Did you have a sturdy tree house when you were younger or simply pine for one when you saw the magnificent kids-only clubhouses featured in movies and on TV? From The Swiss Family Robinson to Now and Then to The Sandlot and Boy Meets World, there isn’t a kid in America who didn’t want a sturdy treehouse at some point in life.
And you know what? It’s not too late.
You might be thinking it’s too childish to erect a sturdy tree house in your yard, especially if there are no youngsters running around, but that’s just not true.
Building adult fantasy tree houses is so popular, in fact, that there is a somewhat under-the-radar show that does just that. Treehouse Masters, featuring Pacific Northwest resident Pete Nelson, builds such eye-catching treehouse designs that it makes people at every age once again wish they too had a sturdy treehouse.
Do you think you have the perfect backyard for such a structure? Here are our top five tips on how to build a sturdy tree house.
1. Select the Right Tree or Trees
Before you get started on actually building your sturdy tree house, you’ll need to pick out the best trees in your yard.. You’ll want to identify trees that are neither too young nor too old. Ones that are healthy and strong, without too many branches. Trees that won’t sway too much in the wind and ultimately, will hold up your tree house with ease for many years to come.
This part is often one of the most critical steps. Even expert Pete Nelson takes his time to identify the perfect set of trees before getting started. And once he finds ones he likes, he still walks around the property to confirm that they are indeed the best choice.
Other considerations you want to take when selecting the trees is who will be using the tree house. Lower to the ground is best for children. Consider how close it is to your neighbor’s house, and if the trees will survive throughout the seasons.
Given the importance of this task, it’s best to consult with your local arborist, such as Mr. Tree in the Portland area. The arborist can walk your property with you and help you identify the best options. This individual will be able to point out any hint of disease or structural compromise, so it’s in your best interest to rely on the information provided.
2. Sketch Your Treehouse Design
Once you’ve identified the tree or trees that will be used to build a sturdy tree house, you’ll want to sketch out your design. Use the natural stance and bends in the trees in your plan, rather than pre-planning your concept and forcing elements that don’t emerge naturally. You may even want to have an engineer provide guidance on this part of the project.
Depending on how elaborate of a design you want to construct, you may also want to add in a treehouse staircase, a trap door, a drawbridge, or even a treehouse with multiple rooms. Consider your personal design aesthetic and what your selected trees can actually withstand. Then meld the two together to create the clubhouse of your dreams. Now, this is how you build a sturdy tree house that will soon be the envy of all your friends.
3. Remember That the Trees Will Keep Growing
Whether your design involves one sturdy tree or will be suspended between three complementary trees, always keep in mind that the trees will continue to grow. While you will be trimming branches, the best tree houses are built seamlessly into the landscape. This means that you won’t be damaging the tree to the extent that it ceases to live. Quite the contrary: your tree house will live among the trees.
This also means that, over the years, even if the trees are mature, they’ll continue to grow and move. This is important to keep in mind when deciding how to build a sturdy tree house, as you don’t want to restrict this natural evolution.
For this reason, it’s important to not strangle trees with ropes, straps, or wires. Similarly, add spacers between the beams to allow movement, leave gaps around the trees if they pass through the floor or roof of the tree house, and use extra-large bolts when appropriate.
4. Focus on the Floor Of The Treehouse First
It seems simple enough but cannot be overlooked that a level floor is imperative to building a sturdy treehouse. Not only will it help maintain the life of the tree house over the years, but it will also make it easier to construct once you’ve put the level floor in place.
To keep everything stable, when building a tree house with one primary tree, make sure to center the load over the trunk and then disperse the weight over the branches. This will ensure stability as well.
5. Keep Safety Top of Mind
Not only do you want to maintain a safe work environment while you’re building your tree house by wearing a helmet and using safety ropes as protection in case of a fall, you also want to ensure anyone who’s climbing into your tree house once it’s built is safe too.
The best way to do this is to include properly secured railings.
Too many tree house owners lay down a floor and call it a day. This leaves them ripe for disaster. You don’t want to get sued when your friend falls out of the tree and breaks their arm, so do everything you can to prevent this from occurring. Do your due diligence, and your tree house will be a source of enjoyment for many years to come.
A sturdy treehouse is the ultimate childhood fantasy come-to-life. However, it doesn’t happen overnight. Take the proper steps to make sure you are building a sturdy structure that will last for years to come. And if you have questions, consult the appropriate expert.