Tree House Questions
These are the most common tree house questions people have.
If you don't see your question here, then please call or contact us right away!
- Are Tree Houses Safe?
- Do Tree Houses Hurt Trees?
- How Much do Tree Houses Cost?
- How Long Does it Take to Build a Treehouse?
- What is the Life Expectancy of a Tree House?
- How Much Weight Do Your Tree Houses Hold?
- How Far Will You Travel to Build Tree Houses?
- What if My Trees Aren't Strong Enough?
- Do you sell Do-It-Yourself Treehouse Kits or Treehouse Plans?
- Do you offer Free Estimates?
- Do arborists or carpenters build better tree houses?
- What Safety Measures are Employed in Design and During Construction?
- What is the Next Step to Owning a Tree House?
- How do I build my own Tree House?
- Are you insured? Work Guaranteed?
1. Are Tree Houses Safe?
Our tree houses are safe because we use strong materials and professional tree attachment methods that allow for tree movement and tree growth over time. Where prudent, we may also install backup support systems in critical places. Expert consulting arborists, engineers, challenge course professionals, fabricators, carpenters, and builders have helped us refine and improve our support systems and tree house construction practices over the years. Our tree houses are as safe as a comparable deck, balcony, or cabin on the ground. We do, however, recommend that tree houses not be occupied when strong gusts of wind or lighting are possible.
2. Do Tree Houses Hurt Trees?
Yes. Let's just get that out of the way. You can't walk within twice the radius or drip line of a tree without compressing the soil where its roots are trying to absorb nutrients from the air pockets that used to be there before you compressed it. Digging holes or using pin foundations (for posts to support the treehouse from the ground) cuts some of the small absorbing roots, even when no big roots are cut. Drilling holes into trees to install tree house fasteners hurts trees. Treehouses are not natural and I have never seen a tree house that did not at least temporarily cause the tree some amount of stress.
BUT. . . Our craft and loving care and respect for the trees as we build our tree houses helps us to minimize the effects of our actions on the overall health of the tree. Dan Wright is a certified arborist who understands how trees react to treehouses both initially and over the years. We have done independent research to determine the level of stress that most trees can easily handle. We take all of this into account when designing your tree house. We can tell you whether the tree risk inherent in a particular tree house design is within a tolerable level compared to our average tree house designs. In extreme cases, we have refused to accept a tree house project because we're not going to build a treehouse that we feel is likely to kill or critically wound a tree. We like to use support from the ground to share or completely remove the weight of the treehouse from the tree when the tree just isn't suitable for the type of tree house you want.
By caring for trees as we build your tree house, we can often improve the long term health of the tree, despite the damage done in the short term by building the tree house. We have saved many trees that would have otherwise died from existing conditions, and this gives us a great feeling of satisfaction. We have been a full time tree house building company since 2003, and to our knowledge, we have not lost a tree yet. Our building and tree house attachment methods were developed with the input of lifetime certified consulting arborists who have become professional experts in how trees respond to treehouses over time. We care about making your treehouse as safe, long lasting, and tree friendly as possible.
3. How Much do Tree Houses Cost?
Depending on what you want, tree houses cost between $3,500 and over $250,000. The average basic kids treehouse, costs between $5,000 and $15,000. Higher end residential tree houses typically cost between $25,000 and $60,000. Tree Houses that you can live typically cost between $75,000 and $500,000. Commercial tree houses typically cost between $100,000 and $800,000. The factors that most affect cost are size, height from the ground, quality of finishing details, the grade of materials, the cost of getting electric and/or septic to the area, our travel expenses from Chester County, PA, USA, and what degree that the local building departments are involved. If you have a budget in mind, please contact us and we'll tell you approximately how much tree house it will buy, or view our tree house pictures to find something close to what you want, and scroll down to the bottom of each project for a price range for something similar.
For a more complete description of the pricing variables in a custom treehouse project, please visit our treehouse pricing page.
4. How Long Does it Take to Build a Treehouse?
A simple kids treehouse can be completed in 2-7 working days. A complex tree house with rope bridges, multiple tree house platforms, or anything really high in the air could take 2-6 weeks. Commercial tree houses and exceptionally large or challenging building tasks with exacting standards can take 6-12 months to complete.
