Here are some of the crucial issues you need to think about when designing a tree house.
Step 1: Choosing the Right Tree
Ideally you want a tree with a trunk that’s at least twelve inches in diameter, which should support a house of eight by eight foot. You can work out the tree’s diameter by using the old school trick of wrapping a tape measure around it and dividing it by pi – even better, get your kids to do it and they’ll learn some maths while you’re making their tree house!
Step 2: Making Your Designs
A good way to do this is to make a mock-up out of cardboard to find any potential problems early on.
There’s also one more factor that you absolutely must take into account. You’re not building on a flat surface, or even a stationary surface. That tree is going to grow, so you need to make sure that there’s plenty of space for that to happen without wrecking everything. Before getting out the hammer and nails, learn about the growth rate of your tree to avoid nasty surprises.
Step 3: Choose Your Supports
There’s “the post method”, which involves sticking support posts deep into the ground near the tree. This method is popular because the posts don’t actually touch the tree itself, so it’s not in danger of being damaged.
The “bolt method” is more traditional, and a little bit less tree-friendly. You bolt support beams directly into the tree, holding everything in place. If you choose your materials carefully, this needn’t damage the tree too much.
The “suspension” method comes at the problem literally from a different angle. Using cables, chains or ropes, you suspend the tree house from the strongest high branches. This design very much depends on you having the right kind of tree, and it can be a risk if you expect the tree house is going to have to hold a significant amount of weight.
Step 4: Work Out How to Get in and Out
The traditional tree house ladder – some planks of wood nailed into the trunk of the tree – is a disaster waiting to happen. An ordinary step ladder, as purchased from any DIY store, or simply taken from an old bunk bed, will do the trick nicely. Alternatively, for something a little more adventurous, a rope ladder hung from the tree house platform will also work, but make sure it’s fastened properly.
If you really feel like a construction project, and safety is your foremost concern, a small staircase is the safest option. It might not conform with your idea of what a tree house should look like, but it’s a good protection against nasty accidents.