Welcome to “Ask the Tree House Experts”

We plan to use this category to answer all Tree House Questions that you have. Please leave a comment here with your question or email to treetopbuilders@verizon.net. We will then respond publically to all relevant tree house, tree platform, or tree house accessory questions. We are experts in attaching things to trees, and so we probably won’t answer questions about general construction or trees unless we can answer the question in a way that would be interesting to other readers looking for tree house building information.

For Quick answers to common questions, please check out this tree house questions page. Otherwise, ask away and we will respond for everyone to read…

21 Responses to “Welcome to “Ask the Tree House Experts””

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  1. Katy says:

    Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say
    that I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog posts. In any case
    I’ll be subscribing to your blog and I hope you write again soon!

  2. I am building a treehouse in a Bald Cypress tree. The trunk splits at about 8′ from the ground. At about twenty feet the two trunks are about six feet apart from each other and about 14″ in diameter each. I want to build a small, 5’x8′ treehouse between the trunks. I was thinking of running a 1″x8′ galvanized rod through both trunks instead of individual tabs, bolted at each end. A beam would be centered above this rod beside each truck creating two support beams. The beams would slide on the rod as the tree grew in girth. Each beam would have two braces angling back to their perspective trunks. These angled braces would fit into a bracket mounted on top of a tab at each trunk about six feet below the beam. The joists would be attached permanently to one beam and “float” on top of the other beam, through loose, upside down U shaped brackets that would allow movement but prevent uplift. Does this sound possible or ridiculous or somewhere in between?

    • thb98il1Tr3e says:

      Hello Richard,

      I’m going to have to go with somewhere in between on that one. I never recommend all thread for shear or bending loads. In trees, shear is more theoretical as all perched loads are bending loads. I advise making a sketch and sending it in, but it sounds like four of our 5/4″ lag bolts with 2 floating brackets and 2 fixed pipe brackets would do the trick. There isn’t much reason under normal circumstances to use TABs to support a 40 square foot platform, because while they are stronger, they do more damage to the tree. The trick is to use reasonably strong connections for the load, without overwhelming the tree.

      Cheers,
      -Dan

  3. M says:

    Hi–

    We’re thinking of building a treehouse in our backyard. We have a good amount of trees back there, and we wanted to get an idea of how much our treehouse idea would cost. It would be two crows nests, about ten feet off the ground, and the crows nests would be connected by a bigger platform in the middle. Kind of like a Mickey Mouse face. The trees in our backyard are proper trees, not the tiny ones that you see in landscaped parks, and some rise up to about fifty feet and have a 1-2 ft diameter. If the price is reasonable, we might hire you guys to build it. Thanks!

    • thb98il1Tr3e says:

      Hello,

      We can’t give out exact pricing without collecting more information, which conversation we should probably take offline. Please contact us directly and we’ll do our best to provide you with a quote.

      In general terms, three platforms like you describe might cost around $10,000 – 40,000 depending on location, sizes of platforms, type of materials, whether round shapes or square or octagons, height above ground, and perhaps other factors.

      If you build yourself, then we can supply plans and hardware for most projects in the range of $300 to $1500 per treehouse.

      Thank you and good luck with your project.

      -Dan

  4. Ashley says:

    I am looking to purchase land to have a treehouse built. I am looking to live in this full time/year round. Could someone please help me with a checklist of what I would need to look for when buying land. Such as specific trees that may be better than others. And I would need water and electricity. This would be very helpful! Thank you 🙂

    • thb98il1Tr3e says:

      There are many factors when selecting land. Here are a few preliminary things to consider:

      1. Buy land with many large trees
      2. Healthy trees are more important than any particular species. If you aren’t sure, then hire an arborist to help assess the trees.
      3. Talk with the building inspector to ensure that you will be allowed to build and live in a treehouse on that parcel of land.
      4. Ensure that the tree species are not protected by law.
      5. Trees should be over 12″ in diameter and it will take many of them in a tight cluster to hold the weight of a permanent house. Many end up needing ground support as well, but those considerations can be dealt with once you have trees in mind. Give us a call when you get closer to moving forward with the project.

      Thank you,
      -Dan

  5. Isabel Thomas says:

    Hello!
    I built a 9′ x 6′ platform a few years ago. I put railings and a roof on it made out of plastic corrugated panels. I am going to redo it and put up walls and a new roof, and I was wondering if you have any suggestions for materials for roofing and walls that would last at least 10 years and not be crazily expensive? It needs to be water and snow proof since I live in ohio.

    • thb98il1Tr3e says:

      Isabel:

      It sounds like you want inexpensive and durable materials. For roofing, I like corrugated panels but the polycarbonate ones get brittle due to ultraviolet light, and the asphalt/felt ones will puncture easily from small/medium branch falls. I suggest metal for the roofing – harder to cut, but much more durable. For siding on inexpensive projects, it’s hard to beat the value of T1-11. It is very strong, and will last over 10 years if you have a roof over the walls and all cuts are covered with some sort of trim. I recommend staining the T1-11 as it will look a lot nicer and last longer.

      Best Wishes,
      -Dan

  6. Mike says:

    I recently moved and had a son (he’s only 9 months old). I’m wondering what tree you would recommmed for the DC Metro area that would grow fast enough that he would be able to enjoy it (so maybe 8-10 years?) and good for my area.

    Thanks!

    • Hi Mike,

      There are a lot of trees that will add value to your yard in 8-10 years, with shade and O2. However, there aren’t any that you can plant with 2-4″ calipers that you’ll be able to build a treehouse in that soon. We’re working on some experimental methods for building treehouses in smaller trees, but they are not ready for market yet. Perhaps in 8 years… Given current methods, you’ll need the trees to be at least 7-10″ diameters to use them for a treehouse. The best method would be to build the treehouse on posts, and then plant trees around it to shelter and shade it.

