Treehouse project?

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#1
I've never built a treehouse, but my girls are asking me to build one. Has anyone here ever built one? Any plans, sites for good advice, words to the wise?

We have a nice, big tall mulberry tree that looks ideal for one.
 

Crabbergirl

Super Moderator
Staff member
#2
The best tree houses are built in tress that are either groupings of trees or clusters. 3 is the best number of trees in a group, but it can be done with 2 or more. Plans are usually dictated by the tress themselves. More mature trees are better then Small young trees. If not erecting walls it is essential to have a railing at lease waist high and one between the floor and the waist for smaller kids. Falling is the biggest risk. Use PT lumber , other wise your work may fail in short order. Recycling is a great way to get cheap if not free materials. You do not want rotten timbers. We have built tree houses at every property we have owned with the exception of where we live now, however we have been talking about it for the grandkids.
Do you have a tree (s) picked out? If so post a picture, maybe we can give some advice based on that;)
 
#3
Here are some pics. The spot where the treehouse would be, is about 10 feet off the ground. The first four photos are each about 90 degrees away from each other; the last one is a longer-range shot of the entire tree.

http://s18.postimage.org/627jfzs21/IMG_7301.jpg
http://s9.postimage.org/cr2x05e3j/IMG_7302.jpg
http://s15.postimage.org/k9vuie05n/IMG_7303.jpg
http://s18.postimage.org/4jc5b0lhl/IMG_7304.jpg
http://s13.postimage.org/nfgwrzuk7/IMG_7305.jpg

As you can see, this tree is pretty much by itself, so I won't be able to build a treehouse between/among 2 or 3 trees---it woudl have to be in teh middle of its branches.
 

Crabbergirl

Super Moderator
Staff member
#4
The best thing you can do is to have multiple ( at least 4) support structures killing back into the tree it self at 45* with a band edge to support the floor. You will also need a band attached to the tree itself as a means to hold the floor on the inside of the tree.Lateral ( flat to support the floor)support beams should also kill back to the tree from each support arm point and depending on the space between support arms you may need to add a couple more in between.You could then have ladder steps mounted to the tree also to climb up through an access in the bottom of the floor.

I would suggest nothing less than 2 X 4 supports and if it were me I would be going with 4 x 4 , all the strength is going to be in the supports and you sure don't want it falling with kids in it. Additional bannding may be necessary between the support arms depending on how long they are. And additional band of 2 x 4 about 1/2 way from the base to the floor is ideal. ( not drawn on attachement) The floor support and outside band can be 2 X 4 providing the span is not such that it will sag, if spanning more than about 6' you will either need to double the 2 x 4's or go to a 2 x 6. For your floor deck you can use marine grade plywood ,or deck boards both will last longer and offer great floor support, or upgrade regular plywood to 3/8" minimum. 1/4" is cheaper but will not support much weight. I have sketched something up, an artist I am not, but you can get the general idea.

I do strongly suggest at least a hip high railing if not some type of wall to protect from accidental falls. If you are adding a roof just carry your supports up at the point of each corner of the floor, then fashion the same type of support structure as under the floor. You can then cut plywood to fit the "rafters" of your roof supports. Or use Fiberglas roof panels the clear ones would be cool to look through.
The really cool thing about tree houses is that you can start small and add, or you can go grand . But over all the most important thing is safety;)

On the serious note, you may want to check local restrictions, some HOA don't permit this type of structure and depending on your neighbors it could end up being a zoning violation. Sad that it has come to this over a kids tree house but I have seen it happen. Error on the side of caution.
 

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#5
That looks like a bit of a narley tree for a good tree house but it can be worked with. What if you were to sink four 4x4 posts around the tree and build a platform deck with the tree in the center of it. Design work and building will be a lot easier and the tree will be damaged a lot less.
 
#6
that actually sounds like a good idea. I wasn't looking forward to pounding a huge number of nails into the tree. I could put small holes in the ground and ground the 4x4s in cement there if need be....
 
#7
Have you built decks before? Know anyone who has?

I don't know the rules for deck footings but I know you want the concrete to extend below the frost line to prevent heaving and slanting of the posts. Your best bet may be to spend the $30 and rent a gas powered post hole auger for a few hours if you're in a northern climate. My fence posts and gate arbor are all 42" deep holes.
 

bob

Administrator
Staff member
#9
Friends of ours built a nice "treehouse" in their backyard for their son. It's on legs about 6 to 8 feet tall, and simply a small box shaped structure. Access is via rope ladder. Despite the name, there is no tree. The legs are cross-braced and I think they just set on those little concrete deck blocks, we don't get deep frosts, and if it did settle, it's easy to fix. Since the legs are braced together, it's not as much of a stability issue.

You might be able to build something like that close to / around your tree. His son loved it and used it for years, even though it wasn't actually in a tree, I think what mattered was a place to get away, without it looking like a little kids playhouse.

As others have mentioned, the important thing is that it be safe for the kids and not damage the tree. Using other supports is probably the best way to do that, essentially creating a "tiny cabin on stilts with a tree growing through a hole (or holes) in the center."
 
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