Building a Treeless Treehouse

How to build Treeless Tree Houses on Poles

(5 questions from Jeff)

Question #1 – Poles Instead of Trees

I can’t seem to find  hardly any information on building a treeless treehouse.I have five used utility poles, 15-17 foot tall that I thought would be good for the  “foundation”. Are these strong enough for an “average” tree house?

Answer: So long as they are not decayed, they should be more than strong enough. You can tar the underground portion to make them last longer, and apply a water sealer to the above ground portion. Typically, poles or trees left in the round shape are stronger than a corresponding milled (rectangular) post. Nature knows best…

Question #2 – Setting Poles for a “Tree-less” Tree House

Do I put the poles in the ground or put in a concrete tube and mount the poles to that?
Answer: I would put them several feet into the ground if you don’t want to erect X bracing everywhere which is kind of ugly but functional. I would pour concrete in the hole at least below the frost line.

Question #3 – Floating Brackets on Post Treehouses

Can I bolt direct to poles or do I need to use moveable mounts still due to the wind factor?
Answer: You should bolt directly to the poles. So long as the project is 100% ground supported (no trees), then there is no need for floating brackets. All structures will move a little in the wind, but the idea is that if the structure is not rigid enough to resist moving when the wind blows, then it better allow for movement without damage.

Question #4 – Safety of Treehouses Built on Poles

Any safety factors or limitations?
Answer: So long as the posts don’t tip over and general wood fastening rules are followed, a treeless treehouse on posts is pretty safe. Beyond that, I better defer to your engineer.

Question #5 – Treeless Treehouse Resources

Any where else I can look for help and or examples of what I’m asking?

Answer: Why yes! There are a lot of resources and examples! Here are two videos that show very different types of treeless treehouses:

That first treehouse video was very simple and the poles were an A-Frame style (instead of trees). This next one is more along the lines of a traditional treehouse built on poles.

Notice the bracing in that treeless tree house between the posts. If you bury your posts deep enough, you may not need so much bracing, but that is a matter of checking building codes…

We have a few examples in our portfolio: Treehouse #7 and Treehouse #15

There are also some guides online (don’t hold us responsible for content on other sites:

There is also a website called www.treelesstreehouse.com that may have useful tips.

16 Responses to “Building a Treeless Treehouse”

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  1. Nichole says:

    I have a tree house with a trap door but it is pretty heavy and I am concerned about fingers getting smashed. Do you have any suggestions for making this feature safer? I was thinking slow close hinges like on toy chests but have been unable to find anything like this.

    • treetop says:

      Trap Doors can be heavy. The slow close hinges are a good idea, but it’s tough to find the right size. Grab one off an old minivan and you’ll never close the door. Get one made for a cabinet and it won’t do anything. I think a screen door sounds about right to me.

      We have had good success with counterweights. Hook a pulley to the ceiling, put a rope through it, and tie one end to the door and the other to a weight. Simple & it works, but it takes up some space.

      Another solution is to make the door in 2 pieces instead of one. Each panel is half the weight. They open opposite each other.

    • Larry says:

      I would suggest you try to find tall hinges to make the door close slower

  2. Robert Hudson says:

    Have you considered using 10 foot 2 inch wide steel poles instead of wooden poles? Why or why not?

    • thb98il1Tr3e says:

      Hello Robert,
      I am unclear as to where you are asking that we use these poles? We usually use wood for everything, as it is a treehouse and people like the rustic look & feel of wood (even if we use it for additional structural support). We use flagpoles for fireman’s poles…and that is typically the only metal we use.
      Thanks for your inquiry.
      Best wishes,
      Tanya

  3. lauren says:

    my dad says it will take up to much space how much do u need to build a tree house and how much would it cost? plus I do not have a tree would it be a good idea to balance it against a wall?

