The Best Materials for Treehouses

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tree house

We typically picture a treehouse as an excellent escape for children to play and grow their imaginations. In recent years, however, these structures have also become places where adults can relax, entertain, or have a space of their own. Since treehouses deal with the elements as much as a regular home, you’ll want to use the proper materials to make sure your treehouse lasts for many years. Find out the best materials for the roof, walls, floor, and everything in between.

Walls

barn attic

When you’re choosing the material for your walls, you can go with boards or exterior plywood. While boards are simple to cut and fit together, boards can also swell and retract, which will leave gaps in your walls. These gaps can let rain and wind into the treehouse.

 

To avoid this issue, overlap the boards. However, keep in mind that boards also don’t have the same bracing effect as plywood; in other words, boards can slide against each other. To prevent any sliding from happening, you’ll need a rigid frame made with stronger materials.

plywood sheets

 

If you’re using plywood, you can buy it in large sheets and cut the sheets to the size you need. Since plywood is strong, you typically don’t need any other materials for your walls when using it. However, plywood also isn’t as attractive to see. If you’d like to add some visual interest to your walls, you can always install some material on top of the plywood. Small branches give the treehouse a natural look, while cedar shingle siding is attractive and lightweight.

Floor

Exterior plywood is ideal for the floor of your treehouse. Plywood is strong and can withstand a small amount of dampness and moisture. In addition, plywood also resists twisting, so this material will give your treehouse a rigid and stable floor. However, plywood doesn’t offer air ventilation or drainage, so you need to make sure you cover the plywood with a roof. If your joists are 12 inches apart, you can use plywood that’s 3/4-inch thick.

kontiki deck tiles

Kontiki Interlocking Deck Tiles – Lengo Piastrella
Ash Tree / 12″x12″ SKU: 10104691

 

browse deck tiles

 

For floors that will not have a roof covering them, such as a deck, you’ll need to use solid wood boards. Leave a small gap between each board so water can freely run off and not puddle on your deck. Make sure your boards are at least 1-inch thick so you’ll have proper support and cover joists set 12 inches apart. You might consider installing wood boards in the interior of your treehouse; the gaps will allow air to ventilate the structure.

Regardless of which flooring option you choose, go with a durable hardwood such as redwood, cedar, or pine. These hardwoods have reduced moisture content when compared to softer wood species, which can shrink faster. The best type of wood to look for is treated wood, which is stronger, resists insect infestation, and doesn’t decay easily.

Framing

treehouse frame

Image via Flickr by Max Barners

While typical houses use two-by-four or two-by-six framing, treehouses need lighter framing to put less stress on the tree. Therefore, you’ll commonly use two-by-two or two-by-three lumber for framing a treehouse. Additionally, when you’re building your frame, keep in mind that while standard walls are around 8 feet in height, treehouse walls are also smaller to cut down on the weight of the treehouse. Creating walls that are 6 or 7 feet in height give most people enough headroom without adding unnecessary weight.

While oak and other hardwoods look nice, these woods are heavy. Instead, stick to regular wood for your frame that you can buy at a building supplier. Since you’ll install the frame on a wooden floor, you can use brackets to screw the uprights into place. If you’d like your treehouse to be a year-round hangout spot, but you find the structure is too cold in the winter, you can panel the inside of the frame and fill it with insulation to prevent cold drafts from seeping through your walls.

Roof

metal roofing shingles

Achilles Metal Roofing – Stone Coated Shake SKU: 10103371

While a bottom layer of plywood is good for adding strength and rigidity to a roof, plywood itself is not enough to protect the treehouse from rain and snow. You’ll need to add shingles, roofing tar paper, or roofing felt on top of the plywood. When you’re installing the roof, make sure you pitch the roof at least 30 degrees to help rain run off easily.

If you live in an area that gets a lot of snow, you should attempt a steep roof of 50 degrees or higher to prevent snow from settling on the roof. The weight from snow is dangerous and can cause the roof to collapse.

Windows

tree house window

When you’re choosing windows for your treehouse, you have two main options: glass or plastic. Consider the advantages and disadvantages of each material when you’re deciding which type to install in your treehouse. One advantage of glass windows over plastic is that you can see out of glass easier. Additionally, glass won’t scratch like plastic. However, plastic doesn’t break and shatter like glass, whether you have problems with a falling branch outside or an accident on the inside. Plus, plastic is cheaper than glass.

If you have your heart set on glass, but you need the safety of plastic and don’t mind paying extra for the material, you can choose to install shatter-resistant glass windows. These windows have a laminated film that holds the glass together during breaks, similar to the design of a car windshield. With these windows, you get the advantage of being able to see out of the windows easily, but they won’t break into tiny and harmful slivers if damaged. No matter what type of window you choose, make sure you position windows that can fully open over a deck in case of a fall, especially if children will be in the treehouse.

You want your treehouse to last for many years, so make sure you choose the best materials when building it. Once you have your treehouse built, you can add personal touches to make your backyard treehouse a popular spot for fun or relaxation.

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Jill Canty

hiker; runner; breakfast food, mcdonalds, and beer lover; HBO and AMC marathoner; insatiable modern fiction devourer; hopeful globe-trotter; concert-goer; proportionate Beyoncé obsession-haver; and - of course - content writer.