Interesting Materials for Tree Houses

Question from Bill, Gloversville, NY
“Where can I find materials for my tree house? What do you suggest for roofing and siding?…”

Well, Bill, part of the fun in building tree houses is using some materials that you find yourself in your local area. Many simple kids tree houses use materials right off the shelf, such as pressure treated wood, T 1-11 siding, and a corrugated or asphalt shingle roof. These materials keep the cost of the tree houses down where more people can afford them. But, since you are building your tree house yourself and presumably not paying for any labor, then I’ll assume you have more time & money to track down some interesting materials.

Here are a few products for you to consider as a starting point for choosing roofing & siding materials.

T1-11 is strong, affordable, and takes stain well. It is much easier to stain before installing the sheets, and looks pretty decent if you put trim on the corners, rakes, & fasciae

this clear roofing is usually for greenhouses, but was chosen here so the red leaves would always be visible. Other corrugated roofing materials come in different colors, or sheet metal is yet another option.

This Adirondack siding is rough sawn, which is less expensive and has a rustic uneven look. It also looks great with a cedar shake roof, as shown. The windows are made by Pella, but you can get reused windows, custom designed pieces, or just staple screen over openings if you want to keep it simple.

Don’t forget to use your imagination with materials for tree houses. Find locally available materials, recycled materials, or home-made materials. If any of you readers come up with unique designs or materials for your tree houses, then please send me pictures. I may even feature your tree house in my next tree house book! Happy treehouse building and materials selecting! -Dan

7 Responses to “Interesting Materials for Tree Houses”

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  1. David says:

    Do you guys have any information on Garnier Limbs? Where to buy them, how much they hold, or what types of brackets can be attached to them? Any info would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

    • treetop says:

      Custom Treehouse Bolts (TABs) are only made by a handful of places in the USA that we know of, although I have heard rumors of a couple other places in the world where they are starting to produce them, namely in England and Japan.

      The loading limits is an area for further research – we’re working on that and will be doing further testing at our tree house workshop in a few weeks. The sustainable loads vary from about 2000 – 12,000 for the standard TABs that we produce. If you need more than that, then you need back up systems or HLs that are the sole domain of Charley Greenwood, P.E. at this point. The species of the tree is a primary variable in the strength of the TAB, softwoods hold less than hardwoods before failure (irreparable crushing of the tree tissue beneath the bolt.

      Tree Top Builders can supply 1″, 3″, and 6″ TABs (Treehouse Attachment Bolts) along with brackets and hardware, and a few other treehouse builders have been sending people to us to buy them for a few years now, so we’re expanding our offerings. At this time, please contact me personally with any requests at

      I hope this helps, -Dan Wright

  2. Erik Sessions says:

    We would like to start a treehouse platform with 2 J brackets to support 2X6 joists. We have seen reference to J brackets, but have had a hard time sourcing them. Can you recommend an online store? Thanks, Erik

  3. Sheila says:

    We are trying to build a treehouse and are looking for ideas for a more natural looking exterior. Any suggestions for permanent (maintenance free) exteriors other than siding that would still look natural?

    Also, want any advice on use clear corrugated plastic for roof? Thoughts, ideas, experience?

    Thank you.

    • Hi Sheila,

      Looking for a natural looking, but maintenance-free product? Well, that’s going to limit you to synthetic products because everything natural is not maintenance-free. I would consider metal panels which come in any color you like and some colors may be considered sort of natural – we use these panels on roofs a lot, but they work great for siding too. Other than that, there are synthetic products like vinyl shakes or vinyl thatch, which look good but are expensive.

      Plastic corrugated panels are nice for the lighting, and generally are low cost. However, they are not very durable and they break down in 3-5 years from UV which makes them extra brittle. Those are my thoughts, pros & cons. We use this material from time to time depending on the objectives our clients have.

      Best Regards,

  4. Tamara Bonning says:

    I have a tree house, the base is a large oak trunk 3’ foot in diameter, sitting ion a concrete slab. The trunk is huge, we moved it and some of the bark was broken off. Now there are crevasses between the bark pieces. How do I reattach the bark, and paint it to look like bark in those bark-less areas.

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