Here's How to Build a Treehouse in 10 "Easy" Steps
If you fancy making your child's day, week and year, you might want to consider building them their very own treetop retreat. This is not a small task, by any means, but such a project can be incredibly fun and educational for all involved.
Plus you will make life-long memories for your little bundles of joy. It will once complete, also give you a much-needed break from time to time!
Please note the following is not intended as an exhaustive guide. the design, size, shape, and materials used for your treehouse will depend entirely on the tree(s) in question, and your DIY skills, knowledge and experience, and budget.
How much does it cost to build a treehouse?
The cost of building a treehouse depends entirely on what materials, tools and equipment you already own and your ambitions for the final structure.
If you already have a lot of spare timber lying around and are willing to build it yourself, the costs could be very reasonable. But note that other sources claim that it can cost between 9 and 250 thousand dollars.
"Depending on what you want, tree houses cost between $9,000 and over $250,000. The average basic kid's treehouse/platform costs between $8,000 and $15,000. Higher-end residential treehouses typically cost between $25,000 and $60,000. Tree Houses that you can live typically cost between $75,000 and $500,000." - treetopbuilders.com.
How do you build a treehouse?
So, without further ado, here are some of the basic steps usually needed to build a basic treehouse. The following are only intended as a basic overview, as each treehouse design and build is usually unique.
That being said, there are some basic stages that you need to follow.
1. Pick the right trees or trees
The most important consideration when thinking of building a treehouse is choosing the right tree(s) to use. For larger, more substantial constructions, multiple trees are better than one, but this is not always possible.
For single trees, you want to look for ones with a decent splitting of the trunk into good-sized branches. This will allow you to have some good support and anchor points for the base of the treehouse.
You should also look for healthy deciduous or coniferous like oaks, maples, ash, and some apple, beech, and hemlock can also work well.
"All of these are strong trees that grow large and can weather many different climates, which is absolutely essential when constructing a treehouse." - mrtreeservices.com.
The design of your treehouse is as much about the tree in question as it is about your carpentry skills. You should also make considerations for the height above the ground you want the treehouse to be.
"For an average-sized treehouse of [8 feet by 8 feet] (2.5m x 2.5 m) a trunk diameter of 12 inches (30.5 cm) or more is recommended if using a single tree. If supported over two or more trees, smaller minimum diameters will be suitable. The design of the treehouse may make it heavier than usual, in which case a larger diameter will be required, or a tougher species. Deciduous trees tend to have denser wood which can support greater loads." - thetreehouseguide.com.
The higher up the tree, the more you'll need to factor in safety measures for your adventurous little ones. About 2.5 to 3 meters tend to be an ideal height.
2. Design your treehouse for success
Once an ideal tree, or set of trees, have been chosen, the next stage is to design your actual treehouse. Prior to construction, your plan will likely change a little as you go along, but it's good to keep an eye to the grander design when building the treehouse.
For best results, it is recommended to read around on the subject if you are a novice at this sort of thing. Books like David and Jeanie Stile's series or the Black and Decker Complete Guide to Treehouses, are excellent choices.
Given that trees can vary widely in shape and form it is not possible to provide any further specific advice here. Besides, there are plenty of video guides on places like YouTube (we've included a few in this article) or forums on just this subject online.
3. Gather the materials you need
Since you building something, you going to need construction materials to work with. In general, you will need at least some, or all, of the following:
- Timber or lumber
- Decking material
- Galvanized lag screws and washers
- Galvanised joist hangers
- Galvanized rafter ties
- Nails, deck screws, etc
- A basic pulley -- for the kids to use when complete
4. Get the right tools for the job
Of course, you are also going to need some basic tools as well.
"The bare minimum of hand tools: hammer, saw, level, square, tape measure, adjustable wrench. Power tools: cordless drill, jigsaw
Useful but not critical power tools: miter saw (cutting lumber to length), table saw (ripping lumber), router (rounding edges).
A ladder is important, but even a stepladder would be OK if you installed a ladder/rope ladder/stairs to the treehouse early in the build." - instructables.com.
5. Mount the main supports and build the main platform
This is probably the most vital stage of the build. Your treehouse will not stand the test of time without well-built supports.
How you do this will depend entirely on your own design based on the supporting tree(s) in question. Make sure you spend a decent amount of time and effort getting this part right.
If the main supporting structure is weak, or poorly built, the final treehouse won't last very long. It will also have wasted a lot of your time and effort and will not be safe for your children to use.
With the main supports in place, you can begin to assemble the main platform. You can either build this directly onto the supports or prebuild and mount in sections -- it is completely up to you.
This is another critical phase so take your time. And remember, "measure twice and cut once."
6. Add braces, if needed
For added strength, it is usually also a good idea to install some braces below the platform. By adding diagonal braces from under the platform to the tree's trunk, will prevent the treehouse from wobbling or even collapsing under its own weight.
The amount needed, and placement will depend on the tree and treehouse design in question.
7. Put the flooring down
With the main supporting structure, platform and braces in place, the next phase is to get the main flooring down to create a platform.
This is where the decking (if you bought any) will come in handy. But you could just lay larger pieces of timber sheet instead.
You will likely need to cut the lengths of decking to fit and might have to cut around the tree trunk(s) depending on your design.
With this stage complete, your treehouse should look like it is really starting to come together.
8. Construct the railings, walls, and entrance
At this point, the treehouse should be coming along nicely. Now you need to add some railings and walls. You can use old fencing or build your own timber frame structures.
It doesn't really matter how you do this, but the main consideration is to make the treehouse safe to use. You don't want children falling off the platform easily, after all.
Also, keep an eye on how children will enter and exit the structure. Be sure to place the entrance in a logical place.
9. Add a ladder
With the main platform and railing/walls in place, you now need to add a means of access and egress to the treehouse. A basic ladder is usually the best bet but you could consider adding a retractable rope ladder for added fun.
However, younger children might struggle with a rope ladder. You could also install the pulley at this point too (if needed).
10. 'Plonk' a roof on it and enjoy
With all the main elements in place, the last stage is to put a roof on top of the treehouse. You can either build a more robust structure from wood, or other materials or simply set up a tarpaulin or other weatherproof fabric.
This is completely up to you.
With the roof in place, your kids (and you) are now free to enjoy your brand new, homemade, treehouse!