Tree Houses in the Press
Out on a Limb
Daily Local News, June 28, 2009
Out on a Limb
By GRETCHEN METZ, Staff Writer for the Daily Local News
Dan Wright’s career choice has the 30-year old carpenter out on a limb.
He is the owner and founder of Tree Top Builders based in Westtown. He puts his jaw-dropping fabulous treehouses up in air, spanning branches across the country with a concentration on the East Coast.
“I got an idea, started learning, read books, researched the Internet, went to a treehouse conference in Oregon,” Wright said about the beginning of his company seven years ago.
Wright’s company builds 25 to 30 tree houses a year ranging in price from $3,000 to one $65,000 treehouse in McLean, Virginia.
“I’ve seen some that are suitable to live in, in the hundred thousands to a million dollars,” Wright said.
Photos of Wright’s company’s treehouses are on his Web site, Facebook and YouTube.
In a recent interview done in one of Wright’s treehouses in Wallace, Wright explained he starts with a look at the tree. Can it support a treehouse? If not, Wright won’t build one there.
If he takes the job, he gives the tree his attention first. Dead branches, if there are any, get trimmed. He checks the soil around the tree, checks for bugs or other pest and treats any problems.
The deck is built first, then the house, said Wright who left a career as a carpenter doing custom work for a life in the branches.
Wright’s company makes tree houses for kids hideouts and for adults who want tree-top dwellings, including a tree house poker room and a tree house platform for a yoga teacher who holds classes up in the air.
The treehouse in Wallace was in an impressive Norway maple. It was designed for children and adults alike with such extras as two rock-climbing walls, two ziplines, a woodburing stove for winter-time comfort, a firepole, a slide, a hammock and a trapdoor with rope ladder. Another rope ladder went from the tree house up to a smaller crow’s nest, or lookout, some 21 feet up from the ground.
In a nearby Norway maple is a satalight deck that is connected to the tree house by a rope bridge with plank floor. Both the tree house and satalight deck have their own sets of steps.
Gary Koontz, Tree Top’s lead builder, designed the tree house.
Wright, who attended the original meeting with Koontz and the homeowner, said the homeowner wanted “one of everything.”
The Wallace project should have taken three weeks but because it was built in the winter and Kooz had to contend with snow and freezing rain, it took two months. The tree house has a value of $23,000, Wright said.
For Wright, his favorite part of the job are the finishing touches, cutting the scroll work, putting up the rope swing or the zip line.
The part the married man and father of two likes least is travel, being away from home.
A common question is will the tree outgrow its tree house.
The answer is no.
Trees grow larger by expanding their diameter and growing new branch tips, not by growing up like a flower. Every year new layers of wood increase the diameter of trunks and branches, Wright explained.
As a tree house is fixed to the heartwood of the tree, it will remain at a fixed height from the ground.
In addition to building tree houses, Wright plans to teach treehouse building at workshops at his house on weekends.
He has plenty of trees for students to get hands-on experience, he said.
Wright will teach layout, design, cost, how to build the platform and what to buy at Home Depot, he said.