Treehouse Building: The Basics

backyard treehouse

(image: Michelle Ress)

A treehouse may be a great place for kids,  and even adults. Here are the basics on how to approach building one in your backyard.


A treehouse is a magical play destination for many children. But, a treehouse in your outdoor living space can be whatever you want it to be, from a reading space, to a place to just be. If you’re thinking about building your own backyard treehouse, keep the following basics in mind.

Choose the best tree

While you may only have a few trees to choose from, it’s important to pick out the best tree for your treehouse. You don’t want a tree that’s too old or too young. Instead, you need to pick out a tree that’s alive, healthy, and mature.

The best trees for holding a treehouse are apple, maple, oak, and fir. Finally, for a treehouse that’s eight feet by eight feet, the tree trunk needs to be at least 12 inches in diameter. It’s also important to bring the health and life of your tree into your plans. This is a way to be friendlier to your natural surroundings, since other animal life rely on your tree. But, it also has structural implications when you finally do build your treehouse.

Look into building codes, and neighbor’s buy-in

kids rope ladder treehouseOnce you have the best tree for your treehouse picked out, it’s time to check the regulations for your project. See about local ordinances and height restrictions that are relevant to your project. Next, check with your insurance agent to find out if a treehouse is covered under your homeowner’s policy.

Finally, as a courtesy, speak with your neighbors about your plans to build a treehouse, especially if it will be high enough to look over your neighbor’s property. Respect of another person’s privacy and sensibilities is vital to keeping good relations with your neighbors. Adjust your plans accordingly.

Decide on the best support method

While there are several ways to support your treehouse, the three main ways are suspension, post, and bolt. With the suspension support system, you use chains or ropes to suspend your treehouse from high and strong branches in the tree. This method isn’t ideal for a treehouse that will carry any significant amount of weight. The post method involves sinking support posts into the ground around the tree instead of attaching anything to it, which is the least damaging method.

Finally, with the bolt method, bolts attach beams and the treehouse floor directly to the tree. While this is the most traditional method, it’s also the most damaging to the tree. To make sure your tree stays healthy after drilling in these bolts, use a few larger bolts instead of several smaller ones. Give your tree the nutrients and protection it needs, sourced from your local nursery, to help fight fungus and insects.

Create an access method

After you know how you’re going to support your treehouse, you then need to figure out how you’re going to access the treehouse. One access method to consider is building or buying a standard ladder.

The type of ladder used to access bunk beds works very well. Another option is a rope ladder, which is made from short boards connected by rope and hung from the platform. Finally, you can build a small staircase to access the treehouse.

Always keep safety in mind

Since a treehouse is built up in the tree, falling out is one of the biggest dangers. There are a few safety measures you can implement to make your treehouse safer. Don’t build your treehouse too high. Ideally, your platform shouldn’t be any higher than six to eight feet off the ground. Also, build a railing around the platform and going up the steps.

While building a treehouse takes detailed planning and careful construction, for the experienced DIYer it’s a project that you can complete for years of fun and enjoyment.




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