Treehouse Building: Where do I begin?

 

Completed Treehouse

 

Welcome to the first in a series of blogs about the treehouse building process. We plan to cover all the stages of the treehouse building experience including, but not limited to, design concepts, plans, bolt and bracket selections, framing the actual treehouse, and even maintenance considerations. While each blog will contain detailed information, we simply cannot cover every scenario that clients will run across, but we will do our best! If something is not covered and you need help, don’t hesitate to contact us for a one on one consultation. Let’s get started right away!

“Where do I begin?”

We get hundreds of emails a month and probably the most common question is: “I want to build a treehouse for my kids or grand kids, but I have no clue how to start?” Well, the fact that you contacted us for help means you are on the right track. Today’s treehouses are bigger and more interesting than ever before, but that typically means they are heavier and more complex. Not to worry, we have seen just about everything from pirate ships and castles to yoga retreats to a beautiful home office for an interior designer. There are solutions for just about everything!

Step 1 - Choosing a site, selecting trees, and measuring.

Choosing a site.

tree-site

This is your first course of action because if you don’t have suitable site and trees large enough to support a treehouse, there is no point going into to design and developing a budget – (Hint: topics for the next blog!)

  • How accessible is the site? Can you get materials, tools, and lumber to the location? Easy access will make the process go smoother because you won’t be spending your time and energy figuring out how to get there and won’t be using valuable energy hauling everything to the site.
  • Power? You will most certainly be using power tools, so having a generator, or the ability to run extension cords is a must. Battery operated tools have come a long way, but you don’t want to be running around charging batteries all day. Also, installation of treehouse bolts (TABS) and large lag screws will require a drill with high torque and low speeds to install. Battery operated tools typically don’t provide this level of power.
  • Can I even build here? Don’t forget to check your local codes, property setback lines, and proximity to neighbors before getting started. It’s an unfortunate and expensive error, but we have seen cases where treehouses were fully built, and the owners were forced to remove them or alter them due to not checking with their township. This is one situation where building first and asking for forgiveness later is not a good idea.  Even if you are legally able to build on the location, checking with any close neighbors and informing them of your plans may avoid resentment down the line. Reassure them you are building legally, and you plan to make it an attractive project. More than likely they will be fascinated and might even be willing to help with the build. Who doesn’t love a treehouse!

Choosing your trees.

Pick-Trees

  • Do I need an certified Arborist to assess my trees? Building a tree house starts with a foundation analysis. What species is the tree? Where is the tree in its natural life cycle? Is the tree healthy – free of defects, decay, disease? You may not need a professional tree house builder or Arborist to look at the tree if you know the basics or research your tree online. But first, consider the level of investment you are making in the tree house before bypassing this step to save a few hundred bucks. How much time and money will you spend on the tree house? What is the intrinsic value of your tree? Every ground house starts with the footer inspection and then concrete, and every tree house starts with the tree’s structural grounding, core integrity, and health.
  • Today’s TABS are larger and capable of carrying huge loads, so making sure the tree can accept them and continue to grow and be healthy is key. Generally, when building a single tree treehouse, we want to see a minimum diameter of 16” to 18” and when building in multiple trees, 12” diameter can be suitable. (If you are not sure how to get the diameter, wrap a tape measure around the tree and then divide by 3.14). As we stated at the beginning, these are broad guidelines, so gather your measurements and check with us if you are in doubt.

Measuring Download Measuring Guide 

  • If you have a single tree it is not enough to just know the diameter. Other key items to examine:
    • Note any large limbs that may interfere with your platform or walls.
    • Indicate if the tree splits into multiple trunks that could impact the design.
    • Does the tree lean and if so, how much? Lean is not a design killer, but we need to know so we can address the issue and choose the right hardware. Taking pictures will help the designer know the impact of the design.
  • If you have multiple trees, use our measurement guide that explains all the measurements needed and why.
    • Have a friend or family member help so you can get accurate numbers.
    • Look for any obstructions such as large roots, fences, sheds, and overhead cables etc.
    • When done measuring your should have a sketch like this:MEASUREMENT SAMPLE SMALL
  • We like to include photos at this stage as well. Take as many high quality photos as possible when at the site. This is especially true when your site is a vacation property or a remote site not easily accessible. You can never take too many photos!

Now that you have a site picked out and have suitable trees, we will move on to the more exciting topic of designing your tree house, and the not so exciting (but very important) topic of budgeting! See you next time!

 

We're here to help.  Have additional questions, please contact Scott Mackenzie at 610-701-2458 or smackenzie@treehousesupplies.com


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