There can be a lot of debate about the best possible way for how to build a treehouse. But, one thing you should never forget is that no matter how you build a treehouse – it’s a play house for kids and doesn’t have to compete with anyone else’s treehouse that they might have built for their kids.
A treehouse for the kids should, in reality, be a den in a tree, whereas anything more palatial would be an arboreal apartment, more suited to an eco-warrior.
Selecting the Site for a Treehouse
Before beginning to build a treehouse you need to select a tree to build in. On two counts this must be a tree located on your property; first you’d be trespassing to build it on someone else’s land, other than by invitation and, unless you have extensive grounds, you should locate the treehouse so that it’s clearly visible from your property for safety purposes.
You then need to select a tree that is large enough and sturdy enough to support a base at least 4 feet by 4 feet for young children, any smaller and you might as well call it a tree box.
A treehouse could be built with any material lying around in your garage or yard. However, once put together in the tree of your choice it could, in all honesty, look rather an eyesore unless you then set about camouflaging it; which can be part of the fun of building a treehouse.
The only possible aesthetic material to use for building a treehouse is, of course, wood. Even though it only needs to support the weight of children, use at least 3×3 timbers for the framework supporting the platform and say 2×2 for the side panel framework.
The platform base and side panels themselves can be anything from plywood and fiberboard to a top quality redwood. However, do remember that a treehouse will have a finite life in terms of the attraction it has to your kids and their friends, so spending a fortune on it really isn’t necessary, unless you’re spending your money on a safety feature for the treehouse. Cross-members made from 2×2 with thin plywood over them, covered with roof felt will be fine for the roof of the treehouse.
Designing a Treehouse
It’s impossible to prescribe a design for a treehouse as any design will be entirely dependant on the size of the platform you can build, the height you can build it to and the regularity of the wall heights that you can build.
However, there is one thing you should incorporate into your design, that is having the opening, or door if you want, opening into the tree rather than opening to an edge with a clear drop. That way, should someone inadvertently fall out of the treehouse they will fall into the tree which will at least break their fall, if not provide opportunities to grab a branch and arrest their fall.
Part of your design will also be determined by whether the treehouse is accessed by climbing the tree or a ladder of some sort. Having a ‘secret’ trapdoor is an addition to the treehouse you can consider, but if possible avoid making the only entrance and exit via a hole in the floor of the treehouse. Finally, don’t forget to incorporate some window openings, otherwise inside the treehouse could be that dim that no one will be able to see anything inside it.
Photo by D’Arcy Norman, Creative Commons Attribution License