You might have had one when you were a child, or maybe you always wanted one. Either way, it’s not too late for you to build one again — whether for your children, grandchildren, as a guest house or even as an escape for yourself.
Treehouses are no longer just for kids. Animal Planet has even developed a television series called “Treehouse Masters”, which highlights a different build each week. Builds often center on projects for both adults and children.
Hiring a contractor to build your treehouse could get expensive. But if you want to DIY an eco-friendly version and join the treehouse renaissance, check out the steps below.
Find a Good Location for Your Treehouse
Before you cut the first board or hammer the first nail, you need to find a location that will support the weight of a treehouse without damaging the tree it will be built in. Depending on who will be using it, you will also need to consider how high it will be off the ground and whether or not you want it to be seen by neighbors. Check with your local planning, zoning or building committee where you live to determine whether or not you will need permits.
You should also contact an arborist who can help you find a mature tree that will not be damaged by the weight, and who will also assist in pruning any branches as needed. Ideally, you will want a treehouse that will blend in with the surrounding foliage, with little or no impact to the trees.
One other consideration in choosing a location will be the need for specialized equipment used during the build, and choosing to use a boom lift is a wise decision. Also called a cherry picker, they are designed to lift people and not materials. The versatility of a boom lift is its greatest advantage. They allow the operator in the basket to maneuver in a 360° motion of up, down, left, right, forward and backwards.
Obtain Recycled Materials
When building a green treehouse, you want to use recycled materials as much as possible. Wooden pallets are a good source of wood. So is reclaimed barn wood. You may even find doors that could be reused for flooring or as a wall in the treehouse.
Old windows could find a new home in your treehouse. Building suppliers, lumberyards and construction companies may have scrap wood that they are willing to part with for free — or at a significantly reduced price.
Prepare for the Build
Before going much further in your treehouse build, sketch out an idea of what you want it to look like and how it will be supported. By doing this, you can anticipate any hazards and build issues. You will need to take into consideration whether or not it will grow taller and make it inaccessible, or if it will grow wider and compromise the flooring by loosening any bolts or nails.
You should also take into consideration your area’s weather conditions when drawing up your build plans. For example, if you get a lot of rainfall during the year, you could you drill drain holes in the flooring to prevent sitting water. This might help prevent rot or mold issues. Or, if your area experiences strong winds, make sure the treehouse can withstand gusts without coming apart, injuring someone or causing other property damage. If your winters usually bring heavy snow, consider reinforcing the roof.
Assemble With Care
The base of the treehouse should be assembled first since all other parts will be attached to it. Depending on how detailed your treehouse will be, and whether or not you will be working alone, you may want to pre-assemble some of the sidewalls or use a pulley system to raise them to the base of your treehouse.
Since your treehouse will be exposed to the elements, look for bolts and nails that will not rust. This keeps the structural integrity, and prevents your treehouse from collapsing.
Avoid High VOCs
Building a green treehouse isn’t just about using reclaimed wood. Most exterior paints and wood sealants release Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) during the drying process. VOCs are harmful to the environment as well as people and animals. There are products available that have a low- or zero- VOC count and they can be found at most hardware stores. If you prefer a natural wood look over paint, sealing it will protect it from weather and from destructive pests.
Furnish With Preowned or DIY Items
You’ve got it built, but what do you put inside it? Depending on the size of your treehouse and who will use it most, there are several options. If you have accessible tree trunks or branches, a hammock is a lightweight option. Bean bag chairs are also good because they are lightweight and flexible enough to fit in any door.
You may want to put in battery-operated candles, lanterns or solar string lights depending on the amount of sunshine that your treehouse will get during the day. A small cooler for a bag of ice and cans of soda is also a good idea. If you want to use it as a reading room, you can add a small bookshelf, or binoculars and a birding book.
Other options for furnishing your treehouse — especially if you needed to prune several large branches from your tree — is to use the leftover stumps and branches for tables, benches or shelves. There really are no limits other than weight and size for furnishing and decorating your treehouse. The point is to make it fun.
Do you have any green DIY tips for building a treehouse? I’d love to hear what you came up with!
Photo by Flickr user Mark’s Postcards from Beloit. CC 2.0