVID builds, 70% were setting routes on their homewalls every month or more frequently (49% among non-COVID builds).

How do you set routes?

Most homewall owners were setting spraywall style (72%), specific routes (64%), or some combination of the two.

Do you get routesetting ideas from online sources?

The majority (56%) were getting routesetting ideas from online sources at some point.

How many regular climbers do you have?

How Many Regular Climbers Do You Have
The typical climbing session is 1-2 hours long (57%), involves 2-3 people (52%), and takes place 3-4 times each week (42%). Among COVID builds, 79% have 3 or fewer regular climbers (64% among non-COVID builds).

How often does someone climb on your homewall?

How Often Does Someone Climb On Your Homewall?
Among COVID builds, 69% had someone climbing on their homewall 3 or more times each week (63% among non-COVID builds).

How long is a typical homewall session?

How Long Is A Typical Homewall Session?
Among COVID builds, for 81% a typical climbing session is under 2 hours long (72% among non-COVID builds).

What is your affiliation with climbing gyms?

What Is Your Affiliation With Climbing Gyms?
It is most common (47%) for homewall owners to have someone in their household who is a member of a climbing gym. Among COVID builds, 55% had a climbing gym member in their household and 19% had no affiliation to gyms (37% and 34% among non-COVID builds).

What are your plans to visit the gym again?

What Are Your Plans To Visit The Gym Again?
The majority (77%) had visited the gym at some point since building their homewall. Among homewallers with a gym member in their household, 15% had not visited the gym since building their homewall.