We are accustomed to getting last minute tree house requests as birthday or holiday gifts. Some parents like to have a kids tree house built start to finish during 1-2 weeks that their kids are away at summer camp as a welcome home surprise. We will try our best to accommodate all special tree house requests.
5. What is the Life Expectancy of a Tree House?
Our Tree Houses have an average life span of 10-25 years, but can be made to last as long as the life of the tree. The materials we use are of the best quality and our methods of construction make for long-term use. As with any outdoor product, regular inspection and maintenance is imperative to prolong its life, and life expectancy would therefore depend to a great extent on the attention given to it.
6. How Much Weight Do Your Tree Houses Hold?
Our tree houses are designed to hold many times the weight of their intended use. We account for the dead and live loading of the tree house and all the people that could fit on it. The actual weight depends on the strength of the trees that the treehouse goes in and the specifics of the design. But in general, for most tree houses, we're talking over ten thousand pounds when evenly distributed. Why take any chances when safety is involved?
If you are putting a hot tub in your tree house, or if you plan to build many stories high, then you may need engineering plans to ensure that your tree house platform is suitable. Our full service tree house design option can help give you the confidence that your tree house has been structurally designed to carry the weight of whatever you plan to put up there. Please contact us if you have further tree house construction questions.
7. How Far Will You Travel to Build Tree Houses?
If you believe that we are the right company to build your tree house, then we will travel anywhere in the world to serve you. Most of our tree houses are in the Northeast, Mid-West, and Mid-Atlantic regions of the USA. We build further away than that a few times per year and have built tree houses as far away as California, Texas, and Florida. So we'll be happy to go any place we are needed. Tree houses are built across the globe, this site shows some magnificent tree houses in Costa Rica. We are available for international travel for consulting, building, and supervision of large projects.
8. What if My Trees Aren't Strong Enough?
Most trees have tree house building possibilities. We can arrange a tree house site inspection during the design phase to take measurements and assess your tree(s) as part of our tree house consulting service. An alternative, if you are far away is to hire a local consulting arborist to comment on the species, health, and suitability of your tree for a tree house. If the tree isn't up to the task of supporting the whole tree house, then we can use support poles from the ground to help the tree bear the weight, or carry it all. Although some treehouse purists might not like it, building a ground-supported treehouse around the tree still gets you up in the air enjoying your trees and your very own custom tree house.
9. Do you sell Do-It-Yourself Treehouse Kits or Treehouse Plans?
Sorry, but Tree Top Builders does not sell treehouse kits or plans. We build custom treehouses which have to incorporate the unique features of each set of trees. Each tree house design also incorporates the specs and features that our clients specifically request.
There are numerous websites that sell ready made treehouse plans, but please be warned that we have never seen off the shelf plans that use professional grade tree house fasteners and most of the treehouse designs cause excess harm to the poor trees both immediately and over time.
We will aid in production of custom tree house plans including materials lists and phone or on site support at our standard tree house consulting rates. If you want a high quality, safe, and long lasting tree house, then you should expect to invest in the design and fastening systems. Alternatively, if you buy a cheap tree house plan on the internet, take pictures and measurements of your trees, then you may decide hire us to review and/or modify your treehouse plan to make it safer, longer lasting, and kinder to your trees. The plan may still be of some use to you on the carpentry and finishing stages of your treehouse project. We are always available to answer your treehouse questions no matter who designs your tree house.
10. Do you offer Free Estimates?
Sure, please give us a call and we may be able to help you out with a free estimate for your treehouse. Please be advised, however, that production of custom tree house designs & plans, and most tree evaluations will cost at least a nominal fee. Please see our tree house design page for more information on your options for starting your tree house, some of which are free.
11. Do arborists or carpenters build better tree houses?
We've seen great and terrible treehouses built by both types of people. Some welders and engineers and other related professionals also have mixed treehouse building reviews. To be successful, our team has developed core competencies in all of these areas. We focus primarily on building and construction management, but without neglecting the importance of each area. The first 10% of the time spent on a treehouse is determining whether or not the tree is suitable to carry the load of the treehouse, where the best attachment points are, what the overall health of the tree is, and installing the main fasteners. While Dan Wright is an ISA certified arborist, it's not a bad idea to also hire an RCA certified consulting arborist with at least 20 years of experience as a professional arborist to consult on a treehouse project. RCA arborists have a higher level of knowledge and a local one will have more insight into how your particular tree species does in your area, a point not to be overlooked since Dan is mostly familiar with trees in Pennsylvania and surrounding states.
