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Building a Treehouse

A treehouse is a much desired object for any child, and they can make the outdoors so much more fun.  Of course, treehouses aren’t just for children.  They can be for adults too, so it is important that you take the time to correctly build your treehouse so that it will stand the test of time.  We’ve put together a general guide.

Choosing the Tree

When building a treehouse, the first thing that you will want to do is to choose the tree.  Do you want a tree that is deciduous, exposing the treehouse in winter, or a tree that stays green all year round?  It is important to choose a tree that is well-established that has limbs that grow in a suitable shape to support the floor of the treehouse.  The limbs should not be too high up for safety reasons – the higher the limbs, the more wind there will be and the weaker they will be.  Of course, you should choose a healthy tree.

When choosing your tree, it is a good idea to consult with an arborist, to ensure that the tree is in sound condition, that it is suitable, and that it will not be damaged or weakened by the addition of a treehouse. 

Designing your Treehouse

While some people may prefer to take a freeform approach, it is best to have at least a general idea of what your treehouse will look like before you start building it.  This can be done by:

  • mapping the supporting trunks and branches on a piece of paper
  • working out the best method of supporting the treehouse
  • laying out the floor
  • plan the treehouse so that it fits on the floor
  • if the treehouse is for your children, ask for their input so that they end up with a treehouse that they love

There is no set “design” for a treehouse as every tree is different and thus, an individual plan will need to be drawn up.  Remember to allow for the growth and movement of the tree over time, and don’t be too elaborate.  The treehouse should remain relatively lightweight.

Building the Treehouse

The first step in actually building the treehouse is to build the platform.  This platform will act as the foundation, and thus should be built close to the trunk of the tree, using diagonal bracing for extra support, if there is not adequate support from tree limbs.  Ensure that the platform is level and centrally balanced, so that it does not sway, and can support varying loads.  Try to avoid damaging the tree when you are securing the foundations – use rope where possible or large, strong screws or bolts.

Once you have built the basic platform, you will need to add the floor.  This can be as simple as some sheets of plywood or as elaborate as timber floorboards.  The flooring material needs to be treated for exterior use.  As for the walls, you can choose to build them up in the tree itself or you can build them on the ground before hoisting them up onto the treehouse platform.  Pre-building the roof is also an option or you can opt to build the roof in situ, which may be best if the roof is an awkward shape or has to accommodate tree branches.  The roof can be covered with the material of your choice.

Windows and doors make a great addition to any treehouse and you can make them any size or shape you want.  Don’t use glass in treehouses, though, Perspex or Plexiglas is much safer.  A deck can be a great addition to a treehouse, and allow you to sit right amongst the tree’s foliage.  Any decking needs to be surrounded by railings for safety reasons.

Finally, you will need access to your treehouse.  This can be as simple as a wooden or rope ladder, or as elaborate as a staircase with a handrail.  Also consider installing a rope pulley with a bucket or basket on the end of it so that you can easily bring supplies up to the treehouse.

Check the Regulations in your Area

While a treehouse may seem like an insignificant structure, one that does not need any permits, it is still important to check with your local council to ensure that you are not breaking any of their regulations.  If you are, you will have to remove the treehouse that you have worked so hard to build.  As well as checking with your council, also check with your neighbours, to ensure that you will not be infringing on their views or privacy.

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