How to Build a Tree House

Treehouses are the stuff of childhood legend — what kid didn’t want to know how to build a tree house while growing up?

Having recently bought a home in a wooded area, I began to hear plenty of whining about wanting a tree house, and quickly realized what a cool construction project that would be.

Building a Tree House

While some treehouses are scarily complex, involving years of planning, plumbing systems, electricity, and other gismos, building a tree house doesn’t have to fit the Swiss Family Robinson bill.

All you need for a treehouse is a desire to build one, a supportive tree, and a few basic construction materials.

When looking for a good tree for a tree house, consider the following elements: tree height, thickness of branches, and any tree damage that may exist.

Unfortunately there is no “standard plan” for a tree house — every tree is different and requires different steps and tools. The basic idea of a treehouse is a large platform floating on top of tree branch supports usually with some comforts of home added. Make sure your treehouse design is evenly distributed weight wise and supported solidly by its own weight. Expect your finished treehouse to weigh about 700 pounds, so test your branches for support.

Tree House Framing

How to Build a Tree House

How to Build a Tree House

Your frame is the most important part of your tree house. If you build the frame ahead of time on the ground, you’ll save yourself time. Building on the ground also allows you to use power tools in your workshop rather than in the middle of the air.

If the floor surface of your tree is wide enough, you can make just about any frame you want. Use brackets to attach the uprights of the frame to the floor. Brackets make for a strong joinder, but remember that the floor will wobble a bit until you put your walls on.

The walls add lots of bracing and support and will square up even the wobbliest of frames once the walls are fit together.

Tree House Roof

Your treehouse will only be as good as its roof. All woods will survive for longer periods of time if protected from the elements — so don’t think of your roof as a treehouse “lid” — it actually extends the life of the house.

A flat roof must have a felt liner securely fastened and even sealed with a blowtorch or hot flame source. Any hole can cause a leak and ruin the treehouse. Puddles in your treehouse are no fun and will lead to a quick ruin. Be sure to paint the roof felt with a thick sealing paint. This lets water run off the roof.

Final Details

Add carpet to build a fancier treehouse or use a simple coat of paint to give it that extra “homey” feel.

Some treehouse enthusiasts who plan on camping out in their tree homes think about adding a wood burning stove. Be careful here! If fitted carefully, a wood burning stove turns a treehouse into a cabin in the woods, but be sure your stove is bolted perfectly to the floor and that you have surrounded the base of the stove with fire resistant materials in case embers or sparks fall onto your wood floor. Now that you’ve figured out how to build a tree house its time to enjoy!

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