There is very little that compares to the adventures a child can have in their very own treehouse. As a kid growing up over on Lake Avenue, I still remember the battles won and lost from our bunker high in the sky and how much fun we had building, repairing, and reinventing a place that allowed our imaginations to run wild. These days, with digital devices captivating our kids, I wonder if they’ll miss the adventures of the great outdoors that are responsible for some of my favorite memories. So to that I say, not on my watch!
Building a treehouse is one of the best spring activities I can think of. It’s fun for the whole family and once it’s finished, your kids or grandkids will likely never want to leave it. In my experience, it’s one of those things that stays with a person forever and is something that they will truly cherish. So what are we waiting for? Let’s get started!
Choosing The Tree
Getting high in the sky is the ultimate freedom, but with a towering treehouse also comes the difficulty of building it and greater risk of injury. My suggestion is to go no higher than 10 feet so work can be done on a short ladder and there is much less potential for a kid to get seriously hurt from a fall. Next, you want to look for branch thickness of at least eight inches and a place where you can anchor your treehouse at four points or corners. This will help to distribute the weight of the house more evenly and will protect it against extreme wind. Oak, maple, beech and fir trees are good choices due to their strong composition. Above all else, it’s important to make sure that the tree is healthy and not inflicted with any disease or damage.
In some areas, you might need to get a building permit in order to construct a treehouse. Luckily Bristol is not one of them, but if you’re elsewhere in the state, it’s worth putting a call in to your local Building Inspection Department. Also, consider your neighbors. If your treehouse will be visible to them or near their property line, have the conversation before you get started. A treehouse is great fun but can also be noisy, so be sure to consider that when you are staking out the location.
Picking Your Site
There are several ways to build a treehouse: single trunk construction, multi-branch construction or multi-tree construction. The route you decide to pursue depends on the trees in your yard. A single trunk works well if you have a very large and healthy tree, but you should consider that the trunk will go through the middle of the house with support beams secured to the base of the tree from each corner. Multi-branch construction gives you a bit more creativity, but it can be tough to find the perfect tree that has strong, 90-degree branches to support a level house. If you have a denser wooded area, multi-tree construction is a great option. Using two trees is best because you can use flexible joints to account for the tree’s movement while being able to builder a bigger floor space. It’s important to note that using more than two trees can get tough as you will have to consider more movement points in your construction.
No matter what kind of build you’re considering, always keep weight and stability in mind and be prepared to be flexible in your planning. That’s all we have room for this week, but we’ll tackle the construction of the treehouse in my next column. Get your hammers ready!
Bob O’Donnell is the owner of O’Donnell Bros. Inc., a Bristol-based home improvement company established in 1975. Email your questions for Bob to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Ask the Pro.” All questions may be considered for publication. To contact Bob for your remodeling needs, call O’Donnell Bros. Inc. at (860) 589-5155 or visit http://www.odonnellbros.com. Advice is for guidance only.