    • Hi there!
      We’re so excited that you’re interested in building tree houses! You’re right to take space and cost into consideration, along with where you would build the house. Your questions have answers, but they really depend on a lot of factors; there’s no set amount of money, space, or time to build a tree house. Again, we’re so excited you’re interested in building, and we hope that you keep the creative juices flowing.
      Best of luck!
      -Ellen

  4. Beverly Gatewood says:

    my 12 by 14 foot treeless treehouse was started by a difficult contractor who would not explain much. He is gone now. He dug the 3 foot holes, filled the holes with concrete, and placed metal brackets on bottom of poles, and used some type of bolts too. But the poles are not 3 feet embedded in the cement. He latter built a wooden box around them and poured cement in the boxes which are sitting on the ground.

    I later found another contractor to continue the job, he said he would have embedded the posts deep in the holes with cement. I am worried now. cannot find info on the way the first contractor put the poles support in.

    • Hi Beverly,

      I am sorry to hear that your experience has been difficult. We usually put poles into the ground at least 3′, sometimes more. However, you can set them above ground on footers. The advantage of above ground is that the pole doesn’t rot as quickly. The disadvantage is that the ground does not provide stability to the pole. As a result, you will need to have installed a type of cross bracing between the poles so that they don’t lean or fall over. Your new contractor can do this with wooden angle braces or with cabling. The specifics are too much to get into here, but hopefully your new contractor will use good judgment to build a solid base…

      Good luck,
      -Dan

  5. Barry says:

    I have started our treeless tree house. It is 8x8x8. It is over a bank so it is 7 feet off the ground on the front and 12 in the back. I used 4×4 post on all 4 corners buried a min of 2 foot on one post. It is very shaky. Any idea how to sturdy it up. I was think about crossing cables from post to post or wood. Or should I add more post?

    • Hi Barry, crossing cables would be better than adding another post, although that would help a little bit. You could also use 2x4s instead of cables. You could also just connect small angles of wood from part way up the post to the floor system – use up some old 2′ to 4′ 2x4s and they look nicer than making big X shapes out of wood. Thanks for the question. -Dan

  6. Ryan says:

    I’m in the middle of building a tree house for my son. I was going to do a 8′ x 12′ platform around my tree with 6 posts. Unfortunately my tree didn’t like that idea as the roots were an issue. So I have 4 posts in the ground all around 7ft away from each other on one side of the tree. My thought is to basically do an 8′ x 8′ platform but wrap around the tree for the added effect. So I’m planning on one side using 10′ beams sandwiched to the posts using cleats under them to also hold them up, and on the other side using an 8′ beam with cleats. then I can frame it on an angle. My main question is can I use 2×6 southern pine for the beams as well as the joists which will be only spanning 8′ and 16″ oc?

    • Hi Ryan,

      It sounds like the beam size would depend on the cantilever distance past the support post. You could always add a knee brace from the post if the beam is springy. Or upgrade to a 2×8 if there is any doubt about the 2×6.

      Have fun & be safe,
      -Dan

  7. Ron Graves says:

    I am going to build a two story tree house/deer blind. I would like to have the platform 12’x12’, but the actual enclosed space 8×8 with a 4’ porch on 2 sides. I was thinking 6 6x6s with 2×8 floor joists, and the 2nd Floor built above the first built similar to a standard house. I would be using joist hangers for the floor joists. Think it would support it?

    • Hi Ron,

      The six 6x6s should be able to support the kind of load you are talking about if they are aligned to carry the load and all connections are fastened properly. A full design for a treehouse would include analysis of other factors such as beam size, height above ground, access, etc… Is your tree house / deer stand built next to trees or out in a field? Sometimes digging near tree roots is more trouble than attaching beams to trees…

      Good luck,
      -Dan

      • Ron Graves says:

        It will not be attached to a tree but be is a small cedar grove. I have an 18” drill for my tractor to put the holes down so that should not be an issue.

        I will talk to the local lumberyard (not big box store) and see what they think, but I was going to double-up my bottom beams and they would only have to span 6’-0” (2×10). Then I was going to use 2×8 floor joists and build it up like a house.

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