Picture of How to build a treehouse

This particular design requires two or three trees (or branches) in close proximity. It was made over the course of several weekends using new, pressure-treated wood for the support structure and floor and an old fence was recycled for the sides. The roof is a camouflage-pattern tarp. It's not weather-proof, but it stays pretty dry inside: a three-season treehouse, but best for summer! It was made with my 4, 6 and 8-year old children in mind, but has been a hit with visitors of all ages.

Note: this treehouse was built in summer 2009, taken down due to tree growth in fall 2013, and rebuilt in spring 2014. I've updated the text to reflect the (minor) changes I made, but there are a mix of old and new photos throughout.

Step 1: Pick your tree(s)

Picture of Pick your tree(s)

There are definite advantages in using more than one tree for your treehouse - the treehouse can be bigger, and you have to use less bracing. The tree you see here (behind the magnolia!) has a trunk that splits into three at the base, and these trunks splay out somewhat as they grow upwards. At the height of the treehouse - about 9' (2.7 m) off the ground - one pair of trunks are touching, and the other one is about 4' (1.2 m) away. This means the design has been based on one for a closely spaced pair of trees, rather than for a group of three. The tree is a Garry oak, and they don't grow much further north than this (southern Vancouver Island), so they grow pretty slow here. A solid gnarly collection of old trunks, each about 1' in diameter at 9 ft up.

Start by figuring out how high you want the treehouse. 9' is exciting for kids but not scary. You can of course go higher, but you'll have to take more account of tree movement.

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omnibot1 year ago
How did the tree react to the galvanized bolts through the trunks? Did it display any indications of health issues or weakening? I imagine I'd have used stainless bolts instead.
Great treehouse!
makendo (author)  omnibot1 year ago

Just fine. Here's a photo of one of the holes after I removed the 1/2" lag screw when I took down the treehouse after 4 years. No sign of disease or damage; just some squishing of the bark when it couldn't grow any further.

That looks good, thanks :-)
dollysods1 year ago

Great job. I am getting started and your design looks like the best I have seen for my situation. In looking at your list of materials, you list 3-3/4" diameter x 10" long lag screws. Should the quantity be 4 instead of 3? How are you attaching the 2 x 8 to the other side of the tree trunk that has a 2 x 8 on both sides? Of course, the next question would be if you did add a lag screw where I am talking about, how do you keep that lag screw from interfering with the lag screw that attaches the other 2 x 8?

makendo (author)  dollysods1 year ago

The 3 10" long ones were used for the 2 trees at one end and for the braces. The 2 8" screws were used on the single tree. Remember that these have to go through the 2 x 8 and leave some room for growth, so in the treehouse shown each of these penetrate the 12" trunk about 5 1/2" only. If your tree is smaller, you could simply offset the lag screws slightly in height. Good luck with the build.

Thanks! Sorry, I thought the 2-8" screws were to be used on the 2 x 4 diagonals. What is your opinion on 5/8" diameter lag screws instead of 3/4"? So far 5/8" is the largest size I can buy individually.
makendo (author)  dollysods1 year ago

Well, this treehouse survived for 4 years just fine with 1/2" lag screws, but these trees grow slowly and don't move much in wind. Fastenal.com has the 3/4" ones available online.

vasilefi makendo9 months ago

do you know what property class have these lag screws? so I can know their resistance...

makendo (author)  vasilefi9 months ago
Quizicat1 year ago

One other thing to note is...what kind of tree you are building this on? Pine and poplar trees are very soft and may lose the lag screws. Oak, hickory, ash and elm are much sturdier and will be structurally more sound. Look into what kind of trees you will be dealing with. Looks like fun.

makendo (author)  Quizicat1 year ago

Oak (see step 1)

dlindstrom1 year ago

Excellent work!

