Last Updated Dec 7, 2010 · Written by Craig Gibson
Whether it is for your children or for the whole family to live in, a treehouse can be an exciting place to play or live. Read on to learn more about treehouses.
You have a lot of freedom when it comes to choosing a tree (or trees, depending on the size of your finished treehouse) for your treehouse. Almost any tree can be used to support a treehouse. Deciduous or coniferous trees are especially good. The size of the tree that you use will depend on the size of the treehouse you have planned and where you want to position it. A treehouse 8 feet by 8 feet will require a trunk diameter of 12 inches. If your treehouse is heavier than usual, you will need a larger diameter or a tougher tree that can support a heavier load.
It does not matter as much how old the tree is as it is the physical size of the tree that is generally used to determine its strength. Ensure that the tree that you want to use is healthy. The tree should not look sick – signs of illness include several dead branches, leaf discolouration, and liquid oozing from the bark. If in any doubt, consult an arborist.
When it comes to building a treehouse, you really are limited only by your imagination. However, there are some general steps to follow. Firstly, check with your local council to see if you need building permits or any other permits or planning permission. This can save a lot of hassle in the future.
Once you have chosen the tree, think about the best place to put the treehouse. If it is for kids, keep it relatively close to the ground. An adult treehouse can be placed where you want. Every tree is different so it is best to adapt your design to the specific tree that you are using. Allow for growth and movement within the tree and keep the treehouse as light as possible. Also ensure that you don’t make the treehouse too big for the tree.
The platform is the key part of all treehouses. Keep it close to the tree’s trunk, and use diagonal bracing for extra strength if it is not supported by branches or posts. Ensure that the platform is level and balance it centrally around the tree. When you are securing the platform to the tree, minimise damage to the tree as much as possible. Use ropes where possible. Choose galvanised nails, screws, and bolts or stainless steel as these will not rust and damage the tree.
Once the platform is built, add the floor. This can be as simple as sheets of plywood or you can choose to use flooring such as floorboards. You can build the walls in situ, or build them on the ground and then hoist them up to be secured. It is generally best to build the roof in situ. You can then put your chosen roofing material on.
Because you are using your imagination with a treehouse, things such as windows and doors can be as simple or as complicated as you fancy. Just remember to keep them in proportion with the rest of the treehouse. Materials such as Perspex are safer in windows.
A deck is also a great addition to a treehouse and these can be built as part of the original platform or a short distance away and reached by a walkway or rope bridge. Whatever you decide, ensure that the deck has railings for safety.
Don’t forget about access for your treehouse. If it is not far from the ground, a wooden or rope ladder is ideal. Higher treehouses will benefit from a simple staircase. Don’t forget a rope pulley with a basket to get items to and from your treehouse.
The cost of the treehouse will depend on the size and scope of the treehouse that you have. A simple children’s treehouse built from materials such as wood will cost much less than a treehouse that is designed to be occupied all year round. You will get a good idea of the treehouse’s cost during the design stage. When designing the treehouse, remember to include all the materials – flooring, roofing, doors and windows, decking, and so forth. Factor in the cost of consulting professionals such as arborists (to check the tree’s suitability), architects (for complicated designs), builders, etc.