How to Build a Tree House
Tree houses are an imagination station for millions of children over the world. They provide an opportunity for children to explore, learn and have fun. Importantly, it is an opportunity for children, many for the first time, to gain independence and have their own sanctuary and space at home. If you are looking how to build a tree house in your backyard, we have compiled an essential list to help you throughout the construction process.
1. How to find the perfect place
The most obvious dilemma you face in building a tree house is where to put it? It is best to decide on a tree in your yard that is a strong, healthy hardwood. These are the best trees when it comes to bearing load and will not crumble under the weight of a tree house. It may pay to put it somewhere that won’t upset the neighbors.
Also ensure that the tree is sufficiently mature and has weight bearing branches that can handle the load of a tree house. A good tip is to use the branches that have a diameter about the size of a football to bear weight.
2. What do I need for building my tree house
Choosing ideal treated materials is vital in the construction of your tree house.
Floor – Exterior plywood is an ideal option as it is rigid and holds up well to a bit of water should it enter the tree house.
- Walls – Again hardy exterior plywood or boards are ideal for the walls. They are both structurally sound, not overly heavy and you can add aesthetics to the outside to give it the look you desire.
- Frame – For the frame regular plywood is again a good option, as you don’t want to be adding too much weight to the structure if necessary. However, if you are going for a larger build, a hardwood, similar to the type of tree you choose your tree house to be in, is suitable. Oak and fir are great hardwoods and most are easily available at your local timber provider.
- Roof – The roof can often be the most complicated part of the build, as you don’t want any leaks. Usually a base of plywood alone would be insufficient as it could leak. Roofing felt and covering tarpaper can be used as coverage, to avoid leaks.
- Windows – To avoid shattering glass on children, plastic is a safer option. Safety is also paramount and make sure children cannot fall out the windows.
3. What is the first step in constructing a tree house?
So you have decided on the location and have all the materials. The first step in the construction process is to build the platform.
By building the platform first you have a solid, stable base that can support the rest of the structure. We have a few tips identified for you in constructing the platform:
- Make sure the platform is based close to the trunk. The trunk acts as the foundation for the floor.
- Diagonal bracing is the strongest (especially if there are no supporting branches).
- Use fasteners that are strong but keep them to a minimum. You don’t want to cause unnecessary damage to the tree. Lag bolts are ideal as you require less of them, but they are super strong.
- Make sure the tree can still move and grow. You don’t want to restrict the growth of the tree or fasten the tree house to parts still growing. Make sure the platform is level.
- Construct the platform on the ground first before fixing it to the tree.
- Work with the tree, rather than against it. By constricting the tree you may cause irreparable damage and kill it.
4. What is important during construction in the tree?
So now you have the platform assembled, you may have to get up into the tree to continue construction. This can be a dangerous task if you do not follow a few simple instructions. The last thing you want is a serious injury.
Put your tools in a secure location. It is easiest to place your tools in a box or a bucket and tie a rope to them and haul them up together. This saves you trying to climb and carry the tools up at the same time and also means that you will not inadvertently drop them on those lurking below. You can also place a small hanging space up at construction height to hang your box of tools.
Have a helper with you. In most cases you will require a ladder to get up to your construction zone. Make sure you have a helper with you to guide you through your ascension.
As mentioned earlier, try and do as much of the construction as possible on the ground. The time up in the tree should only be used to piece it all together. This minimizes your risk of injuring yourself or others while you are up high.
5. With the basics sorted, what is the next step in Tree House construction?
Now that the platform is in place you have to move on to the next step.
It is important to remember that a tree house will not be a perfectly symmetrical piece of art. With so many branches around and different dimensions of the tree likely, you have to be flexible in your construction angles.
Having four strong corner pillars coming out from the platform, for your walls, is a great way to secure strength to the structure and allows you to later add a roof safely. It then means the rest of the wall construction is merely aesthetic if you need to make room for branches.
When it comes to creating a roof you have to be aware of the angle it is constructed on. It must be at least 35 degrees to allow water to flow off it an even steeper angle (more than 45 degrees) if you are in colder climates where snow is a possibility.
Make sure you build strong, safe rails and a sturdy climbing ladder as well where necessary to minimize the chance of injury for your children when they use the tree house.
6. What will I need for the maintenance of the wood?
The maintenance of the timber you use is imperative to the structural integrity of the tree house. Problems can arise if the wood remains damp and exposed to the weather and loses strength. There a few options you can use to maintain the wood.
Firstly, you can use a weather protective paint over top of the tree house. This can be a good idea to give the children some input into their own colour choice too. Secondly, you can use protective, weather resistant coating on the wood.
Finally, you can also add aesthetics to the tree house to preserve the integrity of the wood. Using quality roofing materials (if you have the budget) and wall accessories are a good way to ensure the wood remains dry and structurally sound.