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How do I Build a Treehouse?

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  • Written By: Brendan McGuigan
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 30 September 2014
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Setting out to build a treehouse can be either relatively easy, or quite difficult, depending on the complexity of the desired treehouse. To build a treehouse for a child, one needs only a bit of lumber, some nails, a hammer, and a suitable tree. To build a treehouse that can actually be lived in for a long period of time requires a great deal of careful planning, strong timbers, one or more sturdy trees, and possibly building permits.

The most simple sort of treehouse you can build is simple a few planks of wood that make a platform in the tree, connected to the ground by a rope ladder or struts of wood along the trunk of the tree to climb. To build a treehouse of this sort you need only make sure to find a tree that is healthy, with no loose limbs or rot apparent. Lengths of two-by-four cut to whatever size you want the platform can be attached straight to a thick branch of the tree, and for added safety you can add bottom struts that connect to the trunk, or ropes that connect to higher thick branches. A simple ladder connects the platform to the ground, and a rope ladder will allow the inhabitants to seal themselves off from disturbance. Of course, without railings or walls, such treehouses are really only intended for older children, as they can present a risk of falling.

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To build a treehouse with a bit more substance, you’ll start out in much the same way. Locate a sturdy, healthy tree, and find a clear area a ways up the trunk. Build a sturdy platform, either connected to a strong central branch, or built off of the trunk itself. This platform should definitely have a number of diagonal braces connecting it to the trunk at various points. The platform ideally will be connected to the trunk by ropes, reducing harm to the tree, but if ropes are not feasible, galvanized screws should be used in place of ungalvanized nails, as they will cause less harm to the tree and minimize the chances of it dying.

This base platform will act much like a foundation of a house, and the next step will be adding a floor. To build a treehouse that looks and feels more like a real house, you’ll want to use real floorboards, or even hardwoods. Once the floor is on you will erect the walls, which for larger houses should be constructed on the ground and then lifted up into place and attached. The roof is often put on up in the tree, especially when you want to build a treehouse in which parts of the tree come in through the roof, as you will need to very precisely build the roof around these branches to ensure a tight seal.

After the frame of the treehouse has been built, you can add any number of trim items. Doors, windows, decks, railings, staircases, ladders, and even internal appliances, plumbing, and electricity can all be added. The sky is the limit when building a treehouse, and some people have built multi-room treehouses with multiple stories, and exotic touches. Make sure to check your local building codes, however, to see what permits may be required to build anything more than the simplest non-habitable structures.

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Drentel
Post 3

One of the safest ways to build a treehouse is to build it on posts, stilts or some kind of legs. With this method, you can build the house around the tree without attaching anything to the tree. This way you build a wooden treehouse and you don't have to put a scratch on the tree. All the nails and screws will go into the lumber.

And if you're really concerned about trees, you should use recycled materials rather than new lumber.

Sporkasia
Post 2

@Feryll - There is a middle ground between driving hundreds of nails and screws into the tree and killing it and building something that will not support your niece and nephew and their friends.

If you decide to use rope then be sure that you know which knots to use and how to tie them securely. Knots can be very sturdy and useful when applied properly. Primarily, use the branches of the tree to support the platform. In some cases, branches alone are virtually all you need to support the foundation of your treehouse.

While not using nails may be preferable when you build a treehouse, if you must use nails for support then the tree probably will be okay with a few nails, especially if you can limit the nails to the branches and stay away from the trunk.

Feryll
Post 1

I want to build a treehouse for my niece and nephew and I am concerned that driving all the nails needed to build the house into the tree might be harmful to the tree. I like the idea of using rope as mentioned in the article. Using a rope ladder instead of nailing boards into the tree to form a ladder sounds easy enough and safe. However, I am concerned that if I use only rope then the house won't be sturdy enough.

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