Life, Woodworking

I Built a Treehouse

After we moved into our new house last month, my kids started asking for a treehouse.  I told them I’d need to see some plans before I could get started, and the next morning, I found this on my workbench:

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Fair enough.  The previous owners said that there had previously been a tree fort built in these trees, and some of the detritus was still visible:

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These trees didn’t look so hardy, but there is no shortage of other trees to choose from on our property.

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We settled on this one. V-shaped, about 200 feet from the house, and with good views in all directions.

The most important thing to consider when building a treehouse is that the tree will move, especially in a strong wind.   To account for this, the main supports should have slots where the bolts attach the beams to the tree so that a swaying tree doesn’t tear apart the entire structure.  (You can also use special hardware like Garnier Limbs or treehouse attachment bolts.) I used 2×12 treated lumber and started by drilling holes about 5″ apart.

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Then I removed the wood between the holes to create a slot for the bolt to slide in.

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The bolt holes need to be pre-drilled, otherwise you’ll never get them in all the way. I drilled 9/16″ holes for the 3/4″ bolts.

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As long as you only put a few holes into the tree, it should be able to survive. It’s actually worse to put a bunch of small holes in a tree by using nails or screws than a few big holes for bolts, since many small holes may cause the tree to compartment that entire area, causing the wood between the small holes to rot.

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Here’s the first beam attached with two of the 10″ long 3/4″ bolts. It’s about 5′ off the ground on the left side, 8′ off the ground on the right.

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I put up the other beam and attached the joists above them to support the treehouse floor.  Here’s a side-view that shows better the shape of the tree and the main support V.

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The ladder on the ground means “Kids, don’t try and climb up there yet.”

At this point, I was able to put in the floor boards. There’s nothing complicated about this; just leave space around the trunks so that the tree has room to grow.

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With this kind of support system, the platform will be wobbly without additional support, so I added the first of two corner supports and bolted them to the trunk near the ground.

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The kids brought up some tools to help out.

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I started on the railing and added a second vertical V support.

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A view from behind the treehouse, looking down the hill.

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I added a ladder, built out of 2x6s. It’s steeper than a stairway but shallower than a vertical ladder.

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I trimmed off most of the floorboards, but the kids asked me to leave this one long.

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I don’t know if their original intention was to mount the disembodied head of Vader on it, but that’s what they did.

To avoid too much weight and too much work, I went with a canopy roof. If I had planned ahead, I wouldn’t have had to replace the railing posts on both sides with taller ones to support the roof, but I did not. I was able to reuse the shorter posts anyway, so the only thing I lost was a bunch of time and energy.

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I used a big PVC pipe as the peak of the roof, and I think that was probably dumb. I wanted to avoid using something that would wear out the tarp if it rubbed against it, but a sanded 2×4 probably would have been fine, and stronger too. Oh well.

The canopy is tied down using horn cleats. This worked well, but I should have planned their spacing a little better to get the roof as taut as possible.

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Time for glamour shots!

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And here’s a before-and-after shot, taken with Reenact, of course.

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