The only issue is that having the house attached to the tree it will always break in time. Trees are always growing and moving wiht the wheather. Google and find tecnhiques that will leave a treehouse free from the tree and lasting longer.

makendo (author)  pauloviegas1 year ago

Of course, which is why this instructable contains information on how to mitigate these effects. If you're looking for a house on stilts that you can put near a tree, I recommend seamster's Backyard Fort.

Oferteo1 year ago

dreams come true:-)

Jarem201 year ago






peets1 year ago

i will play in thayre :)

Thanks, this is one of the best tree house instructables out there. I'm my first tree house deep in the forest where I have to hike all the materials in so I'm trying to do as much reading as I can before hand. I'm curious how your tree growth has impacted you design and if you would have made any changes because of that? I'm putting short galvanized pipe on my main bolts to make a sizeable gap between the tree and the frame of the tree house.

makendo (author)  Two Paddles Design1 year ago

Ha, funny you asked; the tree has just grown to the point where I'm right now (well, on weekends) in the process of taking it down. I'm going to put it back up using bigger bolts (probably 1") and perch the treefort supports a little further away to give it more room to grow (see my commentary at the end of step 4). I'm not sure why you're adding the pipe, though - it won't help the strength any - or are you putting the supports on TOP of the pipe to allow movement at one end?

I read about the pipe method in one of Pete Nelson's books, it basically serves the same purpose as a big stack of washers or the collar of a tree house attachment bolt. I'm probably not describing it well, if it all works I will post an instructable.
makendo (author)  Two Paddles Design1 year ago

Look forward to seeing it.

Thanks so much! I had already started all wrong and after seeing yours with the 2x10 underneath and freeing the 2x8 from the tree movement I was able to do a quick fix to make mine much sturdy. Thanks.

kurtzepp2 years ago
Thanks for you insight. I used your plans as a source. Although my treefort does not resemble yours on the outside, it does have some similarity.

Here is a link to my Treefort: http://kurt-zeppetello.blogspot.com/2013/08/tree-house-or-fort-construction.html
makendo (author)  kurtzepp2 years ago
Nice job, it looks great. You should consider writing it up as instructable (you've done all the work already!) and entering it in the Fort contest on right now.
rcotnam2 years ago
Sorry, I see someone else asked this below, and you answered it!
makendo (author)  rcotnam2 years ago
Ha, well spotted, I'd forgotten myself. The fact that two people asked means I probably should edit that step to explain myself better...
rcotnam2 years ago
How can rafter ties be used when the angle between the "perpendicular" 2 X 6 boards is not square (i.e. not perpendicular at all but several degrees off)?
makendo (author)  rcotnam2 years ago
If you look at the first photo in Step 8, you'll notice that the rafter tie is not flush to the wood as I'm nailing it. However, it provided very little resistance to widening the angle beyond 90°, so I guess I just hammered it open slightly as I was nailing.
jcdecker712 years ago
Just wanted to reach out and say thanks. My 11 year old son has been bugging me for a year for a tree house, and while I'm okay with tools, taking this task on was proving daunting. These are great instructions and I have modified based on needs. Got the joist attached to the tress today. Moving on to the frame next weekend. Thanks!
makendo (author)  jcdecker712 years ago
Thanks, I appreciate it. Best of luck with the build; let me know if you have any questions as you go along.
Good Father. Congratulation!!!!
dclose733 years ago
Question about the rafter ties. In my configuration, the 2x10s and 2x6s are not at right angles. How did you manage to attach the rafter ties? Did you somehow bend each of them to match the angle of the join? Or were your angles close enough that it did not require any modification?
makendo (author)  dclose733 years ago
Mine were pretty close, and yeah, I just hammered them flat. Good luck with the build!
this how-to was really easy to follow. cool stuff. The attached images showed my finished product. Kids are having a blast!
Just need the basket with the pulley now, and perhaps a zip line.

All fun stuff. Thanks,
makendo (author)  pedrozacharias3 years ago
Great job! Looks really good, and you have pretty much the perfect tree for it, too.
zilcho3 years ago
That is a legit tree house
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