So, you want to build a treehouse. Treehouses provide endless entertainment and fun for kids and adults alike. While the building process can be enjoyable, it’s not all fun and games. It’s important that the treehouse is both strong and safe. It’s not as simple as building a shack and sticking it in a tree. The process includes finding the right tree, creating a plan, sourcing materials and finally, building and finishing. Once the logistics are worked out, you can build a treehouse that will be enjoyed by your whole family for years to come.
Choosing the right tree is one of the most important aspects of building a treehouse. It should be strong, healthy and accessible. Don’t build in a tree that’s located on public or private land, unless the private land is yours. For that matter, it may be necessary to obtain a building permit or other government clearance before you build a treehouse, even if it’s in your yard. Ultimately, the tree you choose should be a mature deciduous or coniferous tree like oak, ash, cedar, maple, hemlock or Douglas fir. If you live in an area that receives a lot of wind, build your treehouse in the lower third of the tree, where wind speeds are less forceful. If your treehouse is 8’ x 8’, the trunk of the tree you choose should be 12” or more in diameter.
Your treehouse building plan is going to be largely dictated by your tree and its branches. If your treehouse is going to span across multiple branches, or even trees, you must pay close attention to the placement of supports. Each tree, branch and trunk is going to move in a different way, and if your treehouse isn’t properly supported, it could become unstable over the course of time. In light of this, you must decide whether or not the joints between your limbs or braches will be fixed or flexible. Generally speaking, you’ll want to use flexible joints on branches that experience a lot of movement, and rigid joints on branches that don’t move much. Once you’ve decide where your treehouse will sit and how it will be supported by and connected to the tree, you’re ready to draw up your plan. At this point you may also choose to look online for some treehouse designs that meet the size and other requirements for your chosen tree.
In addition to a plan and lumber, you will also need nails, screws, bolts, metal brackets and possibly cables. Reference your plans to get an exact list, which will make your trip to the lumberyard easier. Nails and screws should only be used for the framing, flooring and finishing work. To minimize the number of holes that are bored into the tree itself, use lag bolts to attach the supports. (Trees with multiple holes are more susceptible to disease, rot and even death.) Once you have your materials together, you should take time to clean up the tree and its surrounding area. Now is the time to trim branches and limbs, whether to improve the appearance of the tree or to allow for design elements of the treehouse itself.
The supports are the foundation of your treehouse; as such, they are very important. As mentioned, your support will connect to the tree with one or more lag bolts and possibly cables. First, build your support according to your plans and then install it securely to the tree. Build all aspects of the treehouse on the ground whenever you can. Start with the floor, and after it’s installed, continue by building the walls one at a time. As you build individual components, install them and then move on to the next component or stage. After the walls, finish the roof and then install the doors and windows. (Refer to the second reference below for videos on how to build a treehouse.)
Once the treehouse is built, the fun really begins. In fact, this is the part of the process that children really enjoy, especially if the treehouse is intended for them. Let kids help with the interior and exterior design including paint colors, shingles, décor and furniture. A final consideration involves how to keep unwanted guests out of your treehouse. Remember that you are responsible for any accidents that occur on your property, even if the person is trespassing. You should keep your treehouse locked and remove the access ladder, if possible.