Carpentry and building skills comprise the majority of the treehouse project and must be carefully employed to ensure safety. You want to hire people who you can trust to choose proper fasteners for each part of the tree house, form tight joints, build sturdy walls and railings to keep people safe, and close in roofs and windows to keep the weather out. At Tree Top Builders, we cross train our staff in various fields so that each member of the treehouse team understands the whole process. We also have a network of expert tree house builders and consultants (including other arborists, engineers, machinists and metal workers) who understand the tree house building process and their important roles in each tree house project. You can trust that the combined experience of our treehouse team is at your service.
12. What Safety Measures are Employed in Design and During Construction?
SAFETY IS OUR NUMBER ONE PRIORITY. For example, tree house railings are strong and substantial, high enough and close enough to protect small children. We have children too, and so our tree house construction methods are influenced by watching our kids play in our tree houses. We avoid placement of nails where they may loosen over time and create hazards. We sand down any rough edges on the tree house to eliminate potential splinters. Tree house entrance ladders are situated where they will be easiest to climb, keeping potential falls to a minimum height. We can use Plexiglas for windows or even plan to have operating windows situated over verandas or balconies to keep kids from jumping out. We help you determine the appropriate safety measures that make you feel comfortable. In fact, if you have any safety related tree house questions or concerns, we will be happy to have an honest discussion of safety and risk on play structures and tree houses. In many cases, building codes are not applicable to tree houses because permits may not be required. However, due to our previous experience in the ground house building industry, we know how to build our tree houses so they are code compliant.
Many nostalgic tree house features such as rope ladders or natural branch railings would not pass code on a ground house. Most of our tree house options such as zip lines or rope swings aren't mentioned in the building code books either. So we will explain the codes to you, and then let you choose how you want your tree house built. We want you to know what the codes would be and why they would be that way so that you can weigh your aesthetic preferences against what the code books consider to be safe. We consider that informing you of those issues our duty as professional tree house builders.
13. What is the Next Step to Owning a Tree House?
Please contact us if you haven't already. We want to give you enough information to help you decide whether or not to build a tree house, and if so, whether or not we are the right company to build it for you. We want to hear your tree house construction questions or concerns and help you to make an informed decision. The steps to owning a custom tree house are to design, plan, and finally to build. Let us know where you are in this process and how we can help.
14. How do I build my own Tree House?
There is a lot of tree house building information on this website and in books and on the internet. But it is very difficult to become a tree house expert without building lots of tree houses and developing instinctive vision and good construction methods.
Tree Top Builders holds several tree house building workshops each year which are designed to teach you what you need to know to build your own tree house. We teach general tree house construction theory and give you hand on experience so that that you are prepared to assess your location and trees, work safely in the air, choose proper tree house attachment hardware and structural supports, and handle tree house specific construction issues that will arise. We place a heavy emphasis on helping you design your tree house and answer your tree house construction questions. In that sense, it is like a personal tree house consultation, tree house building classes, and a personal experience meeting other tree house builders that you'll never forget.
15. Are you insured? Work Guaranteed?
We carry insurance that specifically names tree house building as the primary business activity. This is very expensive and hard to get at any price. If you consider another tree house builder for your project, make sure that they are not carrying a tree worker's or general carpenter's policy and telling you that they are fully insured for tree house construction. If their insurance company finds out that they primarily build tree houses, then you will not be protected.
We stand behind the quality of our work. If it is later discovered that in any part of a tree house project, we performed work in a sub-standard or un-workman-like manner, then we will attempt to fix the problem. Either we will come out and bring the tree house up to high quality standards, or we will make other arrangements that keep everyone as happy as possible. That being said, if the tree house is damaged through normal use, normal weathering, pests such as squirrels or bugs, or an act of nature or act of god, then it will not be our responsibility to make repairs free of charge. Sometimes the difference can be blurry with tree houses because of the movement and inter-connection with nature. So there is no hard line, but we do promise to try reasonably hard to keep you happy and do what we honestly believe is right to keep our integrity and commercial standards of honor.