      Best Wishes,
      -Dan

  7. dan says:

    HIGH
    I live in southwest ohio, and really have only one suitable tree for my tree house. Its an eastern cottonwood the 4 ft. high diameter is about 28 inches and 20 ft. up is about 24 inches, The first branch on the trunk is about 35 ft. up. My platform is going to be 20 ft. up, and 16 by 12 and the house would be 12 by 10 My main question is that from researching, the general consensus is eastern cottonwood is not the best tree for tree houses but its all i have. Is this project something I should abandon, or can I increase the size of my tabs to compensate for the softer wood , or any other suggestions you might have for building in an eastern cottonwood.
    THANKS SO MUCH
    Dan

    • As you may have guessed, there is no absolute yes or no answer to whether or not to build a treehouse in a cottonwood. It’s a matter of how much risk are you willing to tolerate. Cottonwoods are good at being cottonwoods and can grow to great size, but they aren’t the longest lived trees, and they can lose branches in storms. However, they do better in wet areas than most eastern woodland trees do. I would rather have a healthy cottonwood than a white oak with a major structural defect.

      I do NOT think you are nuts for proceeding with the project. It’s a higher risk tree, but any tree could fail in a storm tomorrow without warning. What I might do is consider toning down the overall size, weight, height, and expense of the project to only what you need to make the project a success. Treehouses are close to the tiny home movement in spirit.

      And yes, bigger TABs or more of them is a perfect compensation for softer wood. I can’t advise exactly which TABs or which placements without more information, but our treehouse supply company does sell TABs and offers support to help you design you treehouse in the most tree friendly way. Most questions and advice do not incur any design fees at all for customers who buy hardware from us (still at competitive prices with free shipping).

      Happy Treehouse Building,
      -Dan

  8. Linda Diemer says:

    Area around each limb is leaking when it rains. What is the best way to seal around the limbs and prevent interior damage.

    • Hi Linda,

      This is a tough one. Most of us treehouse builders started out building around limbs and then inventing ways to seal out the weather. Then, as the treehouses got nicer inside, we stopped designing treehouses that have limbs through the walls and roofs. I find the trunk dead center on a hip roof is the easiest to deal with, but still not easy.

      The best methods involve something to prevent friction between the tree and the structure, such as thick rubber or horse stall matting. Then, fashion a gasket out of more rubber, plastic, a tarp, or something to interface between the flashing and the branch, over the friction barrier. Then affix to the branch with bungee cords, and then caulk it with the thickest possible bead of silicone. This usually stops the water for a while without killing the branch. However, it is not a permanent fix. No permanent fix exists to my knowledge. If you find an improvement, please let us know.

      Best Wishes,
      -Dan

  9. Carl says:

    I have a large elm tree in my back yard. I’d say it’s 40 feet tall. I was going to build a tree house around it and not connect anything to it but thought I should check into the health of the tree since some of the branches are dead or thinning. I have had a few opinions from tree trimmers stating that elms are known to spit at the forks and drop branches which it did 8 years ago. They all offered to trim or cut the tree down to size. I had an abrist say that it would be OK to leave a 15 foot tall trunk up so that I could have something to build around and hang a rope from, and cut the rest off. Then another tree trimmer said it would decay too quickly and would then have to be removed from inside the treehouse. So I’m not sure who to believe. Any advice about elms and tree houses would be awesome.

    • For the arborists to be recommending serious pruning or removal, the tree must be in rough shape. I would support the treehouse completely from the ground, and if you top the tree down to 15′, then you can rigidly connect the trunk to the house, which will make it easier to waterproof, and when the tree rots, it will be held up by the house for a long time. The downside to that is the mess. If, however, the tree can be saved, then you could remove the dead parts and cable the forked sections together up high. It’s all so hard for me to weigh in on specifically without being there and seeing it, so I’ll have to defer to the local experts on whether or not the tree can be saved.

      Good luck,
      -Dan

  10. BJ Anderson says:

    When placing siding on the exterior walls, due you attach them directly to the studs or do you place exterior plywood on first, then attach the siding?

    • Hi BJ,

      It depends on how waterproof you need the structure to be, and how much shear strength you want to add to the walls. For basic treehouses, we often skip the plywood sheathing. If you are running electric and finishing the interior, then it’s probably a good idea to use sheathing, house wrap paper, etc… just like you would on a ground house.

      Good luck,
      -Dan

  11. Dave McMaster says:

    Hi, I have just build a treehouse platform framed with 6 x 2 timber. the spacing between joists is 16”. My question is what thickness flooring can i get away with? I am looking at roofing the whole thing and so slippy surfaces are not an issue (don’t need decking). I hear 1” boards mentioned at lot as a minimum. Would this be okay with the joist spacing? Also as I live in the UK a lot of timber is quoted in metric sizes. Here 1” equivalent is generally 19mm which seems puzzling, since an inch is 25.4mm. The next size up is 34mm. Cost is a lot more for the 34mm though.

    • Hi Dave,

      You are better off asking this question to a contractor or building supplier who is located and well versed with building codes in the UK. Here in the USA, for 16″ O.C. joists, we would use a 5/4″ decking board, which is actually 1″ thick, not 5/4″, due to the planing process – lumber is usually quoted in the rough dimensions, not the final thickness on the shelf.

      Sorry that I can’t definitively answer your question. Perhaps someone else will chime in and help…

      Best,
      -Dan

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